The Oregonian Editorial Board
These signs should be setting off alarm bells. They are for veteran legislators Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, and others, who have asked leaders to convene a legislative committee to look at revenue and spending. But as The Portland Tribune reported earlier this month, Bentz was told by Brown and Kotek to “wait until March” – after the 2018 short legislative session which is expected to focus on a new carbon tax instead of the more pressing budget crisis bearing down on Oregon.
This past session posed a number of thorny problems to solve – many of which were exacerbated by how long legislators waited to act. Deadline legislating rarely results in sound policy. Brown, Kotek and Courtney should show they’ve learned that lesson and hasten to work of setting up a committee.
STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
The Lund Report
The cuts to service for some of the most vulnerable children in the state call into serious question the Democrats’ priorities, particularly after the passage of a $934 million deal to fund Medicaid, complete with tax hikes for hospitals and health insurers. That deal allowed the state to add new programs, including spending $36 million to provide healthcare for unauthorized immigrant children who would qualify for Medicaid except for their legal status, as well as $9 million for reproductive health services, including abortions, for women in similar immigration limbo.
The announcement came at the end of a week in which Allen went before lawmakers in Salem to answer questions about the public relations plan, even though he did not work at the agency when it was developed. Saxton and other officials involved with the plan skipped the hearing, despite a request from Republicans that they attend.
Portland Business Journal
Gov. Kate Brown announced that Patrick Allen, whom she appointed as acting director of the Oregon Health Authority about four weeks ago, will remain on the job on a permanent basis. “Each Oregonian has a right to a healthy, independent life that allows them to succeed,” Brown said in a statement. “To achieve this goal, the Oregon Health Authority must be capable of maintaining a high value and sustainable health care system. Pat has already proven to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars and a valuable leader at OHA. I look forward to the work he will do to ensure OHA lives up to the expectations of Oregonians.”
In a Sept. 20 letter to the committee, Parrish and Hayden argued that the state overshot and “miscalculated the need for Medicaid.” They argue that thousands of people will be kicked off Medicaid due to scheduled increases in the minimum wage, which could render them ineligible for the program. They also contend that recent efforts by the Oregon Health Authority to clear a backlog of OHP patients whose qualifications for Medicaid were in question further reduces the expected caseload and, consequently, the amount of federal dollars the state would bring in. As of Aug. 31, OHA found that 22,937 people on the state’s Medicaid rolls were no longer eligible for the program.
Oregon Health Authority
The House Health chairman has tried to revamp the CCOs before they get a new 5-year contract, arguing they need greater transparency and accountability. A year’s delay would give the new administration more time to improve a system the public has had to support with more taxes.
Curry Coastal Pilot
“I’m honored to have been chosen to serve on the Opioid Epidemic Task Force with my skilled legislative colleagues and other professionals to address this critical issue facing my constituents and those across Oregon,” said Brock Smith. “I have seen first-hand the lives and families destroyed by opioid abuse, and appreciate my fellow stakeholders’ efforts as we move forward with solutions.”
As is usually the case when the pension system is involved, there are complicated politics in the background. The move puts a spotlight on the $8.2 billion pool of assets funded by member contributions, which are the central part of ongoing and controversial pension reform discussions in the Legislature. It’s unclear whether the investment shift, or simply the increased attention it brings, will complicate that discussion.
Another voice has joined the conversation about tolls on Portland-area freeways. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sent a letter to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday asking for Washington to have additional input in the state’s studies and implements tolling on Interstates 5 and 205.
“For our region, the biggest part is the funding rollout for transit,” Baney said. “There’s $100 million a year statewide. This will give local governments a stable, dedicated source of funding.” Baney said by knowing the transportation package will pay for projects such as the U.S. Highway 97 and Cooley Road traffic choke-points, local officials can turn their attention and local dollars to other areas.
MacLaren, by far Oregon’s largest juvenile correctional campus with 271 beds, is wrapping up a major upgrade that added the six housing units, updated eight 1960s-era dwellings and remodeled the medical and dental clinic and fitness center. The work is part of a massive $99 million overhaul of the Oregon Youth Authority’s nine prisons and transitional programs that began two years ago and extends through the next four years. The undertaking represents the largest investment in youth corrections since the mid-1990s, when the Oregon Legislature signed off on five new institutions — a response to the rising juvenile crime rate.
Russian government hackers tried but failed to access Oregon’s election system during the 2016 presidential election, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson announced on Friday. Security measures in the Secretary of State’s office blocked the Russian attempt to break into the state’s computer network. “We block upwards of 14 million attempts to access our network every day,” said Chief Information Security Officer Lisa Vasa said in a press release. “These attempts come from all over the world, including Russia, with the largest number from the US.”
Boddie, a Bend City Council member since 2014, is running as a pro-choice, pro-second-amendment Democrat but points out that he’s represented all the citizens of Bend on the council and plans to continue that practice in Salem. He says, in representing his constituents on the local level, he’s learned that his policies are aligned with theirs. “Some of our local representation from Oregon has opposed what’s been going on at the State level, I would argue that that’s one of the big reasons I want to take this position, because I think that that voice has been out of step with what most people in Bend believe.”
COURTS & PUBLIC SAFETY
But yesterday, Sens. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) joined Republican lawmakers in asking Wyden and Jeff Merkley to drop their opposition to Bounds’ confirmation by the Senate. In their letter, the lawmakers cited a practical consideration—if Bounds doesn’t get the job, it could go to a nominee from another state, because there’s nothing that says Oregon has to be represented on the federal appellate bench.
Washington Free Beacon
Oregon’s two Democratic senators are blocking one of President Trump’s judicial nominees with claims that a “longstanding” state tradition mandating that nominees be chosen from their “judicial selection committee” was violated, but the tradition they cite has never applied to picks for the U.S. Circuit Court, according to records viewed by the Washington Free Beacon.
State officials say other rules take care of potential problems. No one can grow or distribute marijuana inside a day care, no adults can smoke cannabis with children present, and adults must store marijuana for personal use under lock and key. Some parents, however, say that letting a cannabis entrepreneur live in a day care facility raises the risk children will be exposed.
JOBS & ECONOMY
A Canadian company proposing a controversial natural gas pipeline and export facility in southwest Oregon announced this week applications have been filed with an American regulatory commission in an effort to win approval for the projects.
The U.S. Forest Service and Idaho have forged 10 agreements for logging and restoration projects on federal land in what officials say could become a template for other Western states to create jobs and reduce the severity of wildfires. Under the deals, Idaho foresters will administer timber sales on about 10,000 acres that the federal agency has on its to-do list but can’t complete because the money for the work is instead going to fight wildfires.
If the collective international undergraduate population at Oregon’s Big Three were pooled into a separate school, it would be the fourth largest university in the state, at more than 6,200 students. At each of the mega universities, foreign students pay more than two-and-a-half times the in-state tuition rate, making them a desirable population that has grown over the past decade.
It has been 10 years since the State of Oregon originally enacted House Bill 3141, creating a K-8 physical education minutes requirement for schools to meet by July 2017. But 90 percent of Oregon schools have failed to meet it—including those in Canby School District.
Since wolves dispersed from Idaho and returned to northeast Oregon in the late 1990s, more of the predators are settling and forming packs in the Walla Walla and Mount Emily wildlife units. The district is now home to seven packs or groups of wolves totaling at least 36 animals — nearly one-third of the state’s known wolf population.
Congressman Greg Walden was in Medford Friday to discuss the impacts this wildfire season has had on the region, and what can be done at the federal level to address it. He says current policy isn’t working, and it’s time for a change. “Enough’s enough,” US Representative for Oregon, Greg Walden says.
Out of the ashes of another record-breaking wildfire season across the West, Oregon lawmakers are calling for changes in the way national forests are managed and how the government pays for fighting increasingly large, destructive fires.
It’s not just that Oregon’s wildfires burned an area the size of Rhode Island this summer. Yes, the numbers are staggering: 1,903 fires, 1,060 square miles burned, $340 million spent so far on firefighting costs. Yet, somehow, those numbers fail to capture the real loss.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
The eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 re-opened Saturday, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. The eastbound lanes of the highway have been closed from Troutdale to Hood River since Sept. 4 because of the Eagle Creek Fire burning in the Columbia River Gorge.
If all that sounds like politics as usual, do remember these words in February 2015, when Gov. John Kitzhaber was forced to resign. Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, D-Portland, told us: “Our actions going forward are focused on rebuilding the public’s trust in state government.” A short time later, the new governor, Kate Brown, touted her own record of pushing for government transparency. If this is Oregon’s new openness, Oregonians are in trouble.
The Oregon Department of Transportation says the number of distracted driving-caused crashes is “epidemic.” We get that banning text messaging, talking on the phone while holding it in any position, watching the phone, navigating with it, using the Internet and writing emails while driving or stopped at a signal or sign is restrictive. Many will bellyache. Let them. And then tell them why connectivity is not a right.
There is little that will bring a more clear, quick economic benefit to Eastern Oregon than having these lands in local control. This editorial board will help as it can, and we expect everyone else to do their part, too.
Removing the presidential contests every four years could hurt turnout in May. That would be unfortunate, because state legislative and local offices have a much greater effect on Oregonians’ day-to-day lives than who the major party presidential nominees are. Let’s face it: Oregon has only 4 million residents, and just 2.6 million of those are registered to vote. California has 19 million. If you were running for president, where would you spend your time?