(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Rep. Tobias Read is a Democrat from Beaverton who represents District 27.)

In 1885, the Oregon Legislature decided to meet in the early winter months rather than the fall to accommodate legislators' need to return home and work their farms.

Most things have changed since 1885 but incredibly, the legislative schedule has not, and Oregon remains one of only six states whose legislature does not meet annually. The fast pace of our economy and environment, and the rest of the world today makes waiting a year and a half between legislative sessions irresponsible and inefficient.

This February, the Oregon Legislature will conduct a focused, month-long session as recommended by the independent Public Commission on the Legislature. Lawmakers from both parties agreed to this supplemental session, knowing full well our need to properly manage two-year budgets, react swiftly to changing economic fortunes and ensure the accountability Oregonians expect from our state government.

For Oregon families facing foreclosure, parents who bought recalled toys, seniors displaced from long-term care homes, and coastal residents decimated by the floods since the 2007 session adjourned last June, this immediate legislative attention comes as welcome news.

As we did in advance of the 2007 session, House Democrats are releasing a Road Map to Oregon's Future. Though we will surely discuss, debate and pass additional legislation during the upcoming February session, the following issues constitute the Oregon House Democrats Road Map for 2008.

n Keeping seniors healthy and independent - At the same time as we construct a blueprint for how Oregon will ensure the health and independence of our growing senior population and create a stable system of long-term care, we will act to increase funding for these programs in order to maintain continued access to the most appropriate level of care.

n Protecting abused and neglected children - We will work hard to protect abused and neglected children by increasing the number of staff devoted to regularly visiting homes to ensure our children are safe, while also reducing the growing backlog of home visits.

n Strengthening the Oregon State Police - In 2007 House Democrats led successful efforts to add 100 state troopers to our roads, and in 2008 we will continue to move the Oregon State Police toward 24/7 coverage on Oregon highways.

n Protecting families from foreclosure - We will propose stronger laws to provide Oregon families with the tools, strategies and assistance they need to avoid foreclosure on their homes.

n Improving toy safety laws - To ensure the safety and health of Oregon children, we will seek to prohibit the sale of toys and other children's items that have been recalled by manufacturers.

n Increasing government accountability - In February we will advance legislation creating an Advisory Committee on Performance Excellence designed to provide guidance and oversight to improve performance and promote greater accountability in state government.

n Investing in our future - We will actively seek to lay the foundation for infrastructure improvements in water storage and land-use planning, and continue working to build momentum for a major transportation package in the 2009 session.

We want to build on the success of the 2007 session by completing an effective, efficient session in 2008 that will move Oregon along the road to a better future - for the long run. We did it in 2007, and we'll do it again in 2008.

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