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GOP, Democrats may find some common ground in session

Republicans and Democrats could find modest legislative compromises during Oregon's 2014 session.

"Budget constraints in addition to the time limits on the short session will mean we have to focus on what is practical and achievable," House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said. "But if there's an idea that can help speed up the recovery or help students succeed, then I think we should consider it."

The 160-day session in 2013 and the September special session were both defined by sweeping compromises on public pension reform, the Columbia River Crossing, tuition equity and driver ID cards.

But when both sides of the aisles released lists of their goals for the 35-day short session last week, their goals were modest and showed overlap in areas such as education and helping small businesses.

House Republicans want to allow graduates of Oregon universities to deduct the interest on student loans from their income taxes.

They also proposed giving graduates with degrees in science, math, technology and engineering additional tax relief and upgrading Oregon schools to be more energy efficient.

The action plan from House Democrats called for reining in the kinds of fees that can be tacked on student loan payments and modernizing job training programs.

"I have a lot of respect for and an excellent working relationship with House Minority Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) and most members of the Republican caucus," House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, D-Junction City, said. "Last year we proved that in Oregon, unlike in Congress, we can work together to solve problems — nearly all of the bills that passed the Oregon House had bipartisan support."

Republicans and Democrats both mentioned helping Oregon small business. Senate Democrats want to increase the cap on the amount of money small businesses can borrow through a state entrepreneurial loan program from $75,000 to $100,000, and House Republicans, but McLane doubted overall Democratic commitment.

"I'm encouraged by this," McLane said. "But the same day they introduced their agenda, Rep. David Gomberg (D-Central Coast) introduced a bill to raise taxes on Oregon small businesses."

Bills to expand background checks on gun sales, a legislative referral asking voters whether they want recreational marijuana and to build a bridge across the Columbia River could overshadow both parties' agenda and cause a series of showdowns

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, told the Statesman Journal's editorial board Thursday he's worried these issues and other controversial social issues that appear headed to voters in 2014 could tear Oregon apart politically.

With 294 requests for legislative concepts and a potential for 46 more bills to be filed Feb. 3, finding time for compromise could be a challenge.