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Lobbying laws need work

Oregon's rules for reporting giftsto lawmakers should be strengthened

What can &

36;70 buy? A nice bottle of wine, perhaps, or a showy bouquet of flowers. It could pay the fare for a pretty good steak or cover a concert ticket.

It might also be enough to buy a favor, and that's the problem with a law that allows Oregon lobbyists to conceal what they spend on gifts to legislators as long as the cost is under &

36;71.

There's nothing magical about a limit set at &

36;70 or &

36;50 or even &

36;25. Any time a lobbyist spends money on a legislator, it should be itemized and recorded publicly.

This issue comes up annually when lobbyists file required expenditure reports with the state. In Oregon in 2005, about 650 lobbyists descended on the Legislature of 90 members, with several organizations spending more than &

36;200,000 in the year. In 2003, an Oregon watchdog organization reports, the total reached &

36;22.1 million.

That's big money, and it should be worrisome money to those of us who depend on legislators to do the right thing despite efforts to have them do otherwise.

Make no mistake: These are efforts to influence. Why else would an interest group pay to send a legislator on a trip? Why would a company send flowers or a bottle of wine?

— Some legislators rationalize the smaller gifts, saying it's the face time with lawmakers that's important to lobbyists and that sometimes the easiest time to get together is over a meal.

That's fine. But the meals ought to be detailed on the lobbyist's expense reports just like all the other gifts, because gifts are what they are.

Washington, which received the highest mark in 2003 when a national group rated state lobbying laws, handles it this way: All expenditures must be reported, and all must appear on a Web site accessible by the public.

Even that system isn't perfect, but it's a far sight better than Oregon's, which has been diluted further by budget cuts to the state's Government Standards and Practices Commission.

No, Oregon's system probably hasn't resulted in widespread bribery or other ethical lapses. But the Legislature's reluctance to force lobbyists to be accountable without question affects its credibility.

Legislators already have a pile of issues to deal with next time they convene in Salem. Shoring up the lobbying laws ought to be one of them.

Fidget for fitness? Do you spend your days working at a desk job followed by a car trip home, where you eat on the couch and flip through channels? How about your children? Are they playing soccer or are they glued to the TV? Are waistlines steadily growing in your household?

Research on just how many calories are burned with each movement a person makes could be an eye-opener. Scientists have been studying calories for years, steadily working on perfecting their game. Currently, they are able to measure the number of calories burned doing everything from sports to twitching. Fidgeting, for instance, burns an average of 350 calories a year.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the more active you are the more calories you burn. Did you know that saying your prayers on your knees burns 68 calories and that watching TV also burns 68 calories? But bumping up the activity level just a little by taking a shower uses 136 calories.

You may not be able to make it to the gym as often as you should ' or perhaps never. But the good news is that every motion counts. The more active the more benefit ' use your imagination; just keep moving.