Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Oregon legislative session: Long overdue progress

Gov. Kate Brown took over for the disgraced Kitzhaber
With Democrats holding solid majorities in both chambers along with the governorship, we finally got a bit of progress in Oregon.

From expanded oversight of private gun sales to paid sick leave, Oregon joined the ranks of the more progressive states in the nation and is now more in line with the civilized world.

The U.S. has the highest death rate by firearm, by 25-fold, among the most advanced nations in the world. It is also the only nation among those same countries without a national paid sick leave policy.

And, birth control for women and teenage girls was made easier to access, thanks, in part, to Bend's Knute Buehler, a Republican and a surgeon. It was an issue that his predecessor, Jason Conger, a religious extremist, would never have championed. While Buehler's bill should hurt him among the more extreme Republicans, it will help him with independents should he now run for governor.

The Legislature dealt with voter-approved legal marijuana, and set an Oct. 1 date for legal sales of weed. Unfortunately, it allowed some anti-marijuana counties the ability to opt-out of marijuana sales. Such places are backward-looking and become more regressive with this "compromise" that overturns the statewide will of the people.

To align itself with California and Washington, Oregon finally passed a low-carbon fuel bill that Gov. Kate Brown, who assumed the governorship after John Kitzhaber's resignation in disgrace, eagerly signed.

It's vital that Oregon set high standards for the environment. It's the most important aspect to this state. It will outlive every single living thing here today. It is the job of each generation to not degrade the environment.

We also got the first-in-the-nation motor-voter bill that registers those eligible to vote when they get their driver's license.

Domestic workers got labor protections. The poor got protection from aggressive state tax collectors. You would think that the state would go after those with money rather than those without. The statute of limitations for rape victims was doubled to 12 years.

It wasn't a perfect session. A much-needed transportation bill got hijacked by Republicans over the low-carbon fuel bill. A higher minimum wage bill failed to pass out of committee.

Gov. Brown, though, did well enough to keep her job.

A poll, late in the session, showed broad support for her.

Here's hoping she and the Democrats can hold the edge in the next election.

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