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Legislators count session successful

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

April 22, 2006

Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, and Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett believe Thursday’s special session highlighted the best of bipartisan cooperation.

They credited Sen. President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, for leadership that helped them zip through the shortest session in state history. In six hours, legislators passed five bills that increased money for schools and social services, put greater controls on sexual predators and capped interest rates charged for payday loans.

“I was very proud to be a legislator today. It was probably one of the best days I’ve had with my Republican and Democratic colleagues,” said Metsger in a follow-up interview.

Smith carried House Bill 3511, also known as Jessica’s Law, to passage by her peers. It was approved in the House by a 54-6 vote and then unanimously supported by the Senate.

She said Gov. Ted Kulongoski will sign into law on Monday a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years for those convicted of sexually abusing children. The bill also extends post-prison supervision and requires active tracking of offenders.

“I felt very good about the fact that we took a big step forward in protecting Oregon’s children,” said Smith.

Hood River School District will also receive $321,900 as its share of extra lottery profits. House Bill 3510 authorized the distribution of $43 million in unexpected revenue to schools statewide.

Portland schools will also gain from the tax on properties that expired last year but was reinstated by legislative action. Under Senate Bill 1106, the district is expected to receive $15 million in capital next year.

Payday loans will now be capped at a 36 percent interest rate — instead of charges up to 500 percent that were previously allowed. Senate Bill 1105 was intended to control the practices of that monetary lending system.

And last, but not least, Metsger and Smith are pleased to have approved Senate Bill 5644 that plugged a budget shortfall for the Department of Human Services.

That agency had a budget deficit of $137 million brought by a higher caseload and lost federal funding.

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