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Busy session on the horizon
Guns, pot big issues as Oregon lawmakers get ready to get back to work
SALEM — The Oregon Legislature will return to the Capitol this February to tackle issues running the gamut from expanding background checks on gun sales to setting the stage for legalizing recreational marijuana to easing state control over liquor sales.
The cornerstone issues — improving the economy, making education more affordable — will also be prevalent in the 2014 Oregon legislative session, but the hot-button issues are already generating headlines.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, is taking the lead on two issues guaranteed to make people pay attention: guns and pot.
Prozanski said he will introduce a measure expanding background checks on person-to-person gun sales, allowing for a continued exemption for gun transfers between family members. Prozanski pushed the same legislation last session as part of a package of bills that failed to make it to the chamber floor for a vote. Prozanski is confident the legislation will be more successful this time around.
“We’re closing that last existing loophole in our background law,” Prozanski said, noting that current law requires background checks at gun shows and when buying from a dealer. “We’ve had a background check for 25 years and it works, except we have this one gaping loophole that allows for a felon to have easier access.”
Prozanski is also spearheading the work on a referral to the voters to legalize recreational marijuana.
After listening to officials from Washington and Colorado, Prozanski said, it seems wisest to let lawmakers, not advocacy groups, create the guidelines of how to regulate marijuana. If lawmakers can pass a referral out of the February session, Prozanski said he was told at least one of the groups currently gathering signatures to put a measure on the ballot would not move forward.
And of course there will be a handful of bills related, at least indirectly, to the state’s rollout of Cover Oregon, the health insurance exchange.