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Time to change the leadership


Minnis obstructed and Courtneydid too little to counteract her tactics

Not annual sessions, not a nonpartisan assembly ' no, not even duct tape. None of those would offer as quick a fix for what ails the Oregon Legislature as one other: replacing the body's leadership.

Karen Minnis, a household name this legislative season and not in a good way, and Peter Courtney need to go.

Minnis, in her third session as House speaker, distinguised herself mainly through her ability to confuse, block and delay. Senate President Courtney, the longest serving member of the Legislature and Senate president since 2003, simply seems unwilling to push anymore.

The result: a Legislature unable to get done most of what it wanted.

With more money in hand than in several years, it inked a schools budget but left unaddressed the structural problems with how schools are funded. It ducked a decision on civil unions legislation. It avoided resolving any of the property rights issues plaguing Measure 37.

Minnis was often the architect of the trouble. When Senate members of a joint committee responsible for reaching a budget deal didn't go where she wanted in May, she took the House members and formed a separate committee. When senators didn't move fast enough later in the session, she let the House out for two three-day breaks, slowing all legislation. She refused to let a Senate-backed civil unions bill be heard, saying Oregonians had already spoken on same-sex unions when they voted last year against gay marriage. Other bills she didn't like piled up on her desk.

— Courtney, a 24-year member of the assembly, clearly knows there's a problem. He's behind the new Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature, the group that will meet between now and the end of next year to recommend structural changes to the body.

But if Courtney sees the problem, the last seven months don't show he's done much about it. His party, the Democrats, had control of both the Senate and the governor's office and should have been able to direct the show pretty much as they wanted. Instead they let Minnis run loose.

Minnis and Courtney, of course, haven't spent the last seven months alone in the Capitol building. They had help making this session what it was, or wasn't.

But the leaders, whose role it is to determine bills' futures, mediate disputes and generally keep the boat afloat, have a bigger responsibility than anyone else not to slow or twist or confuse the process.

They're supposed to lead.

A, B, C ... F?

It's grading season ' no, not at schools but for the Oregon Legislature. Now that the session is through, it seems everybody wants to measure it.

Southern Oregon's own Sen. Alan Bates, for example, gives the Legislature a C-plus overall this session but the Southern Oregon delegation an A-plus.

We might not go that far, but there's no question the region's legislators did a lot of good in tough surroundings this year.

Topping the list? Securing &

36;3 million in state funding and millions more in bonding authority for a building to house a Medford education center shared by Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University.

We could have done much worse.