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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Kitzhaber Signs Public Safety Package Into Law

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

If projections are correct, Oregon will need to build fewer prison beds under a new law.

Governor John Kitzhaber signed a wide-ranging public safety bill Thursday. But the measure he approved fell short of what the Democrat proposed.

Kitzhaber had wanted lawmakers to significantly curb the growth of Oregon's inmate population over the next decade. That would have potentially required controversial changes to the state's mandatory minimum sentencing plan for some violent crimes.

Prosecutors and some legislators balked. So the proposal was dialed back to reduce sentences only for some drug and driving convictions. Still, the governor said the plan will reap economic benefits over the next five years.

"This bill turned out a little bit different than we originally had envisioned but essentially moves us in exactly the right direction and didn't leave in its wake bitterness and polarization that would make it harder to take additional steps in the future," Kitzhaber said. "So I'm very satisfied with what we've got."

The money saved by the reduced sentences will go to crime prevention programs. The measure passed the legislature earlier this month in the closing days of the session.

On the Web:

Oregon House Bill 3194 - Oregon Legislature