Jeff Kruse

APRIL 7, 2017




There are several established deadlines in a Legislative Session and today is one of those.  As of midnight tonight, any bill in a committee in the Chamber of Origin (that means Senate bills in Senate committees and House bills in House committees) must be scheduled for a hearing and work session or it will not be considered in this Session.  The exceptions to this rule are bills in Revenue Committees, Rules Committees, and Ways and Means Committees.  Those committees stay open basically until the end of the Session.  Having these deadlines is necessary for us to be able to finish our work on time, but as in most protocols there are ways to “game the system.”  The deadline for bills moving out of committees is April 18th, which means most committees have three more meetings to accomplish their work.  In that time frame bills will be sent from committees to the Floor for a vote, but there will also be a fair number of bills sent to committees that are still open, and this can be a problem.


The prime example is many of the bills that will be sent to Ways and Means.  The way our system is set up, policy committees are where the actual laws and regulations are supposed to be dealt with and the budget committees are supposed to deal with the budget.  What generally happens is the budget committees end up doing a significant amount of policy changes, which is a clear violation of our process.  Unfortunately, I expect this to continue to happen because the budget process is actually controlled by four people, the two co-chairs of Ways and Means, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House. 


We probably won’t know until the first of next week the extent of the legislation still in play in a way we can figure out what the majority party’s game plan is. We are still hoping issues like PERS reform and government efficiencies will still be on the table.  What is certain, the bills they want to move will still be in play in one form or another.  At this point, very few major policy bills have moved, but that will change by the 18th.  At that point the focus of the Senate will shift to House bills and the House focus will shift to Senate bills.  The deadline for this action is somewhat shorter and when that phase ends most of the policy committees will have finished their work.  This will leave us with over a month of the Session where the only committees still working will be the ones I referenced earlier.


I am choosing to wait until we have a more definitive idea as to what the majority party’s actual agenda is to start focusing in on individual issues, but thought at this point it might be helpful to share how the process is supposed to work.  Keeping in mind the only thing the Legislative Assembly is required to do is create a balanced budget, there are still many things yet to be revealed.   For example, we were working on a proposal to allocate the revenue from the marijuana tax to community colleges and community based mental health and drug treatment.  Before we got very far with our effort we were told the Ways and Means Committee had already spent the money, which points out just another disconnect in the system where the budget committee is overriding the work of policy committees.


The next couple of weeks should be interesting and I look forward to sharing more information with you as soon as leadership decides to share it with us.




Senator Jeff Kruse

email: Sen.JeffKruse@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1701
address: 900 Court St NE, S-205, Salem, OR, 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/kruse