Legislators, lobbyists and staff celebrated sine die with their traditional “end of session” party this week, but it’s becoming clear that adjournment continues to be in flux. Policy committees have shut down for the year, while some highly negotiated bills continue to trickle through the process. However, there’s no such thing as smooth sailing to sine die anymore and sensitive negotiations have hit stumbling blocks.
Numerous policy bills that have stalled in the budget writing process are finally getting hearings scheduled as budgets begin to move forward. Two of the most significant budgets to move were the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Transportation, indicating a steady march to the finish line. Monday marked the passage of the first major marijuana bill out of committee, proving that legislators on the joint committee are finally finding common ground. However, several end-game negotiations remain unsolved, including the possibility of significant corporate tax increases, a transportation package and determining how recreational marijuana will be regulated as markets open. Additionally, the legislature is the closest it has been in recent years on compromises over gun control, pesticide regulations and the Gain Share program.
End-game negotiations have focused around a transportation package. While legislators met privately to negotiate a compromise, interest groups balked at the idea of pitting the clean fuels policy against an infrastructure package. This caused Republicans to once again walk away from the table. It is not clear if a compromise can be reached after a proposed policy was leaked to the press and made accessible to the public, interest groups and legislators not currently at the table.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle will need to come together in a very short time frame in order for the remaining pieces to successfully survive the final stretch.