By editorial board • 

Democrats put the lie to premise of off-year housekeeping sessions

Oregon voters this week resoundingly approved the 2017 Legislature’s preferred funding scheme for the expansion of Medicaid coverage in Oregon. Although some lawmakers hoped for a resounding no vote instead, they should be relieved, nonetheless, that the issue won’t dominate the upcoming 35-day session. 

Even-year short sessions were instituted eight years ago so the Legislature could adjust budgets at the mid-point of the biennium and address any matters left over from the previous odd-year regular session.

Given the tightly compressed time frame, committee sessions are rushed. Thus, bills are either fast-tracked or shot down at the outset. Such sessions best serve constituents as a time for housekeeping, not empire-building. 

Had Measure 101 failed, a $200 million to $300 million Medicaid shortfall would have forced the Legislature to devote its full attention to that issue.

Unfortunately, having avoided one bullet, the state’s Democratic leadership seems determined to jump in front of another. Gov. Kate Brown is leading the charge, aimed at ramming through a carbon cap-and-trade proposal.

The scheme is, at best, suspect to begin with. If passed without proper vetting, it could prove disastrous for Oregonians. 

Even if you favor the carbon tax coming down Oregon’s legislative pipeline, you should oppose trying to turn it into workable law on such a tight deadline. The Legislature’s even-year sessions were not designed for such heavy lifting.

A carbon tax — though you can bet the word “tax” will appear nowhere in the final language — would directly affect the livelihood of all employers and employees. Thus, it demands a public vetting process that is clear and comprehensive. And such a process is measured in months, not days or weeks.

Voters were originally promised the new off-year sessions would be limited to re-balancing the budget and smoothing out minor glitches. The Democratic Party’s ambitious carbon tax agenda belies that. It emphatically negates those promises.

We see a pattern emerging here.

The 2016 short session featured passage of measures to increase the state’s minimum wage, eliminate coal from the state’s energy-production inventory and enact a sweeping affordable housing package. None of those could remotely be considered a routine housekeeping measure.

At a town hall last week, state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, Democrat from Lane County, said, “I am opposed to using the short session to ram through bills without thoroughly considering them.” Hopefully he can convince his Democratic peers of that, because they don’t seem to be on the same page.


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