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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.

As Session Drags On, Oregon Lawmakers Tangle Over Class-Action Bill

Chris Phan
Flickr -

Oregon lawmakers are struggling to finish their work before this weekend's deadline to adjourn.

Members of the Senate Thursday butted heads over a measure that would have redirected settlements from class-action lawsuits.

Under Oregon law, any unclaimed money in a class-action lawsuit goes back to the offending corporation. The Oregon House approved a bill last month to redirect that money to help fund legal services for low-income Oregonians.

The measure faced a tougher path in a closely divided Senate, where Republicans said it’s bad policy because among other things, Legal Aid is an independent organization with little state oversight. And they said the vote was actually about the Democrats trying to make the Republicans look bad when they say no to the idea.

"It creates a vehicle for the mother of all political hit pieces," claimed Senator Doug Whitsett.

Democrat Elizabeth Steiner Hayward urged her colleagues to set aside their concerns.

"This is about walking in the ways that God asks us to do," she said. "This is not about politics."

The bill failed by one vote when a lone Democrat crossed the aisle and joined the Republicans in voting against it.