• Sunshine has been a welcome arrival after the area was covered in snow. This week, however, marks a different sort of sunshine in Oregon. Sunshine Week is a celebration of transparency in government and runs from March 10-16. We love public records because they allow us to watchdog government. What we don’t love are barriers to public access to the records, including slapping blanket costs on getting information. The Oregon Legislature is considering many bills that could give transparency a much needed helping hand (and some that hinder it). HB 2345 would reduce public records fees that agencies charge news outlets by half — or entirely if specific enough. HB 2430 would ensure the Public Records Advisory Council continues its work educating people about public records — public officials and residents. HB 2431 would require each state agency to report specific information on number of public records requests delivered, requests still outstanding and number of fee waivers and reductions. Unfortunately, these bills are aimed at the state and don’t trickle down to the city and county government, which charge if the request requires more than 15 minutes of staff time. Maybe the Eugene City Council and Lane County’s Board of County Commissioners will take the hint that public records are a light in an otherwise dark world. Every level of government — city, county, state and federal — should ensure everyone has access to its public records. That’s how a democracy works.

• Speaking of money, Oregon is one of five states with no limits on campaign contributions or expenditures, but polling shows extremely strong bipartisan support right now to change that. How to bring about campaign finance reform was the topic March 8 at the City Club of Eugene. Speakers were Charlie Fisher of OSPIRG, former Oregon Court of Appeals judge David Schuman, Kristin Eberhard of the Sightline Institute and Robin Quirke of PolicyInteractive. Three measures are in the Oregon Legislature this term, but it’s too early to say what will eventually go to the voters and survive the courts. Of all states, progressive Oregon should have limits on campaign contributions and expenditures.

• A tidbit of good news: a bipartisan public lands bill protecting Oregon wilderness and rivers was signed into law March 12. The legislation puts into place long-sought protection for the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness as well as for waterways such as the Molalla, Lower Rogue and Chetco. Sen. Ron Wyden says it’s “the largest public lands package passed by Congress in a decade.” You can celebrate the protections 5:30 pm Wednesday, March 20, at Ninkasi Brewery (Admin Building), 155 Blair Boulevard, with Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and Trout Unlimited. Nothing says river protection like cold beer.

University of Oregon President Michael Schill sent an email about the budget to the campus community early in March, including this shocker: “The UO enrolled large classes of students from abroad as recently as the 2015-16 academic year. Since that time, however, like many other American universities, the numbers have begun to fall off. Over the last three years, international enrollment has dropped  by almost 1,000 students, representing more than $32 million in recurring tuition revenue.” Thank you, Donald Trump. Certainly, the chaos he has created here makes America less attractive to foreign students.

Big questions for the state’s political future are coming out of Salem mid-March. What Republican will Gov. Kate Brown appoint to be secretary of state? How serious is the medical leave for Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney? Traditionally, Senate presidency has been a stepping-stone to higher office. Think Jeff Merkley, Gordon Smith, John Kitzhaber. If Courtney’s health won’t let him continue, how about Sen. Floyd Prozanski, if he is interested? And then there is the four-year question: Who will run for governor? Knute Buehler is already putting out policy positions. We have heard former Republican state rep Julie Parrish is jockeying for position. Jennifer Williamson is a popular Democrat. It’s never too early.

What we’re reading: Blue Horses, poems by Mary Oliver, Penguin Books. Published in 2014 by the late, truly great Mary Oliver, this is the perfect little volume to pull us away from the dreary news of the day. Try this opening to “First Yoga Lesson”: “‘Be a lotus in the pond,’ she said, ‘opening slowly, no single energy tugging against another but peacefully, all together.’”

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