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Oregon Lawmakers Adjourn Contentious Legislative Session

Members of the House await a vote on the final day of the 2016 legislative session.
Chris Lehman
/
Northwest News Network
Members of the House await a vote on the final day of the 2016 legislative session.

Oregon lawmakers are heading home Thursday after closing the books on a contentious four-and-a-half week long session. House Speaker Tina Kotek brought down the final gavel just after 1 p.m. Thursday.

Democrats used their majorities to increase the minimum wage and approve a measure that would require electric utilities to phase out coal power by 2030. Republicans said those and other bills were too expansive for a month-long session.

It's the third such session since Oregon voters approved annual sessions in 2010. Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney said it's still a work in progress.

"The magnitude of what we can do policy-wise I think is still unclear,” Courtney said. “I mean, I've seen us do big things in these sessions but I've also seen us blow it because we tried to do too big a thing, or too many."

Courtney said ultimately, the strict time limits on the session will serve to limit what lawmakers can pass.

Republicans aren't so sure. House GOP leader Mike McLane said, "Democrats used the 2016 session to ram through controversial and costly policy proposals that will increase the cost of living in Oregon, hurt our small businesses, and make it more difficult for working families in Oregon to succeed."

Some bills did fall by the wayside. A measure that would have allowed police officers involved in fatal shootings to petition a judge to shield their identities passed the House but never came up for a vote in the Senate. The same is true for a bill that would have lengthened the amount of time the state police had to do a criminal background check for gun purchasers before the sale is approved automatically.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.