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2014 Oregon Legislature ends with partisan barbs

The 2014 Oregon Legislature adjourned around 5:00 p.m. Friday.

Major accomplishments included passage of the so-called land use grand bargain that resolved planning problems in Washington County created by the Oregon Court of Appeals' rejection of the 50-year urban and rural reserves plan approve by Metro.

One victim was the Columbia River Crossing, which did not received support to continue as an Oregon-led project.

After the session ended, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber released the following statement:

“I’d like to congratulate the Oregon State Legislature on a productive session. After several years of transformative legislative packages, this year the Legislature focused on implementation and refinement of that work. They asked tough questions on how we can deliver for the people of Oregon. They re-balanced the budget, responding to changing conditions across the state while prioritizing services for Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens. And they secured better accountability and oversight of Cover Oregon without sacrificing our deep commitment to quality, affordable health care.

“I came into this session with a goal to build on our efforts to streamline and improve our system of governance. I’m proud we did just that. We made critical progress on reforms in early childhood education and infrastructure investments. We passed legislation that continues our investment in economic and community development, aligning state programs with regional priorities. Our work this February will improve access to community college for low-income Oregonians, modernize Oregon’s job training programs for workers, and maintain the market for renewable energy across the state.

“Above all, this session proves that Oregon’s citizen-legislators may not agree on everything, but they remain committed to working together to find solutions that improve the lives of people across the state. This belief in a common purpose, this goal to finding the win in every conflict, is fundamental to what makes us Oregonians. This doesn’t mean we win on every issue, but it does mean we consider every possible path to a shared victory.

“With the close of session, we will maintain our focus on pursuing a world-class system of public education, ensuring access to affordable, high-quality health care, and supporting family-wage jobs and an enduring prosperity that reaches every corner of the state.”

House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) agreed, saying, “We delivered for Oregonians. We balanced the budget, we took steps to support workers and create jobs, and we made additional investments in education and other programs that matter most.”

State Senate Republicans were not so kind, however. They released the following statement:

"Democrats, especially in the House, missed an opportunity to continue in the same path of bipartisan, consensus based policy making that made 2013 such a success for Oregon," said Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day). "Voters approved annual sessions because they thought it would be targeted, non-controversial and lead by people who value consensus. Instead of focusing on areas where we could agree and find common ground, House Democrats chose to run their own polarizing agenda.

Short sessions were billed to voters as a way to carefully adjust the budget, deal with emergencies and make consensus changes to policy. Unfortunately for lawmakers and the public, Democrats did not publicly reveal their 75 pages of budget bills until late Thursday night, just minutes before the Ways and Means Committee hearing and a day before session adjourned. Democrats spent much of the session attempting to garner support for divisive legislation such as gun regulations, major re-writes to Oregon's class action lawsuit statutes, marijuana legalization, and providing political cover for the Cover Oregon debacle.

"The fear was a session filled with partisan posturing and rushed decisions on complicated policies," said Ferrioli. "Those fears were largely realized."

While Democrats focused on their political agenda, Republicans were working to build bipartisan agreement and pass legislation that will serve Oregon seniors, small businesses and students. Republicans enacted a "Silver Alert" program to help find vulnerable seniors when they go missing. They also championed tougher penalties for "patent trolls" that target small businesses, and created a way for students to earn college credit for high school classes.

"Our hope is that these proposals will keep Oregon families safe and empower them for success," said Ferrioli. "We believe these are the type of bills the legislature should be working on in short sessions, because they make Oregon a better place to live and focus on solutions that can be supported by members of all parties."

But Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland) disagreed, saying:

“In contrast to the partisan politics in Washington, D.C., Oregon Senate Democrats demonstrated again this session that we can get things done for everyday Oregonians. We delivered on Oregonians’ top priorities: We gave small businesses new tools to expand and create jobs, protected our historic reinvestment in Oregon schools, expanded access to job training and higher education, and took steps to make government more accountable and efficient.

“Giving school districts the resources they need to continue to restore school days and add teachers was a huge priority this session. Senate Democrats protected our substantial reinvestment in education while addressing the rising cost of college. This means more Oregonians will be able to get the job skills training they need to find good-paying jobs.

“Frustrated by the technical glitches associated with Cover Oregon, Senate Democrats demanded action on important new accountability measures, including improved oversight to prevent future IT contracting failures. Legislation we championed this session will improve accountability, cut waste in state government, and help thousands more Oregonians get access to quality, affordable health care.

“Senate Democrats began this short session with a focused agenda to stand up for middle class families, our kids, and our most vulnerable. We fought hard every day to deliver on these priorities, and I am extremely proud to report that we were successful.”