Key Oregon lawmakers tepid on gun control chances
By Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press writerSALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon legislative leaders on Tuesday took a dim view of the prospects for gun control legislation this year."We look to the Senate for their leadership on that issue," said Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek. "At this point, I'm not aware of any particular proposal that has the legs to get out of here."But, she added: "We just opened yesterday, you never know what's going to happen."Senate President Peter Courtney, a Salem Democrat, said the Senate Judiciary Committee would study gun laws.The leaders spoke to reporters and newspaper editors in a meeting at the Capitol organized by The Associated Press.Republican leaders in the House and Senate said they're not interested in strict gun restrictions like the sweeping limits enacted this week in New York, where lawmakers approved an expanded assault weapon ban and mandatory background checks for buying ammunition.Gov. John Kitzhaber has long favored tougher gun restrictions."It's an issue that needs to be addressed, and it's not just as simple as arguing about the Second Amendment," the Democrat said.Kitzhaber said he supports banning guns in schools, and added, "I see no reason why you shouldn't have a limit on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines."Portland mayor Charlie Hales this week called on legislators to pass tougher gun restrictions.Republicans and Democrats did find some areas of agreement. Leaders from both parties said more should be done to help the mentally ill."There's just no doubt that Oregon has failed on this. And all you have to do is talk to local police officers, and they will tell you that's the problem we face right now," said Sen. Larry George of Sherwood, the No. 2 Republican.Mental health tends to fall behind education and public safety when it comes time to divvy up tax dollars. Courtney, a leading advocate of improving mental health, said no state — including Oregon — has ever prioritized it.Democrats have proposed raising new revenue by eliminating certain tax exemptions or capping them. Republicans didn't rule out revenue-raising legislation, but said the Legislature should focus on cutting spending. Revenue-raising measures require support from 60 percent of legislations and would need some Republican votes in both the House and Senate."The Republican House members are more focused on making sure we've done what we have to do on the cost side of our ledger before we go to the revenue side when it comes to tax increases," said Rep. Mike McLane of Powell Butte, the top House Republican.Among the other topics that Oregon's leaders discussed:— Kitzhaber said he'd like to see a vote on repealing the death penalty, even if polling shows it's likely to fail. "That's what campaigns are for," he said. California voters rejected eliminating the death penalty last year.— Republican leaders supported cutting back on pensions in the Public Employees Retirement System. Democrats were more tepid. "Clearly PERS is on the table," Courtney said. "As far as what we're going to do with PERS, there's no way of knowing."— Democratic Rep. Chris Garret of Lake Oswego touted criminal sentencing changes that emphasize punishments other than prison for certain criminals. The move, a top priority for Kitzhaber, would free up significant money for struggling local governments to reinvest in their public safety infrastructure, he said. "There's a lot for everyone here to gain in this package," Garrett said.— Kotek and Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, the Democratic leader, both said they'll look to improve legislation from last year requiring banks to meet with distressed homeowners and a professional mediator. Foreclosures have slowed significantly since last summer, when the mediation legislation took effect at the same time the state appeals court struck down an electronic mortgage registry that's become central to the lending industry's business practices.Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
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Jan. 15, 2013
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