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C.O. lawmakers reflect on session's ups, downs

By Wanda Moore
Published On: Mar 07 2014 10:54:14 PM CST

BEND, Ore. -

Central Oregon lawmakers cheered funding for the OSU-Cascades expansion, but found little else to applaud as the short 2014 session adjourned Friday after passing the state budget.

With just 35 days this year, as opposed to 160 days in odd-numbered years, lawmakers didn't have much time to pass complex bills.

"It's very, very fast," said Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend. "The process is short, and that limits the public ability to weigh in, to testify or to contact their legislators about bills."

The five-week session has been particularly notable for what did not happen. Controversial bills on guns, liquor and marijuana rules and the Columbia River Crossing never gained much steam.

Conger said his biggest disappointment during the 2014 session was the budget. He said lawmakers were only given an hour to read the 72-page budget before voting on it, but that wasn't his only issue with it.

"The lack of kind of common-sense restraint on spending and borrowing, even in a year where we have a lot more revenue to spend -- to be maxing out your credit card after you just got a big raise seems reckless," Conger said.

Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte), the House Republican leader, also was bothered by the late budget moves by the Democrats.

"Of the 33 days in the Capitol, the majority party spent 32 days playing politics," McLane said. "With less than 24 hours left, Democrats finally revealed their budget to the public and Republican legislators."

"This is clearly not how Oregonians expected their elected officials to act when they voted for an additional short session to address budget issues and emergencies," McLane added. "It's unfortunate we've taken a break from the Oregon tradition of bipartisan problem solving and apparently adopted a D.C.-style of gamesmanship."

To Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, the lack of investigation into Cover Oregon was the biggest failure of the 2014 session.

"I really think the biggest weakness was that there wasn't more focus on Cover Oregon and investigating what happened," Knopp said. "There seems to be a lack of desire amongst the people in charge in Salem to investigate it."

"And part of the reason is that they (Democrats) were in charge and didn't do their job," Knopp added. "So therefore, we have a huge loss of taxpayer funds -- or you could say waste,  because we still have a website that essentially doesn't work"

Despite the disappointment, there were good news, too. The OSU-Cascades spending bill passed, providing $5.5 million that help OSU-Cascades expand. After failing to get the requested funding from last year's session, its passage in the final days this time is a huge relief for the university.

"We were concerned that it wasn't going to go though," said Becky Johnson, Vice-President of OSU-Cascades. "So that was a big relief, to be able to settle that. And of course, the $3.8 million for the new academic building is really going to help us expand the amount of space and the amount of programs we can provide."

OSU-Cascades receives another $1.6 million, which will allow COCC to retire the debt on Cascades Hall and let OSU-Cascades out of its lease on the building, which will be used by the community college in the future.

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