Senator Jeff Kruse - February 26th, 2014


Senator Jeff Kruse
R-Roseburg, District 1

Phone: 503-986-1701    900 Court St. NE, S-315 Salem Oregon 97301
Email:     Website:

 Working Hard For You


FEBRUARY 26, 2014



Yesterday was the last day for bills in both chambers to pass out of most committees, the exceptions being the Revenue and Rules committees in both Chambers and the Joint Ways and Means committee.  Over the course of this Session most of the potentially controversial bills either died in committee or were sent to either Rules or Ways and Means.  I want to focus on the legislation currently in Ways and Means.  The job of Ways and Means is to create budgets.  By rule they are not supposed to be making policy decisions, but this is a rule that leadership violates regularly and this session is no exception.


Where bills are assigned and what pathways they take are completely in the hands of the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.  They also have the ability to redirect the path of a bill at any time. For example, if a bill passes out of one of their committees and is headed to the Floor for a vote they can redirect it to another committee if they don’t like it, which has the potential to negate all of the work the committee did on the bill. 


What we will probably see Friday morning is a relatively large number of the policy bills sent to Ways and Means show up on the agenda for a vote by the full committee.  What is also interesting is very few of them will have had hearings in any of the Ways and Means subcommittees, which would be the normal pathway.  There is one legitimate reason for a policy bill to go to Ways and Means and that would be because it impacts a budget.  There are, however, two other reasons to send a bill there.  One would be to avoid a minority report, which is an option available on a bill coming out of a policy committee.  A minority report is a way to allow the full Senate or House the opportunity to consider a different version of the bill when it comes to the Floor for a vote.  Because Ways and Means is a joint committee that option is not available for bills coming out of that committee.  The other reason would be to keep the bill from having hearings in the policy committee in the other Chamber and potentially being modified.  This is not the way we are supposed to be conducting the people’s business.


I will mention one bill heading to the Senate for a vote that came out of the Judiciary committee yesterday.  The general subject of the bill is class action lawsuits.  This quite honestly is a very complicated issue and one we shouldn’t be dealing with in a short Session.  However the bill, which had a very split vote in the House, passed without amendments.  We had drafted several amendments which I think would have made the bill better, but weren’t even given the opportunity in committee to discuss them (very frustrating).  Because we were not even allowed the opportunity for discussion we filed notice of a minority report.  The way the bill is currently crafted it could be called a lawyers full employment act, which is actually an overstatement but not too far from the truth. 


For some the driving force behind this bill is an attempt to get more money into Legal Aid for domestic violence, which is a good objective. The problem is twofold, number one the bill just sends money to Legal Aid for whatever purpose they want and number two those funds could be taken or “swept” in any budget rebalance.  The way the system is currently structured Legal Aid does not have to account for what they spend their money on and we think a relatively small percent is actually spent on domestic violence programs.  I had a lady from Portland call me yesterday to ask how I voted on the bill.  I told her I voted no and started to explain why.  At that point she called me a “typical heartless Republican” and hung up.  What I wanted to tell her is encompassed in our minority report.  What we want to do is make sure the money actually goes to dealing with domestic violence.  To that end our proposal send half the money to Legal Aid and into a dedicated fund that can only be used for domestic violence and the other half to district attorneys for their domestic violence programs.


I think our version of the bill is much better, but it is a minority report and will not pass. Additionally I don’t think the bill itself will achieve the objectives they say it will.  This is legislation we should be spending a great deal more time on before passing, and I still hope we might get the opportunity by not passing the bill.  I fully support our domestic violence programs both at the state and local level.  We just need to make sure we are doing this is the right way; and, for now, I am willing to wear the “heartless” tag to make sure we get it right.




Senator Jeff Kruse







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