While I still think the concept of Legislative Days, a block of time during the interim when all committees in both Chambers meet, is a good one, I am disappointed in what has transpired this week. The best day of the week was Tuesday when the Coastal Caucus met. The Coastal Caucus is not an official part of our committee structure, but has been active for years dealing with issues mostly affecting our coastal communities. We had a very lengthy agenda and the meeting lasted for over six hours. The highlight for me was the progress report on our attempt to solve the dredging issues in our small ports, and we are making very good progress. What I find equally satisfying is the fact we have had great cooperation between the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch and our Congressional Delegation. This is actually an example where government works.
Failure of education reforms not discussed
The rest of the week has not been so wonderful. The only official thing I had on my schedule for yesterday was the Judiciary Committee Friday afternoon and I wasn’t expecting anything major to come from it. Thursday was the meeting of the Senate Education and Workforce Committee, and I was hoping we would spend some time discussing the failure of the reforms the Governor has instituted since he became the CEO of the entire education system. Instead what we heard is how things are “moving in the right direction” and “just trust us, everything will be fine”. This is the same type of rhetoric we have been hearing about Cover Oregon for over a year. The reality is the changes that have been made have actually made the system worse, and nobody in a position of authority seem to be willing to step up on any of the issues.
Let me give just one example and that is the fact we are probably going to see an increase in college tuition. I have been asking (and receiving no answers) why the cost of college continues to increase at a rate far beyond inflation. I found out just recently that the University of Oregon, for example, has one employee (this includes everyone working for the university) for every five students. One has to wonder how something like this can be sustainable, but as a body we continue to choose not to talk about it and the Governor has clearly shown no interest in such issues.
Cover Oregon update: More of Governor’s scapegoats but still no actual truth
This takes me back to Wednesday and the meeting of the Health Care and Human Services Committee. Keeping in mind the fact we have, in my mind, been lied to for over a year about Cover Oregon, I was expecting some actual truth. It didn’t happen. What we heard was basically “trust us, by November the transition to the federal exchange will be fine.” Every time our committee has met on this subject we have had different people from the administration reporting to us as the Governor continues to find “scapegoats” to blame things on. The reality is he is the one calling the shots and has been from day one.
I fully expected him to come before our committee, but it didn’t happen. He did, however, make an appearance before the Joint Cover Oregon Oversight Committee on Thursday. One of the interesting aspects of this move is that it isn’t a standing committee and it has no real authority. The one revelation from his appearance was his statement that he was going to sue Oracle, which was the contracted vendor for the IT portion of Cover Oregon. It is my opinion that, if this case actually went to court Oracle would win because of the way the state mismanaged everything. I think the Governor might have done this for political reasons. This is purely my speculation, but he has now set up a scenario in which he can “not talk about things because it is in litigation” until after the election. A smart move politically, but we deserve better.
Week spent on political posturing and not real solutions
While it is probably understandable why so many people are in a “campaign mode”, to use our time here for political posturing is not what the people hired us to do. We should have spent this week looking into real solutions to our problems, most of which we have created. This was not our best week.