Oregon Legislature

Happy Days in Salem

The picture of Governor John Kitzhaber praising legislators for a productive session last week stood in stark contrast to President Obama admonishing Congress to cancel its holiday recess plans and embattled governors in other states. It even was a stark contrast to the last time Kitzhaber was governor and famously pronounced Oregon was ungovernable.

Oregon faced a daunting budget deficit and a politically dicey split House with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans. Yet the 2011 Oregon legislative session proceeded without much bickering and with some notable results. Public unions weren't pilloried and wealthy Oregonians and businesses weren't bashed en route to balancing the state's budget for the next two years. The Republican and Democratic House co-speakers toured the state together and proclaimed after adjournment they were fast friends.

Sharply different images have emerged from other states. Members of Wisconsin's Senate skipped the state to avoid voting for a bill stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Minnesota's state government HAS shut down because of a budget impasse. Democratic California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a budget approved by a Democratically controlled legislature.

Looming large is the showdown on Capitol Hill over extending the federal debt ceiling before August 2, when Treasury officials warn the United States could begin defaulting on its debts. It has all the elements of a partisan food fight, with Republicans refusing to accept a compromise that closes tax loopholes and Democrats unwilling to budge on deeper spending cuts with more revenue.

Growing Fears, Little Reform on Immigration

Arizona's tough immigration law drew plenty of protesters when it passed one year ago. Now businesses are noting there are fewer legal and illegal immigrants in the state.Congressional action on immigration reform remains stalled and now states such as Arizona are revisiting their immigration statutes, with some startling conclusions. Some states, such as Utah, are unexpectedly taking a different tack that assumes an immigration reform stalemate will continue into the future.

While Arizona Governor Jan Brewer believes her state will be vindicated for enacting Senate Bill 1070 that generated national headlines, others aren't so sure. The Arizona Republic editorialized April 23 on the 1-year anniversary of the law's enactment that it was an "expensive, colossal mistake." Arizona businesses report significant losses as a result of commercial boycotts.