Wolves. Guns. Trees. Bar pilots. Teen dating.
Before the recently completed legislative session in Salem, you would not have expected those subjects to make the short list of issues to be considered during the four-week sojourn at the Capitol. But they all came up.
To many observers, the list of not-so-important, complicated and controversial issues made for a confusing session. Every legislator had the freedom to introduce two bills each and almost all used it, meaning there were 180 bills in the hopper at the start of the session. Each interim committee had authority to introduce five bills each, which is how you get to nearly 300 bills.
Governor Kitzhaber, for his first official experience with a short, regular legislative session, came to the Capitol with the next steps on four ambitious reform proposals — health care transformation, education, early learning and health care exchange. Those four measures would tax any legislative session, regardless of length
Officials who pushed for the annual session would have called out three issues that should occupy legislators for those four weeks — rebalancing the sometimes-volatile state budget, handling emergencies (fires, floods, other natural disasters) and fixing unintended problems in bills passed the previous session.
To veteran Salem observers, those issue priorities made sense, especially adjusting the budget at a time when tax revenues dipped more than expected, caseloads for some state agencies grew and federal revenue vaporized.