Republicans have erased the Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that, for the first time since April, also shows President Donald Trump’s approval rating equaling the percentage of voters who disapprove of his job performance. Fully 39 percent of registered voters say they would support the GOP candidate for Congress in their district, while 38 percent would back the Democratic candidate. Nearly a quarter of voters, 23 percent, are undecided.
The Oregon House voted along party lines Tuesday to ask voters in November to embed a universal right to health care in the state Constitution.
At the same time, a group that often agrees with progressive policies championed by Democrats is sounding the alarm about the potential impact. In Feb. 5 letter to the House Health Care Committee, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Oregon wrote that the group supports access to basic health care for all people at the national level. Pinning it to the state level instead would be a mistake, the group said.
In letters to Greenlick and Parrish, chief legislative counsel Dexter Johnson wrote that the constitutional amendment would only require the state to provide access to “cost-effective, medically appropriate and affordable” health care, but the state wouldn’t have to provide actual health care. Some of the Legislature’s options to fulfill such a mandate could carry a minimal cost, Johnson wrote, while others would have “enormous financial consequences for the state.”
“There is always a possibility that the state could be sued for failing to follow a constitutional mandate, but we cannot say whether such a suit would be successful and, if so, what the maximum extent of the state’s liability would be,” Johnson wrote in his response to Parrish.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
House member and dentist Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, said access to quality health care is a basic need, like food and water. But not a right. “I believe health care is very important. It needs to be stable. But I also believe that our foster care system is important, our education system is important, our environment is important, and the jobs that we create for Oregonians are important,” he said. “Clearly, we all want Oregonians to have access to basic health care services, but to advance a constitutional amendment that has the potential to radically change our state in ways we do not yet understand strikes me as incredibly risky.”
Rep. Mike McLane, the House Republican leader, tried to convince legislators to vote no by highlighting the uncertainties about how health care would be funded in Oregon. “What’s been said today is there is no plan. We have no idea how much it will cost,” McLane said.
Democrats touted the resolution as an important “aspirational” statement to counterbalance the Trump administration’s moves to weaken or eliminate the Affordable Care Act. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t be here — I would be dead,” said Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, a cancer survivor. Republicans argued it was an election-year stunt with no mechanism for ensuring the right to health care, leaving the state open to litigation and unknown expenses. “What’s been said today is there is no plan — we have no idea how much it will cost,” said House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte. Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, and Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, voted no.
Under House Bill 4109, the study would also examine “regional approaches” to reduce carbon emissions “other than adopting or participating in a greenhouse cap-and-trade system.” Oregon’s annual wildfires emit more carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, fine particulates and volatile organic compounds than industrial sources or vehicles, said Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, the bill’s chief sponsor. Supporters of HB 4109 argue it would encourage discussions about thinning over-stocked federal lands that are prone to catastrophic forest fires.
At issue is that SB 1528, in its current form, creates a net revenue-loss. It raises $80 million per biennium, but only when looked at in reference to current tax law, which includes the federal changes. If Oregon does nothing and remains tied to federal tax code as written, the state could lose an estimated $200 million per biennium. SB 1528 would make it so the state would lose $120 million. “I think Peter’s office didn’t really realize that until just this week,” said Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton. Hass, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue, said the Democratic caucus hadn’t yet discussed sending the bill back to committee, but Courtney, through a spokesman, confirmed later in the day that it would be.
In contrast, Democrats delayed a vote on a controversial companion bill that they say would prevent certain businesses from double-dipping on state tax breaks. They could push back the vote until next week, given that a key supporter – Sen. Chuck Riley of Hillsboro – is absent while he recovers from surgery. That delay signals that Democrats, who hold a 17-13 seat majority in the Senate and need only a simple majority of 16 to pass the plan, likely face united opposition by Republicans as well as a member of their own caucus. “We want to make sure we have all the votes in line and we’re down a few members,” said Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton, chair of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee that drafted the bill. “I think we’re gonna be okay.”
Anthony Smith, a lobbyist for the Oregon chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, says that the bill will mean that the state’s small businesses will pay $212 million more in taxes in 2018 than they would if the Legislature did nothing. The bill also allows sole proprietorships to qualify for the state’s lower rates — if they also met certain other qualifications — and increases the state personal exemption credit, which is money a taxpayer can deduct for themselves and any dependents. But Smith maintains that the increase in taxes due to the loss of the deduction is greater than the benefits for small businesses.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Sen. Brian Boquist, the top Republican on the finance committee, called the estimate “overly highly speculative” and said the state really doesn’t know how much it might collect from major corporations like Nike. In any case, Boquist added, several corporate officials thought the state was wrong in how they were interpreting the new federal law and that “they thought they were supposed to pay.”
For nearly the last two years, state regulators, scientists, advocates and businesses interests have met in public to come up with a plan to cut toxic air pollution statewide. But before it can be adopted, the state Legislature is stepping in with its own plan, crafted in secret and backed by industry. A group that includes two Democratic senators, a Republican senator, regulators and two industry lobbyists is drafting legislation that would do less to reduce toxic air pollution than what Gov. Kate Brown proposed in response to Portland’s 2016 toxic air crisis. No environmental groups or public health advocates were invited to participate in the lawmakers’ closed-door discussions.
Portland Business Journal
“This federal funding recognizes our work to provide comprehensive health insurance options for Oregonians,” DCBS Director Cameron Smith said in a statement. “The Oregon Reinsurance Program will help provide market stability for over 200,000 individuals, and encourage insurance companies to offer plans in every corner of the state.”
Political campaigns typically blanket the airwaves with ads during election season. But eagle-eyed viewers flipping between Blazers games and Olympic events have noticed something novel: dueling TV ads arguing about bills currently being weighed by the Oregon Legislature. The subject? The so-called “Clean Energy Jobs Bills,” which aim to reduce carbon emissions with taxes on big polluters and use the money to invest in green jobs. Viewers can’t vote on these bills. But they’re being urged to call their legislators and make demands.
Brown on Tuesday announced an executive order setting a deadline for the state Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission to develop a statewide plan to combat the problem, with intermediary deadlines as early as September. The plan would lay out steps for state agencies to ease access to recovery, treatment and prevention services.
Vicki Walker, a former longtime state lawmaker from Eugene, was appointed interim director of the Oregon Department of State Lands on Tuesday. Walker, a Eugene resident, was the unanimous choice of Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and state Treasurer Tobias Read — the three members of the State Land Board — from a pool of five candidates.
Ontario Argus Observer
“I’m working hard to get these bills to the governor’s desk,” Findley said in a news release. “I believe these are good policies that would improve the quality of life for Oregonians around the state,” he said, adding that he hopes to sign on to other bills before the session is over.
Oregon’s puppy mill bill won’t get a vote this year, but legislators will consider a bigger crackdown on pet sales and adoptions in 2019. House Bill 4045 would require dogs sold in pet storesto come from an animal shelter, humane society, dog control district or rescue organization. At a hearing on the bill Tuesday, supporters argued the proposal doesn’t go far enough. The legislation should be expanded to include cats, several people said.
JOBS & ECONOMY
The Trump tax cuts have blown a hole in affordable housing budgets across the country, even as construction costs in Portland continue to rise. That’s because tax breaks lower the value of tax credits, which are used to finance affordable housing.
COURTS & PUBLIC SAFETY
“I write to you today with a heavy heart,” it read. “Unfortunately it has come to my attention that the board seeks my resignation, citing editorials I wrote as a college student nearly a quarter-century ago. I have acknowledged that those editorials were poorly worded and ill-conceived pronouncements of a youth who had much to learn about the world. I sincerely wish the board would judge me not on decades-old words, but by the work we have done together.”
The Seattle field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which covers Oregon, Washington and Alaska, arrested 3,376 people in 2017—a 25-percent increase from 2016. The jump in arrests was the sharpest increase on the West Coast, according to data published by the Pew Research Center, though agents working for field offices in California still detained thousands more undocumented immigrants than those working in the Pacific Northwest.
Heard declined comment Monday on whether he would seek the Senate seat. He said the current legislative short session has been time consuming, and because of the number of large, complex bills being rapidly pushed through, he hasn’t had time to focus on anything else. “I am focused diligently on doing the people’s work during this extremely stressful short session,” he said.
Brock Smith could not be reached for comment.
Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, who served as a representative in the House prior to becoming a county commissioner, said many people had asked him if he intended to run for the seat. “Although honored by these requests, I have decided not to seek nor accept an appointment to the Oregon State Senate District 1,” he said in a written statement. “My focus since leaving the Legislature has been solely on the challenging and rewarding work as one of your Douglas County commissioners. I hope to continue this important work and continue serving my constituents to the best of my ability in this capacity,” Freeman wrote.
WW used Twitter Audit on seven of the biggest names in Oregon politics. It didn’t take long to spot a trend: Oregon’s governor and both U.S. senators, all Democrats, have huge followings—made mostly of bots. The state’s top Republicans have far smaller audiences, but they’re more real.
The decision on whether to fund new career and technical education facilities at Medford’s North and South high schools will fall to district voters after the Medford School Board voted 6-1 Monday to put a $25 million bond measure on the May 15 ballot. “I’m excited about moving forward,” said School Board Chairwoman Karen Starchvick, calling the decision “the right thing to do for our community.”
Everyone ought to have health care. Everyone ought to have a job, too — and housing, and healthy breakfasts, and safe neighborhoods. Oregonians should not have a constitutional right to any of these things, however, unless the state is prepared to ensure that they are provided. The state is in no position to make such guarantees, yet on Tuesday the House of Representatives voted to place a measure on the November ballot that, if approved by voters, would add the right to health care to the Oregon Constitution.
Our kids deserve better. They deserve a governor who, upon reading the SOS audit, reacts with the outrage the audit deserves and a Legislature that can agree — with or without the governor’s approval — that our children deserve at least as much attention as a scheme to tax carbon emissions. Yet Oregon’s most endangered children, those who cannot live safely in their own homes, get neither. That’s an outrage, even if the governor and lawmakers don’t get it.
The Oregonian Editorial Board
While Sen. Jeff Kruse is resigning his seat, don’t mistake his departure as a sign that the sex harassment problem at the Capitol is over. An investigative report into Kruse’s behavior lays out just how many women felt they had to endure his touching and caresses, either because of his position of power or because they just wanted to be able to do their work.
Olson’s bill, which cleared the House Committee on Judiciary last week with bipartisan support, is an excellent example of exactly the type of legislation suitable for the short 35-day sessions that the Legislature holds in even-numbered years. It doesn’t represent a huge new policy direction. It merely makes a small modification to an existing law.
Perhaps what’s truly disturbing for Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley is the conservative mindset the writings reveal. The senators apparently assume that a person who once expressed such views can never be trusted. There’s no room in their judgment for a student growing up and developing the more complex and reasoned discourse of a mature thinker. How would you like to be judged based on your college writings?
Statesman Journal Editorial Board
But current law only offers college and university tuition and enrollment protections for longer active-duty assignments. Oregon law recognizes that college or university-enrolled military members often have to withdraw or miss finals or other exams because they are called to active duty help or training. As worded now, the law allows them to seek redress only if they are called to duty lasting 30 days or longer. This bill would close the loophole in Oregon law, and help service members before they are discharged by covering military assignments of 30 days or less.
Kimberly Koops-Wrabek, HD 11 candidate
I’m glad to see people in power being held accountable for their abuse of it, but in many cases, it’s still the powerful finally seeing justice. We need justice for everyone experiencing assault or harassment, no matter their position, their level of experience, or their connections.
Lincoln News Guard
We’re only one week in but with abrupt deadlines and fast moving hearings, it seems like we’re half finished! With few exceptions, bills not scheduled for action by last Friday will not move further and already, the larger picture is coming into focus.