OR-Lege: Drones & PERS

Carla Axtman

The Ides of March have come and gone, but not the Oregon Legislature, it keeps right on rolling.

This week, the House is serving up foreclosure reform and nurse parity to ensure equal pay for equal work. The Ways & Means subcommittees are going to start working through the budgets, too.

I suspect we'll continue to still see a fundamental contrast between the budget priorities of the Democrats and the Republicans. The elephant in the room continues to be PERS--and it's practically all the Republicans talk about. The GOP have sponsored three dozen bills to "fix" PERS.. They seem thrilled to chomp away at benefits for middle to low income retirees. The Oregonian seems eager to cast this as Democrats being afraid to "cross unions". But it's much deeper than that...and it's too bad that the paper isn't more thoughtful in it's reporting. "Crossing unions" isn't the issue. Many, many people in Oregon worked to earn their retirement. They count on it to take care of themselves. Not to mention the fact that the Oregon economy needs these consumers to spend that money..injecting it into local economies. Right now, PERS is causing a serious strain on the budget. But as the state climbs out of recession and revenues climb, that's less of a problem. It's seems ludicrous to take a sledgehammer to the problem when a short-term scalpel fix will do.

And that's where you're going to see the main difference between the Dems and the GOP going forward. Are we going to take a long term swipe at the elderly who earned their retirement or are we going to eliminate tax expenditures and giveaways that aren't paying off...and will we ever get comprehensive tax reform in Oregon?

Would that the Republicans were so interested to chomp away at benefits for those who are already thriving under the many tax expenditures and giveaways. But I digress.

Today the Senate Environment Committee will have the first hearing to remove the sunset from the Clean Fuels Program (Low Carbon Fuel Standard). Tuition Equity gets its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear an amended proposal to regulate drones in Oregon airspace.

I find the drone discussion especially interesting, given that the Federal Aviation Administration estimated that 10,000 drones will be in use in U.S. airspace within the next five years. Others have estimated the number at two or three times, that amount.

Look for the Senate to move out a bill on foreclosure reform this week as well.

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