What’s up with Senate gun bills?

Beavering away outside the state Capitol.

Beavering away outside the state Capitol ...

It was on April 18 that the state Senate Judiciary Committee passed four heavily watered-down bills directed at gun owners. So far, as of May 1, none of them has seen -- or been scheduled for -- action on the Senate floor. What's going on here?

It could be that the bills don't have enough support to get through the Senate. They had a hard time getting through the committee, after all. Only after they were stripped of various onerous provisions did they get the support of Arnie Roblan from Coos Bay, one of the three Democrats on the Senate panel who eventually voted to advance the bills. And if only one of the Senate's Democrats does not support these measures, they cannot pass as long the 14 Republicans remain solidly opposed. So it's possible that the Senate president, Peter Courtney of Salem, is delaying Senate action until he can unite all 16 Democrats behind the bills. That's one possibility.

Another is that since the measures now are almost without meaning and effect, legislative leaders figure there's no point in passing them at all. But nothing is final until the lawmakers go home at the end of June, and these bills could still be changed to cause all kinds of unnecessary grief. So there's reason to keep an eye on them, and that's the plan here. (hh)

Driver cards: More fees for DMV

DMV offices like this may be busier when the driver-card bill takes effect.

DMV offices like this may be busier when the driver-card bill takes effect.

Illegal aliens in Oregon will be allowed to obtain state driver cards starting in the fall, when Senate Bill 833 takes effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns. From a practical perspective, this is a good thing. It takes us back to the situation that existed before February 2008, when Oregon started requiring proof of citizenship or legal presence in the country in order to grant or renew a driver's license.

Tens of thousands of illegal aliens live in Oregon, most of them working at jobs, and driving back and forth to work. This new law won't change much of what happens on our roads, but it does have some budget impact. The DMV expects a 4 percent increase in the number of transactions, which amounts to about 41,000 more transactions over two years. It also expects to be deluged with a backlog of 84,000 driver card requests in 2014, accounting for those who couldn't get a license since 2008.

Together with fees for the knowledge and driving tests, the price of one of these four-year cards totals $78. The bill says the DMV can't spend more than $4.7 million on the program in 2013-15, but if my rough calculations are right, it should take in quite a bit more than that in fees.

That's the practical side of this bill. As for the political significance, the law change confirms what we already know: Immigration law is an oxymoron. A law that's not enforced is hardly a law at all. It's a joke. (hh)

D'Ann responded on April 30: Sigh... and I kinda, sorta think there are gonna be at least a few "unintended consequences" ....

Common sense loses twice


These people at Portland International Monday had better not have any knives.

These people at Portland International Monday had better not have any knives.

Two federal organizations have thrown in the towel and given up on making sensible changes in their routines.

Under pressure from Congress, the Postal Service decided it had to keep delivering the mail on Saturdays. And the Transportation Security Administration, under pressure from flight attendants and their union, backed off its decision to allow people to keep their small pocket knives when they board a commercial plane. So much for common sense.

Last Saturday, the mail at our house consisted of a bill and a handful of slick catalogs trying to take business away from local stores. The bill could have waited till Monday, and the catalogs went straight into the recycling bin. This was about normal for the mail on any day, especially Saturday. So why can't the post office save a little money by cutting back deliveries to five days a week?

As for the TSA, the agency was never known for an abundance of common sense. Instead of zeroing in on likely suspects in their attempt to thwart terrorism in the air, it still makes most people including old ladies take off their shoes. The intention to quit confiscating small pocket knives, announced a couple of months ago, gave rise to the hope that the agency was becoming more realistic. That hope has been dashed, at least for now. (hh)

Look, there’s still snow

Marys Peak, seen from the road heading to Philomath.

Marys Peak, seen from the road heading to Philomath.

If you looked really hard at the top of Marys Peak this past weekend, you could still see a little patch of white. At 4,100 feet it's the highest mountain in the Coast Range, and the extent of snow up there has taken on some significance as an indicator of the local effects of global warming, or the lack of it.

In 2011, climate scientist Phil Mote of Oregon State University was quoted on the subject in an article in a publication called EarthSky. The gist was that it used to be fairly common for Marys Peak to still have snow on April 1 but then, by the 1980s, this had become much less common. And that seemed to be a sign that climate change, or global warming, was gradually diminishing the winter snowpack in Pacific Northwest hills.

Now it looks like there's still a little snow on Marys Peak not just on April 1 but almost a whole month later. Skeptics who challenge the conventional wisdom on the extent of gradual climate change and its causes like to point to Marys Peak as another sign that they are not completely wet. If there's still snow on that relatively low peak well after the beginning of spring, they say, perhaps our climate is not changing in disastrous ways just yet.

What happens on one little Benton County peak year after year probably is not a sign of anything lasting or big, but it's hard not to be encouraged by that little speck of white. (hh)

A quiet spot, except for the creek …

Next time you're on or near the central Oregon coast, check out this little place in the Siuslaw National Forest. There is hardly ever anybody there when I ride my bike up to this place. It's easy to get to by car, about nine miles up Yachats River Road. If you go, pick a sunny day, take a picnic lunch and listen to the incessant gurgling of the creek while enjoying the woodsy scenery and, if you have any, the company.

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