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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.

Lawmakers Return To Salem With Lots Of Issues And Little Time

Matt Howry
File photo of the Oregon State Capitol Building

Pot, guns and liquor. Those are a few of the issues facing Oregon lawmakers as they return to the state capitol Monday for a five-week legislative session.

Over the next 35 days, Oregon lawmakers will discuss legalizing recreational marijuana, expanding background checks for gun sales and allowing grocery stores to sell booze. Also on the docket: The state's beleaguered health insurance exchange and a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River.

The reality is that not all of those proposals will make it through the legislative process. And those hot button issues mostly don't appear on the official list of priorities from either party.

But House Democratic leader Val Hoyle says controversial topics could end up overshadowing everything else.

"This is February in the year that everybody is running for election," he says. "And so it gets harder in a short session to actually focus on policy and things that we need to do."

Lawmakers will also get an update on the state's finances next week. If the news is bad, they'll have to tweak budgets to prevent deeper cuts later on.