Preparing for the end game in the Oregon Legislature

Jeff Kruse

by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

At this point there are a lot of tensions and disagreements in the Legislative Assembly. The interesting point is the battle at this point is between the House Democrats and the Senate Democrats. Because they basically have total control of the process, one could assume they will eventually reach an agreement, but at this point they still have a ways to go.

The original target date for the end of the Session was June 26th, which is Friday. At this point it appears we may come closer to the constitutionally required date for adjournment which is July 11th.

The reason for this speculation is the lack of activity in the Ways and Means Committee. Friday they were scheduled to pass out 20 bills and only three of them are budget bills. Additionally those three are the Departments of Energy, Geology and Mineral Industries and Public Safety Standards and Training. We still haven’t seen any of the big agency budgets, and normally we would have dealt with some of them by now.

On a more positive note (depending on your perspective) we have now passed the major legislation out of the Measure 91 committee. While we still have some issues to deal with, the two major bills are done. They are Senate Bill 964 (51 pages long) dealing with the medical [marijuana] program and House Bill 3400 (over 150 pages long) dealing with the recreational [marijuana] program. There are several provisions, especially in HB 3400, that are of concern, but at least we will now have a starting point.

While legalization was approved at the ballot, it really is not that simple. One needs to keep in mind we are still dealing with a schedule one drug at the federal level, which creates a lot of barriers, including access into the financial system. It should also be pointed out we are dealing with a schedule two drug in Oregon which, by definition is still a controlled substance. This will be the first controlled substance ever to be allowed for “over the counter” sales. It is my hope this committee will be continued, as we still have a lot of work to do on this issue.

The issue of transportation is still very much alive at this point, although there does appear to be a fair number of roadblocks still to deal with. I am a member of the workgroup and we have all agreed not to talk about the details until we can reach an agreement. Clearly all of the details will come out well in advance of an actual vote, but we just haven’t reached that point yet. It is my hope to be able to fully report on this issue by next week.

What is concerning is we, meaning Republicans, still don’t know what will be in the end game. The two committees still open in both Chambers are the Rules and Revenue Committees, and none of them currently have any significant bills scheduled for work sessions. Additionally, because the President and Speaker have both declared that we are “Sine Die Imminent”, which basically means we are near the end, committees now only have to give a one hour notice to have a hearing or work session on a bill. So basically anything could pop up at any time. Two main concerns at this point are new fees in agency budgets and any new taxes that might come forward. One thing to watch for is attempts to redefine taxes as something else to avoid the supermajority vote requirement and also the 90 day requirement to allow the people an opportunity to weigh in.

I have been serving in the Legislature for 18 years and this is quite honestly the most closed process I have ever seen. I wish I had more to report, and hopefully next week I will. But, for now, your guess as to what will be in the end game is as good as mine.