by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)
The balance of power in Salem has definitely moved significantly to the left this year. Elections do have consequences, and in a representative republic the winners do get to set the agenda. The reality in the Oregon State Senate is the Democrats can pass anything they want. Just going by the numbers it would require only two Republicans to be present when bills come to the Senate floor for a vote to meet the quorum requirement.
We are already seeing some heavy handed actions taking place. Under most circumstances the chairperson of a committee has the ultimate authority over the activities of the committee. There have already been a couple of times when the members of the committee were attempting to work towards a compromise on a bill only to get direction from leadership to pass the bill un-amended. That is the power of a super majority.
At the beginning of this Session the Senate President and the Speaker of the House convened a workgroup of ten legislators to begin work on a transportation package. I was asked to be part of the group, and over the last four weeks we have made significant progress towards the development of a very good plan. This package would not only help with commuter and freight traffic, but would also create a lot of jobs. I made it very clear to both the Speaker and the President at the front end that the passage of the low carbon bill would kill any plan we came up with because the proposed gas tax in the plan would be referred to the voters and defeated. I told them their choice was very clear, create jobs in Oregon and deal with an immediate need or pass a bill with no immediate benefit except to out of state corporations.
Last night, when the low carbon bill passed out of the House committee their choice became very clear. Because there had been comments made in the media tying the republicans in the workgroup to both bills, we were given no choice but to leave, which we did at six o’clock last night.
I think it is going to be interesting as this one-party agenda moves forward to look at who is actually benefitting from the actions and what the political ties are. Clearly the whole low carbon issue can be tied to Cylvia Hayes and John Kitzhaber, but I would suggest the connections actually go deeper than that. Hopefully the current investigation will be very thorough in its scope.
In politics as in life, it is all about relationships. My relationship with Governor Brown is actually relatively simple to explain. We work together where there is agreement; on some areas of disagreement we try to find middle ground; and in other areas we just simply disagree. What is common in all of these scenarios is we are honest with each other and respect the other person’s right to their opinion. I have the same type of relationship with the Speaker, President, and most members of the Assembly. I say most members because there are new people in the House I have not met yet.
This job can be very frustrating at times and I have been asked why I still do it. I think a good response would be a line Tom Hanks had in the movie Philadelphia. When he was asked why he liked being a lawyer, this was his response, “Because occasionally, not often but occasionally, you get a chance to do something that helps someone.” It is my hope that over the next few months while we will be doing things that I don’t think are in the best interests of our state we will be able to do some things that will actually be helpful. I continue to be optimistic that we will not totally lose sight of the core principles that make our State of Oregon unique.