• The Oregon Legislature wrapped up its short session last week, and with the leadership of Dems, some decent legislation made it through, and some bad bills got shelved. The governor might not sign every bill into law. The graduated and tiered minimum wage hike is inadequate, as we noted last week, but it’s a step in the right direction. Legislation to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030 is another step, but let’s keep in mind that burning trees is also a nasty way to generate power. Tenant protections made it through along with the boost in the lodging tax that will help pay for the IAAF World Championships coming to Eugene in 2021. Another bill that passed will help communities clean up and redevelop contaminated lots such as old gas stations and dry cleaners. Funding was approved to test the backlog of rape kits, and new legislation will enable Oregon banks to serve marijuana businesses. One bad bill that passed is SB 1573 that allows easy annexation (see Slant last week), and we hope it gets a veto.
Now that the short session is over, lawmakers are looking ahead to the full session in 2017 to revive failed bills (good and bad) and come up with new bills. Contact your state rep or senator with ideas or to help. Many bills are prepared and submitted pre-session.
• Terry McDonald, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, fielded a common question after his March 4 talk to the City Club of Eugene about the puzzle of homelessness in this area. If we offer good services and housing, won’t that attract ever more homeless? McDonald responded that “all communities” worry that good efforts will bring hordes of homeless, but it’s not true. The “vast majority” of services go to men, women and families from right here in Lane County. McDonald should know. St. Vinnies is on the front line fighting this growing problem caused, as he puts it, “by the economics of our community.”
• Check out the attractive plantings enhancing the new UO parking spaces around the old Romania building on Franklin Boulevard. We heard rumblings out of the UO Board of Trustees meeting about selling that property. Hopefully, that short-term financial fix won’t happen. The UO should stick with its new plantings and parking on precious land and see what spins out in the long term.
• If you missed the excellent keynote talks at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference on campus last week, they can be found online by searching YouTube for lawpielc. This YouTube channel is a great resource and a big improvement over the old days when it was a pain just to get poor-quality audiocassette tapes. One drawback to PIELC is also its greatest asset: too much information. How do you chose when there are 16 fascinating and information-dense panels all happening at the same time? And one of our favorite things about PIELC is the traditional gauntlet of tables and booths to browse in the Law School lobby. Lots of good information, lively conversations and networking on everything from population control to toxic sludge in commercial compost. Don’t miss it next March.
• The saga of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation lingers. On March 8, it was announced that an investigation found the shooting of LaVoy Finicum by Oregon State Troopers legally justified. He was shot from behind, but investigators said a trooper in front of him was in danger as Finicum kept reaching for a loaded gun in his pocket. The issue is far from resolved for the conspiracy theorists or ordinary citizens because the FBI announced there is this little matter of which member of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team fired two shots and why whoever it was wouldn’t report them. All throughout the standoff there were calls for this not to be another Ruby Ridge or Waco. We appreciate the videos, both in-car and aerial, that were released, but we still need more transparency.