Oregon Legislature kicks off 5-week session

Of the Associated Press

SALEM — Oregon lawmakers kicked off the 2014 legislative session on Monday.

Before legislative committees got down to business, the House and Senate opened with a bit of pomp and circumstance. Members of the Portland Lesbian Choir serenaded the House while senators listened to notes from the Willamette Master Chorus.

The newest member of the Legislature also was sworn in. Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, replaces Democrat Chris Garrett, who resigned to become a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals. Rep. Betty Komp, D-Woodburn, was elected to replace Garrett as speaker pro tem and will fill in when Speaker Tina Kotek is unavailable.

In the coming weeks, debates over gun control, marijuana legalization and the proposed Columbia River bridge are likely to dominate. The state budget will need to be revised, and lawmakers are likely to look at the fiasco with Cover Oregon, the state's health insurance exchange that has not yet launched a fully functioning website.

None of those hot-button issues were on the agenda for Monday, however.

A House committee advanced a bill that would allow the children of reserve police officers and volunteer firefighters to qualify for scholarships that are available to the children of paid public safety officers killed in the line of duty. The bill follows the death in November of Robert Libke, an unpaid reserve police officer for Oregon City who was shot in the head responding to a report of a house fire and an armed man.

“These reserve officers serve all of our communities and they put their lives on the line,” reserve Capt. Robert Ball of the Portland Police Bureau told the House Business and Labor Committee. “I felt that we as a community needed to give back and honor that service and stand behind that service when something as tragic as this happens.”

Unlike the past three years, Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber has not outlined an ambitious agenda he's hoping to muscle through the Legislature.

Lawmakers must wrap up their work by March 9 unless they a bipartisan supermajority votes to extend the session.

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