Legislators scramble at end of session

‘Gang of 8’ work on transportation deal; GOP pushes ethics reforms; Dems pursue tax hikes.

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State legislators aim to get as much done as possible before the session ends July 11.

The “gang of eight” have been scrambling to come up with a deal to pass a transportation package that would include a repeal of the clean fuels program.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, met with reporters Monday but wouldn’t share her opinion of the pending deal. “I think given the delicacy of all the conversations right now I’d prefer not to comment at all on it,” she said. “We’re waiting to see what the Senate’s doing.” Adding to the confusion, one of the House members in the Gang of Eight — Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson, D-Portland — backed away from last week’s agreement after three of the state’s largest environmental groups blasted the deal.

“The media coverage today claimed a deal had been reached,” Vega Pederson said in a message to House and Senate Democrats and a Facebook post Friday, “but I want to clarify that from my perspective the framework was contingent on elements that were never resolved.”

(SOURCE: OregonLive.com)

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Meanwhile, republicans are pushing more ethics reforms. The members of the House GOP have four bills they were hoping would get attention:

  • Require sworn testimony from state officials and allow prosecution of some statements to legislative committees as “false swearing.” (HB 2790, 2791; SB 853, which is similar, failed to emerge on a similar maneuver in the Senate.)
  • Let lawmakers authorize an investigator independent of the attorney general. (HB 3331)
  • Require the governor to declare whether the “first spouse” has any policy-making or agenda-setting duties. (HB 3043)
  • Set deadlines for requests for public records from government agencies. (HB 3505)

Although all of the attempts to force the bills out of committee failed mostly along party lines — very few bills ever emerge via this parliamentary maneuver — a few Democrats joined the Republicans on one or more of those votes. They were all first-termers: Reps. Susan McLain of Forest Grove, Carla Piluso of Gresham and Paul Evans of Monmouth.

(SOURCE: Portland Tribune)

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Finally, Democratic legislators are hoping to secure a tax increase to offset costs of tax credits for low-income residents.

The tax increases, laid out in a proposal unveiled for the first time by House Democrats on Monday, include freezing the maximum amount of federal tax expenses that Oregonians can subtract from their state tax liability for the next six years; preventing companies from using a tax credit to pay less than the state’s minimum corporate tax; and upping the tax on cigars.  Combined, those tax increases would raise $35 million for the state in the upcoming two-year budget cycle and $76 million by the 2019-21 biennium.

Democrats say the increases are designed to offset the cost of renewing a number of existing tax credits that expire at the end of this year. The most expensive of those are credits that low-­income families can claim for child care and credits designed to help individuals with disabilities. Majority Democrats in the House and Senate agree on the bulk of the framework in the so-called “omnibus” tax credit proposal released Monday, now in Senate Bill 925. But they also have several key conflicts that may exacerbate already-tense relationships between Democrats in the two chambers as the legislative session draws to a close.

(SOURCE: Register Guard)

The proposal is likely to meet friction from Senate Democrats, the RG reports.


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