Ore. Legislature OKs spending, balances budget, adjourns



SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Legislature voted Friday to approve funding for cancer research facilities at Oregon Health & Science University, got the budget back in balance and then adjourned the 2014 session.

The Senate voted to let local governments temporarily ban medical marijuana stores, sending the bill to Gov. John Kitzhaber. The House sent the governor a measure allowing the general public to hire home-care workers from a list of unionized aides who serve people with publicly funded care.

But the five-week legislative session was particularly notable for what didn’t happen. Controversial bills on guns, liquor and marijuana got plenty of attention but never reached the House or Senate floor. Nor did a proposal to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River.

Lawmakers did ease up on a ban on Native American mascots, opening the door for some schools to keep them. They passed a handful of bills to improve the state’s troubled health insurance exchange, although they mostly ordered Cover Oregon to take actions it’s already taking.

They also extended the telecommunications tax that funds 911 service to prepaid cellphones — a goal that had vexed the Legislature for years.

With the funding approved Friday, Oregon Health & Science University would get $200 million for cancer research facilities, a jump-start toward $500 million to secure a match of the same size from Nike founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny Knight.

The departments of Corrections and Human Services got money to meet higher-than-expected costs.

“We delivered for Oregonians,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. “We balanced the budget, we took steps to support workers and create jobs, and we made additional investments in education and other programs that matter most to Oregonians.”

Some of the highest-profile issues never gained steam, however.

With activists angling for a statewide vote on marijuana legalization and grocers pushing to privatize the state’s liquor agency, some lawmakers hoped the Legislature could write rules more balanced than initiatives written by interested parties.

A Senate committee considered a bill that would require background checks in private gun sales. It couldn’t get to the full Senate, however. Sen. Floyd Prozanki, the Eugene Democrat who sponsored the bill, said he’d try again next year. Democrats are hoping to pick up more seats in the 2014 election.

Even an idea that started with widespread support, banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, fell apart as lawmakers disagreed about whether they should also ban the use of e-cigarettes in public buildings and workplaces.

Senate Democrats have a 16-14 edge, but Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose often breaks from her party on contentious issues. That leads to the Senate often being a tied chamber, said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. “That’s the Senate right now.”

The even-year session lasted 33 days — two shy of the maximum under the state constitution.

Lawmakers will now turn their attention to the election. Potential candidates have until next week to file.