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Tomei reviews Salem legislative session in Sellwood meeting

by: David F. Ashton District 41 Oregon State Representative Carolyn Tomei chats with constituents before the town hall meeting begins in Sellwood.

District 41 Oregon State Representative Carolyn Tomei (D), and her comrade in the senate, Oregon Senator Diana Rosenbaum (D), held a town hall meeting at SMILE Station on July 28. The primary purpose was to review the recent legislative session.

Before the meeting, Tomei told THE BEE, 'The Sellwood Bridge continues to be a big issue in this region. As you know, this project is now looking at a different configuration for funding.' Asked if the State might add additional funding, Tomei responded, '[The State of Oregon] has already put in a lot of money. I don't see more State funding for the project, currently.'

Another issue which the six-term Representative said was on the minds of local citizens was opening a branch of a Northeast Portland 'gentleman's club' - Casa Diablo - in the area. 'A lot of people have contacted at our office about this. There is an application for this club on McLoughlin Boulevard [next to The Acropolis]. Neighbors there have done a really good job of contacting the OLCC and working with the City of Portland to say this is not an establishment that should be in our neighborhood.'

Situations like this, Tomei said, cause her to look more closely at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

'It is now a five-person board,' Tomei pointed out to THE BEE. We'd like it to be extended to be a seven-person board, adding members representing public safety, and the alcohol and drug commission. We'd like to give them a more power to close places that are giving neighbors trouble [as the other Casa Diablo has been reported to have done]. We would like to go one step further and stop problems before they begin. We would like to look at outlet density, so they would not be too many liquor stores, or establishments, in one area.'

Oregon Senator Diana Rosenbaum opened the meeting, saying, 'The work we got done would measure up to the legislature of any state in the country. Some might say 'that's not very impressive', given that many states are kind of falling apart. I would agree that we didn't face a lot of the problems that you hear about elsewhere.'

Legislative highlights, Rosenbaum said, included 'An emphasis on helping people who are out of work, and also struggling small businesses - to help them to stay in business, keep their doors open, and expand.'

Characterizing the action as 'innovative', Rosenbaum talked about the 'Cool Schools' program she sponsored, which '… creates a program for retrofitting our aging school buildings by putting in energy-efficient boilers, more lighting and modernization, which will, at the same time, put people to work.'

In the area of health care, Rosenbaum called it an 'Historic landmark session. We are one of the states actually moving ahead on implementing the national health care reform.' She added, 'We're getting lots of federal grant money [for it, as a result].'

The State's budget woes were also part of Rosenbaum's report. 'We are having to make major reductions in what we are currently funding, given the constraints we were facing. [For example,] we have all these mandatory minimum-sentencing laws that require to have prison space for people sentenced.'

Tomei said she's most proud of her legislation regarding prostitution. 'They would decouple the crime of prostitution, so that the johns would be fined $10,000 for the first violation, $20,000 for the second, and for third and further would also be $20,000 plus 30 days in jail. The young kids who are being prostituted would not be accused of a crime. And then, it would make it easier to prosecute the pimps also.'

The Senator and Representative noted that the Oregon legislature will meet every year. 'Look for us to talk with you about important issues, probably in February,' Rosenbaum said.