The record-setting legislative session leaves pork-filled dreck on our plate
So now it's done, the longest meeting ever of the Oregon Legislature. And what do we have to show for it?
A deal that will balance the state budget, sure. Lawmakers got that job done, even if it took them a very, very long time. They approved &
36;2.5 billion for much-needed road and bridge work and made positive changes in the Public Employees Retirement System as well.
But lest the praise be heaped too high, let's acknowledge that a lot of dreck slid through as well. Some of the worst:
State support for a Major League Baseball stadium in Portland
. Backers rejiggered the plan again and again until it became palatable enough to pass. But Portland's bid to lure the Montreal Expos took a great deal of effort on the part of a lot of people whose heads were in the outfield when they should have been pitching in, so to speak, on the basics.
. Bars and taverns will be able to add a sixth video poker machine and greyhound and horse racing tracks as many as five under a plan to help the state budget. The budget needs help, of course, but more gambling isn't the kind we should be seeking.
A higher speed limit
. Thanks to the singlemindedness of West Linn Rep. Randy Miller and apparent lack of interest on the part of Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Oregon drivers soon will have the green light to hit 70 mph on some freeways. Which means, of course, that everyone will drive at least 80. Stand back.
Looser ethics laws
. There is no good rationale for approval of House Bill 3328, which allows lobbyists to foot the bill for all-expenses-paid trips for public officials' relatives, and allows officials and relatives to accept unlimited gifts from many individuals. The only positive news here is that the governor hasn't yet decided to sign the legislation.
Pet projects, of course, are nothing new to politicians. But you've got to ask whether the months of budget hand-wringing might have been days or weeks shorter if legislators had collectively attempted to pay attention to the very serious tasks at hand. You might ask whether Oregon would have a long-term solution to its money problems instead of one that critics already are attempting to dismantle.
Listen to local legislators' take on the session. Ashland Sen. Lenn Hannon: dysfunctional. Medford Rep. Rob Patridge: brutal. Jacksonville Sen. Jason Atkinson: I don't think people here always have the citizens in mind.
That much couldn't be clearer.