OR Lege: It's all about the budget

Carla Axtman

It's essentially all about the budget now, as we wind our way to what is (hopefully) the last few weeks of the legislative session.

The shiny star of the week is the fact that Oregon has the third strongest economic growth in the nation from 2012. In 2012, the private sector in our state grew at 3.9%. This is a much faster growth than a whole bunch of the rest of the country is seeing. But what about government in Oregon? It actually shrank in 2012 due to budget cuts and the sequester. If there's a drag on the economy at all, it's the fact that government is shrinking and there are fewer jobs there to be had. The private sector is humming along nicely in Oregon.

To get things going on the state budget, one of the first things that needs to happen is for Republicans to quit holding the most sick and vulnerable Oregonians hostage. Sign the petition now to demand that Republicans top playing games with the state budget. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs (from almost every community in the state) are at risk.

A few weeks ago, the Governor laid out a framework to end the standoff--and since has moved the conversation away from the massive cuts to the PERS system that Republicans have demanded, to more moderate cuts and a broader revenue generation discussion.

In the meantime, the Statesman Journal has simply decided that reneging on pensions and eroding away people's retirement is just like a game of Chutes & Ladders, so let's not take it all so seriously. Because really, Oregon's economy and the ability for retired people to pay their bills is no big deal.

A couple of bills to watch in the House this week:

SB 413- this is a good and important one. Rate review. Helps keep insurance costs down, stands up for Oregon small businesses, consumers, and families. Makes insurance more transparent for consumers.

SB 841- Allows winery to be sited on land zoned for mixed farm and forest use.

Today in the Senate, they're voting on HB 2710, a civil liberties bill that puts rails on local government/law enforcement's ability to use drones. There's a lot of legal gray area on drones under current law, and HB 2710 is a first step toward ensuring use of drones protects rights and privacy.

Also today the senate will vote on HB 2536, a consumer protection bill allows tort plaintiffs who sue and win a cash award can have that paid out over time. HB 2536 gives structured settlement recipients protections against buying into a 'lump sum' offer from a vendor, which can leave them high and dry in their later years.

Another bill to watch today is HB 2158, which allows in-state tuition for veterans who would come to Oregon for college.

A vote on the K-12 budget could come as early as tomorrow. The K-12 budget includes ONE BILLION more for schools than the current budget. Keep in mind how huge this is, not just in dollar figures. For a decade, we've been cutting teachers and school days and programs. This budget actually keeps cuts from happening and may actually restore teachers and school days in many cases.

We can also expect to see a vote Tuesday on HB 3159, a bill requiring cities and counties to set maximum rates that patrol towers can charge owners of towed cars. It also requires local governments to regulate towing companies and establish a complaint resolution process. This will certainly be a relief to the many Oregonians who've been the victim of predatory towing practices by a certain former candidate for the state senate.

Ways and Means will be working on a TON of budget bills this week. They are full speed ahead with work on the 2013-2015 budget.

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