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Oregon’s sine die

The Oregon legislature, which normally runs longer than Washington's or Idaho's, has adjourned. (It was a little later than expected, but not by a lot.)

Here's what the House leadership cited as the session's accomplishments.

Investing in a Strong Education System

A $7.4 billion investment in public schools will provide stable budgets for most school districts while also funding full-day kindergarten for children throughout Oregon for the first time.
A $35 million investment in Career and Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education (CTE/STEM) will help increase high school graduation rates and better prepare Oregon students for high-wage jobs.
Students seeking higher education will benefit from boosts in funding for public universities, community colleges, and student financial assistance (Opportunity Grants) – including a new tuition waiver program for qualified community college students and a requirement that public universities justify any proposed tuition increases above 3 percent in 2016-17.
New investments in early childhood education – notably Healthy Families home visiting, relief nurseries, and quality preschool – will help ensure children arrive at school ready to succeed.

Expanding Opportunities for Working Families

The Sick Leave for All Oregonians Act will make sure most working Oregonians can accrue a reasonable number of paid sick days each year – a basic workplace protection that will make a major difference for families across the state.
Oregon Retirement Savings Accounts will give more families the opportunity to save for retirement via an easy, effective, and portable savings account.
Prohibiting employer retaliation for discussing what you earn will help combat wage disparities and help women who currently do not get equal pay for equal work.
Strategic investments in the Employment Related Day Care Program and the Working Family Child and Dependent Care tax credit will increase access to quality, affordable childcare for working families.
A landmark investment in affordable housing construction will help thousands of families and begin to tackle Oregon’s statewide housing crisis.
Removing questions about criminal history from job applications, commonly known as “ban the box,” will help Oregonians get back on their feet once they have served their time.

Supporting Job Creation and Local Economies

A $175 million bonding investment will enable seismic upgrades to K-12 schools throughout the state, and an additional $125 million in bonds will help school districts across the state to fix outdated, dilapidated, and hazardous facilities.
A $90 million investment in Oregon’s transportation infrastructure will provide much-needed upgrades, including $35 million to improve the safety of some of the most deadly intersections and dangerous stretches of highway in communities across the state.
Strategic investments will create jobs and spur economic development across the state, including: investments in multimodal transportation through the ConnectOregon program; pivotal resources for community-based initiatives through the Regional Solutions program; and support for converting unusable brownfields such as abandoned gas stations into development-ready lots.
The implementation of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program will provide Oregonians with more choices at the fuel pump, cleaner air to breathe, and more jobs in an emerging industry.
Rural economic investments include $50 million in grants and loans to help meet water storage and conservation needs, resources to improve sage grouse habitats and maintain grazing lands, and funds to manage and build a market for Western Juniper.
A fix to Oregon’s centralized property tax rules will provide certainty for technology companies that want to build data centers and create jobs in rural Oregon.

Improving Public Safety for Oregon Families

A package of common-sense regulations will guide a safe and successful implementation of the voter-approved Measure 91 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
The Oregon Firearms Safety Act will help keep convicted felons, domestic abusers and people in severe mental crisis from buying guns online or through other direct private sales because criminal background checks will now be required for those transactions.
Barring domestic abusers from possessing guns and ammunition will help protect victims and keep families safe.
Establishing long-needed rules to define and prohibit racial profiling will help rebuild public trust in local law enforcement and make communities stronger and safer.
Doubling the statute of limitations for first degree sex crimes from six years to twelve years will give victims a voice and a real chance to seek justice.
Improving the state’s capacity to respond to accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials will make our communities safer.

Promoting Healthy Communities

Significant investments in mental health care and alcohol and drug treatment will strengthen communities throughout the state, including $20 million to build supportive housing for Oregonians impacted by mental illness or addiction.
Pharmacists will be allowed to prescribe and dispense birth control and insurance companies will be required to cover 12 months of prescription coverage – both of which will increase access to contraception and help reduce unintended pregnancies.
The Oregon Toxic Free Kids Act will require some manufacturers to incrementally phase out dangerous chemicals from kids’ products.
Cover Oregon has been abolished as a public corporation, which will add much-needed transparency and accountability to Oregon’s health insurance marketplace.
Vulnerable patients (victims of domestic violence, for example) will be able to keep their sensitive medical information private by having their “explanation of benefits” information mailed to an address that is different from the policy holder’s.

On the border


Across the border from Idaho, people are buying, selling and consuming marijuana – legally under state law.

As of July 1, the rules changed in Oregon to more or less throw the doors open, at least within a tax-and-regulate system.

If you think about the way Idahoans interact with their liquor sales system, you could draw a rough comparison, factoring in private businesses (not state stores) that can sell pot and some limitations on how much of it a single person or household can possess, or grow. But balanced out, the sense of the rules is not far from the level of regulation Idaho has for liquor; the Oregon argument called for legalizing, regulating and taxing it. (The Oregon agency charged with overseeing it is its state liquor control agency.)

The activity is likely to be thinner in the areas near Idaho, east of the Cascades, because a new state law made it a little easier for local cities and counties to limit or ban pot-related businesses (though not pot possession or use) locally. The provision applies to counties which opposed legalization, all of which are east of the Cascades. You can expect to see some headlines about whether Ontario and other border communities, for example, will allow pot shops within city limits.

That may soften the borderline effect a little, but it won’t do away with it.

The changes in Oregon mean, adding in the similar system in Washington state, the whole west side of Idaho now faces states where under state law – if not fully federal – the marijuana marketplace is largely open. There’s also Alaska, for good measure. And, of course, one state over, Colorado is the fourth state to approve full legalization. In each of these states, businesses are developing, local societies are adjusting and legal marijuana is becoming a billion-dollar industry.

That’s the recreation pot picture, but bear in mind that most western states now allow for medical uses. West of Texas and the Dakotas, all but three states (Idaho, Utah, Wyoming) have at least partial legalization. Nevada and Montana allow for medical use, and there’s a good chance one or both will move toward full legalization in the next election or two.

Idaho, Utah or Wyoming, of course, seem no more likely today to legalize than they ever have. What’s happening – and the change in Oregon last week emphasized it again – is that those three are becoming an island in the West.

To be clear, of course, that’s not the same thing as being an island in the nation. Across the Great Plains, the old South and the mid-Atlantic states, the rules on marijuana are mostly still unchanged. But the West (and the Northeast, and part of the Great Lakes area) have moved into a new regime, and in sharp contrast to a decade ago, Idaho is becoming part of the aberration.

This is of course just one issue, and most directly it affects only a minority of people – the number of legal pot users in the “legal states” surely will be limited, and the number of illegal users in the prohibition states even smaller. But the effects could be broader, especially if people from the “legal states” – including non-users – start reporting persistent experiences of being stopped and searched across the border.

There’s been some of this already, and the fact that most of the enforcement activity in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming doesn’t seem to have changed in recent years may not matter a lot.

The gaps in laws and permissions between the states long have been significant, but the change in marijuana laws is ratcheting things up significantly.

First Take

It's pot day in Oregon: Marijuana is now (generally) a legalized substance (under state law) in Oregon. The headline writers found various aspects of this, at the Oregonian (Oregon turns over a new leaf), the Medford Mail Tribune (Cannabis carry-out), the Pendleton East Oregonian (It's legal, now what?), the Salem Statesman Journal (Last-minute legislation). Will the world (at least in Oregon) change much? Probably not. For one thing, there aren't at the moment many places where people can legally get marijuana; people who want it and want to stay within state law mostly are dependent on people who give some to them. (Sales won't be legal for a while.) On the other hand, some celebratory giveaways are scheduled, mainly in the Portland area, for today.

How many Republican candidates for president? I'm counting 31 on this web site which is trying to keep track of the declared and the possible. True, some are pretty obscure and never achieve any sort of traction, but most you've probably heard of (if you follow politics at all). There's a lot . . .

First Take

Probably the most immediate and necessary task for the Oregon Legislature this year, aside from the regular work on budget and finance, has been developing state law to fill in gaps from last year's passage of the initiative legalizing marijuana (under state law). Opinions varied widely about how to deal with it - some wanted the voters' decision overturned as much as possible, others would have wanted it loosened further - but now the legislature seems to have settled on its approach. (It is not all the way through the legislature, but it has passed the key committee designing the measure, and seems to broad support.)

And it seems to be, overall, a mid-level proposal, broadly in concert with what the 2014 initiative contemplated. Some sections were changed not at all, such as the provision allowing people to grow up to four plants at their residences. It sets some commercial limits on grows, and some other limitations. Recognizing the differences in attitude toward pot around the state, it varied the rules on allowing commercial pot activity different for places that supported or opposed (by more than 55% negative vote) legalization. It seems designed, really, to minimize very strong opposition to the new regime.

There are glitches. Senator Floyd Prozanski, an attorney from Eugene, cautioned that “We’re setting up a system where we’ll have a three-month period ... with illegal sales to people who can legally posses recreational” marijuana. More glitches probably will be found, and have to be fixed.

Still, probably not a bad place to start.

First take

What the Oregonian pointed out today about pot sold in dispensaries, that traces of pesticides have been found in it, is not surprising and actually one of the arguments for legalizing it. Up to now, with pot grows being illegal, the operating principle had to have been that the fewer eyes on it, the better. Now reviews can be undertaken in sunlight, and cannabis likely to be a great deal safer.

On another pot front, that House bill barring the U.S. Department of Justice from messing with state laws allowing legalized marijuana, which passed that chamber, now has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, placing it in a budget bill. Chances of passage into law are now . . . high. This would be the first significant rollback in federal law against pot ever, really, and may turn out to be a very big deal when the history of this prohibition is written down the road.

First take

The train isn't here yet, but you can hear it chugging down the track. Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer's amendment to specifically give states authority to legalize marijuana - to end federal prohibition where states adopt an alternate regime - failed Wednesday on the House floor. But it failed by a narrow vote of 206-222. Four years ago, the margin would have been much greater; a few years from now it likely will pass easily. While the vote in Oregon was a partisan split (the four Democrats were in favor, Republican Greg Walden against), and split on party lines in Washington as well, a significant number of Republicans did support the measure, alongside most Democrats. (If half of the Democrats who voted against switched their votes, the amendment would have passed.) Among the most interesting of the Republicans, from the Northwest viewpoint: Raul Labrador of Idaho (though not fellow Idahoan Mike Simpson). But while that general amendment failed, another measure aimed at specifically allowing medical pot where states permit it passed by a strong 246-186 margin. Can you hear it down the track? (photo/Carlos Cracia)

Good article in Foreign Policy asking the question: Why has not the tremendous advance in technology over the last couple of decades delivered more democracy around the world? (I would suggest, though the article doesn't highlight it, this country.) Seven reasons are offered, including persistent negative on-ground conditions, the ability of authoritarians to use technology for their ends as well, and some evidence of advances more on the local than on the national level. One sentence: "Technology does not drive anything. It creates new possibilities for collecting and analyzing data, mashing ideas and reaching people, but people still need to be moved to engage and find practical pathways to act. Where the fear of being beaten or the habits of self-censorship inhibit agency, technology, however versatile, [it] is a feeble match." - rs

First take

So what's a sea lion afraid of? Not a lot, really. They congregate in port areas where people are; people don't bother them. Smaller animals don't, and sea lions are hefty creatures. And sea lions by the hundreds have been hanging out at certain Oregon port areas, especially Astoria where they've been taking over dock area supposedly in use by people. So how do you scare a sea lion off? The Port of Astoria is about to try a fiberglass orca, one used up to now in parades. Should be interesting to see how it does.

Supply and demand: Oregon is said to grow about three times the amount of pot it consumes (and still in the neighborhood after legalization hits in another month or so). The state Senate Republican leader even described the state as the "Saudi Arabia of marijuana." So where does the excess go? You could argue that Washington, and maybe Colorado, would be logical markets. But what about interstate trafficking? That could be a major (legal) obstacle.

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Otter calls special session (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
Soft oil prices weaken industry in Idaho (Boise Statesman)
Support found for CWU bond proposal (Boise Statesman)
Potato growers at Shelley sue USDA (IF Post Register)
CWI land assessed $5m under purchase price (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho asks for re-up on No Child waiver (TF Times News)

Eugene secret exit plan for leader pondered (Eugene Register Guard)
Lakeview marijuana grow plan draws concern (KF Herald & news)
Safeway store turning into Haggens (KF Herald & news)
Interior plans $4 million for wildfire planning (KF Herald & News)
Time to retire pot-sniffing dogs? (Medford Tribune)
Jackson Co sets pot dispensary guidelines (Medford Tribune)
Umatilla toughens rules on its adult zone (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Supreme Court decision expected on PERS (Pendleton E Oregonian)
new homeless camp site found in Portland (Portland Oregonian)
Changes sought for lottery rules, split (Portland Oregonian)

Sex abuse at WWU investigated (Bellingham Herald)
Officials look into options to oust Kelley (Everett Herald, Olympian, Longview News)
Judge kicks lawsuit on police race bias (Everett Herald)
DOE explores natural gas to replace diesel (Kennewick Herald)
Sage grouse conditions at Yakima army center (Kennewick Herald)
Businessman looks for spot on Lonview port panel (Longview News)
Volcano may erupts off Pacific coast (Seattle Times)
Lawmaker Fagan, accused of ethics issues, quits (Spokane Spokesman)
Commissioner Mielke may be Spokane Co exec (Spokane Spokesman)
Legislators look at pot taxes (Vancouver Columbian)
Clark Co may ban e-cigs in public places (Vancouver Columbian)

What it’s like to run a pot shop

At #MJBAJobFair 2015 on a panel about working in a legal pot shop, the Mayor of Cannabis City, James Lathrop, shares what it has been like to open and operate the first marijuana retail store in Seattle.

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Garden City waterfront district almost done (Boise Statesman)
Who's living in WSU president's cottage? (Lewiston Tribune)
Fire smoldering near Kendrick area (Lewiston Tribune)
New UI provost named (Moscow News)
University of Washington fraternity accused of racism (Moscow News)
opening day today for new Nampa library (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa senator pushes for marijuana extract oil (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News)
Congress delegation seeks Lake Lowell plan change (Nampa Press Tribune)
ISU replaces school symbols (Pocatello Journal)

Early spring throw bees off season schedule (Eugene Register Guard)
Keno landmark tavern closes (KF Herald & News)
Medford officials in conflict of interest on casino? (KF Herald & News)
St. Mary's school buys campus from landlord (Medford Tribune)
Farmers take issue with electric line route (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Wyden questioned by Umatilla students (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Reviewing bills from NE Oregon legislators (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Motor-voter law changes situation for parties (Portland Oregonian)
US Attorney's relationship in-office reviewed (Portland Oregonian)
Civic leaders Gretchen Kafoury dies (Portland Oregonian)
Legislators still push for tougher vaccine law (Salem Statesman Journal)

Reviewing hardware trade negotiations, ports (Bellingham Herald)
Gun club operations may be reviewed (Bremerton Sun)
Boeing defending state tax breaks at Olympia (Everett Herald)
Inslee declares drought emergency in 3 areas (Spokane Spokesman, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
Seattle plans to take over large area for pocket park (Seattle Times)
Boeing CEO made $29m in 2014 (Seattle Times)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Legislators consider legalizing marijuana oil (Boise Statesman)
Community funds awarded to neighborhoods (Boise Statesman)
Juvenile mental health care lawsuit nears end (Lewiston Tribune)
Schmidt held Moscow town hall (Moscow News)

Tires stored illegally at Eugene draw state (Eugene Register Guard)
Legislators consider limits on vaping (Eugene Register Guard)
Lawmakers balancing cleaner fuel, gas prices (Medford Tribune)
Portland looks for new home for homeless (Portland Oregonian)
GMO food label bill slows down at statehouse (Salem Statesman Journal)

Kitsap resolves condo lawsuit (Bremerton Sun)
Timber sale near Gold Bar held off (Everett Herald)
Hospital at Monroe will change name and alliance (Everett Herald)
What was Kitzhaber doing his last couple weeks as gov? (Longview News)
New chief tries for change at Seattle police (Seattle Times)
Spokane composting gets concerns from state (Spokane Spokesman)
Flu season still continuing (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)
Fort Vancouver plan raise in entry fee (Vancouver Columbian)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Former racing boss followed rules on WY job (Boise Statesman)
Several animal care, cruelty bills in the works (Boise Statesman)
Clearwater Paper declares loss last year (Lewiston Tribune)
Profiling Rep. Dan Rudolph (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow plans single-stream recyclilng (Moscow News)
WA bill would block many vaccine exemptions (Moscow News)
Kerby bill proposes more scholarships (Nampa Press Tribune)
Measles vaccines urged at Pocatello (Pocatello Journal)
Conflicting reports emerge on school growth (TF Times News)
Aquifer recharge this winter insufficient so far (TF Times News)

Possible third infection of blood disease (Eugene Register Guard)
New Eugene call center adds 350 jobs (Eugene Register Guard)
Eugene timeline for Civic Stadium buy extended (Eugene Register Guard)
Oregonian calls on Kitzhaber to resign (KF Herald & News)
Klamath battle continues on "In God we trust" (KF Herald & News)
IOT President Maples drops from Ohio job race (KF Herald & News)
Medford mulls Coker Butte annexation (Medford Tribune)
Three top Harry & David's officers depart (Medford Tribune)
Concerns about oil prices at Coos Bay gas plant (Medford Tribune)
Committee goes to work on marijuana bills (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon deadline for immunization approaches (Portland Oregonian)
Governor's website loses page for first lady (Portland Oregonian)
Bill lets terminal patients take unapproved drugs (Salem Statesman Journal)

Everett nurses go public about contract issues (Everett Herald)
Legislative testimony take from remote areas (Kennewick Herald)
Legislators call for talks on Spokane med school plan (Kennewick Herald)
Senate approved Hatfield hemp legislation (Longview News)
Tighter limits planned for vaccations (Olympian)
Changes ahead for Olympia artesian park (Olympian)
Measles patient shows at Olympia peninsula (Port Angeles News)
Sites considered for sports arenas (Seattle Times)
Seattle minimum wage law soon to arrive (Seattle Times)
Review of vaccinations in Spokane area (Spokane Spokesman)
Washington considers moving its wolves (Spokane Spokesman)
Legislators try to push electric cars (Tacoma News Tribune)
Columbia Land Trust buys 51 key Rock Creek acres (Vancouver Columbian)
Legislature looks at fireworks regulation (Vancouver Columbian)