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MailTribune.com
  • No extra innings, no home runs

    Session ends with Democrats calling it a success; Republicans, not so much
  • The 2012 session of the Oregon Legislature is in the history books. As with most sessions, the result was a mixed bag.
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  • The 2012 session of the Oregon Legislature is in the history books. As with most sessions, the result was a mixed bag.
    Both houses adjourned shortly before 3 p.m. Monday sine die — the Latin phrase meaning "without day," or without setting a date to reconvene. The session concluded five days before the limit set when voters approved annual sessions of the Legislature, a success in and of itself.
    One reason for what was predominantly a smooth session was the state's economy finally beginning to emerge from the Great Recession. The state economist's forecasts gave lawmakers $1.6 billion more in tax revenue to work with than in past budget cycles, relieving the pressure to slash spending. Another reason was that one party controlled both houses and the governor's mansion.
    Here are some high — and low — points of the 2013 session:
    • Budgets for K-12 and higher education will give schools and colleges more money to work with for the first time in several years. Universities will need to raise tuition less than they would have without the extra funding.
    • On the down side, lawmakers failed to strike the "grand bargain" to approve some tax increases and deeper cuts to public employee retirement benefits that would have meant even more money for schools. Gov. John Kitzhaber still wants that compromise, and there may be an outside chance he will call a special session this fall if he can muster the votes.
    Democrats balked at deeper PERS cuts to their union supporters, and Republicans stayed true to their no-tax-is-a-good-tax mantra. In the end, school funding was the loser.
    • Lawmakers approved measures trimming prison costs over the next two years, but did not adjust mandatory minimum sentences for selected crimes that would have saved even more money.
    • Bipartisan support passed Oregon's $450 million share of a massive project to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia, but Washington lawmakers failed to hold up their end of the deal, and the project is dead because it will not meet a deadline for federal funding. That is one of the biggest disappointments of this session, because easing the frequent bottlenecks on I-5 was seen as crucial to businesses that rely on the freeway to move goods and supplies.
    • A much-debated bill to ban suction dredge gold mining in the state's riverbeds passed, but in a watered-down version that delays a full moratorium until 2016 and caps the number of mining permits instead. The measure directs state agencies to study the effects of dredging and report to the governor.
    • A measure to license and regulate dispensaries for medical marijuana in the state passed on the final weekend. The measure won't help local dispensary operators facing criminal charges for allegedly selling marijuana illegally, but should provide a framework to better distribute medical marijuana to those authorized to use it while protecting those licensed to do the distributing.
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