Oregon gun, pot bills clear key legislative hurdle
By JONATHAN J. COOPER
Of the Associated Press
SALEM — Oregon lawmakers don't appear to be interested in asking voters to create a sales tax or require labels on genetically modified foods. But plenty of other ideas are still very much alive after a key deadline came and went last week.
A key legislative cutoff date passed late last week, and dozens of proposals failed to clear the hurdle.
It'd be foolish, however, to say anything is truly dead — lawmakers have plenty of time to attach their ideas as amendments to other bills. But the options narrow as time ticks closer to the Legislature's July 13 deadline to adjourn.
Here's a look at what's on life support, and what survived the first big challenge Thursday:
— Genetically modified foods: Organic-foods proponents want labels on genetically engineered products. That bill didn't make it out of a House committee. But a bill that would ban genetically modified fish is still swimming. It was introduced two weeks ago and sent to a special committee that's controlled by Democratic leaders and doesn't face deadlines.
— Sales tax: A proposal to ask voters whether to create a sales tax — while lowering income and property taxes — got much fanfare but no real action last week. The proponents said they wanted to start conversation about Oregon's volatile tax system and weren't angling to get the bill through the Legislature.
— Cigarette tax: There was plenty of smoke, but not much fire behind a Portland Democrat's proposal to raise cigarette taxes by $1 a pack in a bid to make it too expensive for teens to take up smoking. Critics said it would be immoral for the state to boost a tax paid disproportionately by low-income people who are addicted to tobacco. The House did vote to let counties add their own taxes to cigarettes, and the measure is pending in the Senate.
ALIVE AND KICKING (FOR NOW)
— Gun Control: A package of watered down gun control bills cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, but there's still plenty of skepticism among lawmakers, and it's unclear whether they have enough support to clear the full Senate and House.
— Marijuana dispensaries: A House committee backed a measure allowing dispensaries for medical marijuana. It would allow the state's 53,000 medicinal pot users to get the drug from a storefront rather than growing it themselves or paying someone to grow it for them. A separate bill that would legalize pot is also still technically alive, although some lawmakers would prefer to wait and see what happens with legalization plans in Washington and Colorado.
— Suction-dredge mining: A Senate committee kept alive a five-year moratorium on using suction dredges to mine for gold in key salmon streams. Supporters say new federal permit requirements in Idaho and a state moratorium in California are pushing thousands of small-scale gold miners to Oregon, primarily the southwestern corner of the state that was home to the 1850s Gold Rush.