Look back at 2015 Oregon Legislative Session

Jeff Kruse

Basically a group of four people made all the major decisions

by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

It is helpful to let a bit of time pass before taking a look at what was and wasn’t accomplished during a Legislative Session.

While the majority party “talked” about jobs and the economy, it became quite clear the first priority was political payback. There were bills that gave clear wins to trial lawyers, public sector unions, anti-gun groups and environmental organizations. All one needs to do is take a look at campaign contributions to understand why these passed.

It was also interesting that the Roseburg Chamber of Commerce had a list of bills they supported and a list they opposed. None of the bills they supported passed and all but one of the bills they opposed did pass. So much for “jobs and the economy.”

However, there were some areas where I think we did some very good work. One was in the area of sexual violence and sexual predators. We put into place safe haven arrangements so that women who have been assaulted have a safe and confidential place to go if they feel they have been a victim. We also dealt with some internet issues that I had previously been unaware of and I found to be very disturbing. On the other side of the issue we put in place a pathway for young people to earn their way off of the sex offender registry. We did this with the understanding that occasionally young people do dumb things and maybe they shouldn’t be labeled for life for one mistake.

We also took the first step in unwinding the empire former Governor Kitzhaber was trying to create, and we accomplished this by eliminating the Oregon Education Investment Board. Kitzhaber’s long-range plan was to have education, health care and social services all in one place controlled by him. Hopefully we can now head in a different direction. We have a workgroup in place with the plan to bring forward a better administrative structure during the 2016 Legislative Session. It should also be noted we are on a pathway to get rid of Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balance Assessments. Our schools worked better when there was local control and it is time we moved back to that model.

My one personal disappointment is the mascot issue. During the 2014 Session legislation was passed creating a workgroup to come up with a solution (which we did), and instructing the State Board of Education to adopt the rule. The Board chose to ignore the law and not adopt the rule. We had legislation ready to go to reverse their decision, and even had the support of Governor Brown. Then the confederate flag issue came up and the Governor backed down. She told me she would find a way for the Board to do the right thing, but it hasn’t happened yet, so clearly that particular story is not done yet.

While each Legislature develops its own personality, this one was unique for a couple of reasons. First, the Democrats had a super majority in the Senate and were one vote short of a super majority in the House. Also we did have a change of Governor mid-stream, which further complicated things. What we found was basically a group of four people making all of the major decisions.

Hopefully we will do better next time around.