In early February Oregon legislators will be returning to the capitol in Salem to convene the 2018 Legislative Session. The “Short Session” or the 35-day long session that occurs during even-numbered years is a fairly new concept. Ballot Measure 71 passed back in 2010 changed it so that the legislature would meet annually instead of biannually. At the time that the ballot measure was being debated, it was pitched as a time for legislators to address budget issues, make fixes to legislation passed earlier, and to deal with emergency issues as 35 days would not be a long enough period to give due diligence to any significant legislation. However, given the reality of what occurs during a short session, it is clear that Oregon voters were sold a bill of goods.
Our Democratic Overlords in Salem have seen fit to ram through major legislation, such as the increase in the minimum wage, in these short legislative sessions. Now Governor Brown and the Democrats in the legislature plan on tackling an issue as big as Cap and Trade, despite only having a 35-day session to work on it. The short session has become an abomination where major issues are rushed through and bills are introduced simply to make political opponents take hard votes in the run-up to the election cycle.
Some would say that we should just make the move to a full-time legislature and have two long annual sessions, but I am a firm believer that the less time legislators spend in session the less harm they can do, so while two long sessions would be preferable to what we have now, abolishing the even yeared session entirely would be the best course of action.
A stable set of rules is good for the economy. Business owners can overcome great obstacles, but when they do not even know what they have to plan for in the future because they don’t know what new rules or regulations are going to crop up every time the legislature goes into the session it makes long-term planning almost impossible. Now instead of only having to fear what politicians will do once every two years, Oregonians have to worry about what they could do every single year. While eliminating the short legislative session would only be a small victory against the constant wave of new regulations coming out of Salem, it would be a victory nonetheless.
Make no mistake, whatever good comes out of this next legislative session will pale in comparison to the bad. Get ready for political posturing ahead of the 2018 election and a rushed through Cap and Trade proposal among others. As the old saying goes “That government is best which governs least” and the short legislative session has done nothing more than giving us more and more government. It is time to recognize the mistake many Oregonians, myself included, made at the ballot in 2010 and move to abolish the farce that is the short legislative session.
Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate. Jacob is the Editor of the Oregon Upstart Blog.