SALEM - Ask just about any Salem observer how they'd judge the Oregon Legislature's 2009 session, and they'll start with a hedge, something to the effect of "given the economic downturn" or "considering these hard times."
Everything legislators have done this session - or haven't, as the case may be - is measured against the difficult economic reality that sent them scrambling to make up for billions in lost revenues as Oregon's economy has foundered.
As political analyst Bill Lunch explains it, looking at this session is like looking at Pearl Harbor the day after it was bombed. There are a lot of damaged ships given that the Legislature's budget writers have made about $2 billion in cuts. "There are lots and lots of losers," he said. "We're looking at which ships are still afloat even if they're damaged."
Still, lawmakers have managed noteworthy gains, including a landmark health care expansion that will extend coverage to more than 100,000 uninsured Oregonians and a transportation improvements package that will create thousands of construction jobs.
Not everyone is pleased with the Legislature's work as the session heads into its final weeks.
On one side of the spectrum, fiscal conservative groups have watched with dismay as Democrats have used their "supermajority" status to raise income taxes to help pay for schools and other state services.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, are alarmed at what they see as a surprising lack of action by the Democrats on measures to promote renewable energy and reduce global warming.
"Oregon likes to think of itself as a leader on environmental issues, but so far this session we have nothing to show for it," said Andrea Durbin of the Oregon Environmental Council.
Social services are some of the session's biggest winners - or, at least, they're not as big of losers as advocates had initially expected.
"I would say this session has been good," said John Mullin, a member of the advocacy group Human Services Coalition. Then came the hedge: "Given the circumstances."