Early line on session not very encouraging
The Legislature has just 35 days to wrap up the 2014 session that started Monday. With challenging pot, booze and gun issues on their plate, not to mention a bridge with only one leg to stand on, legislators shot out of the blocks like a rocket, right?
Well, not exactly.
“Before legislative committees got down to business, the House and Senate opened with a bit of pomp and circumstance,” The Associated Press reported. “Members of the Portland Lesbian Choir serenaded the House while senators listened to notes from the Willamette Master Chorus.”
The Eugene Register-Guard was only slightly more charitable, reporting: “Lawmakers, after brief morning floor sessions of reunions, choir music and bill introductions, eased back into legislative mode with a series of hearings on bills with a narrower scope.
“Those included efforts to establish a state board to oversee commercial interior design businesses, to allow apprenticeship programs to count toward Oregon’s high school and college graduation goals, and to give tenants of a manufactured home park an opportunity to potentially purchase the park themselves before its owner can sell it to someone else.”
By midweek, the Oregonian was finding issues of more substance being addressed, but not necessarily in positive ways.
Page One of Wednesday’s Oregonian reported, “An effort in the Oregon Legislature to phase out arsenic, cadmium, mercury, bisphenol A, formaldehyde and other potentially toxic chemicals from some children’s products looks likely to fail after intense lobbying from chemical, toy and business interests.”
It seems the toxic chemicals bill sailed through the Oregon House last session on the wings of broad, bipartisan support, but the lobby kicked into high gear in the Senate. It’s still holding that line, suggesting childhood safety may be taking a back seat to the continued flow of campaign contributions.
The Oregonian’s Wednesday editorial warned, “We’ve learned a few things since last month, when we wrote about a proposal that would expand the number of elected county officials who may collect both public sector paychecks and PERS retirement benefits. The first thing we learned is that there is, in fact, something that state lawmakers of both parties will cross the aisle happily to support. The second, unfortunately, is that it’s rank cronyism.”
Eugene Democrat Floyd Prozanski helped hatch the double-dipping bill to benefit a single elected official in Douglas County, but it would open the door to officials in Yamhill, Benton, Josephine, Polk and Umatilla counties as well, as those counties fall into the same population range. Yes, Yamhill. And at taxpayer expense.
Citizen comments posted in response included: “So, yee-haw, here we go with five weeks of grandstanding and useless legislative inaction,” and “Count your liberties and lock up your wallets; they’re back!”
We hate to see the electorate take such a cynical turn. We hate to take such a cynical turn ourselves. But it is what it is.
If the Legislature wants better press, it needs to get down to business. And by business, we mean the public’s business.