Bills Go To Governor

Lawmakers acted on these bills Thursday and sent several to to Gov. John Kitzhaber:

WINE COUNTRY PLATE: A license plate promoting Oregon as "wine country" is a signature away from becoming law.

The House passed Senate Bill 442 on a 48-11 vote Thursday. "It will serve as a moving billboard for our state and its great wine country," said House Republican Leader Kevin Cameron of Salem, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem.

The specialty plate will cost $30 on top of regular fees for plates. Net proceeds, after manufacturing costs, would go to the Oregon Tourism Commission for specific promotions.

House Bill 3684, which awaits a vote today in the Senate, would create a "Keep Kids Safe" plate, proceeds from which would go to the Children's Trust Fund of Oregon Foundation to fight child abuse.

A plate authorized in 2009 for fallen public-safety officers has generated enough money from donations to begin production. Startup money cannot come from the state highway fund, which relies on fuel taxes and vehicle and driver fees.

Oregon has a basic plate with a tree, plus specialty plates for salmon habitat, Oregon Cultural Trust and Crater Lake.

The state has 31 variations, including 12 for veterans' groups, six for nonprofit organizations and five for universities.

OREGON HEALTH AUTHORITY: After several postponements, the House gave final legislative approval to this budget and related fee increases. The budget passed, 42-18, and the fee bill, 37-23.

The agency was split from the Department of Human Services and will oversee the Oregon Health Plan for more than 500,000 low-income Oregonians, mental health, public health, and alcohol and drug programs. Of its total two-year budget of $11.9 billion, $1.7 billion will come from the tax-supported general fund; much of the rest is in federal funds.

The budget assumes that $7 million in other health programs will be supported through an increase in the medical-marijuana patient card from $100 to $200 annually, and a new fee of $100 for caregivers designated to grow marijuana.

HOOKAH LOUNGES: The Senate approved a bill to curb hookah lounges. But House Bill 2726, which went back to the House on an 18-11 vote, contains other changes that critics say opens loopholes in Oregon's 2007 ban on indoor smoking cigarettes.

One change would ban new hookah lounges, where flavored tobaccos are smoked in a club-like atmosphere, only when the bill is signed by Gov. Kitzhaber. Critics said that could spur applicants to try to get in under the wire. The other change would allow cigar bars in buildings that share walls with other businesses; under current law, new cigar bars must be in stand-alone buildings.

Existing hookah lounges have been allowed under a smoke-shop exemption that allows indoor smoking cigarettes, but only to sample products. They would be allowed to continue, but the bill would impose restrictions that would make it difficult for new ones to open.

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