Update from Rep. Greg Walden

I want to give you a quick update on my recent work as your representative in the House, and share some important news for Oregonians and local communities in our great state. In the House, we recently passed critical legislation to help communities in Oregon clean up old industrial sites and put them back into productive use. The International Trade Commission (ITC) also took important action to combat illegal trade practices from the Chinese, and help protect wood products jobs in Oregon. And at the Energy and Commerce Committee — where I serve as chairman — we recently passed important legislation to boost hydropower production in Oregon and across the country.I hope you’ll continue reading to learn more about this work and recent headlines impacting our state.

A better path forward for Cascade-Siskiyou

After an extensive review of national monument designations made under the 1906 Antiquities Act, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a final report that included recommendations for the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon. I appreciate Secretary Zinke’s willingness to come to southern Oregon this summer to meet with passionate people on all sides of the issue before making his decision, and his recommendation reflects the concerns we heard raised by foresters, private landowners, county commissioners, ranchers, and others.

Past presidents have ignored federal law that governs much of this forest land and have exceeded the intent of the Antiquities Act by roping in enormous swaths of private land into the monument. The result was a loss of private property rights and reduced revenues for our schools and roads. Meanwhile, the forests become more overstocked, increasing the risk of catastrophic fire. After the devastating fires this summer, it’s time to get back to responsible management of our public lands.

For more information on Secretary Zinke’s final report and full recommendations for the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, please click here.

Winner of the 2017 Congressional App Challenge

Click here or on the image above to watch a demonstration of Tyson Seable’s app, “Flare”

I am pleased to announce that Tyson Seable, a freshman at Grants Pass High School, is the winner of the 2017 Congressional App Challenge! The Congressional App Challenge is designed to engage student creativity and encourage their participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education fields. This nationwide event allows high school students from across the country to compete against their peers by creating and exhibiting their software application, or “app,” for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice.

Tyson’s app — called “Flare” — allows users to distribute quizzes to friends and students, and provides live results for each quiz that are available for download and sharing. And while the app is designed for classrooms, Tyson said that Flare can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a challenge — it will be available on the Google Playstore in December. I enjoyed talking with Tyson to tell him the news and congratulate him on winning this year’s challenge. Tyson is an ambitious student with a unique skill set and bright future ahead of him.

I encourage interested students from across Oregon’s Second District to participate in next year’s Congressional App Challenge. For more information on the Congressional App Challenge and how to participate, please visit https://walden.house.gov/appchallenge.

Good news for Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport

Click here or on the image above to read more from the Herald & News in Klamath Falls

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made an important announcement for the community in Klamath Falls and the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport. The TSA announced they will be leaving their screening equipment in place as the airport continues its recruitment process for a new carrier to bring commercial air service back to Klamath Falls.

I heard from airport officials that leaving the screening equipment in place will allow the airport and local community to recruit a replacement carrier without the administrative and logistical burdens of removing the equipment. That’s why I sent a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske requesting that the screening equipment remain in place until the airport’s robust recruitment process is complete.

This is a small but important step that will help the airport recruit a new carrier, and I will continue to work alongside my congressional colleagues, the Department of Transportation, and airport officials to return commercial air service back to Klamath Falls. Learn more here.

Reauthorizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program

Click here or on the image above to view my speech on the House floor

Recently, the House passed bipartisan legislation that will help communities in Oregon clean up old industrial sites and put them back into productive use — boosting local economies and growing jobs. The Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment, and Reauthorization Act originated in the Energy and Commerce Committee — where I serve as chairman — and seeks to reauthorize and make improvements to EPA’s Brownfields Program.

Oregon has successfully utilized the Brownfields Program to clean up industrial sites across our state and put them back in to productive service. One great example is the Old Mill District in Bend, the former site of two lumber mills that is now a bustling hub of economic activity thanks in part to the Brownfields Program.

Before-and-after photo of the Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon, one of Oregon’s most successful Brownfields Program projects. Picture courtesy of Old Mill District

Bend isn’t alone. Last year in The Dalles, Google broke ground on an expansion to their data center on 26 acres of former mill land that was cleaned up under this program — a $600 million investment expected to create 50 new jobs.  In my hometown of Hood River, the Port of Hood River just finished a brownfields cleanup of another former mill site, opening over 12 acres of land for future business opportunities in the area. And in southern Oregon, the city of Grants Pass is in the early stages of working towards the same goal. They’ve successfully secured assistance through the Brownfields Program to begin planning the cleanup and redevelopment of the old Spalding Mill industrial site.

These are just a few examples of how the Brownfields Program has been successful in Oregon. The Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment, and Reauthorization Act — which passed on a 409-8 vote — will help ensure this success continues. Learn more here.

Boosting hydropower in Oregon

Click here or on the image above to view my remarks at the Energy and Commerce Committee meeting

As Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of my top priorities is to boost renewable energy and help protect small businesses and consumers from overregulation. Recently, the Energy and Commerce Committee passed important legislation to promote hydropower in Oregon, and rein in costly regulations that are hurting rural communities in our state.

In Oregon, over 43% of our electricity is generated from hydropower — a clean energy source that emits zero carbon. During our meeting, we passed legislation to help Oregon do a better job of harnessing its great hydropower potential. Legislation we passed promotes hydropower development at existing non-powered dams and opens the door wider for the construction of more pumped storage hydropower projects, which is of particular interest to Oregon where we have tremendous opportunities to build new pumped-hydro storage facilities.

This work builds on legislation we passed in the House — the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act — which will help modernize hydropower production across the country. With the abundance of hydropower in Oregon, we must ensure we are taking full advantage of this valuable resource. Learn more about our work to get that done here.

Protecting timber jobs in Oregon

In a move that will help protect timber jobs in Oregon and across the country, the International Trade Commission (ITC) recently announced tariffs against China to protect the U.S. hardwood plywood market. Specifically, the ITC announced tariffs up to 183% against the Chinese for illegally subsidizing hardwood plywood imports. Oregon is the largest producer of hardwood plywood in the United States, and in October I testified before the ITC in support of an investigation into China’s illegal trade activity.

Meeting with employees of Timber Products, a hardwood plywood lumber mill in Medford

For too long, hardwood plywood mills in Oregon — like Timber Products in Medford — have suffered from the unfair trade practices China has used to corner this vital market, and threaten family-wage jobs in our state. When I met with employees of Timber Products in August, we discussed the need to protect U.S. timber jobs and send the clear signal that using illegal trade practices to hurt American companies, cost American jobs, and harm American communities is unacceptable. The ITC’s action helps accomplish that, and I will continue to work to protect manufacturing jobs in Oregon and throughout the United States. Learn more here.

2017 Champion of Rural America Award

Honored to be a recipient of the National Grange’s Champion of Rural America Award for 2017

I was also truly honored to receive the National Grange’s Champion of Rural America award this year. As Oregonians, we understand well the importance of supporting rural America. With over 167 Granges throughout our great state, National Grange has been a strong advocate and voice for rural communities in Oregon and across the country for 150 years.

Click here or on the image above to view my video message for the National Grange’s 150-year anniversary

I want to especially thank National Grange President Betsy Huber and her entire team for their service and dedication to rural America and rural Oregon, and for this tremendous honor. To learn more about the National Grange and the work this organization does for rural communities, please click HERE.

That’s all for this update. Remember, you can always keep in touch with me via email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It is an honor to represent you in the U.S. Congress.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District


Please feel free to sign up for my E-Newsletter, like me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram if you have not already done so.

If you would like to contact me with a follow-up question or comment, you can do so by clicking here.

 

DAILY CLIPS

HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE

 

STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

 

New state office looking to improve on Oregon’s recreational economy

The Associated Press

The new office will focus on improving access and participation to outdoor recreation and the stewardships and sustainability of resources. “The goal is to see outdoor recreation reach its full potential through a unified strategy,” Havel said.

 

Capitol Roundup: Rose City road trip for pols on the stump

Bend Bulletin

The Oregon Leadership Summit is held each year to gaze into the communal crystal ball and try to get ahead of what is happening in the state. It’s hard to keep up — the evidence is everywhere in the host city, which, with all of the cranes on the skyline, evokes its older nickname, “Stumptown.” That’s the moniker from the days in the 19th century when Portland was growing so fast that to clear roads, the city would chop down the trees and leave the stumps to be pulled out later. Sort of Victorian-era speed bumps for wagons. Here’s the latest from the big city, Salem and all points of the compass.

 

Oregon Sen. Sarah Gelser among those featured in Time person of year

The Associated Press

Oregon state Sen. Sarah Gelser, who filed a complaint against a male colleague for sexual harassment, is one of the women and men featured in Time magazine’s person of the year: The silence breakers. Gelser said on Twitter Wednesday it’s an honor to be included. She urged women and men in every profession to speak out if they’re victims, saying there’s no shame in coming forward.

 

Time’s Person of the Year: ‘Silence Breakers’ includes Oregon Senator Sara Gelser

Statesman Journal

Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” — women who triggered a #MeToo national outcry over sexual harassment — as the 2017 “Person of the Year.” Among them was Oregon Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, who earlier this year accused Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, of sexual harassment and unwanted touching starting when she was still a member of the House of Representatives. Kruse has denied her allegations.

 

New Seasons Market Hires The Same Union-Busting Firm Donald Trump Used to Fight Workers At His Las Vegas Hotels

Willamette Week

“Our staff has raised questions regarding this process and therefore we have hired a consulting firm, Cruz & Associates, to conduct information sessions to inform them. We have over 3,300 staff members at New Seasons Market and we are committed to providing our staff with objective information that keeps them informed. We are all learning together and value our speak up culture which ensures all voices are heard.”

 

Ashland doctor joins race for senate seat

Ashland Daily Tidings

Ashland doctor Julian Bell, who ran for governor in 2016, is the third Democrat to file for one of the most highly contested legislative seats in Oregon, Senate District 3. Bell, 46, is running on a progressive platform, supporting universal health care in Oregon and a greater reliance on energy that’s not supplied by the fossil fuel industry as part of his concern about climate change. “These are basically the issues of our times,” Bell said. “To deal with them, we need to go to the place where laws are made. The place is the legislature.”

 

AGRICULTURE, NATURAL RESOURCES & WILDFIRES

 

Oregon sends strike teams, equipment to help

Mail Tribune

Ten strike teams from all over the state are on their way to help California firefighters battle several massive blazes north of Los Angeles. The Oregon Fire Marshal said Wednesday it is also sending heavy equipment to help.

 

Deschutes County looks to resolve wildlife zone issue

Bend Bulletin

On Wednesday morning, the Deschutes County Commission deliberated on a potential amendment to the county’s code that would affect whether churches are allowed in a portion of the county zoned to protect mule deer and other animals. Conservationists and some county residents are concerned that allowing churches could stress Deschutes County’s shrinking deer populations, but other residents believe the provision violates religious freedoms and could lead to a lawsuit stemming from a federal law.

 

Grazing resumes on land scarred by wildfires in Oregon and Idaho

The Associated Press

Ranchers in Idaho and Oregon have begun grazing their cattle again on some of the thousands of acres burned in wildfires in 2015. The Bureau of Land Management has allowed grazing to resume on 48 of the 84 pastures on affected allotments in southwest Idaho and Southeast Oregon.

 

EDUCATION

 

Report examines Oregon education against other states

Hermiston Herald

The data from the Legislative Policy and Research Office was compiled after a request from State Representative Greg Smith’s office, made in hopes of better understanding why Oregon’s graduation rates are suffering. They asked for a side-by-side comparison of Oregon and 10 other states: five high-performing states, and five comparable Western states. Against high-performing states Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont and Minnesota, and western states Colorado, Utah, Washington, Nevada and Arizona, the data showed how Oregon stacked up in eleven categories. Among the findings:

 

Eugene School District supervisors and senior staff get raises

Register-Guard

Eugene School Board members unanimously approved Superintendent Gustavo Balderas’ recommendation to provide district managers, administrators, professionals and supervisors and other senior staff with cost-of-living raises at the board’s meeting Wednesday night. Employees in such positions will receive a 2.1 percent raise in the 2017-18 school year, a 1.8 percent raise in the 2018-19 school year and a 2 percent raise for the 2019-20 school year.

 

HOUSING

 

Kaiser Permanente, PeaceHealth give $590K for temporary housing for Lane County residents with severe mental illness or serious medical conditions

Register-Guard

ShelterCare will use the money to place 30 to 40 of these vulnerable people in private-­market apartments for six months to a year while they apply and wait for federally subsidized permanent housing, said Susan Ban, ShelterCare’s executive director. “It’s a bridge,” she said.

 

OREGONIANS IN CONGRESS

 

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden Is Now Off Conference Committee On Tax-Cut Bill

Oregon Public Broadcasting

What’s not clear is exactly why he exited the committee just a day after he was appointed to the panel Monday by House Speaker Paul Ryan. The official announcement on Tuesday referred only to the “removal of the gentleman from Oregon” and the appointment of Rep. Fred Upton to the committee.

 

Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader Casts A Rare Democratic Vote For Concealed Carry Gun Bill

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader was one of just six Democrats in the House who voted Wednesday for a bill that would allow concealed handgun licensees to carry their weapons in all 50 states.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial Agenda 2017: Fix Oregon’s budget before the job-stealing robots arrive

The Oregonian

Fixing Oregon’s fiscal problems won’t prepare Oregonians for the robotic future by itself. And it’s hard to know how the state will react as businesses adopt new technologies that displace workers. Oregon has a long history of innovation, individualism and entrepreneurialism; at the same time, it’s also a state that can resort to protectionist policies. This is, after all, one of only two states in the nation that bars drivers from pumping their own gas. But until and unless Oregon makes structural changes to its revenue and spending problems, the state won’t have a say in directing how the robotic revolution plays out. That’s a future no one should be ready to accept.

 

Guest: With energy storage, big and cheap beats shiny and new

Nate Sandvig is director of U.S. business development for National Grid Ventures

In the end, we’ll need an “all-of-the-above” strategy to remove carbon from the grid, and limited pilot-project investment in batteries will be valuable for some uses. But there are enormous economic and reliability benefits from proven large projects, and we should take advantage of them now. Pumped hydro is the only option big enough to displace new gas plants. It is at least 90 percent cheaper than batteries per megawatt, and it provides electricity for more than twice as long for generations. For customers, utilities, and our future, it should be an easy choice.

 

Editorial: The Bend park district could use a lobbyist

Bend Bulletin

Bend Park & Recreation District directors decided Tuesday to hire a lobbyist to represent the district in Salem. They’ll pay $9,000 for six months of Erik Kancler’s service next year, in part while the 2018 Legislature is in session. Park district residents can thank state Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, for the decision. After all, it was his sneak attack on the district’s proposal to build a southern footbridge across the Deschutes River that no doubt persuaded park board members that having a lobbyist on hand in Salem might be a good thing.

 

Editorial: Don’t spray farmworkers

Register-Guard

Farmers and orchardists don’t like no-spray buffer zones, because they eat into the area that can be chemically treated to stop or prevent pests and diseases. But the public health effects of pesticide exposure must also be considered. Even if buffer zones are considered in strictly economic terms, the rising cost and decreasing availability of farm labor should induce the agriculture industry and the state to do more to protect the health of farmworkers and their families.

 

Editorial Nelson: Senate race will be a lively one

Mail Tribune

Given the extreme polarization of American politics, it may be too much to expect a civil, constructive campaign, but voters should demand one. Previous contests have featured negative advertising from both sides of the fence — a tactic that doesn’t sit well with Southern Oregon residents. I sincerely hope all the candidates for this pivotal seat will keep that in mind throughout the campaign, but especially after the nominees are selected in the May primary.

Mean-spirited attacks benefit no one, least of all the voters who must make a choice on election day.

 

Editorial: #metoo in the spotlight

Register-Guard

Victims fear being labelled troublemakers or liars, being seen as a problem, becoming isolated, losing their jobs or even their careers. They are unsure of who to talk to if they are uncomfortable or even whether they should talk to someone. In some cases, their abusers threaten them with the prospect of making the workplace difficult for them, with derailing their careers or, in extreme cases, with violence. Sexual harassment and abuse crosses all lines — geographic, ethnic, political and economic. Like a disease left untreated, ignoring it will only allow it to become worse. Recognition by Time of the importance of the #metoo movement was nice, but we have only taken the first steps on what may be a long road.

 

Guest: What Oregonians want in new leaders

Adam Davis is a founding principal in DHM Research, a nonpartisan public opinion firm

There is considerable attention being given to diversity, equity and inclusion in the hiring process everywhere these days, and justifiably so. The findings suggest, however, that there are many important qualities people want their leaders to have regardless of their skin color, gender or age.

 

 

DAILY CLIPS

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

 

PERS: Big investment returns won’t stop steep pension cost increases

The Oregonian

As it is, required PERS payments from the system’s 900-plus employers jumped 45 percent in July. While the system expresses those rates as a percentage of payroll, in dollar terms, it means employers will collectively contribute $2.9 billion during the current two-year budget cycle, compared with $2 billion in the last. That’s a painful increase for many school districts, municipalities and state agencies struggling with tight budgets. But there’s a lot more coming. Systemwide, PERS contribution rates are set to rise about 4.5 percent of payroll in 2019, with a similar increase in 2021. That translates to almost $1 billion in extra contributions for the 2019-21 budget cycle and another $1 billion in 2021-23.

 

Retired Portland Police officer appointed to Oregon Legislature

The Oregonian

Helfrich lives in Hood River and worked for the Portland Police Bureau for 25 years before retiring, according to the House Republican Caucus. He was also enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Helfrich’s prior government experience includes service on the Cascade Locks City Council, the city’s planning commission and budget committee, and serving on the board of directors of the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District.

 

Helfrich named to House Dist. 52

The Sandy Post

A longtime public servant, Helfrich served on the Cascade Locks Planning Commission and City Council, the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District Board, in the Air Force during the Gulf War and as a Portland police sergeant. “I understand the needs of my community well as both leader and member,” he said in a letter earlier this week. “Upon appointment to Representative for House District 52, I will continue and expand upon the work of (former) Rep. Mark Johnson.”

 

Video: Straight Talk: Rep. Knute Buehler

KGW

Republican candidate for governor and representative Knute Buehler speaks with Laural Porter about policies he thinks will help Oregon.

 

Drug Companies Give to Brown While Cambia Backs Buehler

The Lund Report

In the campaign for governor, Rep. Knute Buehler has outraised the sitting governor slightly for the year, reporting contributions of $2 million to Kate Brown’s $1.9 million. But she’s burnt through $1.2 million while he has limited expenses to $550,000.

 

Oregon AG joins suit opposing Trump’s contraception rollback

Portland Business Journal

“I’m proud to join my Attorney General colleagues in fighting this misguided rule rollback. Employers’ views should have no bearing on a woman’s personal decisions about her health care,” Rosenblum said in a statement.

 

PUBLIC SAFETY & COURTS

 

Repeat deportee sentenced for assault in Oregon

Associated Press

A Mexican man who was deported from the United States more than a dozen times was sentenced Friday in Oregon to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty to sodomy, kidnapping, sex abuse and other charges in separate attacks on two women.

 

SCOTUS To Hear Case With Potential Impact On Oregon LGBT Protections

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Advocates say the Supreme Court case challenges Oregon’s public accommodation non-discrimination laws, which protect LGBT people from being refused service or entry to public places because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The law applies in places such as retail stores, restaurants, parks, hotels, doctors’ offices and banks.

 

EDUCATION

 

Oregon’s Native American students face education challenges

Statesman Journal

Native American students in Oregon are graduating at lower rates, performing worse on state assessments, attending fewer days and receiving more suspensions and expulsions than their peers, according to a report released last week by the state Department of Education. For graduation rates alone, Oregon’s Native American students are graduating at about 56 percent, compared with the state’s overall four-year graduation rate of 74.8 percent.

 

NEWSLETTER ELECTIONS COMPLAINT

 

Dems accuse secretary of state of breaking the law

Associated Press

The Democratic Party of Oregon filed a complaint Friday against Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, the top Republican state official, alleging he tried to sway voters against a ballot measure on a health-care tax that is the subject of a special election in January.

 

Former Oregon Secretary of State Files Elections Complaint Against Current Secretary of State Dennis Richardson

Willamette Week

“Our Oregon Health Authority audit revealed that in just six months, OHA wasted more than $88 million,” Richardson says. “Today, the Democratic Party Chair filed a meritless complaint to divert attention from OHA’s wasteful spending. Holding to my deeply held principles of transparency and accountability, we transferred this matter to the Oregon Department of Justice for review.”

 

Oregon Democrats allege Secretary of State Richardson misused public resources on newsletter

Statesman Journal

“Dennis Richardson made promises during his campaign to run an office that could be trusted to act in a nonpolitical and even-handed manner, yet it’s clear that he has infused politics into the work of both the state audits and elections divisions,” said Jeanne Atkins, Oregon Democratic party chairwoman and former secretary of state.

 

Democrats file election complaint against Dennis Richardson

The Oregonian

In her complaint, Atkins took issue with Richardson writing in his newsletter: “Soon Oregon voters will be considering whether or not to approve tax increases intended to provide additional funding to the OHA. With such abysmal examples of OHA misfeasance and obfuscation, OHA faces tough questions about its credibility and its ability to appropriately spend the money it is provided.” Atkins alleged that Richardson was in effect telling voters to reject the tax hike. In a statement, Richardson said Democrats filed the complaint to distract from the Health Authority’s failings.

 

WOLVES

 

Wolf management plan draws criticism from conservation group

Bend Bulletin

However, a conservation organization is concerned that the changes to the plan, including rules around when and how residents can kill wolves, open a path for Oregon’s gray wolves to be treated like any other carnivore in the state, to the detriment of the still-vulnerable population. Danielle Moser, wildlife coordinator for Oregon Wild, said the draft could put a “foot in the door” for regulated wolf hunts down the line.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: Put an end to PERS’ outrageous payouts

The Oregonian Editorial Board

Without the meaningful work to address this financial crisis facing our state, lawmakers are left to nibble around the edges in an attempt to limit additional budgetary pain and inequity to state employees. To that end, Oregon Rep. Gene Whisnant has a promising idea targeting one of the system’s more well-known shortcomings. The Republican, who represents the Sunriver area in Central Oregon, is aiming a bill for the upcoming short session that would block educators at community colleges and four-year universities from adding payments from outside work into their regular state salary as pension pay-outs are calculated. Again, this is a small, but needed fix. The “final average salary” calculation isn’t an issue for the vast majority of regular Joe recipients. But it’s been found to be a handsome pension loophole for those few highly paid employees who qualify.

 

Editorial: Stop the denial about Oregon’s PERS problem

Bend Bulletin

PERS problems were caused by decades of dreamy assumptions about returns on investments and inflated promises of benefits. Democratic legislators are locked in an embrace with public employee unions, which produces enough delay and denial to stop any serious consideration of meaningful reforms. Instead, Gov. Kate Brown has backed a cartoonish exercise in selling pieces of state government to pay down the liability. Her big goal of the next legislative session is to raise hundreds of millions in new taxes for green energy. Brown is a leader in Oregon’s PERS cover-up.

 

Guest: It’s time for Oregon and Washington leaders to talk traffic

Rep. Rich Vial, HD 26

With many decisions ahead regarding the use of tolls and how to prioritize congestion-relief and maintenance efforts, the committee will be busy for years to come. However, there remains a significant missing piece to the puzzle. Without a process for regular coordination with Washington state, we will never effectively address the congestion that plagues our transportation system.

 

Editorial: ‘No’ on Measure 101

Baker City Herald

If voters reject Measure 101, that would reduce the bill’s revenue by an estimated $330 million. According to Measure 101 proponents (who also supported House Bill 2391), that would put those 350,000 Oregonians in peril of losing coverage under the Oregon Health Plan. Parrish and Hayden disagree. We think they make a compelling argument, which is why we urge Oregonians to vote no on Measure 101 next month.

 

Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

The Dalles Chronicle

Stepping up to serve

Daniel Bonham, owner of Maupin’s Stoves & Spa in The Dalles, is to be commended for stepping forward to take the House District 59 seat vacated in late October by John Huffman. We wish Bonham luck in the halls of Salem as he represents 63,000 constituents in western Wasco, Wheeler, Jefferson and northern Deschutes counties.

 

Editorial: Clean up inconsistency in tobacco law

Bend Bulletin

In a perfect world, there would be no legally sanctioned smokers among Oregonians between the ages of 18 and 21, but this is not a perfect world. And uncomfortable as the idea makes us, it’s not right to take away the right of those who are allowed to buy tobacco now.

 

Editorial: Port of progress

East Oregonian

Spending capital improvement dollars should not be affected by politics, and that seems to be true at the Port of Morrow. It’s a dark red district represented by the Republican Party’s longest serving House member, who has earned a favorable view from Kotek (who, by the way, represents the Port of Portland). We’re not so naive as to be unaware of the undercurrent of political favor guiding such decisions, but we’re pleased to see practical concerns hold more sway than ideological differences.

 

Guest: Oregon needs comprehensive family/medical leave laws

Register-Guard, Main Street Alliance

Nobody should be forced to choose between their economic security or caring for their family in a time of need. It’s time for Oregon to enact a strong paid family and medical leave program so that every business, employee, and family can thrive in our communities.

 

Editorial: Payments aren’t ‘spending’

Register-Guard

It’s appropriate that the $1.4 million has been released — but members of Oregon’s congressional delegation should make clear to their colleagues and the administration that the O&C money should not have been withheld in the first place.

 

Guest: Extreme positions thwart gun safety dialogue

Register-Guard, Author

Some, I know, will oppose even these mild measures. If you are one of them, you, like absolutists on the other side, need to get over it. Your guns will remain secure in your responsible hands, but sooner or later such changes are coming, and you and I and our families and communities will be just a little safer when they do.

 

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Jeff Merkley is only Democrat to get amendment in GOP tax reform bill

The Oregonian

Oregon’s Jeff Merkley is the only Democrat to get one included in the final bill. His amendment cut out a provision of the hastily-written bill that appeared to give a special tax exemption only to Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. The private school is funded in part by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Merkley’s office said. Senators voted 52-48 to strip out the tax break.

 

Wyden: Tax overhaul ‘a betrayal of middle class’

Portland Tribune

Among his priorities, he said, are restoring some deductibility for state and local taxes on federal returns — both House and Senate versions cap the property-tax deduction at $10,000, and eliminate others — and for interest on student loans and high medical expenses. The House plan eliminates them; the Senate plan leaves them untouched, although it would tax stipends paid to graduate students.

 

Higher education leaders in Oregon nervously wait as tax plan still could be ‘devastating’ to students

The Oregonian

College students and campus administrators in Oregon are nervously watching Congress to see whether the final Republican tax plan includes policies that private and public university leaders alike say would be devastating for students and make college less accessible for everyone.

 

3,000 Oregon rental units at risk under tax plan

Portland Tribune

The tax reform plan approved by the U.S. House of Representatives would eliminate private activity bonds, which support programs that yield affordable housing units in Oregon and other states.

;-) The Americans With No Abilities Act (ANAA)

Democratic Senators are considering introducing legislation that will provide new benefits for many more Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act is being hailed as a major legislative goal by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills and ambition.

“Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society,” said California Sen. Barbara Boxer. “We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability (POI) to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they have some idea of what they are doing.”

In a Capitol Hill press conference, Nancy Pelosi pointed to the success of the U.S. Postal Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. At the state government level, the Department of Motor Vehicles also has an excellent record of hiring Persons with No Ability (63 percent).

Under the Americans With No Abilities Act, more than 25 million mid-level positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance.

Finally, the Americans With No Abilities Act contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the non-abled, banning, for example, discriminatory interview questions such as, “Do you have any skills or experience that relate to this job?”

“As a non-abled person, I can’t be expected to keep up with people who have something going for them,” said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, Mich., due to her inability to remember “righty tighty, lefty loosey”. “This new law should be real good for people like me. I’ll finally have job security.” With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Said Sen. Dick Durbin, II: “As a senator with no abilities, I believe the same privileges that elected officials enjoy ought to be extended to every American with no abilities. It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her inadequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation and a good salary for doing so.”

This message was approved by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Maxine Waters, Elizabeth Warren & Nancy Pelosi… all Americans With No Abilities!

DAILY CLIPS

HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE

 

STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

 

Retired Portland Police officer appointed to Oregon Legislature

The Oregonian

Jeff Helfrich, 49, will finish out the House term of Mark Johnson, who resigned this month to be chief executive of Oregon Business and Industry, the state’s largest business lobbying group. In a news release, Helfrich said he is “incredibly humbled” to have been appointed and will aim to continue pushing policies that Johnson did, such as improvements to education, the economy and the environment in the Columbia River Gorge area.

 

Oregon’s 18 timber counties to get $1.4 million in federal payments

Register-Guard

Financially strapped counties in Western Oregon that rely on logging revenue will receive nearly $1.4 million that had been withheld by the federal government due to budget caps, authorities said Thursday. The Association of O&C Counties — commonly called the “timber counties” — said Thursday the counties will see the funds soon.

 

18 timber counties will get $1.4M in aid

The Associated Press

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday the BLM will issue payments totaling $19.5 million to the 18 counties, including the $1.4 million. “My next priority is ensuring that these lands continue to provide sustainable timber harvests that support the community and strengthen the health of the forest,” Zinke said.

 

ODFW puts out new wolf management plan draft

Bend Bulletin

The new draft of the plan builds off an earlier draft written in April, with a particular focus on how wolves fit into Oregon’s ecosystem, and their special status in the state, according to Michelle Dennehy, wildlife communications coordinator for ODFW. Dennehy added that the new draft includes information and comments from the previous plan, so readers can see what’s changed since the April draft.

 

350 local PeaceHealth technical unit workers vote to unionize

Register-Guard

More than 350 local PeaceHealth technical unit workers, including respiratory therapists and pharmacy technicians, have voted to unionize. They voted to join the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the union said Thursday. With the addition of the 350 technical unit workers, about half of PeaceHealth’s workforce of 6,000 part- and full-time employees are covered by a union.

 

5 takeaways from brutal Oregon Health Authority audit

Portland Business Journal

Not a huge news flash, given the volume of problems the agency itself has revealed in recent weeks — $74 million in overpayments to coordinated care organizations and a host of other issues for which the agency could be dinged nearly $60 million. But the audit did contain a detailed analysis of the lapses in the system and recommendations for improvement. Here are some key takeaways:

 

Democrat, Republican To Co-Sponsor Fix For Reporters

Keizer Times

Sen. Sara Gelser, a Democrat representing Senate District 8, and Rep. Bill Post, representing House District 25, are co-sponsoring a bill they plan to introduce during the legislative

session in February. “I am a Democratic female senator from Corvallis, the Republican is from Keizer with a conservative talk show and we’re co-sponsoring a bill about teen sex,” said Gelser.

 

CAP AND TRADE

 

Some Oregon businesses say bring on cap and trade

Portland Business Journal

While many Oregon businesses are fearful of cap and trade — a subject explored in our new cover story — there are more than a few who are eager to see the climate policy implemented. “It’s a misnomer to simply say ‘business is opposed,’” said Nancy Hamilton of the Oregon Business Alliance for Climate. “We’re seeing businesses that recognize the big risk isn’t in moving forward, but is in doing nothing.”

 

Cap and trade in Oregon: Everything you need to know

Portland Business Journal

Oregon lawmakers will take up cap-and-trade legislation during the short session that begins in February. As proponents and opponents line up for what will likely be one of the session’s most hotly debated topics, we put together this primer on how cap and trade works, why supporters say it’s needed to battle climate change and why opponents fear it will dampen Oregon’s economy.

 

Food processors air grievances at Cleaner Air Oregon

East Oregonian

But Craig Smith, director of government affairs for the Northwest Food Processors Association, said those companies face another layer of burdensome regulations under the Cleaner Air Oregon rules, spearheaded by Gov. Kate Brown to lower health risks posed by industrial air emissions. “We don’t like this rule at all,” Smith said. “It’s way too broad, and the cost of the program will be enormous for very little benefit.”

 

HOUSING

Portland makes largest affordable housing investment in 50 years

KGW
Following a Wednesday morning vote by city commissioners, Portland’s inventory of affordable housing is officially on track to get a historic boost in 2019, with the scheduled completion of Block 45 in the heart of Portland’s Lloyd District. The 240-unit, 12-story complex will be built on an already city-owned vacant lot at Northeast Grand Avenue and Hassalo Street, and it marks Portland’s largest investment in affordable housing landscape in the last 50 years, said Michael Cox, spokesman for Mayor Ted Wheeler.

 

EDUCATION & HIGHER EDUCATION

 

Oregon schools: Diversity and absenteeism up, salaries and discipline down

Statesman Journal

Oregon’s latest annual report card, released Thursday by the state’s Department of Education, shows the state is excelling at certain indicators and falling behind in others.

 

Nike ups the ante with new $88 million offer to University of Oregon

The Oregonian

The university would get more than $88 million in cash and apparel and shoes over 11 years under the deal proposed by Nike, more than double the current contract.  The Oregon Board of Trustees will consider renewing the school’s “multi-sport apparel agreement” with Nike next Thursday.

 

ELECTIONS

Golden to run for state senate

Ashland Daily Tidings

Former Jackson County Commissioner Jeff Golden is the second Democrat to announce his candidacy for Senate District 3, currently held by Republican Alan DeBoer. “I’m really unhappy with the country’s political direction,” the 67-year-old Ashland resident said.

 

The unrealized potential of nonaffiliated voters

Portland Tribune

Nonaffiliated voters now make up the second largest voting bloc in Oregon, yet they are disempowered from selecting officeholders by closed primaries, political districting.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: A Janus-style audit

Register-Guard

Even though Oregon’s 1 million-plus Medicaid enrollees are of ever-changing ages, incomes, addresses and medical conditions, zero errors in payments should be the goal — particularly as the state picks up an increasing share of the cost of the program. The audit is a helpful guide in pursuit of that goal‚ even though it comes at a time when the OHA was already making progress toward it.

 

Editorial: Legislature should tighten up law for car thefts

Bend Bulletin

How much evidence should Oregon prosecutors need? In many states, it’s enough for prosecutors to have found a defendant in a stolen vehicle along with other evidence, such as a wrong key or a torn-up steering column. The Legislature rejected a bill in 2017 that would have tightened up Oregon law. It needs to look at it again.

 

Guest: Historic district worsens housing crisis

Tom Christ is a Portland lawyer who lives in Eastmoreland.

One way to increase the amount of low-income housing in Portland is to increase the amount of housing generally. That means housing all along the price scale. At the low end, of course, and in the middle too, but also even at the high end, because new housing anywhere increases the supply everywhere.

 

NATIONAL NEWS

Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty To Lying To FBI

National Public Radio

But in a statement sent by his lawyers, Flynn said he recognizes that the he has made mistakes. “I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right,” he said. “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

 

Former Trump adviser Flynn to plead guilty to lying to FBI

The Associated Press

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is to plead guilty Friday to making false statements to the FBI, becoming the fourth person charged in a wide-ranging investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors.

 

 

DAILY CLIPS

HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE

STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

 

Hood River man appointed to House Dist. 52 seat

Hood River News

“I am incredibly humbled to have earned the support of our community in this appointment process,” said Helfrich in a news release. I will continue leading efforts started by Rep. Mark Johnson to improve education, the economy, and protect our environment and way of life in the Gorge and across Oregon. I also vow to work on improving our community’s health and safety as well as disaster preparedness, and increasing government transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. I will make sure that I, and my staff, are available to help identify and address community concerns so that the community’s voice is heard and responded to not only in Salem but directly in the district as well.”

 

Audit: OHA should bolster its efforts to detect improper Medicaid payments

Register-Guard

The Oregon Health ­Authority should improve its efforts to detect and stop ­improper payouts for Medicaid ­recipients, an audit released Wednesday by the Secretary of State’s ­Office said.

OHA lacks “well-defined, consistent and agency-wide processes” to ­verify that claims submitted by ­providers for health care services to low-income ­Oregonians are accurate, the much-­anticipated audit said.

 

Audit says Oregon Health Authority wasted $88M

Bend Bulletin

Richardson switched to a more aggressive tone in a “newsletter” released at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, breaking his own 1 p.m. public release time. The secretary of state lashed out at OHA with the title “Agency of Wasteful Spending.” “OHA’s credibility had sunk to a new low with additional multi-million dollar disclosures of waste and incompetence,” Richardson said, while noting there was an unnamed “new administration” in charge.

 

Audit: Oregon Health Authority misspent millions

The Associated Press

In its report, the audit team said that preventing improper payments is a more cost-effective strategy than attempting to recover them. Richardson, meanwhile, blasted the agency’s previous leadership team for failing to fully cooperate with auditors. “Today’s OHA Audit Report provides the best information the audit team could obtain from OHA’s previous uncooperative leadership and administration,” he said in a statement. “The amount of wasteful and incompetent spending at OHA has been staggering and has gone on for at least the past four years.”

 

Oregon Health Authority Misspent Millions, State Audit Finds

Oregon Public Broadcasting

The agency’s new director, Allen, has been on the job for about 90 days. He said the audit’s findings are consistent with what his staff has found within the health authority. “The audit itself is not something that is unexpected or we would consider in any way hostile,” Allen said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a useful tool to operate the organization.” He did take issue with some of the characterizations, including the audit’s finding that some $88 million in improper payments were “avoidable.”

 

Audit faults OHA’s inability to detect improper payments

Portland Tribune

In response, the Oregon Health Authority Chief Financial Officer Laura Robison issued a public statement saying “we can do better.” The agency acknowledged there was room for improvement while challenging the accuracy of some characterizations and assertions in the final audit document. “We are making changes to improve the accuracy and transparency of our programs,” Robison said.

 

Exclusive: Oregon lawmakers, industries gird for battle over cap and trade

Portland Business Journal

That dilemma and dozens more like it highlight cap and trade’s complexity and lead some to ask: Is Oregon really ready to take the plunge in a short legislative session? Sen. Arnie Roblan, a Coos Bay Democrat, believes climate change is the paramount issue of our time, and thinks cap and trade could bring benefits to his rural district. But he’s unsure. “I believe we’ll get there at some point, and I want to get there, but I don’t know this will be the session,” he said.

 

Forecast: State revenue growing more than expected – for now

Portland Tribune

State economists said Wednesday that they expect the state’s general fund and lottery revenue to be about $47 million higher than forecast last quarter.

 

Tobacco buyers must be 21 after New Year

Bend Bulletin

The new law applies to cigarettes and other forms of smokable tobacco, chewing tobacco and its variants, and to e-cigarettes and vaping devices. But possession and use of tobacco products by individuals 18 to 20 years old remains legal. The law officially went into effect Aug. 9 with the signature of Gov. Kate Brown but was written to delay enforcement of the change until the new year.

 

Legislative officials silent on who will investigate claims of sex harassment by Oregon senator

The Oregonian

Legislative officials responsible for choosing a firm to investigate accusations of sexual harassment against Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, will not say if a firm has been retained, even though the deadline to pick an investigator has already passed.

 

HEALTH CARE

 

Healthcare Industry Spends to Support Healthcare Taxes

The Lund Report

The state’s leading unions and several top healthcare companies, including Legacy Health and PacificSource, are out-raising opponents of Measure 101.

 

15 percent of residents could lose health coverage in one Oregon county. See other counties’ rates.

The Oregonian

In less than two months, Oregon voters will decide whether to impose hundreds of millions of dollars in health care taxes that lawmakers passed earlier this year. The stakes for the Jan. 23 referendum are huge: If voters reject the $210 million to $320 million in taxes, lawmakers could be forced to make cuts or find other ways to raise money in order to close a hole in the state budget. Lawmakers could find savings anywhere in the state budget, not just in health care.

 

Threat to medical deduction in GOP tax plan worries Oregonians

The Oregonian

But a Republican-sponsored tax proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives would eliminate the deduction, which is taken by nearly 9 million people, U.S. tax data show. That includes about 165,000 people in Oregon, according to an analysis by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

 

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

 

Portlanders Weigh In On Oregon’s New Air Pollution Rules

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Portlanders at the meeting raised concerns that the rules allow too much cancer risk from air pollution, that they give the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality director too much control over how the rules are enforced, and that they don’t do enough to deny permits to businesses that exceed health risk limits. Several people, including Jessica Applegate with the Eastside Portland Air Coalition, pointed out that that the rules depend on uncertain funding approval from the state Legislature. “It’s depressing to know that we have a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic governor and we still couldn’t get the funding – the $1 million – to see this program through,” she said. “What the hell is wrong?”

 

DeBoer asked about climate, health care, pipeline

Ashland Daily Tidings

DeBoer said Oregon is moving toward the right direction with climate change by passing the $5.4 billion transportation bill, but added that he thought the climate bill “has no business in the short session.” “That’s going to transit. It’s going to congestion. It’s going to improving roads and shortening vehicles miles traveled — It will do a lot for clean air,” DeBoer said. “It’s not all, but it’s a start.” “We are there for 35 days … It’s for us to come up and take care of immediate problems,” he added. “The bill as it is doesn’t start in three years, so I don’t know what the hurry is to do it in 35 days.”

 

EDUCATION

 

Oregon’s Native American students face education challenges

Statesman Journal

“It’s clear from the data that there are significant opportunity gaps for American Indian and Alaska Native students,” said Colt Gill, acting deputy superintendent for the state. “The data allow us to see the problem, but it is up to us to partner with our tribes, communities and districts to … better support our American Indian and Alaska Native students in culturally responsive ways.”

 

HOUSING

Mariposa Townhouse residents face 40 percent rent increase

Mail Tribune

Amanda Carvin-Pitluck and other residents at the Mariposa Townhomes in Medford are shocked at rent increases of 40 percent that could leave many without a place to live. Carvin-Pitluck and other residents, many elderly, aren’t sure what they’re going to do as they get priced out of the 101-unit complex on State Street in southeast Medford.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: State health agency mismanages taxpayer dollars

Bend Bulletin

While state auditors praised OHA’s new administration for its transparency and willingness to improve, that wasn’t the case before the new administration was appointed by Gov. Kate Brown in September. The previous administration at OHA did things like block direct access to staff, and take months to comply with requests for information. In one case, a squad of OHA management followed a state auditor around as the auditor was trying to work. Before any new state tax pours hundreds of millions more into OHA, the Legislature needs to ensure OHA has its act together. Vote no on Measure 101.

 

Guest: The president should not have sole nuclear authority

Representative Tawna Sanchez and Representative Karin Power

It is up to us Oregonians to continue pressuring our representatives to address the reckless way our government handles its nuclear weapons, and to do what we can to effect lasting change from this conversation.  This administration wakes us all up to the dangers of allowing any unchecked power in our government – and as Oregonians, our eerie proximity to Hanford reminds us that it is imperative to prevent nuclear weapons from flying into the air.

 

Guest: Jeff Kruse must resign

Reagan Knopp

Kruse’s constituents are not well-served by having a powerless Senator mired in scandal. Senator Kruse stepping aside may still allow the women he hurt to heal in their personal and professional lives and will allow us to return to governing. As someone who worked alongside Senator Kruse when I was a staffer in the legislature, I am surprised and saddened it has come to this. If he values and respects the Oregon Legislature as an institution and — more importantly — as a group made up of human beings, he should apologize to those he hurt and he should step down.

 

Guest column: Walden needs to support drug pricing program

Carol Orr lives in Terrebonne

Walden, and the Republicans he helped elect with the support of rural voters, have a responsibility to put our interests first. We voted to drain the swamp, not further line the pockets of Big Pharma. We ask that Walden put his foot down and protect the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

 

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Senate GOP presses ahead on tax bill; McCain backs measure

The Associated Press

“We’re heading down the homestretch,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters on Thursday. McConnell said he expected a vote either late Thursday or early Friday. Republican Sen. John McCain, who derailed the GOP effort to dismantle the Obama health care law last summer, said Thursday he would back the tax bill, a major boost for the legislation. “It’s clear this bill’s net effect on our economy would be positive,” McCain said in a statement. “This is not a perfect bill, but it is one that would deliver much-needed reform to our tax code, grow the economy, and help Americans keep more of their hard-earned money.”

 

 

Dennis Richardson – OHA Audit Report

OHA Audit Report — Agency of Wasteful Spending

 Secretary of State

DENNIS RICHARDSON

The State of Oregon


900 Court Street NE, Salem, Oregon 97310  –  oregon.sos@oregon.gov


Secretary Richardson

OHA Audit Report

Agency of Wasteful Spending

As part of my commitment to make Oregon government more transparent and accountable and to ensure “liberty and justice for all” Oregonians, I am sending you my Secretary of State newsletter.

Today, my Audits Division released the long-awaited and detailed Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Audit Report entitled, “Oregon Health Authority Should Improve Efforts to Detect and Prevent Improper Medicaid Payments.” This report documents the failure of OHA and its previous leadership to meet the federal requirements for eligibility and the wasting of hundreds of millions of dollars that could have been spent caring for Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens or educating our youth.

To put this audit into perspective, on May 17, 2017, the Secretary of State Audits Division released our first Audit Alert. It informed Oregonians and their legislators that OHA had failed to disclose that 86,000 individuals had not had their eligibility evaluated within the one-year federal time limit. The actual number of unevaluated Medicaid recipients turned out to be 115,235. Of that number, it was finally determined that 47,600 were ineligible for the benefits being paid for them. There were various causes of ineligibility—higher than allowed income, individuals who had moved out of state, or those who merely failed to respond to written status inquiries.

Consider the magnitude of these expenditures spent on ineligible benefit recipients. At an average monthly cost of $383, the cost for benefits alone was more than $18 million per month or nearly $219 million annually, if the 47,600 individuals had been ineligible for only one year. The auditors specifically estimated in the attached OHA Audit Report that $88 million was misspent between March 1 and August 31 of 2017 alone.

The OHA Medicaid audit was a difficult audit to complete. Under its previous leadership, OHA’s delays, obfuscations, and failure to cooperate with the Secretary of State’s audit team was so blatant that the Audit Report was required by national standards to disclose such lack of cooperation. See the report’s special section entitled, Impediment to Audit Completion on page 14.

Before the new administration assumed the reins, OHA’s credibility had sunk to a new low with additional multi-million dollar disclosures of waste and incompetence.

Since the Secretary of State’s OHA audit was completed a month ago, The Oregonian reported information that was not disclosed to our auditors. The article reports that OHA misspent more than $74 million dollars of Medicaid funds on improper payments unrelated to audit findings contained in the audit report released today. Some of these unrelated improper payments disclosed by The Oregonian have already been repaid, and others will endanger Oregon’s already precarious budget situation.

On November 17, the Portland Tribune reported $112 million dollars of additional wrongful payments disclosed by OHA’s new leadership.

The information in the above articles is substantiated in a November 17 letter from OHA’s new Director, Patrick Allen. In the letter to Governor Brown, there are 18 examples of OHA programs where tens of millions of dollars have been misspent.

Public disclosure of the longstanding mismanagement of taxpayer funds is the first of many steps OHA needs to take to improve transparency, efficiency, and accountability to Oregon taxpayers.

The one positive point from such depressing news is that the 2017-19 OHA budget assumed the full 115,235 caseload. Thus, because OHA over-estimated its caseload by 47,600 Medicaid ineligible recipients, nearly $100 million of General Fund will now be available to the legislature for other purposes (47,600 x $383 x 24 months x 22.5% state G.F. portion of total cost of benefits).

In closing, today’s OHA Audit Report provides the best information the audit team could obtain from OHA’s previous uncooperative leadership and administration. The amount of wasteful and incompetent spending at OHA has been staggering and has gone on for at least the past four years. Soon Oregon voters will be considering whether or not to approve tax increases intended to provide additional funding to the OHA. With such abysmal examples of OHA misfeasance and obfuscation, OHA faces tough questions about its credibility and its ability to appropriately spend the money it is provided.

—Dennis Richardson

Jeff Helfrich appointed as State Representative for House District 52

OREGON HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE

 

Jeff Helfrich appointed as State Representative for House District 52

Hood River resident to represent constituents in Multnomah, Clackamas and Hood River Counties

 

Sandy, Ore. – Jeff Helfrich has been appointed by a unanimous vote of Multnomah, Clackamas and Hood River County Commissioners to serve as the State Representative for House District 52. Helfrich, 49, is a resident of Hood River with a long career in law enforcement. He will fill the remainder of former Representative Mark Johnson’s term in office after Johnson accepted a position as the President and CEO of Oregon Business & Industry.

 

“I am incredibly humbled to have earned the support of our community in this appointment process,” said Helfrich. “I will continue leading efforts started by Rep. Mark Johnson to improve education, the economy, and protect our environment and way of life in the Gorge and across Oregon. I also vow to work on improving our community’s health and safety as well as disaster preparedness, and increasing government transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. I will make sure that I, and my staff, are available to help identify and address community concerns so that the community’s voice is heard and responded to not only in Salem but directly in the district as well.

 

Jeff has worked in public service for more than 30 years, including over 25 years in community policing with the Portland Police Bureau. Prior to his law enforcement career, Jeff served in the U.S. Air Force and was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He also previously served as a member of the Cascade Locks City Council, Cascade Locks Planning Commission, Cascade Locks Budget and Charter Review Committee and Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD) Board of Directors.

 

“Jeff will be a great addition to the House Republican caucus and to the Oregon House,” said House Republican Deputy Leader Greg Barreto. “His law enforcement background combined with experience serving as an elected leader within his community will suit him and his constituents well as he begins his time in office.”

 

House District 52 includes residents in the communities of Hood River, Sandy, Troutdale, Gresham, Damascus and Cascade Locks.

 

###

 

Daily Clips

HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE

STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

Timber Towers or Clean Air? Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Big Priorities Don’t Go Together

Willamette Week

“Promotion of cross-laminated timber by the state was intended to help rural Oregon businesses, employees and communities,” says Mark Johnson, CEO of Oregon Business & Industry. “Sadly, state overreach will cause more harm to rural Oregon by putting cross-laminated timber and other manufacturing at risk.”

Democrats will pick Oregon’s next Republican lawmaker

The Oregonian

With so much on the line — a supermajority for Democrats, and a superminority for Republicans — politics is inevitably in play. Johnson and Preston Mann, executive director of the House Republican Caucus campaign arm, complained Tuesday about second-hand reports they’d received that House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and public employee union officials attempted to influence commissioners’ vote.

Forecast: Oregon’s growing tax revenues could help next budget

The Oregonian

Oregon’s tax revenues continue to outpace expectations, state economists told lawmakers in Salem on Wednesday. The latest state revenue forecast calls for an additional $47.4 million in general fund and lottery revenue above the last estimate in August.

Gov. Brown, Google team up to urge students to study computer coding

Portland Tribune

Governor Kate Brown lent her star power to a Google event at Parkrose Middle School Tuesday, a gathering designed to get kids excited about careers in coding. “We are struggling, frankly, to diversify the workforce in the designing and coding arena,” said Brown, noting the class had a mix of races and genders. “And so, if we can get kids interested in middle school, we capture them for life.”

Capitol roundup: PERS, Christmas and more

Bend Bulletin

Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, will re-introduce legislation to curtail one type of pension spiking by public employees. A similar bill died without a hearing during the 2017 session, but Whisnant is going to give it the old college try.

Val Hoyle all but locks up Oregon labor commissioner race

The Oregonian

Former Democratic House Majority Leader Val Hoyle has positioned herself as all but certain to win one of Oregon’s top political offices half a year before the election is held.”I’m not taking anything for granted,” she said. “It’s an open seat and I don’t have the expectation that it’s my seat.”

EDUCATION

New housing developments could prove challenging for Medford schools

Mail Tribune

Housing developments approved in the Medford area spell potentially significant increases in students entering the school district’s already overcrowded elementary schools. Data and maps compiled by the city of Medford and combined with district information project how many students may relocate to or move within the district in the next few years. The numbers give a clearer picture of the growth the district needs to account for as it considers the long-term readiness of its facilities to house students.

Proposed Home For ACCESS Academy Would Move Students With Special Needs

Oregon Public Broadcasting

After months of uncertainty, Portland’s alternative school for talented and gifted students may have found a new home. In a proposal shared with parents and school staff Tuesday, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero floated moving ACCESS Academy to a two-building campus in Southeast Portland.

OTHER NEWS

The state of the press: fewer reporters, bigger government

Portland Tribune

Information about government increasingly comes from well-paid government employees – what does that mean for the reporters who are left and the democracy we all live in?

OPINION

Editorial: The fine for Kitzhaber’s ethics violations should sting

The Oregonian

In the December 2014 email, Kitzhaber wrote about the ethics commission: “We will convey that we are willing to take this all the way and have a strong case for prevailing. But the end game is not actually to have the complaints dismissed but rather to negotiate a stipulated settlement agreement in which we might acknowledge some minor mistakes we may have made and have the matter resolved at the March meeting. Do I have that right?” Thankfully for Oregonians, the current commission made sure he did not.

Editorial: Treat Sisters homeowners fairly on vacation rentals

Bend Bulletin

Facing growing interest in vacation rental permits, the city of Sisters is trying to find the right mix of regulation to head off problems other communities have faced. It needs to do so in a way that treats all homeowners fairly.

Guest: County must unite behind legislative decisions

Court Boice, Curry County Commissioner

If governed by responsible commissioners, it simply allows our county the potential for sound business options. It is not “Boice’s plan.” It is, however, a precise new and helpful law sponsored by state Rep. David Brock Smith. I worked with him to design it for Curry County. During the 2017 legislative session, his HB 3435 passed both the Oregon House and Senate with unanimous and strong bipartisan support, then was quickly signed by the governor.

Guest:Second Amendment doesn’t preclude laws for gun safety

Dale Lugenbehl is a faculty member in the Social Sciences Department at Lane Community College and the author of research articles on the subject of critical thinking.

In general, it will also be helpful to mentally reframe the issue more accurately as one of gun safety, rather than gun control. Doing so will help to keep gun owners and gun rights advocates in the discussion, and finally begin moving us toward effective nonpartisan solutions to gun violence.

DAILY CLIPS

HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE

 

STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

 

Local lawmakers at center of changing Senate

Portland Tribune

Big changes are coming to the Oregon Senate, and Washington County lawmakers will be in the midst of it for 2018.

 

Oregon GOP supports Kruse, accused of sex misconduct, remaining in Senate while investigation underway

The Oregonian

A spokesman for the Oregon Republican Party on Monday said Sen. Jeff Kruse should remain in office while an independent investigator looks into multiple accusations of unwanted touching by the senator. If the claims are substantiated “then perhaps there might be a reason to call for his resignation,” said party spokesman Kevin Hoar.

 

Buehler and Brown on course to break spending record

Bend Bulletin

Gov. Kate Brown and Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, have together raised $5.3 million in the 2018 race for governor, putting them on pace to blow past the most expensive governor’s race in state history.

 

Nursery association honors government, agency backers

Capital Press

The association gives the annual awards to state or federal elected officials or to key government agency personnel who are “solution-oriented, who consider the nursery and greenhouse point of view and who act as a partner, regardless of party affiliation,” executive director Jeff Stone said in a prepared statement.

 

HEALTH CARE

 

State’s psychiatric hospitals still without chief

Register-Guard

Hoping to jump-start the recruitment, OHA officials now say they will increase their maximum starting salary for a successful candidate, but they declined to specify how much they are willing to offer. The initial superintendent job posting offered a maximum starting salary of $182,000 a year. Members of the hospital’s advisory board say they’ve been disappointed with the overall quality of the candidates they’ve been asked to interview during the two-year job search.

 

AGRICULTURE & NATURAL RESOURCES

 

Forest Service moves closer to wilderness area permit proposal

Bend Bulletin

After eight months and more than 500 comments from Oregonians, the U.S. Forest Service is closing in on a proposal that could protect Central Oregon’s most scenic areas from overuse.

 

LOCAL NEWS

 

Multnomah County soda tax campaign postpones target date after spending $800K

The Oregonian

Backers of the initiative raised more than $900,000 but have less than $85,000 left after collecting almost 30,000 signatures. Because those were on documents approved for the May election, the signature drive will have to start over to get a proposed initiative before voters next November, said Multnomah County elections spokesman Eric Sample. Steenbergen said she and other campaign leaders decided to postpone their drive because they believe the higher voter turnout expected in November improves their chance of passing the measure.

 

Multnomah County Republicans Want Greater GOP Input on Federal Judicial Selection Process

Willamette Week

Today, James Buchal, a Portland lawyer and the chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party, wrote to Trump, complaining about the process for filling a vacancy on the bench for the U.S. District Court of Oregon and for another on the Ninth District Court of Appeals that is typically given to an Oregonian. “Something is very seriously wrong with your appointment process for federal officials establishing federal policy in the State of Oregon,” Buchal wrote, noting that the “gatekeeper” for the appointment process is an aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)  and that the six-member judicial selection committee responsible for vetting candidates contains only one registered Republican.

 

OTHER NEWS

 

Lt. Governor To Ban Guns In Washington State Senate Galleries

Northwest News Network

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat who serves as the president of the Senate, issued that order Monday, extending a previous order banning openly-carried guns in the Senate galleries. “I don’t want us to be implementing this type of order the day after some type of tragedy,” Habib said in a phone interview with the Northwest News Network and the Associated Press. “I want us to be doing it preemptively and in a way that’s respectful.”

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: Brown is making a questionable gamble

Bend Bulletin

Given the efficiency with which Congress has acted this year, and not just on CHIP, Brown is taking a gamble in telling the OHA to keep the program afloat after the money runs out. CHIP is a program worthy of saving, but to simply assume federal funding will arrive to allow OHA to recoup its expenditures is a gamble she shouldn’t take.

 

Editorial: State makes right call on insurance

Democrat-herald

In Oregon, state officials believe that some 40,000 of the covered children would have to move to Medicaid, known here as the Oregon Health Plan. But the state would have to pay to keep coverage for the remaining 79,000 children. Brown said she wanted the state to take action now, so that affected families would have some certainty that their coverage would continue. It’s the right move for Oregon and for these vulnerable families, but it’s just a stopgap. Congress should go for the easy win and renew the program.

 

Guest column: Make the commitment to OSU-Cascades

Amy Tykeson and Jane E. Teater are co-chairs of NOW4 OSU-Cascades, a community outreach group focused on campus expansion.

OSU-Cascades is a game-changer for our region. Please join us in support of the campus expansion by writing to your state representatives, the governor and legislative leadership and urging them to follow through with the state’s commitment to higher education in Central Oregon.

 

Guest: Oregon poised to help workers save for retirement

John Scott directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ retirement savings project

Since 2012, lawmakers in 40 states have introduced measures to create or study state-sponsored retirement savings plans for employees who otherwise wouldn’t have them. Legislation has passed in California, Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland.Oregon is in the vanguard, and OregonSaves could be a model for a viable and sustainable savings solution.

John Scott directs The Pew Charitable Trusts