Senator Jeff Kruse - March 7th, 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


MARCH 7, 2014



Assuming no unforeseen meltdowns this should be the last day of this Session.  Many bills, including the background check bill (SB1551) will now be dead.  Part of the reason is the timeline of the Session in the Constitution.  Even without an agreement to adjourn the Session would end at midnight Sunday.  That means there is no way a bill could make it clear through the process in both Chambers without rule suspension, and we will not give it at this point on anything but the budget bills.  The budget bills passed out of the Ways and Means Committee late last night.  I cannot comment on them, because I have not seen them.  Actually the committee didn’t get to see them until shortly before the hearing.  We know they will pass because all one has to do is remember there is one party control currently in Oregon.  At a future date I will write about the failures in this part of the process, but I want to focus at this point on another issue.


Yesterday HB 4143 came to the Senate floor for a vote and the bill failed.  I have received a fair number of emails over the last week in support of the bill, and none of those letters talked about what the bill really did.  This has been portrayed as a bill to modify the way class action lawsuits are dealt with in Oregon and also a way to get more money into Legal Aid.  On the surface that claim is true, but it is only part of the story.  I was the one who carried the Minority Report on the Senate floor and I actually think we had a better version of the bill and it could have passed if everyone had been able to vote the way they wanted. Unfortunately things like minority reports are considered by the Democrats to be procedural motions and they are all required by their leadership to vote no. 


This issue of Legal Aid was a very small part of this bill and I will get to it later.  The major part of the bill, that was hardly mentioned in all of the editorials (except for one by the Oregonian), was the significant rewrite on common law.  This is a part of the law called CY PRES, and historically dealt with charitable organizations.  Back in the 70’s it was expanded to include class action cases.  This is the crux of the problem.  Normally when there is a re-write of a significant portion of common law there are a couple of things that need to happen first.  There is usually a review by the Law Commission and on the judicial side a review by the Commission on Court Proceedings.  In this case neither of these things happened.  This was basically a re-write by the trial lawyers and could be called the lawyers full employment act. The part of my minority report most objected to was leaving this section of law intact. Although none of the speeches for the bill or against the minority report mentioned this. 


On this issue of Legal Aid, we had no objections, just a restructuring of where the money went and the accountability for how it was spent.  The advocates claimed we needed this money for domestic violence services.  We have no issue with that.  However the bill just dumped the money into Legal Aid with no sideboards.  We suggested the money go into a specific account for domestic violence services.  Additionally we wanted half of the money to go into domestic violence services at the District Attorney level because we know those services are underfunded.  Amazingly this was also objected to.


What I found the most confusing was the objection to the accountability measures we wanted.  Currently any agency or program with significant state dollars involved are regularly audited by the Secretary Of State.  Currently Legal Aid is not.  We thought it would be appropriate for the Legislative Assembly to know where the money was going, so we included this audit function.  The majority party talks all the time about transparency and accountability, but it appears to just be talk.


Because everyone knew going in the bill was going to fail, this was done purely for political purposes.  There were speeches on the Floor about “protecting big business” and “ignoring the needs of the poor”.  While I am a defender of free speech, I do wish Senators, when making speeches on the Senate floor, would at least make an attempt to tell the truth. The debate fell far short of that standard.  I have often thought lawyers should be prohibited from serving on the Judiciary Committee, as it could be looked upon as a conflict of interest.  In the case of this bill I think the conflict is apparent.




Senator Jeff Kruse


PS:  It might be worth looking into which political campaigns the Trial Lawyers contribute to.







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