LEGISLATURE TOUGHENS LAWS AIMED AT DUII
Oregon drivers who like to sip some suds or swallow some strong drinks before jumping into their cars for the five- or 10-mile or two- or three-block ride home should be quaking in their boots.
The 2003 Legislature, which wrapped up its record-long session a few days ago, placed several bills on Gov. Ted Kulongoski's desk aimed at getting drunk drivers off the road.
Here's what would happen if the governor signs these bills:
A motorist being convicted for a third time of DUII would face a lifetime revocation of his driver's license. Current law bring revocation after the fourth conviction.
A judge could fine DUII offenders up to $10,000 if they drink and drive with minors in the vehicle.
A drunken-driving suspect would face a fine of $500 to $1,000 if he or she refuses to take a breath test.
Drivers would be required to plead guilty or no-contest before entering an alcohol diversion program. This would put more teeth into the prosecution of individuals who drop out of a diversion program before completing it.
Those drivers found guilty of criminally negligent homicide involving drunken driving would receive 34 to 36 months in prison, versus the current 16 to 18 months they may get now.
The governor's signature on three or more of these bills will bring a sobering awakening for many people who still think they can mix a few drinks with operating a motor vehicle.
Measure makes sense
Area voters might have been surprised when they got a ballot in the mail the other day. They expect Oregon elections to be held in November and May. But September?
The Sept. 16 election is really quite simple. It consists of one item. Ballot Measure 29 was referred to the voters by the 2003 Legislature. The measure would allow Oregon to refinance at a lower cost the state's share of the Public Employee Retirement System's debt.
The measure was requested by State Treasurer Randall Edwards, who wishes to take advantage of currently low interest rates to sell about $2 billion in bonds. The proceeds would be used to refinance the state's share of the PERS debt.
Oregon is now paying about 8 percent annual interest on the debt. But because the Federal Reserve repeatedly has cranked back interest rates to help stimulate the economy, Edwards believes he can lower the state's PERS debt interest costs by 3 percent. This amounts to a whopping $90 million savings over the next two years.
Measure 29 makes good economic sense for Oregon. Voters should approve it Sept. 16.