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Entries in Steve Marks (2)

Thursday
Oct172013

Deregulating Booze; Regulating Pot

The current tight regulation of alcohol and prohibition of marijuana may no longer reflect majority public sentiment leaning in Oregon, pointing to some combination of legislative and ballot measure action as early as next year.

At the center of this changing landscape is the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which may see part of its job slip while picking up a whole new portfolio of regulation. The OLCC is an agency in the midst of its own transition, with a new chair, Rob Patridge, and a newly nominated executive director, Steve Marks. Both have strong ties to Governor Kitzhaber, who can be expected at some point to weigh in on these countervailing directions.

Oregonians have voted on marijuana measures before. In 1998, Oregon voters approved the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, allowing patients to use marijuana for an expanding range of medical conditions. Following the implementation of the medical marijuana act, Oregon legislators moved to decriminalize possession and use of small amounts of marijuana.

In 2012, despite pressure from national interest groups to take a more balanced approach, Oregon advocates placed the most liberal marijuana possession and legalization framework in the country on the Oregon ballot. Despite its failure, recent polling still shows that more than 60 percent of Oregonians favor a “legalize and tax it” strategy on marijuana. 

Today, three ballot measures addressing marijuana legalization are approved for circulation. This reality led Rep. Phil Barnhart (D-Eugene) to tell The Oregonian he was unimpressed with people who use marijuana, but if legislators didn’t figure out a solution to combat the failure of the prohibition of the drug, activists would. And, Oregonians would regret the outcome.

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Monday
Jul302012

Kitzhaber's 10-Year Budget

It has not gotten as much publicity as education, health care, early learning and prison sentencing reform, but Governor Kitzhaber has proposed another initiative that could be even more significant — a 10-year budget. Oregon currently operates on a biennial budget and some lawmakers in the past have pushed for annual budgets.

In typical Kitzhaber fashion, he has provided a lot of written material on his ideas for transforming the state's budget-making process. A host of documents exist on many state websites, including the governor's. Despite that, those toiling on the 10-year plan are doing so mostly out of the glare of publicity.

If the credentials of two of these leaders matter _ the state's chief operating officer, Michael Jordan, and long-time Kitzhaber aide Steve Marks _ then the process should produce results. Their goal is laudable _ take a longer than usual view of budget and program issues and install a performance-based approach to state budget-making. 

Consider the principles Kitzhaber and his team have enunciated:

         *  Any budget-making operation should start "with the amount that is available to spend."  State law already requires a governor to recommend a two-year budget balanced to existing revenue, without new revenue proposals, but few governors in the last 20 years have lived within that limitation.

         *  "The people who recommend budgets should be separated from the people who receive the money."  Such an arms-length relationship makes sense, at least in theory. On the other hand, budget-making is always a political process and various interests who get money show up at the Capitol every session to influence those who recommend budgets. In a free society, lobbying will occur on all fronts, including the state budget.

         *  We "should make budget decisions based on getting the best measurable results for the money available."  Speaking of turning government upside down, this will do it. Most current state programs are based on categories such as busyness and workload. For state workers, so many clients generate so many positions. Kitzhaber wants to budget based on buying results.

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