General Question

Sarcasm's avatar

What are some differences in laws between Oregon and Washington?

Asked by Sarcasm (16778points) September 13th, 2009

I was browsing the wikipedias today and came across Oregon’s and Washington’s population density maps.

I heard on the East coast that it’s common practice to hop between states for things like more lax firework laws. I figured something like that (but, y’know, on a bigger scale) must be the reason for so much density in that area around Salem, OR and Vancouver, WA.

I had found that Oregon’s fireworks laws and marijuana laws are more lax, and I found that Washington’s age of consent is 2 years younger.

But I was wondering what other major differences there may be for people to live so close to the borders? or is it just great altitude/weather/precipitation/nature that brings people to that section?

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32 Answers

Mamradpivo's avatar

You can buy Sudafed without a prescription in Washington. That’s a big one.

Washington, as a whole, is much wealthier than Oregon and they seem to run things in a more efficient way.

They did, however, copy our assisted suicide law.

And Washington has a more progressive set of laws regarding same-sex civil unions.

Mamradpivo's avatar

Also, no sales tax in Oregon. That’s huge. A lot of people in southern Washington buy all their big items in Portland.

jrpowell's avatar

Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax and Washington does. Lots of people live in the Couv and come down to Portland to shop. In Oregon we have higher property taxes and a income tax. Washington doesn’t have a income tax.

Really, the divider between Portland and Vancouver is the river. If the river wasn’t there it would just look like one big city.

casheroo's avatar

holy crap, you need a prescription for Sudefed?! Do you mean you have to get it behind the pharmacy?? I’ve never heard of needing an actual prescription.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Sweetie, Oregon and Washington are on the West coast.

willbrawn's avatar

Oregon is retarded! They don’t let you pump your own gas. Drives me nuts.

Sarcasm's avatar

@La_chica_gomela Yup!
I had difficulties (and still have difficulties) trying to properly word what I meant to say.
What I meant was that, I know folks on the east coast go between states to buy fireworks and such. Meanwhile, Oregon and Washington are massive states, but so much of the population is concentrated near borders (while so much more of the states are relatively unpopulated). So what that led me to wonder is, “what benefits do they get from living so close to the other state?”

@johnpowell I can’t believe I didn’t check out google maps. That’s really cool
In the supercity of Portcouver, is there any big difference of businesses north or south of the river? Are there things you can’t get (or wouldn’t want to get) from Portland that you would get from Vancouver?

@Mamradpivo Washington, as a whole, is much wealthier than Oregon and they seem to run things in a more efficient way. Any specific reason you know of that? Like, does Oregon’s government spend a lot of money on a lot of frivolous things?

@willbrawn That’s really weird. I remember seeing that on the east coast but that’s not something I’m familiar with here in CA.

jrpowell's avatar

@Sarcasm :: It is mostly due to water. A big river divides the states. And the three main cities along I-5 are all on the same river. Here are the two main rivers in Oregon.

You can buy the same stuff. We mostly go up for fireworks, that is the big difference.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Sarcasm: Ok, I see now. Sorry! but I don’t understand why it has to be a coastal thing, why you would refer to specifically the East coast, when more than half of the states in the US aren’t on either coast

Sarcasm's avatar

I chose east coast because
a) I’ve been to the east coast and know that (some) people do it there. I’ve never been to Colorado, Montana,the Dakotas, Oklahoma, etc. etc. so I don’t know specifically that they do it there.
b) Even though it’s not the majority of the area, population density on the east coast (or within 1–2 states of the coast) is pretty massive.

willbrawn's avatar

@Sarcasm highly recommend Colorado, its awesome here.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@willbrawn Oregon is not retarded, thank you very much! One of the main reasons we still don’t pump our own gas here is because not being able to do so provides more jobs. More jobs means contributing to the local economy. Yeah, that’s so lame…

@casheroo Yeah, you do. Unfortunately Portland has a lot of problems with meth. There’s an ingredient in Sudafed that’s used to make meth. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

@Mamradpivo Copy your assisted suicide law? Not likely. Washington and Oregon both are pretty liberal states, with people that have the same kind of ideas about certain issues. To say someone copied you is kind of akin to a something a 5th grader would say. You’re wrong anyway – Oregon was the first state in America to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

Mamradpivo's avatar

@drasticdreamer If I’m not
mistaken, a physician-assisted suicide law went into effect this january that is just about word for word the same as the older law here in Oregon.

So yeah, in that sense, Washington pretty much enacted a law that was pioneered earlier in Oregon. Whether you want to call that copying is, I suppose, up to you.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Yes, paying to have gas pumped is a very good thing. We should also pay people to breed mosquitoes so that we can pay people to exterminate them too. This will create many many more jobs. It doesn’t matter if the service is unnecessary, whenever I have to pay someone extra money instead of spending it on something I actually want, that’s good for the economy. Of course.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Mamradpivo My mistake, I apologize. I thought you meant it the other way around – that Washington had the law first. Sorry.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@La_chica_gomela It is good for the economy, regardless of whether or not you think so. It’s one of the main reasons people still pump our gas here. I’m not saying you have to like it, or even agree with it. But it does contribute, in one way or another, to the economy. It prevents people from having to rely on Welfare or Unemployment checks. Which is, especially right now, a big problem in Oregon. We have the second worst economy in the nation right now, and you know… I’m not going to complain about something being unnecessary if it provides families with income that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Yes, like I said, it works very well. Why do you say Oregon has the second worst economy in the nation? Obviously Oregon’s legislature is doing everything correct to have a very good economy, such as a law saying that people cannot pump their own gas.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@La_chica_gomela Not because people pump our gas for us. Did I imply that our legislature does everything correct? No, and they obviously don’t. But people pumping our gas is so low on the list of problems that it’s not even worthy of mentioning.

You’re so very sarcastic. It might be more enjoyable talking to you about things if you didn’t have such a condescending attitude.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

In Oregon you can’t pump your own gas. I hate it.

Sarcasm's avatar

What exactly is the job that the gas station attendant does?
Is there a person completely dedicated to just pumping gas for people? Or are there a few people who do all sorts of tasks at the station? Alternating between pumping gas, running the checkout counter, stocking shelves, etc.

Also, does the gas pumper task involve anything beyond pumping the gas? do they wash the windshield while they’re at it?

I’m all for more jobs, but it seems like if they’re providing a really unnecessary service while costing the station $8.40/hr more, that’s just hurting people who buy the products at the station (The money’s gotta come from somewhere).

I guess it varies from city to city, but is the job market there pretty bad? If you’re in your teens/twenties and don’t have much for experience/schooling, is it really tough to get a job at a restaurant, or grocery store, etc.?

and what happens if you tell the attendant that you’d like to pump your own gas? Do they refuse to let you have the gas?

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@Sarcasm There is usually a cashier that does both jobs, but in many places yes.. there is a guy that only pumps gas. Sometimes they wash the windshield.. technically I think they are supposed to.. but most of the time they don’t. Sometimes they expect a tip.. but I never gave one for such a small job that I wanted to do myself.

Oregon, if you look it up, has crappy employment. They need every job they can get there. If they took away gas pump attendant off the list quite a few people would be lookin to work at macdonalds.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Sarcasm The gas station attendant does various things in most of the gas stations, it varies from station to station. However, in most of the stations they pump the gas, clean the windshields and back window, alternate between pumping gas and working the register, etc.

The job market, overall, is pretty bad right now. However, if you’re young or inexperienced, getting a job at a gas station, fast food restaurant, mini-market, etc. is going to be much easier than getting a job anywhere else. But because the economy is so bad right now, even finding those jobs is difficult at the moment. Taking them away would be a very bad idea, especially for those who don’t have an education.

jrpowell's avatar

I remember my sister bitching about the gas pumping thing.

She drove down to California with the twins when they were a few years old.

In Oregon someone came up and she said “fill it up.” They did and she handed them the money and drove off.

In California she had to wake up two sleeping babies and drag them in the gas station to pay. Then she had to wait in a line while people bought smokes and lottery tickets. Then she had to put the kids back in the car seats.

One of those was worse than the other. And guess which one was faster. I assume every pump now takes debit cards so it isn’t such a big deal. But it was 7 years ago.

MagsRags's avatar

When I moved to Oregon from Illinois in the 1980s, I too was surprised that drivers could not pump their own gas. But as @DrasticDreamer said, it does provide some low level jobs. And it is awfully nice not to have to worry about mucking up nice clothes if I stop for gas when I’m dressed up.

Even so, I’m so cautious with money, that if I was offered a discount on the cost of gas to pump it myself, I probably would most of the time. But here’s the chin scratcher. Take a look at the most recent AAA numbers for the average cost of gas state by state.
Why is Washington state 9 cents a gallon more expensive than Oregon when the station owners don’t have to pay those fuel attendants? No incentive there to cross into Vancouver from Portland for gas.

Sarcasm's avatar

@MagsRags :( We pay at least $3.20 in San Diego.

@johnpowell Why wake up the sleeping babies? I’m sure they could’ve slept in the car for 5 minutes (I hope this is another one of those cases where it becomes obvious I’m not a parent, I love those cases!).
Also (and I’m having difficulties putting this to words) @NaturalMineralWater and @DrasticDreamer confirmed my guess that in some cases the person who pumps gas is also the person who runs the register. If we assume that in both cases, someone is at the checkout counter dealing with cigarettes and lotto tickets, wouldn’t she have had to wait regardless of the state?
Only difference being that in one state, she’d wait in her car?

Gundark's avatar

@La_chica_gomela re: having to “pay someone extra money” for pumping gas. That’s one of the main arguments that keeps cropping up for putting the “can’t pump your own gas” law to death. But oddly, I’ve found in travelling around the country, that gas in Oregon is rarely more expensive than other places, and it is often less. @MagsRags has pointed this out as well—just across the river, only 15 miles away in “pump your own gas” Washington, gas is nearly always more expensive. This is frequently attested to by national statistics.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. The only explanation I can come up with is that in the 49 states where the gas stations don’t have to provide personnel to do the work, they must just keep the extra profits. Big Oil’s already getting enough profits, and if I’m simply going to have to pay the $$ anyway, I figure I might as well get some service in return for my money, and funnel some of the money away from big oil, and into the pockets of a few locals who need it.

In the end, it really boils down to preference. The legislature passed the bill ages ago, but they’ve tried to kill it numerous times. The people keeping voting it down. I guess the majority of Oregonians just like it that way. If that’s the way they want to run their state, it’s really up to them.

Gundark's avatar

@Sarcasm there are a couple of reasons to wake up the kids. First of all, it is actually illegal in some places to leave kids unattended. Not to mention it simply being unsafe. Temperature in a closed car (you wouldn’t leave a car open or unlocked with your kids in it—too many child predators) rises quickly, and 30 – 40 children die each year from heat stress. Studies have shown that leaving the windows cracked doesn’t help, so taking your children with you is your only option if you want to keep your children safe and healthy, and you don’t know how long it might take you inside a store.

Gundark's avatar

As far as the reasons why people live close to the borders, looking at current laws may not be the best approach. You’ve got to look at the regional history to understand why the populations centers are where they are. Most of the large settlements near the borders of Oregon and Washington were founded before the current borders were established. Prior to 1853, the “Oregon Territory” encompassed all of what is now Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. A number of cities, including Portland and Vancouver had already been established in areas that had geographic advantages for economic reasons; Vancouver was founded in 1825 as an outpost of the Hudson’s bay company. It’s location on the Columbia river made it relatively easy to get to by ship, and it’s proximity to Native American populations made the location ideal for trading. What’s more, the area was perfect for trapping, and lot of furs were shipped out of Fort Vancouver back to Europe. Twenty years later, Portland was established 15 miles south for similar reasons. Proximity to the Willamette river, lots of good timber, and a lot of acres of good farmland made it an ideal economic center.

Some time after both cities were founded and growing, the border between Oregon and Washington was established, in 1853. At the time, it was simply a territorial border, not a state border. As borders often are, it was established along an easy and naturally occurring line; the Columbia river, which just happened to be in between Portland and Vancouver. Oregon became a state in 1859, and Washington not until 1889, and by then both Portland and Vancouver were well established.

A lot of growth has occurred in Clark County, WA in recent years, I think mainly because of people not wanting to pay property tax in Oregon. So it is true that current law has affected, to some degree, on which side of the border some of the population growth occurs. But as you can see from my short historical account, the actual existence of these two large population centers near state borders doesn’t depend at all on the intricacies of modern laws; it is historical, geographical, and economic.

Salem is a different story—it’s not near the border. I’m not sure why you included it in your list. But the historical reasons for it’s location are similar to that of most other cities; proximity to a river, farmland, timber, or other natural resources. You’ll find a lot of cities built on rivers; access to water, and use of rivers as transportation and power for mills was a powerful factor up until the late 19th and early 20th century. And since borders tend to be established along rivers, the cities themselves often ended up on the borders.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Gundark,:Yes of course! I also believe that a person can make an $8 / hour salary that mysteriously comes from nowhere or perhaps oil companies are willing to accept smaller profits in some states without raising prices.

I’m sorry to have to disagree with you when you say that in 49 US states people pump their own gas. I understand that New Jersey is another state whose legislature is smart enough to take advantage of the miraculous money source from which people there are also paid to pump gas, and criminalize pumping one’s own gas. I do not understand why economists like Nobel Prize winner David Friedman at Santa Clara University in California do not agree with us. This New Jersey journalist, Paul Mulshine apparently “called Friedman and informed him that many of my readers seem to honestly believe that it is possible to have someone pump their gas without paying extra for that service. After he stopped laughing, “I asked him whether these people have a cognitive disability. ‘They might just be ignorant’, Friedman said. I am so angry that that Nobel Prize winning economist called us ignorant! I just don’t know what to make of that!

Another thing I don’t know what to make of, is the fact that Washington has higher taxes on gasoline than Oregon does.. Well, no matter, that’s probably irrelevant anyway.

Gundark's avatar

@La_chica_gomela Pardon me, 48 states. A minor point.

Notice that I never said there was no cost associated, or that the gas pumper salaries “mysteriously come from nowhere”. For idiotic statements like that, you’ll have to keep reading letters to the editor in that New Jersey paper.

I only stated that which can be backed up; that gas costs (at the pump) are consistently near (or even below) the prices just across the line in Washington, where people pump their own.

Again, I don’t know why it is this way. Perhaps it is attributable to higher taxes there, as you’ve pointed out. Maybe the station owners take it in the shorts with less profit. Maybe Big Oil sells to Oregon wholesalers at a reduced cost to compensate for the higher costs. That’s highly unlikely, as you pointed out, but who knows? I don’t—I’m not in that business.

What I do know is that the price at the pump isn’t significantly, demonstrably less than nearby states that pump their own. Whatever additional costs are incurred, the market and regulatory pressure combined to lower the cost in some other area, and the cost at the pump remains about the same as neighboring markets.

So, if Oregonians vote down the “pump your own gas” law, the legislature or Big Oil or even the station owners will almost certainly take back the gains made by firing the pump attendants. So what is my incentive to vote down the law? If I’m going to pay the same cost anyway, why not vote for the attendants, so there are a few more jobs, instead of more taxes or more big oil profits, or what have you?

In the minds of some voters (particularly those aware of the higher prices up in Washington), it really boils down to this choice:

A) Pay $2.88 per gallon, and sit in your car and sip a latte and read a book while it rains heavily, and your car is being fueled by someone who needs a job, and is being paid to be out in the rain.
—- or—-
B) Pay $2.97 per gallon to get out in the rain and do it yourself while your latte gets cold and the government sucks up your spare cash for inefficient government pork barrel programs.

Which would you choose, if you were voting?

FYI—for what it’s worth, I actually like pumping my own gas. Except on the aforementioned cold rainy days, which there are a lot of in Oregon.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Gundark: Like I said, I agree.

Sarcasm's avatar

Had no idea gas pumping was such a hot topic!

So any other differences? Though @Gundark hit on a good topic that I kind of passed aside (The fact that they colonized before borders were setup), I bet there still are some other differences out there aside from gas pumping, sales tax and sudafed.

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