|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Big agenda awaits legislators in session next week

    Southern Oregon lawmakers see budget negotiations, immigration bills, PERS, taxes, gun checks as major issues
  • Oregon's budget woes have dominated the Legislature in recent years, but Salem lawmakers next week are expected to wade into a slew of other hot-button issues, such as providing undocumented residents a driver's license and closing the loophole in background checks for guns.
    • email print
  • Oregon's budget woes have dominated the Legislature in recent years, but Salem lawmakers next week are expected to wade into a slew of other hot-button issues, such as providing undocumented residents a driver's license and closing the loophole in background checks for guns.
    Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said he will vote for providing driver's licenses to undocumented aliens, a move that has been enacted in four other states.
    "It's controversial, but I support the idea," Buckley said.
    Another controversial bill would allow illegal immigrants who have attended an Oregon high school for at least three years to pay in-state tuition at colleges and universities.
    A Public Employees Retirement System reform measure proposed by Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber could save the state $865,000 over the2013-15 budget by tinkering with the benefits.
    These are some of the issues that will be heard at the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which convenes at 11 a.m. Monday.
    Buckley, who is co-chairman of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, said most of these bills likely will get traction this session.
    If the Legislature and the governor can agree on PERS and the K-12 education budget by February or March, budget battles won't dominate the session, Buckley predicted.
    "If we don't resolve it in February or March, the budget will become the big issue," Buckley said.
    Because there's the potential for a legal challenge to any PERS reform, the Legislature will seek a review by the Oregon Supreme Court on any bill.
    Buckley said the state's revenue picture has improved, but there is still a $700 million to $800 million gap in providing the same level of services in the upcoming budget.
    He said there's a strong push to invest in education to prevent any further cuts and to retain or add more teachers.
    Resolving some of the issues over PERS will be key to the education budget, he said.
    Buckley said he has been a strong supporter of immigration reform.
    He said Oregon schools already have invested in undocumented children who have grown up in this state and have received a K-12 education.
Reader Reaction
      • calendar