Yesterday marked the start of the first official annual legislative session, which was approved by Oregon voters in 2010. Prior to this year, the Oregon Legislature regularly convened biannually; past short sessions were experimental. By law, the short session can last up to 35 days, however, legislative leadership has set February 29 as the target end date.
The short session will be driven in large part by the time crunch, particularly the February 14 deadline for all policy committees to hold work sessions on bills in their chamber of origin. Thus far, more than 270 bills have been introduced. The speed of the session was evidenced yesterday when bills began to move and an outline of a bipartisan budget balancing agreement was announced.
Dealing with the budget shortfall will be one of the major challenges facing the Legislature. Spending must be aligned with actual revenues, which are lower than originally predicted. The State is also tapping up against the debt ceiling for borrowing and bonding, a factor that may affect whether or not some capital projects will be approved this year.
Among AGC’s top priorities for the session will be helping to secure funds for Oregon University System (OUS) capital projects and starting to lay the groundwork for the $3.1B Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project. OUS was not successful at securing the necessary funds for capital projects during the 2011 session, meaning important projects like the Oregon State University (OSU) Student Experience Center ($43.6M/392 potential jobs), the OSU Memorial Union Renovation ($9.58M/86 potential jobs), and the OSU New Residence Hall ($30M/270 potential jobs) were deferred. AGC will be actively trying to help OUS gain legislative authority for these projects this time around.
AGC will also be working, as part of a larger coalition, to lay the initial groundwork for the CRC project. The Legislature will need to approve the funding for Oregon’s portion of the project in the 2013 session, which amounts to $450 million. To find out more about CRC, visit the project website by clicking here.
The AGC blog will be your primary source of legislative news during the session, so check back here for updates. If you would like additional information on AGC’s legislative priorities and core issue positions, please click here. If you have further questions, please contact Government Affairs Specialist Allison Koenker.