By Lauren Dake

The Bulletin

For the Central Oregon delegation, the 2014 Oregon legislative session could be dominated by a focus on bringing jobs to rural Oregonians and making education more accessible.

House Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, will be charged with leading his caucus, but plans to carve out time to advocate for a measure he hopes would create jobs in his area of the state.

The bill would allow the siting of industrial lands to be fast-tracked. It wouldn’t supersede land-use laws, he said, but speed them up in certain instances.

“We’re talking about compressed time frames,” McLane said.

The law would apply to towns with populations fewer than 17,000.

Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, will work to help Central Oregon Community College get the funding it needs to acquire a building on its campus that is currently leased by Oregon State University-Cascades Campus. The move would release OSU-Cascades from its lease on the building, clearing the pathway for its planned expansion elsewhere.

“It’s a challenge for OSU to move forward with this hanging over their head,” Huffman said.

Huffman said he will also spend the abbreviated session lobbying to ensure Jefferson County gets the bonding it needs to improve its county courthouse.

Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, who has been busy launching a campaign for the U.S. Senate, will return to Salem to push a measure to help single parents attending college.

The bill would require state colleges to provide child care on or near campus. Conger is also working on another education-related issue, which would make changes to a proposal by State Treasurer Ted Wheeler to create a scholarship and job-training fund for Oregon students. Conger likes Wheeler’s idea, but where Wheeler has suggested using state-backed bonds to fund the initiative, Conger has an idea that would tap funds already being collected through the state’s biggest utility companies.

Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, will ask for an update on a measure passed in a previous legislative session allowing veterans to use their military experience to gain education credit toward certificates in disciplines such as nursing.

“Being ex-military, I’m concerned about our young men and women coming back and not getting jobs,” he said.

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, hopes to revive a measure he pushed last legislative session attempting to cut down on the number of fraudulent Medicaid checks. The measure would beef up the state’s ability to spot fraudulent claims by using a predictive analytic software before Medicaid checks are cut. Another bill he’s working on would allow local cities that have an unemployment rate higher than 7 percent to handle land-use decisions locally.

“They wouldn’t have to go to the state. The decision and the appeal is done locally, all in an attempt to drive jobs and manufacturing at the local level,” Knopp said.

— Reporter: 541-554-1162,