Sen. Jeff Kruse: The Not So Special Session

Jeff Kruse

Sen. Kruse assumes the votes will be there to pass the “Grand Bargain”

by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

This is day 3 and probably the last day of this Special Session.  Interestingly I think we might find the majority of the special sessions of the Oregon Legislature could possibly have happened when Kitzhaber was Governor.  One reason might be the fact the Governor has a lot more control over the agenda during a special session than he does during a regular session.  I also think one of the main reasons he called this one was to “show leadership” on the front end of his announcing his re-election campaign, but that is just my speculation.  There is nothing we are doing this week that couldn’t have waited until the February regular session when these issues could have gone through the regular committee process. 

The time line was in and of itself interesting.  A few weeks ago the Governor announced his intention to call us in.  Two weeks ago, during Legislative Days, the Governor convened a series of meetings.  The attendees were the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President and the minority leaders of both Chambers.  What they came up with was a “framework”, which basically means they agreed on what issues would be under consideration.  Meanwhile there were other groups of legislators meeting to come up with other proposals as alternatives to what was on the table in this “Grand Bargain”.  I was a member of one of these groups.  Unfortunately, because of the closed door structure of this process there was no open forum for other ideas to be discussed.

The back room meetings continued through last weekend, with the deal falling apart and being put back together several times.  An interesting side note in this is the fact 86 of the 90 members of the Legislative Assembly really knew none of the details.  Monday the Session starts, the “special committee” is appointed, and they introduce the five bills under consideration.  The members of the Assembly did not have access to the actual text of the bills until late Monday for some of the bills and Tuesday for the rest.  Now we are going to be asked to vote.

The only public hearing on the bills was late Monday night, which really gave people little time to prepare, especially considering the fact that the details of the legislation were not revealed until shortly before the meeting and on the revenue bill not until the next day.  This is not the way we are supposed to be conducting our business.

There are some good things in these bills, but also some bad things.  The urgency of doing this now instead of waiting until February is not real.  My fear is, because we are doing this package now, we will not take the hard look at these issues we should take in February simply based on the fact “we already did it”.

As a member of the minority party I clearly do not have the ability to set the agenda.  If I did I would have adjourned this Special Session at 8:30 Monday morning and told the Governor we should be dealing with these issues through the normal legislative process.  The House goes on the Floor at 8:30 this morning and the Senate at 10:00.  I am assuming the votes will probably be there.