Writings and observations

Governable

Not a lot to add really to the Oregonian‘s editorial today summing up this year’s legislative session, and Governor John Kitzhaber‘s role in it.

With few substantial exceptions (tax policy reform for one), legislators got done this session what they had to get done and actually accomplished a number of things – such as redistricting of both legislative and congressional districts – that few people would have bet they could have done at all. The sweeping education restructuring and health care efforts were the sort of major initiatives that, if done at all, usually take years. But that may be the advantage of having a session that runs close to half a year: There was enough time to consider them, at length, without blindly rushing, and still get them done.

Nothing’s perfect, this legislature included, but lawmakers from elsewhere could do worse than to look closely at just how and what this 2011 session did, and maybe extract some lessons. In a time when partisanship nationally is as ferocious as in many decades (at least), both parties in this case genuinely worked together and worked cooperatively. Occasional brief potholes emerged, but they were navigated around. Overwhelmingly, legislators seemed to display the attitude that they were there to get work done, not to make partisan points. And they got a lot of work done. Anything short of real determination along those lines would have been enough to blow things up, with the House evenly divided, the Senate nearly so, and the governor having a reputation from the past of being quick with the veto stamp.

Plenty of state legislative sessions routinely come in for complaint – that this isn’t the way it should be done. Well, call this a counterpoint: To a large extent, this is how it should be done.

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