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Special session easily passes Nike bill

The bill sought by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber to benefit Nike easily passed the special session of the Oregon Legislature on Friday afternoon.

The vote in the Oregon House of Representatives was 50 to 5, with 5 members absent. Most of the no votes came from Democratic Portland legislators, including Jefferson Smith, Lew Fredrick and Alisa Keny-Guyer. Also voting no were Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie) and Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer).

Smith was the only one to speak against the bill, and he expressed concerns that it was too generous to Nike or any other company that qualified for its benefits.

The vote in the State Senate was 22 to 6, with 2 absences. No votes included Larry George (R-Sherwood) and Alan Olsen (R-Oregon City).

The bill was amended in the Special Joint Committee on Economic Development to address concerns raised by Smith and a number of other critics. Among others things, the committee adopted amendments to:

• Reduce the available time for the governor to sign agreements with qualifying companies to Jan. 1, 2014.

• Ensure the recovery of waived state taxes if companies that sign the agreements do not fulfill their obligations.

• Require public reports by the Business Development Department on the progress of the agreements.

• Remove language disqualifying companies from applying for an agreement if they have received $5 million or more in property tax reductions through the state Strategic Investment Program.

Reducing the time the agreements can be signed is intended to guarantee that the concept will be reviewed by the 2013 Oregon Legislature.

The bill will give the governor the authority to approve contracts with multi-state companies to guarantee their state tax obligations for up to 30 years if they investment a minimum of $150 million and create 500 or more jobs in Oregon.