What the Legislature Hath Wrought

What the Legislature Hath Wrought
More Laws. More Regulation. Higher Taxes

“It really is the beginning of a progressive decade.
We’re just getting started.”

House Speaker Jeff Merkley

“I’m confident Democrats will retain control
of the Legislature for the next decade.”

Sen. Kate Brown

When the Oregon State Legislature adjourned in June, 2007 the gavel fell on six months of total Democrat-control of Oregon State government- something Oregonians have not experienced for 16 years.

The question for the electorate is whether they liked what they saw and want more of the same. Only time will tell.

In a matter of 172 days, Democrats advanced many policy proposals. What all the legislation had it common was an overriding belief that more government intervention into our lives, our economy and our interactions with each other provides a net benefit in our overall quality of life.

Besides increasing agency budgets across the board, notable legal changes include:

– Mandatory child-seat laws expanded to require booster seats until children turn 8 or they’re 4 feet 9 inches tall;
– Requiring Oregon universities and community colleges to come up with plans to increase voter turnout among students;
– All public schools must install metal halide light bulbs that self-extinguish when broken;
– Title and payday loans are limited to interest rates of no more than 36 percent. Consumer finance loans also face similar restrictions;
– Schools must revamp their menus to align with nutritional guidelines;
– Establishes “Domestic Partnership” status for gay couples;
– Adds “sexual orientation” to the list of potential discrimination lawsuits;
– Restrictions on employer political speech in communications with their employees;
– Eliminating the secret ballot in union elections;
– Empowering the Governor to impose price controls during an emergency;
– Estate tax cuts for some farmers, fishermen and forestland owners;
– Loosening restrictions on hunting cougars;
– Tax credits to biofuel farmers and producers;
– Mandate that PGE and Pacificorp customers get 25% of their power from “renewable” (mostly wind) sources by 2025;
– Laws that make it tougher to get an initiative on the ballot;
– Expands Oregon’s bottle bill to require a deposit on water bottles;
– Phase-in of a smoking ban in all restaurants and bars;
– Companies holding “Going-out-of-business” sales must register with the state first;
– Mandatory computer and television recycling by 2010;
– Eliminated part of the corporate tax rebate (“kicker”) on the state’s largest companies;

In addition, voters in the next few elections will be asked to:

– Rollback property rights restored by Measure 37 in 2004;
– Increase taxes on tobacco products and create a government-funded universal health care program for children in Oregon;
– Virtually eliminate the double-majority requirement for local/school tax measures;

Although hundreds of tax and fee increases were proposed and quite a few received votes on the House and Senate floors, Democrat majorities were not able to overcome the 3/5 requirement for passage of tax increases. Fees and mandates, however, require only a simple majority to pass. About 70 fee increases passed this year and they, along with most of the mandates (renewable energy for instance), will result in price increases in one way or another.

Remember that businesses don’t pay taxes, they collect them.

With the exception of the estate tax reductions for some farmers, fisherman and forestland owners (which was a compromise to get the partial elimination of the corporate kicker) nothing the legislature did made Oregonians more free. In reality, we are a little less free every time our government meets.

The water in our pot just got a few degrees warmer…

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