SALEM -- The Oregon Legislature kicked off its five-month session Monday, beginning work on a new two-year budget and dozens of other initiatives.
As lawmakers convened, several hundred demonstrators massed on the Capitol steps calling for universal, government-funded health care. The budget will be lawmakers' top priority. They will have to divvy up a projected $16.5 billion in general fund and lottery revenue.
Legislators will have to decide how much money goes to schools, public safety, and safety-net programs. In hopes of freeing up more dollars, Gov. John Kitzhaber has asked for major changes to public-employee pensions and sentencing laws.
Democrats running the House and Senate say they're focused on jobs and the economy, but they'll also be pushing legislation on housing, immigration and the environment..