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Oregon's Legislative Session: What to expect in week one

Here are some bills to watch in the coming week as the session gets started and things begin to heat up.

Oregon lawmakers return to Salem to convene their short 35-day session beginning Monday, Feb. 3, in what pundits characterise as a "legislative sprint."

The first week of the session will be comprised mostly of committee work sessions and public hearings on various bills dealing with issues from safe gun storage and carbon reduction to mental health funding and improving access to dental care.

These meetings will provide good insight to which bills might make it out of committee, where legislators stand on issues and how they might vote.

Here are some bills to watch in the coming week as the session gets started and things begin to heat up:

Monday, Feb. 3

10 a.m. — Senate Committee on Wildfire Reduction and Recovery

Senators on the wildfire committee will meet to discuss the omnibus wildfire bill, one of the biggest pieces of legislation proposed this session by Gov. Kate Brown's office. The bill aims to modernize the way Oregon prevents, fights and mitigates wildfire. The state is facing a $4 billion gap in funding to improve land-use, building code, smoke mitigation efforts, utility risk planning, forest fuel reduction and more. This will be an interesting discussion to watch to see which parts of the bill will be implemented this year and what the state decides can wait with fire seasons growing increasingly expensive and dangerous to public health.

Tuesday, Feb. 4

3 p.m. — Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources

Senate Bill 1530, known colloquially as cap and trade, will likely steal the spotlight following a walkout by Republicans in the 2019 session to kill similar legislation and continued opposition and controversy surrounding the bill. The legislation would place gradually declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon and create a marketplace for businesses to buy, sell and trade carbon credits, with less and less credits being available each year. As Democrats point to a changing climate as need for such laws, Republicans stand firmly in opposition of the bill which they say will unfairly burden Oregon's rural residents.

Wednesday, Feb. 5

8:30 a.m. — Senate Committee on General Government and Emergency Preparedness

Senators will take up a discussion of providing funding for the construction of new infrastructure for the ShakeAlert system at the University of Oregon's Hazard Labs where researchers are implementing a program for early detection of earthquakes. Gov. Kate Brown said this is a high priority for her office in bringing Oregon inline with its neighbors and bolster the system to provide better coverage. Senate Bill 1537 would also look at helping 250,000 Oregon households prepare for disaster by being "self-sufficient" for up to two weeks following a disaster event.

Thursday, Feb. 6

3 p.m. — House Committee on Healthcare

House members will discuss a proposal by Rep. Sheri Schouten to cap co-pays on insulin at $100 per month regardless of the amount needed. The average price of insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013, and has caused diabetic patients nationwide to ration their insulin or go without, both situations having dire consequences. The bill has the support of the American Diabetes Association which helped pass a similar bill in Colorado last year, the first of its kind.

Friday, Feb. 7

1 p.m. — House Committee on Judiciary

House Bill 4005 seeks to require gun owners to store their firearms under lock and key, and would implement financial penalties if one is found to be violating the law or does not report a stolen firearm within 72 hours. Dozens of supporters and opponents showed up to the hearing on the bill on Jan. 15. It should be interesting to watch the debate between nationwide gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action and the pro-gun liberty camp.