Legislature adjourns after 155 days

SALEM — Oregon lawmakers have adjourned the 2013 legislative session after voting to give universities more independence, extend a tax that funds 911 emergency services and help financially struggling timber counties. Lawmakers rushed to approve the final pieces of a two-year budget and leave Salem after 155 days — five shy of the constitutional deadline to finish their work.

In the hours before the afternoon adjournment, lawmakers voted to let public universities break free from the statewide higher education system, acceding to requests that came first from University of Oregon and Portland State University. In a concession to the other five schools, they also will be able to establish their own governing boards at a later date.

Proponents hope the independence will allow the universities to raise more money and better manage their own affairs.

Lawmakers also voted to extend until 2022 a monthly tax that funds 911 emergency services. The tax was set to expire.

The Legislature backed a bill allowing rural, timber-dependent counties to use measures other than voter-approved property taxes to raise money for public safety. Rural counties that once depended on federal timber revenues have been struggling to pay for sheriff's patrols, jails and prosecutors since a federal safety net expired. Voters in the counties have refused to raise taxes to fill the gap.

The Senate shelved a measure that would have phased out toxic chemicals in certain toys and children's products sold in Oregon, sending it to die in a committee that had no more scheduled meetings. The measure, which passed in the House before running into a brick wall in the Senate, was a priority for environmentalists who said it would protect children. Critics said it risked harming manufacturers.

The bill would have set up a database to track the use in manufactured products of 19 chemicals shown to be harmful to children. It called for phasing out the chemicals within five years.

Democratic Sen. Diane Rosenbaum of Portland, the majority leader, said she hopes the Legislature will take up the issue again next session.

Lawmakers also signed off on a bill that would set up a three-tier system for classifying sex offenders. The new classification system is intended to distinguish those at highest risk of becoming a repeat offender from those that have served their time and are not likely to commit another crime. Offenders that meet certain requirements could apply to have their names removed from the sex offender registry after five years.

— Associated Press

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