SALEM — After a day off to celebrate America's birthday, Oregon lawmakers returned to Salem on Friday for what they hope marks the beginning of the end of the 2013 legislative session.
They intend to work through the weekend, aiming to wrap up as early as Sunday. Some lawmakers, however, say Sunday is optimistic and sometime early next week is more realistic. The legal deadline for lawmakers to adjourn is July 13.
Friday was a relatively quiet day at the Capitol.
The only legislative action occurred in a Joint Ways and Means subcommittee. The Capital Construction Subcommittee met late in the afternoon to advance an assortment of bills, including one that would boost the fines for driving while texting.
The key subcommittee is made up of leadership from both chambers and serves as a catchall for bills that must pass through a secondary budget committee before proceeding to the full Joint Ways and Means.
Comparatively, today promises to be a busier day. Floor sessions are scheduled for both chambers, and the Joint Ways and Means Committee and the Capital Construction Subcommittee are tentatively slated to meet tomorrow. The Rules and Revenue committees also could meet to push through certain bills.
As the end looms nearer, a key question remains: Will Republicans and Democrats strike a deal on taxes and steeper cuts to public employee pensions?
A compromise deal that would have increased taxes in exchange for reducing the cost of the state's public pensions system crumbled on Tuesday when the revenue-raising piece backed by Democrats failed to get enough Republican votes in the Senate.
As promised, Senate Democrats then blocked a vote on the Republican-supported plan to trim pension benefits for public employees and sent the bill back to committee.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, agreed that a bipartisan deal on taxes and pensions cuts is unlikely at this point.
But, the Democratic leader added, no bill is truly dead until the last gavel falls.
On Tuesday, Courtney made a passionate pitch to Senators asking for their support on the tax bill.
There are nearly 80 policy bills and a handful of budget bills remaining as of Friday afternoon. Among the legislation that's left are bills that would legalize marijuana dispensaries, restrict suction-dredge mining, allow public universities to establish autonomous governing boards, and automatically register almost everyone with a driver's license to vote.