Update: Cougars in legislation

ODFW features this image on its website on Oregon's cougars.

ODFW features this image on its website on Oregon's cougars.

We haven't heard about cougar sightings in or near the mid-valley lately. But our Oregon mountain lions have made their appearance in at least two of the bills introduced in the 2013 legislature, getting under way on Feb. 4.

One is Senate Bill 428, introduced by Sen. Larry George, a Republican from Sherwood. He offered the bill on behalf of a hunting organization, the Oregon Sportsmen Association.

As you know, Oregon voters decided in the 1990s to ban the hunting of cougars and bears with bait or hounds. During at least the last two sessions of the legislature, Rep. Sherrie Sprenger of Scio and others tried and failed to authorize some cougar hunting with dogs as a way to thin the animals' numbers in counties where cougars had killed livestock or frightened people by showing themselves near homes and schools.

Now, the Senate bill would allow the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to authorize hunters to go after cougars with their dogs during the last three months of the season, which lasts from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, if it looks as though the kill quota for a particular hunt zone might not otherwise be met.

Another cougar bill is HB 2624, sponsored by Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem. It would allow counties to exempt themselves from the dog or bait hunting ban regarding cougars and bears if county voters pass an initiative to that effect.

Last year, ODFW set a statewide cougar killing quota of 777. Some 241 were bagged by hunters -- without the help of dogs -- and another 252 were killed otherwise, most by government hunters called in to get rid of problem cougars. There's no guarantee that if more were killed by hunters using dogs, the number of reported cougar conflicts would decline.

Almost 500 cougars -- roughly 8 percent of all the ones we have -- were killed last year, some because of necessity and some for recreation or fun. It's hard to see -- and I don't expect a majority of lawmakers to see -- a compelling need to increase the number of cougars killed for fun. (hh)

How to solve immigration

Solving the immigration dilemma would be possibledome-night2 if we took a couple of sensible steps. But we won't take either one. So the coming battle over immigration will be loud and long, and there may be no good solution in the end.

The main problem, as everyone says, is that we have about 11 million illegal or undocumented immigrants in the country, and that hundreds of thousands more try to get in -- or do get in -- without permission every year. For the general public this is not really a grave or pressing problem, at least not as pressing as the attempts to limit people's freedom under the Second Amendment or the refusal to face up to the reality of the government's crushing debt and inability to fund basic programs without borrowing more. But if we nevertheless wanted to get beyond the immigration issue now, we would do two things.

First, for everybody in the country at least a year, we would declare them legal residents. No more threat of deportation. No more fuss. This would not be citizenship but legal residency. Legal residents have all the obligations of everyone else except they can't vote. There's a way for legal residents to apply to become citizens after a number of years, and whether to do so would be up to them. So that would solve the immediate problem. It might not be fair to lots of people on waiting lists around the world, but it would recognize the facts on the ground, and it would be decisive.

So then, what's the second step? It would be to go back to the system of a few decades ago, when immigrants had to swear they would not become dependent on public assistance. There's nothing unfair about this. The U.S.economy can't support every poor person in the world who wants a better life. If we enforced a similar approach now, the urge to immigrate would likely take a dip and the second part of the problem would become smaller as well. (hh)



Making cigarettes illegal?


Keeping watch on the Oregon legislature.

Keeping watch on the Oregon legislature.

Just what we need -- another illegal drug. That's what state Rep. Mitch Greenlick apparently wants. The Portland Democrat has introduced a bill, House Bill 2077, that would make possession of nicotine a crime. We are talking about cigarettes here, or really any kind of tobacco. The bill says it would create the crime of unlawful possession of nicotine, which would be punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of $6,250. It also would create the crime of unlawful distribution of nicotine, punishable in the same way. And it would direct the State Board of Pharmacy to adopt rules making nicotine a Schedule III controlled substance.

Now, this bill does not really stand a chance of passage in the legislature this year, or any year. So why does a legislator go to the trouble of having it written up and copies published online and in print? Maybe he just wants to get across a message -- that nicotine is bad for you because it comes in the form of cigarettes, and maybe for other reasons too. But we already get that message, don't we? The campaign against smoking has been going on since the 1960s.

Or maybe the Portland legislator just wants to be forthright. After all, we've had public condemnation of smoking for a long time, and increasingly smoking is against the law. It's prohibited in workplaces, and now it's banned on all state property -- both indoors and out. Other legislation pending in the legislature would ban smoking in cars when children are present. So why not go all out and just ban cigarettes?

That's what Greenlick may be thinking. Then we'd have yet another illegal drug that some people crave so much they would use it regardless of the law. More work for the police and the courts and eventually the jails -- just what Oregon needs. (hh)

From Keith Underdahl: In my experience I have not found Representative Greenlick to be guided by reason or truth. Even before I read the article, when I saw the headline my first thought was, "This must be Greenlick's idea." Who are the fools who keep voting for him?
Keep up the good work on the blog,

From Steve A. Brown, via Facebook: Apparently, Greenlick doesn't have enough to do to keep busy. Perhaps he should attend a remediation course on how to develop and write a realistic bill.
From Jill Morgan, via Facebook: Perhaps he should have to personally pay for all the costs involved with introducing such a bill....if that were the case perhaps people would be much less likely to waste time/money!
From  Hazel Siebrecht: Maybe they can put this aside and work on another earth-shaking bill, banning plastic bags.  Isn't that about as silly? Don't tackle PERS or our desperate need of jobs, especially in the timber industry. Soon there will not be enough taxes to pay their wages.


Immigration reform: Not so fast

100_0247President Obama says now's the time for immigration reform. Easier said than done, obviously.

One question: If we have lived with illegal immigration and its consequences for 40 or 50 years, what makes dealing with it so urgent now? But let's look at the details.

An estimated 11 million illegal immigrants are believed to be in the United States. Most work and most pay at least some taxes. The number of people arrested for illegally crossing from the Mexican side of the border last fiscal year was 356,873. The Border Patrol says the number was below the long-term average. So illegal entry may have slowed, but it's still going on in very large numbers.

Obama and some senators now have announced different plans. They involve letting undocumented immigrants become citizens eventually if they learn English and meet other conditions; securing the border (though Obama says this has already been done); cracking down on employers hiring illegal immigrants, and admitting more high-tech workers from abroad. The senators also want a farm worker program, but Obama doesn't. Obama does want a provision allowing former illegals to bring their relatives.

Each one of these points stirs up serious disagreements. Why, for example, import more high-tech workers at the disadvantage of Americans in those fields? Employers want it, sure, but what employers want is not necessarily good for citizens or the country. In the proposed path to citizenship, illegals would have to go to the back of the line behind legal applicants. So that 11 million, the number of illegals, apparently would not be reduced for quite a while. And the crackdown on employers would make the United States even more of a bureaucracy tied down with red tape than it already is.

The upshot? Immigration reform may turn out to be another step in lessening the freedom for which this country used to be known. (hh)

The goal: Higher property taxes

The Capitol last December. A Senate tax proposal would mean Christmas all year for local governments if the legislature puts it on the ballot and voters approve it.

The Capitol last December. A Senate tax proposal would mean Christmas all year for local governments if the legislature puts it on the ballot and voters approve it.

Don't look now, but they want to increase your property taxes. By "they," I mean the majority of those senators who were on the state Senate Interim Committee on Finance and Revenue. They have introduced a constitutional amendment that would remove the property tax limits where local option tax levies are concerned.

This has been a priority of local government officials around the state. They complain that as voters approve more levies, the constitutional limits on property taxes cause each one to collect less revenue. So, one of the Senate tax committee's proposals is to do away with those limits on local option levies.

Those are the levies which, once approved by voters, allow local governments to impose taxes beyond their fixed and permanent tax rates. But the total tax limit of $15 per $1,000 of real market value, set by Measure 5 in 1990, still applies. This is protection for homeowners. It keeps the tax rates on individual properties from going out of sight. The Senate committee now wants to do away with that protection. It also wants local option levies to be good for 10 years, instead of five years, which is the limit now. And its proposal would allow local governments to seek voter renewal of option levies at any election, not just the primary and general, starting two years before any levy expires.

Combined, these proposed changes -- part of Senate Joint Resolution 10 -- would surely lead to a proliferation of special levies being piled on top of each other, instead of being partially replaced by each other as now. The likely result would be more local government revenue. That's the goal. And that would mean a bigger tax bill for you. Republicans in the legislature, who fought tax increases in the past, are in no position to stop this plan now. So you will most likely see it on the ballot in 2014. If you want to pay more, get ready to vote yes. (hh)

From Ray Kopczynski: "Those are the levies which, once approved by voters...its proposal would allow local governments to seek voter renewal...Combined, these proposed changes...would surely lead to a proliferation of special levies being piled on top of each other..."

Yes.  However it would be by the VOTER's choice. (Note that it does not say "electors.") As it now stands (as a homeowner), I do not even have the option to vote "No" if I so choose.  As for "piled on top of each other..." I would suggest that intelligent voters can read what their added costs will be if they vote for them and they do pass...  I would also suggest it will be an uphill battle to get multiples approved at any given time.

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