Not a bad session, all things considered

Oregon lawmakers notched a remarkable achievement on Saturday when they adjourned a week early from their already short session. Overall, it was a productive 27 days, seeing the enactment of some sensible bills dealing with health care, gun restrictions and domestic violence, but falling short of the sweeping, over-ambitious agenda majority Democrats started with in February.

In the health care arena, pharmaceutical companies now must publicly disclose the reasons for steep increases in prescription drug prices. The measure doesn't give the state power to stop the increases, but at least it will force drug companies to be open about their justifications.

Also in health care, state-chartered Coordinated Care Organizations will be required to spend a portion of their reserves on local public health programs and open parts of their board meetings to the public. The CCO reform measure was long overdue, giving the state more control over how Medicaid coverage is delivered.

In the only measure dealing with guns, legislators passed a bill closing the so-called "boyfriend loophole" that allowed intimate partners convicted of domestic violence to own firearms as long as they weren't married to or living with their victim and they didn't have a child together. The ban on gun ownership also will apply to anyone convicted of misdemeanor stalking.

Another domestic violence-related bill expands the definition of strangulation and elevates the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. That measure passed the Senate unanimously on the session's last day after passing the House unanimously the day before.

On the biggest issues — too big, in our view, for the short session — the Legislature fell short. A resolution that would have asked voters to insert a right to access affordable health care into the state Constitution with no guarantee the state could live up to the promise failed to pass. And a big push for an ambitious cap-and-trade plan to charge some of the state's biggest polluters never got enough traction, either. Legislative leaders — including Senate President Peter Courtney, who was not a fan of the bill this session — vowed to pass it in 2019, which should have been the plan all along.

Democrats predictably declared the session a rousing success. Minority Republicans predictably complained of legislation being railroaded. But all in all, the session made incremental progress on several fronts and left the heavy lifting for next year. 

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