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Entries in state legislature (6)


Push to Adjourn Follows Weekend Off

Legislators came close to adjourning late last week, but decided to take the weekend off and return today for the final push.
Standing in the way is an agreement on the Corrections Department and a way to fill a $20 million budget hole.

Here's the way one legislator, Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, put it in a newsletter to his constituents:

"Two weeks ago, I expected we would have adjourned this legislative session by last Friday, June17th. Last Friday I expected we would be adjourned by Wednesday, June 22nd. Last Wednesday I expected we would be adjourned by today, Friday, June 24th. Today I have no idea how long this session will continue. Constitutionally, it must adjourn by July 10th, the final date allowed for the session without a 2/3 vote.

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This Session's Magic Words: Woody Biomass

The legislature introduced 34 bills dealing with it, and the Governor paid it special attention when he announced his agenda for the session.

Biomass is the new black. Well, actually, it's the new renewable energy darling. Last session it was ethanol, and before that solar and wind farms.

Biomass, as defined on Wikipedia is "biological material from living or recently living organisms, such as wood waste, hydrogen gas and alcohol fuels."

In Oregon, it's woody biomass. Forest slash from logging operations, wood chips and saw dust from mills, and spent pulping liquor can be burned in large boilers to generate electricity, and Oregon's leaders view it as the newest in a long line of renewable energy sources in the state.

Governor John Kitzhaber thinks woody biomass can address three Oregon issues in one fell swoop: Creating jobs, managing forests and investing in renewable energy.

"Our forest products industry is well positioned to support the increased use of biomass, creating additional renewable energy market opportunities," Kitzhaber said in February.

The Governor's agenda is full of biomass-friendly proposals:

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Compromise or Capitulation: Part Two

I guess you could say that compromise or capitulation, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Consider these two beholders of the "compromise" President Obama negotiated on tax cuts:

Last Tuesday, the Eugene Register-Guard labeled it a "fiasco." Here's the way editorial writers put it: "President Obama didn't blink. He closed his eyes, held out a tray of goodies and said, 'Here, take them all.' And the congressional Republicans did so. They are the undisputed winners over tax cuts."

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Redistricting Presents an Extra Challenge to Legislature

Along with the first evenly divided House of Representatives in history, and one of the worst budget situations in recent memory, the Oregon state legislature has another hurdle it must overcome: The once-a-decade redistricting that follows the U.S. Census.

The Census Bureau must deliver population data to states for redistricting by April 1, 2011. In Oregon, the regions with the highest growth, and therefore the biggest need for redistricting, are likely to be Portland suburbs and Central Oregon near Bend. The state was 33,000 residents short of gaining a sixth Congressional District, but the lines for the five current districts likely will shift most dramatically around Portland.

Legislators get the first crack at redrawing district lines for the Oregon House and Senate, as well as U.S. Congress. For each legislative body, districts must have roughly an equal number of residents. Lawmakers have failed more often than not in state history to produce a consensus redistricting plan.

The majority party usually tries to leverage redistricting for partisan gain by drawing lines around chunks of supportive voters. With no majority in the Oregon House, Republicans and Democrats may be forced to work together to find a bipartisan agreement on district boundaries.

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Handicapping the State Legislative Races

Republicans likley will pick up some House seats, but not enough to overturn the balance of power.While the drama in Washington, D.C., is focused on whether Republicans can make the necessary gains to capture control of Congress, here in the Oregon, the question is focused on whether the GOP can break the Democrat’s “supermajority” control.

A supermajority allows the controlling party to run the chamber at will, with little need for minority assistance to pass bills.  In Oregon, this is particularly important because the state’s constitution requires a three-fifths majority vote to raise taxes.

We remain convinced that Democrats will win enough seats to keep control of the Oregon Senate and House (current margins are 18-12 in the Senate and 36-24 in the House). 

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Best- and Worst-run States? From a financial perspective, Oregon is right in the middle.

Oregon is the 27th best-run state in the union according to "The Best and Worst Run States in America: A Survey of All Fifty," an article on a prominent online financial news outpost.

24/7 Wall St., a financial blog published for investors, ranked states based on "data sets ranging from debt rating agency reports to violent crime rates, unemployment trends and median income." The analysis included the impact of state policies on its residents.

The analysis is meant for investors; it is black-and-white and based on numbers. But it doesn't appear to take into account quality of life for residents or quality of workforce for potential businesses to locate in the state. We doubt a Nike-type business would survive in Wyoming or North Dakota, the number one and two ranked states. Workers with corporate skills are rare there, and it would be difficult to lure a large workforce to a home where the buffalo roam.

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