State Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, has a novel way for Deschutes County residents to get involved in their government. He wants you to give him input on which two bills he should introduce during the next legislative session.
The 12 ideas he has are almost all worthy of consideration. Of course, they all need more detail before anyone can draw firm conclusions about them. You should take a look and give him some feedback. Find the choices online at surveymonkey.com/r/DH5DT53.
1. A tax credit for small businesses that creates high-wage jobs. When Apple, Google or Intel complain about taxes or regulations, the Legislature takes notice. It can be harder to get that attention when the business is smaller. More high-wage jobs is something Oregon needs. The state should be providing incentives to promote them or, at least, not add more regulations that make Oregon less attractive.
2. Target job-training dollars to the careers of Oregon’s future. Labor markets don’t usually have an idealistic match between demand and supply. The number of jobs available in Oregon can be encouraging. But what also matters is how hard it is to fill those positions. “About a third of the difficult-to-fill vacancies are things one can reasonably tie directly to workers themselves — lack of qualified candidates, lack of soft or technical skills or lack of certification,” State Economist Josh Lerner wrote recently.
3. Change land use laws to better enable shovel-ready sites for new businesses or expansion. We don’t know exactly what Knopp has in mind here, but the laws are a mess.
4. Don’t allow Oregon’s school choice to expire in 2017. Parents can now choose to enroll their children in a school of their choosing. We support that in principle. There also must be an analysis of what this has been doing to districts and education.
5. Sustainable forest-management practices to reduce wildfires. Of course, that deserves support. Because so much of the forestland is controlled by the federal government, it could be a challenge for the state to do much.
6. Restore the senior medical expenses tax cut. We are not so sure we would like to see this restored. When it was combined with a federal deduction, it permitted taxpayers age 65 and older to deduct the full amount of their qualified medical and dental expenses. It earned criticism because it did not depend on the income of the senior. If it was supposed to help the needy, it also helped millionaires.
7. Give Oregon’s National Guard complimentary hunting and fishing licenses. We can’t quarrel with that. It would be important to look at what this might mean. The decline in revenue from these licenses has already impacted programs.
8. End some disability discrimination. Knopp says Oregon law allows businesses to discriminate against people with disabilities, even when the disability does not interfere with a job’s requirements or performance. We are not experts, but that seems to violate federal law.
9. Test all rape kits. There are thousands of untested rape kits in Oregon. Testing them could help catch criminals. Knopp wants a policy that would lead to timely testing. That’s hard to argue with. There could be, though, legitimate reasons why some rape kits do not need to be tested.
10. No statute of limitations for rape. Knopp says Oregon law prohibits charging rapists who are caught more than 12 years after their crime. Some victims have missed the statute of limitations.
11. Establish that the Legislature be nonpartisan. It would be nice if partisanship in the Legislature could be switched off with a bill; though, it would not happen.
12. Reform the Public Employees Retirement System to protect education funding. Knopp has been at the center of many of the proposed reforms to PERS. Any changes will be controversial. The Legislature should, nonetheless, give serious consideration to his ideas.
Reading through all of Knopp’s proposals, it’s hard to just pick two. But by doing so, you could help set the Legislature’s agenda.