What the Legislature Hath Wrought

July 17, 2007 0

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

The 2007 Oregon Legislative Session ended June 28. With very few exceptions, nothing the legislature did made Oregonians more free. Most of the legislation advanced government intervention into our lives, our economy and our interactions with each other.

Word count: 596

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“It really is the beginning of a progressive decade,” said House Speaker Jeff Merkley, D-Portland. “We’re just getting started.”

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 of their legislators and want more of the same. Only time will tell.

“The question for the electorate is whether they liked what they saw of their legislators and want more of the same.”

In a matter of 172 days, state legislators advanced many policy proposals. What most of the legislation had in 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 increased agency budgets across the board, notable legal changes passed by the legislature include:

  • Mandatory child-seat laws expanded to require booster seats until children turn 8 or they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall;
  • Oregon universities and community colleges required to come up with plans to increase voter turnout among students;
  • All public schools required to install metal halide light bulbs that self-extinguish when broken;
  • Title and payday loans 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;
  • “Domestic Partnership” status established for gay couples;
  • “Sexual orientation” added to the list of potential discrimination lawsuits;
  • Employer political speech restricted in communications with their employees;
  • The secret ballot eliminated in union elections;
  • The governor empowered to impose price controls during an emergency;
  • Estate taxes reduced for some farmers, fishermen and forestland owners;
  • Restrictions loosened on hunting cougars;
  • Tax credits given to biofuel farmers and producers;
  • PGE and Pacificorp customers mandated to get 25% of their power from “renewable” (mostly wind) sources by 2025;
  • Laws passed making it tougher to get an initiative on the ballot;
  • Oregon’s bottle bill expanded to require a deposit on water bottles;
  • A smoking ban phased in for all restaurants and bars;
  • Companies holding “going-out-of-business” sales must register with the state first;
  • Computer and television recycling made mandatory by 2010;
  • Part of the corporate tax rebate (“kicker”) eliminated for the state’s largest companies.
  • In addition, voters in the next few elections will be asked to:
  • Roll back 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.
“Remember that businesses do not pay taxes; they collect them from consumers by increasing their prices.”

Although hundreds of tax and fee increases were proposed and quite a few received votes on the House and Senate floors, many 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 do not pay taxes; they collect them from consumers by increasing their prices.

With the exception of the cougar hunting bill and the estate tax reductions for some farmers, fisherman and forest land 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. …

Matt Wingard is Director of the School Choice Project at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s premier public policy research center. To read other publications of the School Choice Project, visit www.cascadepolicy.org.

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