SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The latest on the activities of the Oregon Legislature as lawmakers press closer to adjourning the 2015 legislative session:
Lawmakers have left Salem for the weekend with plans to return next week and wrap up the 2015 legislative session.
After the House and Senate advanced dozens of bills, the Ways and Means Committee on Friday approved a $1.2 billion statewide construction plan.
It includes money for seismic upgrades in schools, affordable housing, roadwork, water infrastructure and a variety of other projects.
The move sets up a vote in the full House on Monday.
Oregon Senators have approved legislation gradually increasing license and tag fees for hunting and fishing.
Citing the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s dwindling budget, supporters said the fee increases were necessary to keep current programs running.
Hunters and anglers are pushing back against the plan, saying it’s only a temporary solution that doesn’t address long term problems. They say there’s been a decline in the sale of hunting and fishing tags, and that’s partly because of rising fees.
- SB 247
Oregon’s Capitol will not be renovated any time soon.
A legislative subcommittee on Friday voted against including the Capitol renovation in a plan for more than $1.2 billion in statewide construction projects. Committee members approved the rest of the plan, which advances to the Ways and Means Committee followed by the House floor.
Senate President Peter Courtney has championed the Capitol improvements, which would add workspace and improve safety in an earthquake. Experts say the building will sustain serious damage in a major quake.
The top two Democrats in the House voted against the Capitol funding. Speaker Tina Kotek and Majority Leader Val Hoyle say more work needs to be done to bring the public on board.
The construction plan, funded by bonds, includes money for seismic upgrades in schools along with new university buildings, affordable housing units, water infrastructure and highway improvements.
- HB 5005
Legislation allowing recent high school graduates to qualify for a tuition waiver at Oregon community colleges has cleared the House and is headed to the governor.
The bill would provide the dollars needed to cover tuition where state and federal grants fall short. Students who graduated or got a GED certificate within six months of enrolling for community college courses could qualify for the program.
Students would also need to have achieved at least a 2.5 grade point average in high school and have accepted all federal and state grants available to them.
Advocates said it will provide opportunities for more students to get a secondary education, especially since many jobs require a higher education degree.
House lawmakers advanced the bill 48-12.
- SB 81
Rep. Brian Clem gave an emotional speech in which he acknowledged that he brought a gun to a school event as a teenager.
Clem was speaking in favor of a bill tweaking a measure passed earlier in the session to require background checks on private gun transfers. The bill, which lawmakers approved, says guns can be lent to a friend for up to seven days with a telephone background check, rather than a more formal check by a gun dealer.
Clem is a Salem Democrat who sometimes breaks with his party. Fighting tears, he said being a centrist can be a difficult position because he angers partisans on both sides.
After casting his vote in favor of the original background check mandate, Clem says he heard from old friends who said they’d go public with a misdeed from high school - he brought a pistol on a school trip.
The lawmaker said he was 16 and wanted to impress upperclassmen.
- SB 315
Oregon lawmakers gave final passage to a measure requiring large manufacturers to disclose, and eventually phase out, hazardous chemicals used in children’s products.
The measure cleared the House with bipartisan support Friday. It also orders state officials publish online a list of 66 chemicals that could potentially harm children.
Supporters of the measure said it gives parents better information about what’s used to make toys marketed toward children. Companies are currently not required to disclose what chemicals are used in their products.
Opponents argued oversight should come from federal authorities. They said Congress is moving toward updating the Toxic Substances Control Act, which regulates thousands of chemicals and hasn’t been changed since 1976.
The bill cleared the House 43-17. It goes to Gov. Kate Brown.
- SB 478
A plan to raise speed limits in Eastern Oregon is headed to Gov. Kate Brown.
The Senate approved the hike in a 22-6 vote on Friday, two days after the House gave its blessing.
Most of the highways in Eastern Oregon would have a speed limit of 65 mph outside city limits, up from 55 now. Interstate 84 from The Dalles to Idaho would rise to 70, as would all of Highway 95 in the state’s southeastern corner.
According to legislative staff, Oregon is one of just 11 states with a top speed limit of 65 mph. Twenty-two states have a 70 mph limit.
Supporters say higher speed limits would more closely match the speed drive travel already. Critics worry about the potential for accidents.
- HB 3402
The Oregon Senate has voted down a bill that aims to save higher-than-average revenue from capital gains taxes, rather than spend it.
With lawmakers on the verge of ending the legislative session, the Senate’s move on Friday likely means the bill is dead for the year.
Oregon’s revenue is highly volatile with economic fluctuations. The measure’s supporters want a method for saving money during booming economies to spend during difficult times.
In years when the capital gains revenue exceeds a previous average, the bill would have directed a portion of the money to the Education Stability Fund.
Critics warned that the measure would tie lawmakers’ hands in the future and force them to save money they desperately need for schools.
- HB 567
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