Senator: Avoid big, bold, controversial policy changes in second year

by: FILE PHOTO - Oregon state Sen. Betsy JohnsonState Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, said Tuesday, Jan. 28, that her plans for this year’s session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, which begins next week, are limited in scope.

Johnson repeatedly used the words “disciplined” and “minimalist” to describe her vision of what the second year of the legislative session should look like.

“We should resist the temptation to get into doing a lot of big, bold, controversial policy changes,” Johnson said.

Johnson supported moving from a biennial session to an annual session in 2010 — reluctantly, she said Tuesday — but she decried “scope creep” in how the second year of session is conducted.

This year, Gov. John Kitzhaber has named funding the Columbia River Crossing to bridge Portland and Vancouver, Wash., as a top priority for the session. A Eugene Democrat, Sen. Floyd Prozanski, is introducing a proposed ballot measure to legalize marijuana in Oregon. Other Senate Democrats have vowed to attempt gun control legislation after making an unsuccessful push last year.

Johnson said she does not like that approach to the second year of session, which is scheduled to last just five weeks.

“I never envisioned that we would be giving a second bite of the apple to everything that didn’t make it in the last session,” Johnson said.

Johnson did express interest in addressing at least one major issue: Cover Oregon, the state-run health care exchange that has been plagued with technical problems since its launch last fall.

“I think that Oregonians would like us to fix ... some of the big problems that we have going on right now, like Cover Oregon, before we sit down and start promulgating a bunch of new laws,” said Johnson.

The two bills Johnson is introducing for the session are a bill that offers technical tweaks to access management legislation that passed last year and a bill to honor Thomas Vaughan, the former executive director of the Oregon Historical Society who died last month.