SALEM, Ore. — Now that the legislative session in Oregon is over for 2019, Senate President Peter Courtney agreed to look back over the months and talk about what did and did not happen.
The session began with a sexual harassment scandal and a scathing report over how the legislature failed to respond to allegations of sexual harassment by then Senator Jeff Kruse.
The state report found leaders did not do enough to protect interns and other Capitol employees from Kruse.
Some wondered why Courtney didn’t just ban Kruse from the building.
"As a CEO, you can simply dismiss people or discipline people at will. I'm not a CEO," Courtney said. "I mean I have a legislative opinion right here who said I can't do with a certain senator right here whose threatened me on the floor and threatened the state police. I can't ban him from the building. And I asked for it because I was going to do it. ... I mean, everything I did to Kruse, I had no authority to do. None at all."
The Senate President stripped Kruse of his committee assignments and had the door taken off his office before Kruse resigned.
Kruse has insisted he did nothing wrong.
Lawmakers settled a lawsuit by former interns of Kruse for more than a million dollars.
Courtney also addressed the new business tax that will help fund schools. It will give them about a billion dollars extra each year on top of what the state gives them.
And it very nearly did not pass. Here's why, according to Courtney.
"We voted on that bill on a Monday. Pat Dooris, I’m really surprised that none of you media have picked up on this through your profound research," he said.
"What happened on Wednesday -- that was leaked Tuesday? The economic forecast went through the ceiling. I will tell you now, Peter Courtney could not have gotten 18 votes on Tuesday or Wednesday. And that ... we would have never gotten that. Never. Never.”
Eighteen was the number of votes required in the Senate to pass the bill. It made it by one day. And it might still be referred to voters.
Courtney also talked about civility and the institution of the Legislature, which for years ran on mutual respect. Those days seem to be over, especially with two walkouts by Republican senators.
Watch from Straight Talk: Analyzing GOP walkout over cap and trade
"It's very fragile, very delicate. You really gotta love it and respect it. And those days are gone. It’s my way, your way, my way is the only way policy. Even now I’ve heard it said, 'Well, I don’t want to hear all this stuff about the institution.' They dismiss it. It’s simply, we've got power, I’ve got power, you've got power. So, you know it’s sad. I think it’s a sad time for the legislative branch and therefore I think it’s a sad time for the way we govern," Courtney said.
Even though Courtney said he was proud of what was accomplished, he admitted it was an extremely hard year.
"It was the greatest session Oregon has had in my lifetime, bar none. Accomplished more major things in a short period of time with incredible adversity, and yet I can’t celebrate because I feel I’ve been to hell and back," Courtney said.