This week, the legislature returned to its usual chaotic pace. Although many legislators and lobbyists continued business as usual throughout the transition, a morose temperament lingers in the building. Irrespective of the upheaval in the chief executive’s office, leadership has been able to move several significant agenda items through the process with relative ease. The most notable examples include the low carbon fuel standard, voter registration and class action reform.
The leadership of both chambers worked well together during this trying period, which is truly a testament to their shared belief in adhering to process. In both the Senate and the House, the Democratic leadership has effectively quelled the noise of the media, and moved forward on key legislative items at an impressive pace.
Committees are working with purpose as they continue to regain their footing. Legislators and lobbyists have started to convert concepts into real legislation and are making a strong push for finalizing the state budget. Critical to this conversation is the passage of the public education budget. This week, Senate Democrats began making a robust effort for a plan to increase revenues for the State School Fund, which makes up more than half of all General Fund resources. Concurrently, the budget writing process is underway for the Human Services and Public Safety budgets.
If leadership is able to successfully pass all three budgets within the next week, only the smaller budgets will remain to be negotiated. Lastly, with the kicker either on the verge or already reaching its two percent threshold, dollars are currently at a high premium. Oregon is at the doorstep of an important conversation over budget cuts and tax increases.