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Short session comes with local benefits


Bills were passed that will help higher education, senior citizens, and the local judicial system

Rep. Mike McLane summed up the Oregon Legislature's 2014 short session with a famous quote from a widely-known author Charles Dickens.

"The session was the best of times, it was the worst of times," he said, "and it certainly tried our souls."

The Powell Butte native and House Minority Leader found identified several positive developments from the 35-day session that concluded a week and a half earlier.

"Central Oregon made a case for infrastructure spending with regards to the Jefferson County Courthouse in Madras," he said. "That is part of the 22nd judicial district, which is Jefferson and Crook County, so that benefited our judicial district, which alleviates pressure on the Crook County Courthouse."

McLane went on to highlight another bill that indirectly benefits the local community. He said that Central Oregon lawmakers fixed funding issues to allow transition of the OSU-Cascades Campus from Central Oregon Community College while allowing COCC use of the vacated building.

"That benefits not only Prineville, but La Pine," he said.

Other bills McLane singled out have statewide impact, including legislation that will create a silver alert, much like the amber alert used for missing children. He noted that his father suffered from dementia and he understands the challenges caring for people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

"It's a problem," he said.

Upon conclusion of the session, House Democratic leaders released statements praising the efforts of the legislature. They highlighted legislation that prioritized access to high-quality education as well as legislature issued bonds for a state-of-the-art cancer research center at Oregon Health and Science University.

"The 2014 Legislature delivered for the people of Oregon," said Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek. "We worked together in a bipartisan way to take care of many of the most important issues facing Oregon. We rebalanced the budget, increased our reserve funds while shoring up the most important human services to support seniors, mental health, and those most in need."

McLane did not share the same enthusiasm about the budget rebalance, nor did he agree that lawmakers worked in a bipartisan way on the financial document. He said that while legislators did balance the budget, much of the work was done by Democratic lawmakers behind closed doors.

"What happened was quite extraordinary," he said. "The co-chairs of the budget committee basically hid the budget . . . With less than 24 hours left in the session, and a couple hours before Ways and Means had to vote on it, they suddenly revealed the budget."

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli shared a similar view, and said that the 35 days was primarily used to push a partisan and polarizing agenda.

"Democrats, especially in the House, missed an opportunity to continue in the same path of bipartisan, consensus-based policymaking that made 2013 such a success for Oregon," he said.