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The Oregon Legislature adjourned Sine Die Thursday afternoon

by Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett, District 28, 6/30/11

The Oregon Legislature adjourned Sine Die Thursday afternoon. From my perspective, the legislative session resulted in mixed outcomes.

We were able to secure significant funding for a number of important projects in District 28. All three of the regional universities that serve our district received additional bonding capacity. Oregon Institute of Technology received more than $33 million to consolidate their Wilsonville Campus and to expand their geothermal electric generation project at the Klamath Falls Campus. Another $26 million was provided for important building projects at Southern Oregon University and $5 million for the OSU Cascades Campus in Bend. We even secured funding for improvements at the Chiloquin airport.

I invested a great deal of effort in two bills that we believe will make important differences for the rural Oregon economy.

HB 3636 will allow voluntary contributions to be made on the more than one million annual applications for hunting licenses, tags and special hunts. All of the money received will be deposited in a newly create Wildlife Conservation Fund to be distributed quarterly to the counties where the hunts are to be held. The money will be used solely for the management and control of the wildlife interface with humans. This management is critical whether itís to control a bear in a vineyard, a herd of elk in an orchard, a flock of geese decimating a newly planted field, a raccoon hunting neighborhood cats, a cougar killing pet dogs or wolves killing livestock.

Wildlife Services has endured sequential reductions in both state and federal funding for more than a decade. Increases in county funding have help to maintain the programs but that source of funding is simply not sustainable. My purpose for writing and shepherding this bill through the legislative process was to create an alternative and sustainable source of revenue for the wildlife programs. The bill passed both chambers without dissent and awaits the Governorís signature.

SB 264 significantly curtails the myriad regulations that currently restrict access to Oregonís highways. The Oregon Department of Transportation Division 51 Administrative Rules have created a huge negative economic impact on Oregon businesses by denying them reasonable access to our roads and highways. Driveway restrictions, solid median dividers and extensive and expensive mitigation for the right to highway access are just a few of the rules that were addressed and changed to be more business friendly.

The existing rules have directly resulted in the prevention of new businesses, the reduction in the viability of existing businesses, and the failure of existing businesses. Moreover, the rules have resulted in myriad lost opportunities for job creation as well as the loss of existing jobs throughout Oregon. The more rural areas of the state are the most adversely affected.

I worked for several months with Senator Betsy Johnson, representatives of private business and ODOT staff to craft the changes in these rules. We then wrote them into statute so they cannot be changed by the agency without legislative approval. The Governor has already signed SB 264 into law.

Business friendly legislators did a good job of playing defense during the legislative session. The evenly divided House of Representatives, and the single vote Democratic majority in the Senate, made it much easier to stop the passage of bills that were detrimental to the business environment and to job creation. Along with the 30 House Republicans, we worked with a few business friendly Democrats in the Senate to stop passage of more than 150 blatantly anti-business bills.

More than twenty bills designed to increase taxes were killed. In fact, I know of the passage of only two bills that did increase taxes. One bill increased the costs of access to the courts and the other was a very minor increase in taxation on an obscure form of insurance.

Growth in fees and charges were also held to a minimum. The few fee increases that were allowed were limited to defensible inflationary changes.

Many opportunities to reduce government costs and curtail government intrusion were left on the table. Unfortunately those changes require a majority of business friendly legislators in both chambers as well as a Governor who will sign them into law. I will discuss lost opportunities in next weekís newsletter.

Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon... no one will.

Best Regards,


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