Election 2014: No bad idea is ever dead in Salem

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

An anti-Obama Republican red wave swept across the United States in Tuesday night’s midterm election.

For the first time since 2006, Republicans reclaimed control of U.S. Senate. Up until now, they have held 45 seats, but the defeat of incumbents and the pickup of seats held by retiring Democrats will give them a minimum of 52 of that chamber’s 100 seats. The possibility exists that the margin may grow larger, as Louisiana’s hotly contested race will go to a December runoff election and a seat in Alaska is poised to be won by Republican Dan Sullivan.

Republicans also increased their control of the US House from a 234-201 margin to having at least 242 seats, the highest level since World War II.

The results of the election will serve to strip the power from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). All of the bills that have passed the House for the past few years can be re-introduced and receive votes in the Senate. They can now become law, subject only to a veto by President Barack Obama.

Republicans will be able to pass the first budgets since Obama took office in 2009, as opposed to the continuing resolutions that have been funding the federal government throughout his entire presidency.

This also means that our elected representatives will be able to rein in federal agencies by controlling their funding. The long-delayed Keystone pipeline project, a key component of our future energy independence, has a much better chance of moving forward. Our military and national defense can once again be a priority instead of an afterthought.

Despite all of this, the red wave dissipated against the east side of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Voters throughout the United States thoroughly rejected the president and his party’s big government policies, but those in our Willamette Valley chose an opposite course.

Governor Kitzhaber was elected to an unprecedented fourth term in office, even though the colossal failures of Cover Oregon, the Columbia River Crossing project fiasco and the scandals in his administration involving his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes and the wife of one of his top aides continue to hang over this state.

All four of our state’s Democratic Congressmen will return to that body. One of our two Democratic U.S. Senators was re-elected to a second term. However, they will be serving as members of the minority.

The Oregon House is divided on a 35-25 split in favor of Democrats. That margin means that they will be only one vote from the supermajority needed to pass tax increases.

A divided state Senate of 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans also puts the Democrats one vote from a supermajority in this chamber. Equally important, the bipartisan Senate coalition that was able to stop as many as 120 bad bills during the past two legislative sessions will no longer have enough votes to be effective.

No bad idea is ever dead in Salem, so we may expect to see the preponderance of these bad bills reintroduced and passed next year. The coalition that had previously held together to stop gun control legislation will no longer be able to do so.

Voters also passed three of the statewide ballot measures put before them in the election.

Previously, I discussed the potential long-term financial pitfalls of Measure 86. That risky measure would have allowed the state to take on additional debt to fund college scholarships through stock market speculation. This measure was wisely rejected.

The passage of Measure 87, which I also opposed, means that judges will now be able to serve in two branches of state government. Measure 87 passed, and could possibly pose a threat to the separation of powers that has been a key cornerstone of our entire system.

A bill passed in the 2013 session that would have enabled the creation of driver cards for undocumented persons was successfully challenged through the rejection of Measure 88.

Oregon’s Equal Rights Amendment took the form of Measure 89, which was passed. I have cautioned against some of the legal issues that may arise because of this, as there is precedence for it to be used to require state-funded abortions under Medicaid. A lawsuit was filed and won in New Mexico regarding that issue.

An influx of out-of-state money was not enough to convince voters to adopt a top-two primary election system, as they turned back Measure 90.

Recreational marijuana will be legal in Oregon following the passage of Measure 91. The Legislature will likely devote much time, energy and effort in the 2015 session towards resolving the multitude of legal issues that this will cause.

Finally, voters narrowly rejected Measure 92, which would have required the labeling of genetically modified organisms, otherwise known as GMOs.

It’s often said that elections have consequences, and this one will be no exception. Along with my colleagues in the House and Senate, I will work diligently to ensure that the consequences of this election do not harm rural Oregonians—although I do admit that the results will make it much more difficult.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls