2014 Legislative Session: Good, Bad, and Ugly
The second even-year annual legislative session in Oregon’s history recently concluded after 33 days in Salem, delivering good, bad and ugly results for Oregonians.
Rep. Davis & Speaker Kotek debated the results of the 2014 Legislative Session over the weekend on KGW’s Straight Talk.
On the positive end, in a series of nearly bipartisan votes, legislators funded capital construction needs throughout the state, including academic and medical research facilities that will benefit generations to come.
We unanimously supported a locally crafted Washington County land use solution that will create jobs and classroom space while preserving prime farmland for agriculture, simultaneously resolving a years-long legal dispute over the UGB and urban and rural reserves. Finally, the Oregon House passed nearly 100 bills in bipartisan unity, protecting seniors, providing local control in education and services, retraining workers for today’s jobs, correcting technical problems in the law and modernizing our statutes and regulations. These are examples of how citizens expect our lawmakers to work together.
Bad politicking and election-year posturing made some of us simply shake our heads. Cover Oregon turned into cover your you-know-what. Members of the majority party rushed to add reams of regulation to our IT contracting requirements, when the heart of the debacle was identified years ago and ignored: a lack of responsiveness to the warning signs by the executive branch. Further, controversial changes to business laws, the handling of our public investments and tax increases were rightly stopped — either as bad policy or being simply inappropriate for a short 33-day session with little time for deliberation and public input.
The ugly part of the 2014 session — the budget process — raises serious questions about the prudence of continuing our recent experiment in annual sessions. The budget was revealed just 24 hours before the final gavel fell and we left Salem. Instead of transparency, prudence and healthy debate, the budget was slammed through after a month of one-party backroom dealing with no public input. Adding insult to injury, despite nearly $2 billion in increased available revenue, the majority party chose to reduce our reserves, leaving less than 0.7 percent of the budget in various savings accounts. This is a precarious path when we have more than half of the 2013-2015 biennium remaining to keep our budget balanced.
In 2010, when Oregon voters supported Measure 71 to amend our Constitution to add annual sessions, we were told these short, even-year meetings would focus on budget stability and transparency. Even the official Legislative Argument in Support of Measure 71 claimed the primary purpose of annual sessions is to “provide greater accountability and more consistent budgeting by not waiting every two years to do the people’s business.” We were told that annual sessions would “protect taxpayer dollars by enhancing transparency and efficiency from government.” This year, unfortunately, Oregonians experienced 32 days of politics and one day of budget review — not the sort of “accountability” and “transparency” we should tolerate.
Originally published March 26 in the Wilsonville Spokesman
This morning I filed my candidacy for reelection as State Representative for House District 26. I’m running because I love my family and I love the State of Oregon, and serving in the Legislature is my calling to serve both for two more years. Representing and learning from citizens of Wilsonville, Sherwood, King City, Bull Mountain, Hillsboro, Aloha, Tigard, and Beaverton has increased by commitment to, and optimism about, the future we will pass on to my two-year old son William and his soon-to-be born sibling.
Oregon’s challenges and Oregon’s opportunities are great.
We live in a land of abundant resources, but our families and friends continue to struggle. We are called to help our neighbors meet their daily needs, but our poverty rate and food stamp use remain high, and we neglect the structural failings that perpetuate Oregon’s challenges.
The best and brightest innovators, college students, and young professionals continue to flock to Oregon. But we simultaneously fail to provide quality job opportunities, while failing to meet the employment needs in our cutting-edge science, technology, and engineering firms.
Oregonians have made it clear to me personally, and in survey after survey, that educating our children is our top priority. Yet we’ve created a system with some of the shortest school years, largest class sizes, and lowest per-capita spending on K-12 and higher education in the country.
Our love for and commitment to sustaining Oregon’s environmental quality and beauty are unsurpassed, yet we watch as disease and fire kill and burn our forests, and we fail to steward our air and water for future generations. And too many are content to perpetuate the false choice between a vibrant rural and natural resource economy and environmental protection.
In 2013 we made some progress in Oregon, and that keeps me optimistic.
Through tough negotiations, sticking to our principles, and working together, the recent Special Session embodied Oregon’s “can-do” approach while the Federal Government came to a stand-still. We increased funding for education, gave farmers and small business owners certainty, reduced budget-killing and bankruptcy-inducing pension liabilities and tax holes, extended services and medical relief for seniors, and invested further in our mental health system.
It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t easy, but we got it done.
If we continue working together, and keep striving toward the structural changes that will make a difference for decades to come, then we can give my children, and yours, a state they can be proud to live in and serve.
Very truly yours,