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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.

Oregon Lawmakers Enter Final Week Of Session

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

Oregon lawmakers have less than a week left to wrap up their work in this year's legislative session. The closing days will see a flurry of work on the state budget.

But much of the attention at the capitol this week will focus around a $5.3 billion transportation package. It cleared a key legislative committee late Saturday.

The plan would fund a variety of highway and public transportation improvements. Funding would come from an increase in the gas tax, and new taxes on vehicles sales and payrolls. Democratic Sen. Lee Beyer says the proposal is the product of lots of work and compromise.

"There are things that can really, potentially, if they're successful will make big differences both in the economy of our state as well as in relieving congestion,” Beyer said.

The package has been in the works for more than a year, but most lawmakers on the panel only got the details late in the day Friday. Some lawmakers complained they hadn't been given enough time to pore over the details of the plan. 

The measure will next be considered on the House floor. Lawmakers have until July 10 to complete work on the proposal.

?Saturday also featured a testy debate in the Oregon House over a bill that would expand access to abortion. The measure would require health insurance companies to cover a broad range of reproductive health care services—including abortion—at no cost to the patient.

Democrats including Rep. Julie Fahey said the bill is needed because of possible changes to federal health care laws. ??

“Restrictions on reproductive health care have profoundly harmful effects on public health, particularly on those who already face significant barriers to receiving high quality care,” Fahey said.

Republicans, including Rep. Jodi Hack, said they by and large supported the proposal, with the notable exception of the abortion provision.

"I am a pro-life woman and I am darn proud of it. And I have raised a young woman in my family to be the same,” Hack said.

The measure narrowly passed after a lengthy debate. It now heads to the Oregon Senate.