Few people outside the Oregon Capitol care about much of the Legislature’s work.
Most legislation is tedious — making fixes in laws and regulations, adjusting the state budget, correcting spellings such as for the Central Oregon community of Terrebonne, and the like.
Such legislation rarely makes headlines. But it comprises the nuts and bolts of governance, and it was the essence of the 2018 Legislature.
Legislative sessions in even-numbered years are short — limited to 35 days — because they’re designed for fix-it and budget balancing bills, not grand visionary legislation. And the 2018 Legislature, which adjourned after only 27 days, largely succeeded in that mission.
The so-called Clean Energy Jobs legislation — a top priority for many urban Democratic legislators but, according to polls, not most Oregonians — was put off until 2019, when the Legislature will meet for up to 160 days.
The Senate continued to act as a brake on the House, letting a number of contentious House-passed bills die quietly, including one that would have required school districts to negotiate with teacher unions over class sizes.
The Legislature faced up to its dismal record on sexual harassment and pushed Roseburg Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse to resign.
Governor Kate Brown had a modest agenda, and the Legislature mostly went along with it.
Slight progress was made on improving government efficiency and on paring the huge costs of the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System.
Far-reaching gun legislation was set aside in favor of a straightforward bill that expands the definition of stalkers and domestic abusers who may lose access to firearms. Most bills that passed did so on a bipartisan basis, many on unanimous or near-unanimous votes. Among the exceptions were the Democratic majority’s bills to partially disconnect Oregon income tax regulations from the federal tax reforms that became law in December. The wisdom of the state legislation, or lack thereof, likely won’t be known for some time. The bill still sits on the governor’s desk, and carries with it political implications no matter her decision.
And despite legislators’ sometimes-heated public rhetoric on taxes, immigration and a few other issues, this was a legislative session that largely worked well behind the scenes. Republicans and Democrats collaborated to make an early adjournment possible. We’re pleased that major projects were postponed until 2019, when there is more time for debate.
Oregon history books may pay little heed to the 2018 Legislature, and that’s OK. Good governance is frequently bland, often tedious … and supremely important.