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Give it a chance


Annual sessions need not be longer or more costly, and could be better

The idea of annual legislative sessions is being raised again. We think it's time to give the idea serious consideration.

Oregon is now one of only six states where the legislature does not meet every year. The Oregon system, devised in 1858, certainly was not designed to cope with a budget of &

36;10 billion.

Last year's series of five special sessions showed the need to grapple with financial business in the off year, especially when state revenues are declining.

The arguments against annual sessions sound convincing at first.

Opponents argue that annual sessions would end Oregon's tradition of a citizen Legislature whose members return to real-world jobs when sessions end. Annual sessions, they say, would mean full-time, professional politicians running the state. Annual sessions also would be more costly, it is argued, because lawmakers would spend more time in Salem.

Those arguments could become reality, but they don't have to.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski wants the 2003 Legislature to enact a one-year budget and return next winter to hammer out the second year. That might make sense this year because the state's revenue picture is unclear.

But lawmakers could still enact a two-year budget in odd-numbered years, as they do now, and adopt a supplemental budget in shorter even-year sessions to make any adjustments that became necessary because the financial picture had changed.

That's how the Washington Legislature operates. It took some years before that body managed to enforce time limits on sessions, however.

That's why we support annual sessions only with strict limits set by law.

The plan presently being discussed in Salem calls for 120-day sessions in odd years and 45-day sessions in even years, for a total of 165 days every two years. That's less time than the average of 182 days lawmakers have been spending in regular sessions over the past decade. And having lawmakers spend less time in session can't be a bad thing.

The measure would allow the Legislature to extend sessions in five-day increments, but only by a two-thirds vote of each chamber. That makes sense to us.

The measure requires a constitutional amendment, which means it will be subject to voter approval. Voters should look favorably on the measure, but only if strict limits are maintained.

Tear them down

It's always disconcerting to come upon evidence of racism right here in Medford. But it does exist. Hate crimes and other evidence of racist attitudes do occur, although not frequently.

Last week some racist fliers were posted along Biddle Road. They apparently are the work of the National Alliance, a West Virginia organization that advocates a white America.

The group claims it is working for the long-term interests of people of European descent. We doubt it.

Groups such as this one are rejecting the very principle of equality that this country stands for.

It is illegal to post fliers along streets and other public property. Medford police will pull them down if they spot them, and residents should do the same. This type of message does not belong in Southern Oregon.