The Good and the Ugly Session

The Speaker of the House and a GOP freshman offer lucid, contrasting versions of the 2014 Oregon legislative session, teeing up themes that will be heard in the upcoming campaign season.End-of-session reports by lawmakers to their constituents often leave a lot to be desired — and to the imagination. However, reports by House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and freshman Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville, offered lucid, contrasting views on how the short 2014 session went.

One of the biggest contrasting viewpoints was on the session itself.

"We now have annual legislative sessions because Oregonians shouldn't have to wait a year and a half to have urgent issues addressed," Kotek wrote in her newsletter.

In a piece appearing in the Wilsonville Spokesman and sent to his constituents, Davis said, "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.... This year, unfortunately, Oregonians experienced 32 days of politics and one day of budget review."

"The complexity of the state budget," Kotek said, "requires annual updates to respond to changing revenue forecasts or emerging priorities." She said budget writers were able to increase the state's reserve funds while boosting assistance for seniors, low-income families and the mentally ill.

"The ugly part of the 2014 session — the budget process," said Davis, "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 back-room dealing with no public input."

In her newsletter, Kotek listed numerous accomplishments, ranging from job creation to bolstering essential services to protecting air quality. She also listed a number of issues still pending on future legislative agendas, including disclosure of harmful chemicals in toys and expanding funding for legal aid. Kotek made only a subdued reference to the failure to move forward on funding for the I-5 bridge replacement, saying only it is now time "to move in a different direction."

Davis touted legislative approval of a land-use deal that defines urban and rural reserves in the Portland metropolitan area. He noted the Oregon House passed "100 bills in bipartisan unity, protecting seniors, providing local control in education and services and retraining workers for today's jobs.

Both Kotek and Davis expressed support for legislative action on capital construction projects and bonding for academic and medical research facilities, the latter in response to a major challenge from Phil Knight to the Oregon Health & Sciences University.

Kotek summed up the 2014 session as "making government work better," while Davis called it the "Good, Bad, and Ugly" session.

And now the legislative campaigns can begin in earnest.