Oregon reps promise speedy special session

SALEM, Ore. (AP) ?” Oregon House and Senate leaders are promising a short, productive special session when lawmakers meet Thursday to provide more money for Oregon’s schools and wipe out a human services budget deficit.

Also on the agenda – placing new restrictions on payday lenders and toughening penalties for sex crimes against children.

Those subjects will comprise the entire agenda for the special session that’s expected to last a day or two and then “adjourn promptly,” Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Karen Minnis said in a joint statement Monday.

Lawmakers will be under pressure to keep the session brief because renovations to the Capitol’s electrical system will require the power to be cut off at 7 p.m. Friday and remain off for 10 days. Contractors say delaying the scheduled electrical work would cost the state an estimated $48,000 a day.

It’s always possible that individual lawmakers might try to bring up additional subjects that could add to the length of the session. But Courtney and Minnis on Monday sounded determined to not have that happen.

“I’m pleased to have a bipartisan agreement with the Senate president and the Senate leadership ahead of this week’s special session,” Minnis said. “I’m looking forward to a short, productive session that does the people’s business and adjourns promptly.”

Underscoring their desire for a quick session, Courtney and Minnis appointed themselves along with other top leaders to a special committee that on Wednesday morning will begin working out the details of the various bills in anticipation of Thursday’s session.

Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced earlier this month that that he would call lawmakers back to Salem this month to consider funneling more aid to schools and to take care of the human services budget hole. At the time he said he would support having the payday loan and child sex crime bills added to the agenda if there was bipartisan support for both bills.

Lawmakers’ first order of business will be to ease a $136 million shortfall in the Department of Human Services, which provides health care and other services to needy Oregonians. The plan calls for lawmakers to give some of the money directly to the agency, and reserve the rest with the Legislative Emergency Board through the rest of the current budget period.

On education, lawmakers plan to earmark $42.2 million in unanticipated lottery proceeds to public schools throughout the state. The session also will consider a plan to restore a Portland property tax that expired last year, giving the district an extra $15 million next year.

The special session also will consider strengthening consumer protections for people who obtain payday loans, increasing mandatory minimum prison sentences for sex crimes involving children and providing lifetime monitoring of sexual predators, modeled on “Jessica’s Law” in Florida.