In the simpler times of the 19th century, when Oregon was becoming a state, the State of Oregon was a simpler place.  Travel was not easy, and the government of the time decided that the legislature would meet every other year to conduct the state’s business and to discuss and pas new laws as necessary.  In 1859, this was likely all that was necessary.  Citizen legislators, many in the farming business, would make the multi-day trek into Salem to conduct business, then go back to work when they were finished.  At the time, this was a common scenario on many rural states.Oregon Capitol

Fast forward now to the 21st Century.  Our business is not now measured in annual growing seasons, it runs at the speed of light as the businesses of today are expected to be running continuously to be competitive.  In our state capitol, the governor and the courts are always operating in an effort to keep the state running.  It would only make sense that the legislative branch of the government meet on at least an annual basis.  Currently, Oregon is one of only six states where the legislature does not meet annually.

That brings us to Oregon Ballot Measure 71.  Measure 71 would allow the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives to meet every year to consider the state’s business at hand.  It would allow the legislature to discuss the needs of the state, both in terms of the budget and general law, on a timely basis.  It is about time that we allow this change to occur.

The main fear of opponents to this measure is that a full-time legislature would be on hand to actively change laws all the time.  In fact, the new measure would actually limit sessions to 160 days in the currently authorized odd-numbered years, and to only 35 days in the new even-numbered-year sessions.  That is not exactly a “full-time” legislature by any stretch.  However, it does allow our leaders to get their work done as they should.  There are provisions to extend the sessions in 5-day increments in extenuating circumstances, or to meet, if necessary, in emergency situations.

In fact, there is a subset of the legislature, the Legislative Emergency Board, that considers periodic budget adjustments and allocates needed funds to things that come up between sessions.  This measure would allow the entire legislature to consider some of these matters, rather than only a smaller number of them.  This could have the effect of promoting more accountability within the system.

I would encourage you to consider this constitutional amendment that brings Oregon’s government into the 21st Century.  Please vote YES on Oregon Ballot Measure 71.