HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE
STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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?”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”