One of the most important proposed environmental laws to go before the Oregon Legislature in a generation may be dead in the water, a key lawmaker concedes. State Sen. Mark Hass (D-Raleigh Hills) says a bill heâs co-sponsoring to make Oregon the first state to ban single-use plastic grocery bags (see âPlastic Crusader,â WW, March 16, 2011) is stuck in the Senate Rules Committee. Why? Hass says the vote tally for the bill in the Democratic-controlled Senate is tied at 15-15. He says he isnât giving up hope that the bill may be saved in late-session deal-making, but he acknowledges, âThis may not be the year for it.â
Cue City Hall: Failure in Salem to enact a statewide plastic-bag ban would mean Mayor Sam Adams could push a Portland-specific banâperhaps as soon as this summerâunder an agreement the mayor struck in 2010 with state lawmakers. Last year, Adams tried to abolish single-use plastic bags within city limits. But he backed down under pressure from Hass, Sens. Jackie Dingfelder and Diane Rosenbaum and Rep. Ben Cannon (all Portland-area Democrats). The lawmakers wanted to try for a statewide initiative again before letting Portland and other local entities try a patchwork approach. A spokeswoman for the mayor, Amy Ruiz, says Adams still has hope the state will prevail.
Chaos in the cab business: The Oregon Employment Department recently found that because of the degree of control company owners exert over taxi drivers, those drivers are employeesânot independent contractors, as they have been classified for decades. Taxi company owners from Portland and Eugene say the change could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in new benefits and administrative costs. Portlandâs largest cab company, Broadway Cab, would see its employee rolls swell from a couple of dozen to about 400 if the ruling stands. Cab companies arenât the only industry under scrutiny for reliance on âindependent contractorsâ (see âDirt Under the Nails,â WW, May 4, 2010).
Harun Mustafa, the teenage cello player who went to prison for an assault conviction in 2009 (see WW, âStitch and Time,â May 12, 2010), was released last month. And now heâs returning to his passion of playing music in a big way. On May 12, 14 and 20, Mustafa will perform with the Portland Cello Project. The final concert, on May 20, will take place at Portlandâs Aladdin Theater. Tickets are available at aladdin-theater.com.