In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

FAA bill may boost PDX service;ban smoking in county parks

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Cheers: To a proposed bipartisan agreement by Congress to renew authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s rare enough that this Congress agrees to do anything, but the legislation that renews this necessary bureaucracy contains some sweeteners for air passengers. Perhaps most importantly for our area, it devotes more of the scarce landing slots at Reagan National Airport to direct flights from the West Coast. At the moment, Portland travelers cannot enjoy the convenience that flying nonstop to the airport nearest the nation’s capital provides.United Airlines provides nonstop flights to Dulles, in suburban Virginia, but it’s a time- and cash-consuming trip from there to Washington, D.C. With more slots opened up, PDX can make its case that we deserve a nonstop flight.

Other portions of the FAA legislation are equally beneficial to travelers, including accelerating the air traffic control system’s conversion to a GPS-based technology, which could reduce flight delays by 20 percent, and authorizing airport improvements that in recent years have benefited many Northwest airports.

Jeers: To county commissioners’ foot-dragging on banning smoking in public parks. Presented with an opportunity to join a growing group that bans smoking, including the city of Vancouver, commissioners instead talked about concepts such as smokers’ rights, which rightfully should end where public property begins.

The commissioners said they might ban smoking at county-owned athletic fields, such as the new Luke Jensen Sports Park, http://www.columbian.com/admin/news/story/131206/#but that would create even more strange patches in what is currently a crazy quilt of regulation.

Cheers: To Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who is calling for making a permanent change in the federal tax code to allow residents of Washington and some other states to claim a sales tax deduction on their federal income tax returns. The deduction applies in states where there is no income tax. In most states, including Oregon, taxpayers already get a permanent federal tax deduction for the state and local taxes they pay.

In contrast, income-tax-free states have to lobby Congress regularly to extend the sales tax credit. That creates uncertainty for consumers and business, and distracts from other federal business at hand.

The exemption should be made permanent.

To elected officials who don’t show up to public meetings. An analysis by The Columbian’s Ray Legendre showed most local officials are on the job and at the meetings, but the record is uneven. Overall, city councils in Clark County and Woodland posted perfect attendance only 61 percent of the time last year. Woodland and Battle Ground even had to postpone meetings because not enough elected officials were available for a quorum.

Cheers: To Senate Bill 6109, which would prompt local governments to tape executive sessions, which are closed-door meetings that are allowed for specific purposes. Those meetings are not usually recorded, making violations hard to prove. The bill would prohibit public disclosure of the tapes, but it would allow judges to review them to detect violations. The state auditor believes there have been hundreds of violations.

Jeers: To a new effort to make Oregonians pay sales tax on Washington purchases. The newest effort, Senate Bill 6061, would allow Oregonians to save all their sales tax receipts and apply for a partial refund once a year. Of course, no one would do that. The worst aspect of the bill is that it threatens our already anemic border-community retail sector.