The short 2012 session just ended and there are nine months until the 2013 legislature convenes, but it is still timely to look ahead at the issues that need resolution or are just ripening for action.
At the top of the list is how Governor Kitzhaber's health care transformation strategy will work and whether newly forming coordinated care organizations can squeeze out cost savings in serving Oregon's Medicaid population. The health insurance exchange will get up and running, just as the federal health care reform measure lands in the U.S. Supreme Court, which could toss some or all of the controversial reform legislation.
Despite a slow economic recovery, many parts of Oregon still feel the after-effects of recession and could benefit from state efforts to boost employment. Strong differences exist between Republicans and Democrats on how to stimulate job growth, especially in rural Oregon.
As a result of education reform measures pushed by Kitzhaber, K-12 school districts are signing achievement compacts to promote improved student learning. A question remains whether this reform will under-perform or have unintended consequences as have previous reforms such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
Lawmakers in February approved a measure that deals with home foreclosures. However, consumer advocates felt it didn't go far enough, while bank and title company officials said it might not work as expected.
Kitzhaber, who will be entering the last two years of his third term, has vowed to give tax reform another shot. This has proven to be as elusive as the pot of gold under the rainbow. While a majority of Oregonians feel the state's current tax system isn't sustainable, there is no clear consensus on how to refine or replace it. A state sales tax is certain to make another stage appearance, with a few clapping and others throwing big red tomatoes.
Local governments are pressing for expanded access to property tax revenues. They are looking for authority to exceed property tax rate limitations for voter-approved levies. The temporary state hospital tax expires and hospital interests may be less willing to go along with an extension after proceeds were diverted from their original purpose.