We have just ended the second short legislative session in Oregon. The Legislature has historically met once every two years, but in 2010 the Oregon voters approved a measure that requires annual sessions. The short session meets for 35 days in the even years and in the odd years the Legislature meets for 165 days.
I continue to serve as Vice Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and as a member of the Veteran’s and Emergency Preparedness Committee. My newest Committee assignment is Legislative Audits, Information Management and Technology.
My colleagues elected me to serve on the Senate Republican Leadership Team as Republican Whip. This responsibility allows me to work closely on advancing the Republican agenda that focuses on protecting and empowering vulnerable Oregonians who have been ignored. Oregon continues to face a slow economic recovery under a Democrat Governor and Democrat leadership in both the Senate and House.
The Senate Republican Agenda:
Job training for vulnerable unemployed Oregonians.
Tax and legal equity for small businesses
Greater educational opportunity for students
Protection for vulnerable seniors
Food for vulnerable families
Economic Development for vulnerable communities
My Personal Agenda:
I have been able in this short session to both acknowledge and help some of my constituents.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 202 honors the heroism of Lt. Robert Libke. Lt. Libke’s life was taken when he was carrying out his duties as an Oregon City Reserve Police Officer. Lt. Libke leaves behind a legacy of courage and selflessness and a beautiful wife, Wendy and infant daughter Ziva.
I also introduced SB 1584, on behalf of a constituent, Patrick Clark, who was in jeopardy of losing his l6 year old service pet, a Lynx named Sosha. I was able to amend the current law on registering exotic animals to allow Mr. Clark to register his pet and therefore keep him in his home. Sometimes small changes in the law have a dramatic impact on quality of life.
Total transparency in the Legislative process continues to be a major goal of mine. I, once again, introduced a bill to require the name of the person requesting a proposed amendment to a bill - SB 1529. Even though I had 67 sponsors on this bill in the 2013 Legislative session the bill failed to pass. I will continue to push for this common sense proposal next session.
My efforts on transparency did pay off in the form of a new Senate rule that was adopted on the 2014 legislative session’s opening day. The Senate adopted a rule change proposed by Senate Republicans that will require a one hour waiting period between the posting of an amendment and calling for a vote on that amendment. My hope is that this gives the public more time to be engaged with the legislators.
I continue to fight for job creation and small business tax reform. Tax issues were not on this short session agenda, but I intend to introduce my tax relief measures in the 2015 session. With a change in leadership I expect to be successful in reducing the tax burden on business and increasing jobs in Oregon.
Gun Control – SB 1551 would require background checks on private sales of guns. It is disappointing we are spending valuable time on a polarizing, divisive issue. The bill died in Committee – but gun control will be back in the 2015 Legislative Session.
Columbia River Crossing Bridge – The Governor continues to blather on with no definitive conclusion in sight and no support from the State of Washington. No legislative action was taken by the Oregon Legislature.
Cover Oregon – Republicans have called for a legislative subpoena of the former Chief Information Office, Carolyn Lawson. There are too many unanswered questions, too many allegations, and too many unfulfilled promises. Most importantly, there are too many Oregonians who don’t have access to affordable healthcare.
Legalizing Marijuana – SB 1556 would allow those over 21 years of age to possess, transfer, and produce marijuana. The bill died in Committee
Liquor in grocery stores- SB 1559 would change Oregon’s state controlled liquor laws to allow distilled spirits to be sold in grocery stores. The bill died in committee.
Low Carbon Fuel Standard – SB 1580 would have removed a 2015 sunset on establishing a low-carbon fuel standard for Oregon. Absent this legislative action, Governor Kitzhaber pulled a power play and issued an administrative order to the Department of Environmental Quality to write the rules and implement a low carbon fuel standard program. If the 2015 Legislature takes no action this program will sunset and once again Oregon will have wasted taxpayer dollars. I support the sunset of this program. A low carbon fuel standard will only increase the cost of fuel and we do not have the supply available for this mandate.
This 2014 short session of the Legislature avoided controversial issues primarily because we are entering an election cycle. Democrats were very careful not to take votes on issues that could be used against them in their up-coming elections. Frankly, the people of Oregon benefited from this strategy as short sessions were intended to make budget adjustments and “housekeeping” fixes– not to pass substantive policy changes. Thirty days is not sufficient to thoroughly vet bills with major consequences to some or all Oregonians.
I look forward to the 2015 Legislative Session to work on issues of importance to Senate District 20 and to all Oregonians.
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Senator Alan Olsen
Senate District 20