Two veiwpoints on special Oregon Legislative session

The special trial run for an annual legislative session ended Feb. 22, one week ahead of their self-imposed deadline. During their 19 day session, they passed 73 bills.
    One item that will come to the voters attention in November will be a measure calling for longer prison sentences for habitual criminals.
    The number of state troopers will increase, something that was high on both republican and Democratic agendas.
    Firefighters who stand along road, such as at the intersection of Highway 62 and 140 to collect funds for muscular dystrophy, apparently will be able to continue to do so.
    Another of the 73 bills was one requiring retailers to remove recalled toys or children’s products from their shelves.
    Oregon Duck fans learned that the legislature approved the university’s request for state-backed bonds for the new basketball arena in the amount of $200 million.
    With the economy slowing down, housing foreclosures and fuel prices being felt statewide, legislative members have asked the governor not to give pay increases and to institute a hiring freeze.  Kulongoski has indicated he will delay his decision on salary increases. 



By Sen. Doug Whitsett (R- Distr. 28)

Of the 109 bills introduced, 73 were passed and 36 failed. A number of
good pieces of legislation are now awaiting the signature of Gov.
Kulongoski; they include:
Ways & Means Committee Bill HB 5100 included authorization to issue
$3.5 million in bonds needed to complete construction of the Martha
Anne Dow Oregon Center for Health Professions. The funding needed to
complete the entire facility is finally in place after three long
sessions and a great deal of bipartisan effort in the Oregon Senate.
SB 1095 is the one bill I was allowed to introduce. It passed without
dissent in both chambers. It will require a minimum $500,000 bond for
security release while awaiting trail for the manufacture or delivery
of more than 10 grams of methamphetamine. Ten grams is about 100 doses.
SB 1087- As Vice-Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I worked
closely with Chair Floyd Prosanski (D-Eugene) and with a wide array of
law enforcement professionals to pass SB 1087. They agree that as many
as 95 percent of property crimes are drug and alcohol related. This
bill creates significant increases in penalties for property crimes,
assures that repeat offenders will serve long jail sentences and
provides significant funding for drug and alcohol treatment. The bill
is expensive and is therefore referred to the people. A companion
measure addresses how drug treatment will be applied, who will be
eligible for that treatment, places strict limits on sentence
reductions and provides for swift and appropriately severe punishment
for those who fail to complete the treatment program.
SB 5556 provides additional $400,000 for Oregon Project Independence, a
nationally recognized program that allows seniors to remain in their
homes, costs about 80 percent less than residential care and has better
outcomes. The funding was not enough but was a significant step in the
right direction.
SB3638 was amended. Legislation passed in 2007 requiring all gasoline
sold in Oregon to be an ethanol mix. The poor policy of that bill has
become evident with ever more examples of engines that will not perform
or have parts harmed by the mixture. It has a greater affinity for
water than gasoline and when it absorbs water it becomes heavier than
gasoline. The mixture then separates from the gasoline and cannot be
put back into solution. This creates a very real public safety hazard
for aircraft and watercraft that use automobile fuel. Working with
Betsy Johnson (D-Scappose) I was able to amend SB 3638 to allow the
sale of ethanol free premium fuel for use in aircraft, watercraft,
vintage cars, off road vehicles and gasoline fueled tools.
The legislature passed and the governor signed a bill requiring proof
of legal presence in Oregon to obtain or renew an Oregon’s driver’s
license or ID card.
SB 1069 provides $1.75 million for grants to develop state water
storage feasibility studies. Each grant must have a 50 percent matching
contribution from a source other than the state of Oregon. An
additional $750,000 was appropriated for a specific aquifer recharge
feasibility study in Umatilla County.
Two bills passed to help protect Oregonians from predatory lending
scams including so called mortgage foreclosure counselors. Equally
important, a poorly crafted and inequitable bill that would have
severely restricted the types of mortgages offered by state lending
institutions was defeated in Senate committee.
Regarding the special session, Sen. Whitsett said “In general it went
fairly well. I thought Senate President Peter Courtney did a good job
of limiting consideration of the really divisive measures. Having said
that, we did not consider significant “budget busters” such as the tort
liability created by Clark v. OHSU, the impending loss of federal
payments to timber counties, the huge and legislatively unauthorized
pay increases to public employees granted by Kulongoski, and the
“rollup costs” of the roughly $3.5 billion in increased spending
authorized in the 2007 session. For me that was a significant oversight
given our recent revenue forecast and the near certainty that the next
forecast will be even worse. I fully expect to be back in special
session before the end of the year.”

 Summary of Oregon special legislative session
By Repr. George Gilman(R-District 55)   

During the special session Repr. George Gilman (R- Distr. 55 ) I served as Vice Chair of both the Transportation Committee and the Rural Policy Committee. Even though the house speaker refused to allow individual members to introduce legislation, and removed the ability to have minority reports, some good legislation was passed.

•State Police – Funding of thirty six (36) new troopers to bring coverage state wide 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (SB 5556)

•Driver’s License – Must provide proof of legal presence to obtain a drivers license or I.D. card. If an individual is in the United States on a Visa, the Oregon driver’s license will expire on the same date the visa expires. (SB 1080)

•Ethanol – HB 2210 was passed in the 2007 session which required 10% ethanol in all auto gas. The unintended consequence of this law was that most airplanes using auto fuel cannot burn ethanol. Part of the problem is that ethanol attracts water and is a solvent. The engine won’t run if too much water is dissolved in the ethanol. The same applies to antique cars, watercraft, gasoline fueled tools and off road vehicles. We made the first steps in addressing this problem. (SB 3638)

•Project Independence – Additional funding for Oregon Project Independence, which allows seniors to remain in their homes as opposed to moving into a nursing facility. (SB 5556)

•Big Look – With all the debate over property rights as a result of Measures 37 and 49, it is imperative that we take a comprehensive look at our land use system. That process was begun in 2005 with the appointment of a commission headed by Mike Thorne of Pendleton. The 2007 legislature removed funding for that commission. We, in this special session, reinstated that funding. (SB 5556)

•OIT – $3.5 million in Article XI G bonds were authorized to complete construction of the Martha Ann Dow Center for Health Professions. (SB 5556)
•Columbia River – Legislation to study the possibility of removing water from the Columbia River, during the winter, to recharge aquifers in the Umatilla Basin. (SB 1069)
•Mortgage Brokers – A bill to protect Oregonians, facing foreclosure, from unscrupulous individuals who offer a solution that is not in the homeowner’s best interest. (HB 3630)
•Meth Dealers –Legislation to increase the bail bond for meth dealers from $50,000 to $500,000. (SB 1095)
•County Federal Payments– The Rural Policy Committee brought forward legislation to reauthorize the Rural Schools and Community Self determination act of 2000. It passed the house unanimously. (HJM 100)
•Observations – The problem with the session were the individuals posturing for the May primary. If we are going to go to annual sessions it might be advisable to move Oregon’s primary election to September, get other states on board, and not subject the public to a year-long selection of presidential nominees. If we go to annual sessions the session should have a time limit not to exceed three months every year. Currently, several states have such limited systems and are able to get their work done. I would like to also point out that Texas still only meets once every two years. One of my biggest concerns is that if we go to annual sessions we will end up with professional legislators and not citizen legislators. 

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