They won some, they lost some in 2007 legislative session

The budgets have been passed, the favors called in, the interim task forces readied, and the gavels banged for the last time.

There’s not much left to do with the 2007 legislative session, except call some winners and losers.

Taking the long view, there were some stealth surprises this year, especially with Salem firmly under Democratic control for the first time in 16 years.

Witness, for example, Russ Walker, the Oregon Director of FreedomWorks, an anti-tax group, who confidently predicted back in March that a ballyhooed agreement between Democratic and Republican leadership to suspend the corporate kicker and raise the minimum tax paid by corporations would fall apart — and then worked behind the scenes to make it happen.

Lawmakers did manage to salvage the corporate kicker piece, putting the money into a rainy day fund. But the corporate minimum will have to wait for another session, or for some deep-pocketed interest group, like the Oregon Education Association, to put it on the statewide ballot.

Speaking of the Oregon Education Association, the group did have quite a session, capped off by an 18 percent increase in the amount of money set aside for public schools.

Asked to come up with their list of losses, lobbyist Laurie Wimmer-Whelan could cite only less money than the group would have liked for community colleges, and the rejection of a plan to dedicate the funds from unused gift cards to schools.

Bipartisanship, in contrast, didn’t win many major battles this session, despite grand promises in the early, hopeful days of January. Just look at what happened when five legislators were tasked with working out reforms to the part of Oregon’s property rights law known as Measure 37.

Reps. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, Greg MacPherson, D-Lake Oswego and Sens. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene and Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, spent months on the effort, only to see the whole thing collapse amid Republican opposition. Now, the question is in voters’ hands, and neither side is confident of a victory.

Others, too, will be under the spotlight when election season rolls around.

Republicans started pounding early on two Democratic House freshmen from swing districts — Rep. David Edwards of Hillsboro and Rep. Chris Edwards of Eugene — and haven’t let up since. Even in the waning days of the session, Republicans gave David Edwards a tongue-lashing over $7 million set aside for a parking lot in his district.

Both are part of the shrinking group of moderates in the Oregon politics, who because of their very unpredictability were some of the most influential members of their caucus this session.

On the Republican side, for example, Rep. Chuck Burley of Bend crossed his caucus with a vote for an affordable housing program, while Rep. Scott Bruun of West Linn sided with firefighters who wanted the right to bargain over safety conditions.

Among the Democrats, Rep. Betty Komp of Woodburn, a Catholic from a deeply religious district, provided a key vote to kill a bill that would have promoted embryonic stem cell research.

Things were far quieter over in the Oregon Senate, where Sen. Ted Ferrioli led a sparse Republican caucus that was largely reduced to the role of naysayer. Democratic Sens. Ben Westlund of Bend and Alan Bates of Ashland began the session with grand plans for universal health care reform, but wound up with $2 million for further study and instructions to report back in 2009.

Some of the biggest winners were those who played defense. Portland beer kingpin Kurt Widmer and the Oregon Brewers Guild, along with lobbyist Paul Romain, successfully fought off talk of a beer tax to fund alcohol treatment programs and the state police. Longtime lobbyist Jon Chandler of the Oregon Home Builders Association managed to spread the pain to commercial and industrial developers when it became clear that lawmakers were expecting the industry to chip in for the costs of new school construction.

And some groups won some and lost some.

Planned Parenthood, for example, scored big when lawmakers approved plans to require insurers to cover the costs of contraceptives. Its longtime foe, Oregon Right to Life, derailed proposals on stem cell research and greater state oversight over “alternative-to-abortion” organizations.

Two of Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s most loyal foot soldiers were Rep. Jackie Dingfelder and Sen. Brad Avakian, both Portland-area Democrats who advanced key components of an aggressive energy agenda.

Avakian is credited with muscling through a measure that requires Oregon’s largest utilities, Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp, to draw 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

Dingfelder garnered wide bipartisan support for a biofuels package that stalled two years ago and now could prove to be an economic boost to the state’s agricultural regions.

Finally, here are two to watch in the next 18 months: Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, and Rep. Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg. They are the heirs apparent, rumored to be taking control of their respective caucuses, should Devlin take over for State Sen. Kate Brown, as expected, and House Minority Leader Wayne Scott announce his retirement, as widely predicted.

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