While pointing to some successes in the 2023 session of the Legislative Assembly, the three legislators who represent areas of Springfield each expressed some frustration that the legislature has become more polarized and that has led to less being accomplished. Senator Floyd Prozanski and Representatives Charlie Conrad and John Lively briefed Springfield City Club on September 21, and each pointed to areas where the political atmosphere seemed to have bogged down legislative work.
Rep. Lively noted that typically most legislative work is actually done in committees, and when bills emerge from the committees with a favorable recommendation they generally pass. That was not the case this session, he said, with more bills than usual failing on the floor. In part because of that he pointed to a number of issues which were not addressed, including attempts to address the adverse revenue impact that growth of the Oregon Lottery has had on tribal casino revenue. “It’s an issue of fairness,” he said, that will have to be dealt with in the coming short session. Similarly, he said bills to resolve several limitations on cannabis business activities failed because attention was diverted by the turmoil surrounding activities of the former Secretary of State.
Both Rep. Lively and Rep. Conrad also pointed to the need to address the state of the various county fair facilities around the state. Many are old and in need of major repair. The Legislature attempted to make an increase in the small amount of lottery funding that goes to the County fairgrounds, but so many amendments were put forward to the bill that the legislature ran out of time before it could act. As Rep. Conrad observed, many of these facilities are critical for emergency management in the event of fires, floods or other natural disasters as evacuation centers and their maintenance is critical to protect citizens.
Both Rep. Conrad and Sen. Prozanski addressed the concerns surrounding implementation of Measure 110, which decriminalized possession of certain drugs. Rep. Conrad said that it was important to create an incentive to persuade drug users to seek treatment. “It does not good to put them on a six or nine m month waiting list for treatment,” he said, and suggested that recriminalization might provide the right incentive.
Sen. Prozanski, while agreeing that there needs to be an effective vehicle to induce users to enter some form of treatment, added that his experience as a prosecutor persuaded him that mandatory treatment through the criminal justice system did not work, rather what is needed is incentive based systems. He added that although he was not supportive of Measure 110 when it was voted on, now as Chairman of the Senate Committee responsible for overseeing its implementation, he believes the conversation will be ongoing for some time and that the state might benefit from exploring approaches used in both Colorado and Arizona. He also said that the State might benefit from studying what has been done in Portugal, where drug possession was decriminalized in 2001.e also said the
All three legislators said that the influx of new members (there were 21 new legislators in the 2023 session), has had an impact on how the legislature does business. Rep. Conrad, noted that although he had spent much of his professional life in public serv ice, when he actually began to work as a legislator, he learned how much different the job was when seen from the inside.
Rep. Lively said that the legislature had been unable to successful address implementation of the Climate Friendly Equitable Communities requirements that grew out of a Governor’s Executive Order, and also had pushed off, for the sixth or seventh time, attempts to implement the Road User Fee which has been in place for several years.
Sen. Prozanski also noted issues which he said raised serious concerns putting democracy at risk. Specifically, he pointed to the walkout of Republican members of the State Senate, which prevented the Senate from doing business for 42 days, and the proliferation of use of the recall to remover l=public officials. He pointed to the pending vote on recall of one representative from Eugene, the successful recall of a Eugene City Councilor and the pending recall of three members of the Cottage Grove City Council and indicators of a growing polarization of political life by using tools that were mentioned to address criminality and malfeasance, not simply because one group or another felt they “did not get their way.”
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