2018 Session Conclusion – One Week Early!
At the very end of each legislative session, it is tradition to open both the Senate and House chamber doors. From the dais at the front of the House, you can see across the open space under the Capitol dome, straight through the building, to the dais at the front of the Senate chamber. After making eye contact, the Senate President and the House Speaker bring down their gavels simultaneously to signal formal adjournment “sine die”.
Oregon lawmakers performed this ceremony and ended the 2018 session late Saturday afternoon, eight days before the constitutional deadline. We also avoided much of the partisan disagreements that clouded the last short session two years ago. Most of the 260 bills introduced were noncontroversial and passed with little opposition.
Major measures we approved include: increased funding for affordable housing (HB 4007); prescription drug transparency (HB 4005); net neutrality protection (HB 4155); prohibiting firearms sales to convicted domestic abusers (HB 4145); stronger clean air standards (SB 1541); and disconnecting Oregon from the difficult new federal tax bill (SB 1528).
Most of my own measures also crossed the finish line, including: my bill to ease red tape for small business (HB 4052); the Equifax Breach Bill (SB 1551) which would prohibit fees for freezing your account if a credit monitoring company gets hacked; my PERS Reform bill (HB 4046) which would prevent “spiking” retirement benefits; a resolution to honor former State Rep. Paul Hanneman (SCR 211); and a measure I carried on the final day to create small business loan funds for expansion and operating costs (SB 1516). All passed by wide, bipartisan margins.
A high-profile plan to address climate change, cap greenhouse gas emissions and charge the state’s largest polluters was not able to garner enough support to move forward. Instead, a special committee has been appointed to consider viable alternatives for 2019.
A bill that would add Oregon to a growing number of states awarding Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections failed to move through the Senate despite consistent support from the House. Finally, my bill to help shelter dogs and cats (HB 4045) did not move forward in 2018. But I will be re-introducing it in 2019 and am hopeful the longer session will give it a better chance of passing.
Last year, the Legislative Assembly completed the state budget for the 2017-2019 biennium. One of the most important reasons for short sessions in alternate years is to make needed adjustments to this budget. A final item completed during the 2018 session was an omnibus budget package that authorized $93 million for a wide variety of mid-biennium spending on projects statewide.
The largest single item in the appropriations bill was an additional $27.5 million to cover the costs of fighting wildfires in 2017. The bill also allocated an additional $15.7 million to the state’s child welfare program to hire more caseworkers and other staff to keep foster children safe and help families.
An additional $5.2 million will pay for emergency winter housing and shelter around the state.
Newport continues to emerge as a premiere center for ocean science research and teaching. In a big win for the Central Coast and for the legislative Coastal Caucus, OSU’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) received $3 million for a wave energy testing facility. These funds will be matched on an 8-1 basis with federal money to continue study of wave energy potential. Click here more funding details.
Overall, I would say that the session was productive, mild-mannered, and remarkably fast paced. One member described each day as a “lightening round.” There were certainly disappointments, but also much to celebrate.
Anyone who believes that short sessions should be quick, focused on budget adjustments, and an opportunity for small policy fixes should be pleased with our past months’ work.
I’m back in the district now and won’t be missing my icy morning commutes to Salem. I continue to attend as many local events as my calendar allows. On Friday at 8am on KCUP radio, I’ll do an hour-long legislative re-cap. On Tuesday the 6th, I’ll join the Pacific City Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce for lunch in Tillamook County, and on the 15th I’ll be speaking to the Sheridan Chamber of Commerce. On the 15th, I’ll also be very pleased to address the groundbreaking for the Marine Science Center in Newport. And on Saturday the 10th, I’ll be at the Spay-getti Beach Bark Benefit in Lincoln City.
Hope to see you somewhere very soon!
Rep. David Gomberg