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Yes to checkpoints

Oregon is a maverick among states, and in some respects we’re proud of our state’s independent streak.

We hardly ever walk out of a store feeling sad that we didn’t have to pay sales tax, for instance.

But we don’t boast about Oregon’s membership in the club of 12 states where police can’t legally set up roadblocks to look for drunken drivers.

Oregon’s Legislature, which is meeting in Salem, has recently been discussing these so-called “sobriety checkpoints.”


Take the initiative

Oregon’s wide-open initiative system, which allows ordinary people to put pretty much any matter on the ballot and let voters decide, is one of those political quirks, like our aversion to a sales tax and self-service gas pumps, that make the state unique.

But some people think the state’s system is too lenient.

The list includes Oregon’s new Secretary of State, Kate Brown.

Brown has introduced legislation, House Bill 2500, which she contends would curb abuses of the initiative system while preserving citizens’ rights to take their case to voters.


A bill with real pork

Feral pigs aren’t a major problem in Oregon.

Not yet.

But wild swine, which reproduce with disturbing rapidity, have the ability to wreak havoc on the state, including its valuable farm and ranch ground.

“They can tear up crops and rangelands overnight,” said Rick Boatner, invasive species coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.


GOP bright ideas

Republicans don’t have an abundance of influence in Salem these days, but the minority party’s leaders have floated some ideas that the majority Democrats ought to consider.

At the top of that list is the GOP’s proposal to trim income tax withholding tables by 4.2 percent.

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, who represents Baker County, estimates that change will boost Oregonians’ income by $100 million this year.


Reasonable changes to state ethics law

Oregon legislators haven’t forgotten last spring’s rash of resignations by mayors, city councilors and other officials in rural areas.

Several dozen officials, including more than a dozen in Northeastern Oregon, quit in protest of the Oregon Ethics Reform Act.

That law, which requires officials to fill out forms describing their sources of income (but not the amounts), is designed to ensure that mayors, councilors and others don’t abuse their positions for financial gain.


Ethanol optional


We understand that the Oregon Legislature has multibillion-dollar dilemmas to deal with, but we’re glad lawmakers have gotten around to another problem: Ethanol.

Last year a state law took effect that requires service stations to sell gas that contains 10 percent ethanol.

Ethanol is a plant-based fuel that doesn’t produce as much pollution as gasoline.

But ethanol is not without faults.


Sign compromise


The Baker City Council struck a good balance with the new sign ordinance.

First, councilors paid attention to people who complained about the original version of the ordinance because it banned new LED signs, which are becoming more popular.

 


Overturn gun ban


America’s national parks are special places.

But not as special as a federal judge seems to think.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last week blocked a two-month-old federal rule that allows people who have a concealed weapons permit to carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.

The ban on loaded guns had been in place since the early 1980s, but the Bush administration canceled that ban starting Jan. 11 of this year.


Salmon sensibility


We’re not fish biologists, but we’re pretty sure that a salmon is still a salmon even if grew up in a hatchery rather than a river.

Which is not to say all salmon, or their cousins the steelhead, are equal.

Fortunately, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals understands these distinctions.

A three-judge panel ruled last week that the federal government can continue to use hatchery-raised salmon to augment their wild (meaning non-hatchery) counterparts.


Feds to the rescue?


Kids are committing fewer crimes in Baker County.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that one of the factors officials credit for the decline in juvenile crime — the city police department’s school resource officer, who works at Baker High School and Baker Middle School — might not have a job after June 30.

That’s because the Baker School District, which pays about 65 percent of SRO Shannin Zednik’s annual salary and benefits of about $77,000, needs to slash its spending.


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