Governor Kate Brown, House Speaker Tina Kotek, Senate President Peter Courtney and I agree on at least one thing: the 2020 legislative session was a failure. Regarding how and why the session failed; we have extremely differing views.
Just three bills made it to the governor’s desk before adjournment. Dozens of crucial budget bills and bipartisan policy proposals failed to receive votes. But it didn’t have to end this way.
The truth is, Democrat leaders wanted their cap-and-trade bill so badly, they were willing to sacrifice everything in its wake to ensure its passage. They made the choice to put a flawed cap-and-trade bill ahead of legislation that would have addressed homelessness, health care, housing, education and public safety. When we encouraged them to put budget bills and bipartisan policy proposals ahead of cap-and-trade early in the session, they said no.
That was their right and that was their choice, but they now need to own that decision. They do not have the right to make this choice and then try to pin the blame on others for their own actions.
When it became clear that Democrat leaders were not interested in compromise on cap-and-trade and were not going to move forward with a proper end to the session, Republican lawmakers developed their own plan for completing the legislature’s business. Our proposal to return on the final day of the session (March 8) would have allowed us to pass those essential budget bills and other shared priorities. To be clear, Republican lawmakers were not attempting to “cherry pick” which bills lived or died. In fact, we agreed to the list of important budget bills that Democratic leadership announced as priorities on the House floor without allowing the passage of cap-and-trade.
Again, Democrats said no.
Make no mistake, we had the time (in 2019 the Senate passed over 100 bills on the last day), the authority, and the resources to get these bills across the finish line on the final day of session. Instead of joining us on Sunday to finish the peoples’ work, Democratic leadership prematurely gaveled out the session and quit on the people of Oregon. It’s ironic, given the rhetoric that has been aimed at Republicans over the last two weeks, that the final act of the 2020 legislative session will be Democrats “walking out” on Oregonians.
Sadly, there were a lot of budget and policy bills that both parties agreed upon, including my two bills; kratom and land use. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t have passed these bi-partisan bills at the beginning of session. Instead, Democratic leadership made their choice to hold common sense bills hostage until their agenda was complete.
Democratic leaders made their choice and their agenda wasn’t completed. Now, they own this session’s failure. It is my sincere hope that Oregon voters will remember in November.
(Bill Post represents the 25th House District that includes Keizer.)