- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Here’s a look at highlights of the past week in the Oregon Legislature.

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ETHICS BILLS

After replacing John Kitzhaber in February, Gov. Kate Brown requested several bills aimed at strengthening ethics and public records laws. The first one reached her desk and earned her signature this week. It directs the secretary of state to review Oregon’s public records law and recommend improvements. The other ethics bills - which change the makeup of the Government Ethics Commission and require the governor’s partner to follow ethics laws - received final legislative approval and are awaiting Brown’s signature. The bills come in the wake of allegations that Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, used her influence and the governor’s office to score lucrative consulting contracts.

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MINIMUM WAGE

Oregon lawmakers are considering a proposal gradually raising the state’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2018 and giving local governments the option to go even higher if they choose. If House Speaker Tina Kotek’s bill makes it through the Legislature, Oregon will have the nation’s highest minimum wage on Jan. 1, when all employees would have to make at least $11 an hour. After that, the wage floor would increase $1 a year until it reaches $13 an hour by 2018. Though the Legislature is scheduled to wrap up in less than a month, Kotek said she hopes the proposal can spur debates that continue once lawmakers leave Salem.

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LEGALIZING MARIJUANA

A state legislative panel cleared a bill setting up Oregon’s legal marijuana system, ending weeks of speculation and stalled discussions. A joint House-Senate committee approved a measure that includes a compromise allowing local governments to ban recreational and medical marijuana businesses in counties that voted overwhelmingly against Measure 91 in last year’s election. That issue has stymied previous attempts to pass marijuana bills. The bill now moves to the House floor.

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RETIREMENT SAVINGS

Oregon employees working at companies not offering retirements will soon be automatically enrolled into one under a bill cleared by the Oregon Legislature. The bill creates a state-run retirement plan fed by automatic deductions from paychecks. Workers can opt out of the plan or choose a different savings rate. The bill passed with support only from Democrats, who said it will ensure people are prepared for retirement after decades of work. But Republicans argued the measure will inflict additional costs on businesses while potentially exposing them to lawsuits. It now heads to the governor.

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