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Legislature OKs key late bills

POLK COUNTY -- Before leaving Salem last week, lawmakers took the time to pass a few more bills in the waning hours of Oregon's 2013 legislative session.

July 17, 2013

POLK COUNTY -- Before leaving Salem last week, lawmakers took the time to pass a few more bills in the waning hours of Oregon's 2013 legislative session.

One last-minute bill, House Bill 3453, would allow Oregon's governor to declare a public safety emergency in a county deemed unable to provide basic law enforcement. The bill stipulates such a declaration can be made only after the governor consults with other state leaders and local officials.

Any county declared to have a public safety emergency would have basic law enforcement services provided with the state covering half the cost and the other half by the county, either through tax increases not requiring voter approval or other means.

Polk County residents -- unlike those in counties in dire financial trouble -- likely won't see such measures taken.

"We are not close and I don't believe our Board (of Commissioners) would be in favor," County Administrator Greg Hansen said. "Essentially, you are turning all powers over to the governor and imposing a sales tax."

That's not something Commissioner Craig Pope, who lobbied against the legislation, wants to see happen here.

"I have not been in favor of it because there are components of taxation without representation," Pope said. "Constitutionally, I think this is a big challenge."

Furthermore, Rep. Jim Thompson, Rep. Vicki Berger and Sen. Brian Boquist, who would be part of the consulting team for Polk County, all voted against HB 3453.

The bill passed 22-7 in the Senate and 49-10 in the House; both votes took place on July 8.

Updates to other bills of note considered this session:

* Senate Bill 822 -- The legislation signed into law in May temporarily reduced the amount of money public employers have to contribute to Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). But it's now the subject of a lawsuit that was filed this month by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the PERS coalition. The lawsuit has been fast-tracked, but it could take up to two years before a decision is reached.

* House Bill 2427 -- This bill bans the growing of canola in the Willamette Valley -- now considered a "protected district" -- except for research conducted by Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Fears of cross contamination of other valuable crops from canola fueled a strong debate over growing canola, resulting in an Oregon Department of Agriculture ruling earlier this year allowing 2,500 acres grown. HB 2427 reversed the ruling, clearing the House June 25 and the Senate July 1.

* House Bill 3518 -- This bill would have banned social card rooms -- such as the former Aces Up Poker Club in downtown Dallas -- unless operated by a charitable, fraternal or religious organization. The bill didn't see a floor vote, not getting further than a public hearing.

However, the local business the legislation could have affected appears to have closed anyway. After celebrating its four-year anniversary in May, Aces Up closed in June.

"After 4 years Aces Up is closing in Dallas," read a post on the club's Facebook page. "We want to thank everyone."

A comment on the page noted the closure is the result of the club not "generating enough income."

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