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Lively special session gets underway in Salem

 Posted: 1:05 PM September 30, 2013

Political deal making is the order of the day as Gov. John Kitzhaber's "Grand Bargain" meets with skepticism, confusion and criticism at the kick off of his special session today.

"The governor's looking for votes," said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland.

Kitzhaber has proposed a mix of tax increases on upper income earners as well as reforms for the Public Employees Retirement System. The goal is to boost education spending throughout the state.

Also on the table is Senate Bill 633 which would give the state the authority to regulate GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. The bill allows an exception for Jackson County, whose voters will consider an ordinance in 2014 that proposes a local ban on GMOs.

Buckley said it has been a struggle to find enough votes for a small business tax break that is viewed as an incentive to woo Republican votes.

Skeptics worry the bill is too broadly written and would encompass attorneys or doctors.

"The intent is to help mom and pop operations," Buckley said.

PERS reform proposals have been criticized for a variety of reasons.

"We're between a rock and a hard place," Buckley said. "Some people are saying we're not doing enough. Some people are saying we're doing too much."

— Damian Mann

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