In Idaho, where - as in Oregon - the legislature is launching its activities under strained physical circumstances - expectations for this 2008 session are slight. Ask legislative leaders what they hope this session will accomplish and, once you get past dealing with the budget and money matters, they run dry quickly. And that's not the criticism it may seem. In most specific sessions of any state legislature, the only thing that has to be done is the updating of the state's ledger. When that's done, as legislators almost everywhere know, their obligatory work is done, and they can adjourn.
In the runup to today's launch of the special - with hopes of becoming regular - even-yeared session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, there's been a lot of harrumphing from many quarters about what bar the legislature must meet to justify its annual appearance. That subject will doubtless return in discussion over the rest of the year, whatever lawmaker do or don't. (Vic Gilliam: "Is it a historic event or a sneaky play for a full-time Legislature?" The Oregonian's David Reinhard, who supports annual sessions: 'As The Oregonian's Harry Esteve wrote in last Sunday's Opinion section, it's being called the 'Seinfeld session' - the session about nothing - and legislators 'desperately want to show the public they can act like grown-ups.' That's a political strategy, not a governing strategy.")
Our take is that this attempt to establish an annual legislative session shouldn't be held to a standard higher than any other (or lower either). Minimally, it should get the state properly updated financially. To do better than the minimum, it also ought to address other important developing situations (the housing finance collapse comes to mind, among others) and review progress since the last session.
A good session (and the last one was pretty good) would be worth aspiring to. But it doesn't seem essential to make the point. (more…)