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A successful legislative session wraps up in Salem

Capitol Report

The 2012 Oregon State Legislative Session adjourned last Monday. It was a fast-paced month during which we, as a legislature, faced the challenge of rebalancing the budget and passing key pieces of legislation in the 'pressure cooker' of our state's first month-long annual legislative session.

I am proud of the work we did as a legislative body and encouraged by the continued conversation around creating jobs and getting our state back on the path to economic prosperity for all.

With 30 Republicans and 30 Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives, negotiations and compromise are necessary.

Under new House leadership, the Legislature rebalanced the state budget without raising taxes and raiding reserves.

We were able to address the $200 million budget hole with budget reductions, available funds, and government operations reform s that will save tens of million of dollars now and in future budgets.

Over the last two legislative sessions, we have reduced spending, reduced the growth of fee increases and debt, and put Oregon on the path to budgetary reform. Fiscal discipline is back! This was not our only accomplishment, however. Several other legislative achievements are highlighted below.

First, we worked to make jobs and the economy a top priority in this legislative session. I was proud to co-sponsor and pass a jobs bill that increased the number of rural enterprise zones which will encourage economic development and investment in parts of our state that need it the most (HB 4093).

I also co-sponsored a bill that established the Oregon Growth Fund and the Oregon Growth Board (HB 4040) to cut waste by consolidation and to free up capital for investment in Oregon businesses and promote economic development across the state.

Another bill I passed provides certainty to data storage centers in Oregon Enterprise Zones by preventing them from being centrally assessed under Oregon tax laws (SB 1532). Many of these businesses operate in Washington County and ensuring that these companies that employ hundreds across the district have the predictability and certainty they need will allow them to continue to invest right here instead of moving their business elsewhere.

Second, we continued to pursue K-12 education reform by eliminating more unfunded state mandates on school districts (HB 4014) and establishing a task force on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to help encourage students to study these inventive subjects (HB 4056).

At the college level, we directed the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to award academic credit for prior learning by students (HB 4059), making a college degree more affordable and accessible.

Third, government reform remained a top priority for the legislature this session. We passed a bill forcing large state agencies to tighten their belts and cut down on excess management-level positions (HB 4131). Another bill, SB 1559, requires 9-1-1 funds go directly to 9-1-1 jurisdictions, a common-sense law that increases accountability in the state budget.

Fourth, while we knew we would have to make tough decisions about how we spend money in Oregon to rebalance the budget, we also fought to preserve crucial services for the most vulnerable in our society.

Health care reform was a common theme this legislative session and we passed a number of bills that will improve health care delivery and outcomes. One bill, SB 1509, allows dentists and hygienists licensed in other states to more easily volunteer their time and services for low-income patients in need of dental care here in Oregon.

We also pursued several avenues to protect senior citizens, including passing a bill that provides temporary relief to seniors with reverse mortgages (HB 4039) and a bill that increases the penalties for various forms of elder abuse (HB 4084).

On the local front, several bills directly serve to meet the needs of the Hillsboro community. Working with Sen. Bruce Starr and Rep. Katie Eyre, we were able to preserve excess funds from the Highway 26 expansion for the Silicon Forest Interchange Project at Shute Road/Brookwood Parkway and for safety improvements on Cornelius Pass Road. Without SB 1543, those excess funds could have gone to other unrelated projects. We also gave Oregonians the ability to seek an independent panel to review wetland delineations made by the Department of State Lands through SB 1582. This gives more local control to our cities and counties in making land use decisions.

While we took great strides toward important education, health care, and economic reforms, our work is not finished. I will continue to work alongside my colleagues during the interim to find long-lasting solutions to the lack of private sector job creation and economic growth in our state.

We must continue to pursue reforms in our schools, giving parents more choices and local school districts more control, and seek more permanent and comprehensive foreclosure reform. Ultimately, we need more jobs to provide stability to our families and communities as well as stable funding for the important services our state provides.

I am eager to return to my district to work alongside you and our great community leaders and businesses to give every family across Oregon a better quality of life.

- Republican state Rep. Shawn Lindsay represents the 30th Legislative District which includes parts of Hillsboro and rural Washington County. He can be reached at (503) 986-1430 or rep.shawnlindsay