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Analysis: How the Speaker Bungled the Session
Quest for power gets in the way of business

Even before the 2021 session started, the wars had begun. Some, like House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) found themselves with arrows in the front and back.

A well-publicized battle between the BIPOC or Black, Indigenous and People Of Color segment of the Democratic caucus attempted a power grab -- with some success -- and ended up with a few gavels, or committee chairs. The smoke and noises of that battle, as well as the inevitable scuffles with Republicans, are starting to boil over and though the source might not be apparent, these were seeds planted months ago.

1. Focusing on Extreme Legislation, not the Nuts and Bolts
From racial justice to climate action to housing issues to restricting second amendment rights, Democrats have been pushing a full-cart radical agenda. It's expected that the party in power will get their way on some ideologically divisive issues, but this session has seen more than its share of agenda-driven policy.

2. Expanding the Number of Committees
In the 2019 full session -- the last full session, there were 12 House committees that saw actual substantive policy legislation come out of them. This session has seen that number balloon to 19 plus three subcommittees, for a total of 22 House committees, and that doesn't even count an increased number of new join committees.

3. Very Tight COVID-19 Capitol Lockdowns
Though COVID-19 is no one's fault, the Capitol lockdowns have interrupted communications, made committees less smooth, and contributed to Republicans' -- and Oregonians' -- dissatisfaction with the session. As the state opens up -- and Oregon is one of the slowest states to open -- the Capitol shows no sign of return to anything like normal. It is as locked down as it was in the beginning.

4. Attempting to Go Around Republicans, Instead of Cooperating
Republicans are not yielding the constitutional requirement that each bill be read in its entirety before being voted on, and this is based at least in part on the tidal wave of radical Democratic ideological agenda bills. A lighter agenda might have found more cooperation with Republicans -- or at least a compromise at this point. Instead, Speaker Kotek has gritted her teeth and pushed on.

5. Plain Old Extra Stuff to Do
Sure, every session has its unique policy challenges, but this session seems to have a more generous share with COVID-19 and the federal money to divvy up, wildfire clean up and relief from last year, as well as redistricting. Maybe it wasn't such a great year to work on racial justice, climate justice and the rest of the radical agenda. Democrats may pay dearly for their inability to focus.

At this point, Speaker Kotek may have mangled the session beyond repair. As both parties claim to want to do "the people's work" it may be too late to salvage much out of this session. Let's hope they can at least pass budgets.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-04-02 18:44:36Last Update: 2021-03-31 19:42:32



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