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Oregon Legislature begins 2017 session

By ANDREW SELSKY
Of the Associated Press

SALEM — The Oregon Legislature began its 2017 session on Wednesday, facing a $1.7 billion deficit that threatens to exacerbate tensions between Republicans and Democratic lawmakers who have the majority in both chambers.

Demonstrating the inclusiveness that many Oregonians strive for, a Muslim cleric opened the short session in the House by reciting from the Quran, first in Arabic and then in English.

“Show us the straight way, the way of those upon whom thou hast bestowed thy grace, not of those who go astray or incur thy wrath,” said Muhammad Najieb, an imam and the director of the Muslim Community Center of Portland.

He was the guest of House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, who said she hopes Najieb's recitation “helps send the message to those in the Capitol and to Oregonians across the state: everyone is welcome here.”

In the afternoon, several dozen demonstrators stood on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol in a chilly wind and denounced President Donald Trump's orders on immigration.

“Even in the face of the federal government's current direction, Oregon is a place where we welcome people of all different walks of life, promoting values of inclusivity, equal opportunity and justice,” Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat, said in a statement.

The Oregon Senate Democratic Caucus agenda focuses on supporting education and workforce training, strengthening working families and economic development statewide, keeping Oregon healthy and safe, and promoting accountable, efficient government.

The agenda of House Republicans focuses on delivering efficient, affordable government to Oregon taxpayers; higher standards of transparency and accountability; expanding opportunities and economic growth; prioritizing rural issues; investing in students and workers; and other issues.

House Republicans also pledged to work across party lines to develop a balanced budget.

Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli has said reforming Oregon's Public Employees Retirement System is critical. Unfunded liability of the retirement system in the wake of a Supreme Court decision in 2015 that struck down key elements at earlier reform efforts is contributing $354 million to the budget deficit, according to Brown's office.

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