Politics is never a stranger in legislative proceedings, as reflected this week by moves in both the Oregon House and Senate to slow down or hijack elements of Governor Kitzhaber's health care reform package.
The governor's provisions dealing with coordinated care organizations and a health care insurance exchange are likely to survive the short Oregon legislative session, now in its third week, but it may cause lawmakers to hang around Salem a few more days than expected.
At issue is whether the health care reform package will include tort reform to shield coordinated care organizations from expensive malpractice lawsuits. Republicans want it in while Democrats, including Kitzhaber, want to wait to consider it until the 2013 legislative session.
The first political twist occurred early in the weekend when House Republicans convinced Democratic Rep. Mike Schauffler to join them in voting to send the health care insurance exchange measure (House Bill 3164) back to committee. Observers watching health care legislation interpreted the unexpected move as a way to create trading stock with the Governor over tort reform.
Later in the week, Senate Republicans tried the unusual — and usually unsuccessful — tactic of trying to amend the health transformation measure (Senate Bill 1580) on the Senate floor. It failed. So did a subsequent effort to send SB 1580 back to committee, largely because Senator Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, stuck with her Democratic caucus in voting for the bill, despite earlier pledges to vote for tort reform