GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Oregon legislators are likely to consider a number of criminal justice reforms next year, including several bills that take aim at policies that disproportionately impact low-income Oregonians. Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) tells WW he expects to see a number of controversial issues come before him as chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He expects a bill to eliminate split jury verdicts, which allow a person to be convicted or acquitted of any felony other than murder with just 10 votes. Oregon is one of just two states—the other is Louisiana—which do not require unanimous jury decisions. A number of other bills Barker says he anticipates involve the costs of the state’s justice system. “We’re catching poor people in a spiral they can’t get out of,” says Barker, a former Portland police officer who says he personally saw how court fees and fines can disrupt people’s lives. “I’ve seen what happens to people who get caught in those cycles.” One possible bill would waive fees for hearings on parking tickets for low-income Oregonians, who currently have to post bond on the tickets before being able to challenge them in court. Another would ban driver’s license suspensions for unpaid traffic violations, which Barker says disproportionately impacts economically vulnerable people who rely heavily on their vehicles to get to work and may not be able to afford the fines. Barker says he also plans to introduce a bill to increase pay for public defenders.
Portland Business Journal
Nearly 17 percent of eighth graders and 18 percent of 11th graders reported they had seriously considered suicide in the past year, according to the 2017 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey. At the same time, 25 percent of students do not know how they can access mental health resources through their school, and many schools have none, according to the Oregon Health Authority. “This suicide prevention request is part of OHA’s larger request and an early step in the state budgeting process,” OHA spokeswoman Saerom England said. “We look forward to assisting the governor’s office as they consider this and other agencies’ requests and determine what is best for Oregon.”
Portland Business Journal
The CCOs have provided care to 1 million Oregonians on Medicaid, coordinating their physical, mental and dental needs, since they were created in 2012. Even if they take on more responsibilities, one major aspect of CCO 1.0 that leaders of the coordinated care organizations want to retain in CCO 2.0 is to remain locally based. “If there’s a secret sauce to the transformation in 1.0, it was that local control,” said Josh Balloch, vice president of government affairs for AllCare Health, a CCO with 50,000 members in Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties. “That’s vital to the long-term success. You can’t export or import health care. It has to be done locally.”
Portland Business Journal
We need to remember the original vision, which was to figure out how to expand access and manage costs without eroding quality and patient satisfaction. What worked was a global budget that grows at a fixed rate, putting the delivery system at risk for quality and outcomes. It’s a transitional model that has to continue to evolve to be relevant. It’s important to remember as we go to 2.0, it needs definition, that we don’t undermine the ability to deliver health care to 25 percent of the population.
CAMPAIGNS & INITIATIVES
Sporting a more confrontational tone on a wide range of subjects, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and Republican Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, ramped up attacks on each other’s records during their second debate Thursday night in Medford. On top Oregon issues, including public pension reform, homelessness, education funding, infrastructure investment and wild-land management, the candidates frequently pivoted to pointing out an inability to fix problems or inconsistencies between campaign statements and voting records.
Starnes, a cabinet maker from Brownsville, entered the race at the last minute on a platform focused on reforming campaign finance to curb large donations. He has imposed his own limit on donations for his race – no more than $100 from any one donor. Despite having almost no campaign money at the time, he nonetheless won the Independent nomination over the better-known names and better-financed campaigns of incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and GOP candidate Rep. Knute Buehler, who both campaigned for the nomination. Starnes was invited to the first debate Tuesday at Portland’s Roosevelt High School. He made the stage after the Independent Party threatened legal action. Earlier that week, however, Starnes learned that he would not be invited to Thursday’s debate by KOBI in Medford and a debate next Tuesday in Portland hosted by KGW and The Oregonian. In an email to Starnes earlier this week, Bob Wise, vice president of KOBI, wrote that “a debate at a television station is a news event, thus equal access is not required from all candidates.”
First-time candidate Deb Patterson is hoping to unseat four-term Republican Jackie Winters in a race that could tip the Oregon Senate to a Democratic supermajority. Democrats are one seat away from claiming supermajorities in both the House and Senate in November, which would allow them to raise taxes without Republican support. Winters, who ran unopposed in the primary, was first elected to the House in 1998, and then to the Senate in 2002. Winters emphasized that she is known for working across party lines to build consensus. “That’s been one of my hallmarks all the years I’ve been in state government,” she said. Winters’ emphasis during her long legislative career, and one she said will continue, has been on budgeting. “All my work has been trying to make certain you’re doing a good job of managing people’s dollars,” she said. Her specific goals for the next legislative session include providing more money to help domestic violence survivors; continuing to lower prison costs by diverting some offenders into treatment; and continuing to fund career and technical education for high school students. And she will continue to work to draw business and jobs to the Salem area, Winters said. Patterson is a credible challenger, with decades as an advocate in both health care and education. “My most important goal is working toward affordable, accessible, quality healthcare for everyone,” she said. “We still have 6.2 percent of Oregonians who don’t have any health insurance at all.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon voters will decide this November whether to make it more difficult for the state Legislature to raise taxes and fees. To both supporters and opponents, it’s a battle over how power is wielded in the state Capitol. If you’re raising taxes, said business lobbyist Shaun Jillions, “you should have a broad consensus of legislators doing that, regardless of their party affiliation.” But Gov. Kate Brown says Measure 104 — which would expand the kinds of revenue measures that require a three-fifths vote for approval — is really a power grab by interests upset with Democrats who run the state. “They want to make things extremely difficult for the majorities down in Salem,” said Brown, arguing that Measure 104 raises the prospect of an extended gridlock over passing the state’s budget.
An attorney for Multnomah County has weighed into the fight over an Oregon ballot measure that would enshrine a ban on “grocery” taxes in the state constitution. There’s little doubt that Measure 103 would prohibit the soda tax that has been contemplated by the county for years. But the legal opinion says the measure would have wider impacts. According to the county attorney, the measure would cut into Multnomah County’s ability to collect existing taxes—and 40 percent of the taxes received by the county’s general fund could be affected. That’s because there’s ongoing debate about the extent to which fuel and other taxes would be subjected to the exceptions. The county attorney says it’s all but impossible to come up with a dollar figure for the impact on the county.
The Bend Bulletin
Amanda La Bell is the target of a complaint filed with the Oregon Department of Justice against The Rebecca Foundation, the nonprofit national diaper bank run by La Bell. Volunteers said Wednesday they sent thousands of dollars, including grant checks from Walmart, to La Bell. La Bell said the organization has no money. Edmunson said the Department of Justice’s Charitable Activities Section is responsible for screening reports involving fraudulent activities in nonprofits, and investigating if necessary. Additional conduct, such as embezzlement, might be reported to local law enforcement. “Larger matters might be subject to investigation by federal authorities,” Edmunson said.
A trio of sponsors—state Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), former Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) and Kim Sordyl, a Portland lawyer and education activist—want to put a measure on the 2020 ballot that would prohibit Oregon government bodies from borrowing money to pay their obligations to the Public Employee Retirement System. Their initiative seeks to block a common practice: local governments and school districts borrow money to meet pension obligations. The governments’ hope is that investment returns will exceed the cost of interest that they pay, creating a positive return on investment that they can use to accelerate paying down their PERS obligations.
SUPREME COURT NOMINATION
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Friday, 51-49. A final vote on his confirmation is expected as soon as Saturday. One Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted with Republicans to end debate and move the nomination forward. One Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted with Democrats against ending debate. Still, the fate of Kavanaugh’s nomination remains unclear. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted to end debate, but said she will announce her final position on whether confirm Kavanaugh Friday afternoon. Other senators could switch their votes as well. In a speech leading up to the vote, Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said “the resistance is located right here on Capitol Hill’” and urged his colleagues to “say no to mob rule” by voting to confirm Kavanaugh.
State Rep. Knute Buehler, GOP candidate for governor, on Thursday, Oct. 4, called on President Trump to replace Brett Kavanaugh as nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. “At this point I strongly believe President Trump should withdraw the nomination and put someone forward that can gain bipartisan support. This is a time to heal a deeply divided nation and this is a wonderful opportunity to do so,” Buehler said. “I hope President Trump proceeds in that direction.”
Video footage from WW’s news parter KATU shows the protesters, with red handprints painted over their mouths, lying in the street in front of the federal building this morning. One woman stood on an egg crate and read aloud the Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. Demonstrators, the Oregonian reported, spelled out the words “Stop Him” with their bodies and lay on the street for 36 minutes to mark the number of years since Kavanaugh’s alleged sexually assault of Ford.
Eighteen months before a baby boy died at an illegally operated Hood River day care, Oregon child safety officials knew the women who ran it had drugged, ignored and threatened to hit other children placed in their care. Workers at Mama Shell’s Day Care gave children “little white pills” of melatonin so they would sleep during nap times, according to court documents obtained Thursday by The Oregonian/Oregonlive. State child care regulators were so concerned that they revoked the day care’s license in 2017. But Rochelle Jones, her wife, Debra Jones, and her wife’s sister, Donna Pilcher, soon opened the business back up, this time with a different name: Mama Bear’s, according to a search warrant affidavit. Police discovered 10 children in the women’s care the day the Cyrus Macioroski died there on May 15 of this year at age 4 months. He was the youngest child in their care.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
As the Northwest’s killer whales have gained worldwide attention, more calls are being made to bolster the population of salmon they eat. One big way to do that, supporters say, is by removing the four Lower Snake River dams, which make it harder for salmon to survive. But the federal government isn’t so sure that’s the answer. “Geographically and timing, they are not the key limiting resource or prey for the southern resident killer whales,” said Kristen Jule, a fish and wildlife policy analyst with Bonneville Power Administration.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Grazing restrictions on public lands may have unintended consequences for greater sage grouse, according to a recent study. The imperiled birds depend on habitat on both public and private lands, and much of that habitat can be lost when ranching operations go under. “We found that as the restrictions to public lands increased, (private) landowners have historically made decisions to alter their land use. Then there’s trigger points where they may sell those lands to higher intensity uses that would be bad for sage grouse,” said David Naugle, study co-author and professor at the University of Montana.
We could be on the verge of a “new class of biological weapon,” scientists warn. They’re talking about insects. The U.S. military is studying whether it can load bugs with genetically engineered viruses that would make modifications to crops, protecting the plants from sudden natural blights or other perils. The insects would, for example, insert drought-resistant genes into crops in the field. The objective: make the nation’s food supply safe from all manner of potential threats from nature or foreign adversaries. The so-called Insect Allies program, launched in 2017 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), sounds all well and good — except that such plans conceivably could go awry, seeing as insects aren’t known for being easy to control. That’s why a group of scientists is raising the warning. They argue, reports The New York Times, “that the endeavor is not so different from designing biological weapons — banned under international law since 1975 — that could swarm and destroy acres of crops.”
BUSINESS & LABOR
Some Oregon lawmakers and winery owners scrambled Thursday to help a dozen vineyard owners who face the prospect of tons of grapes withering on the vine after a California company abruptly canceled contracts to buy the grapes worth millions of dollars over fears they are tainted by wildfire smoke. The cancellation of the contracts “is perhaps the most devastating issue facing the Oregon wine industry in our history,” said Christine Collier Clair, winery director of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
The U.S. jobless rate last month dropped to 3.7 percent in September — the lowest since 1969, though the economy added a lower-than-expected 134,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. The jobless rate fell from August’s 3.9 percent. Wage growth slowed last month, with average hourly earnings up 2.8 percent from a year earlier. Private economists had forecast that economy would pick up 180,000 jobs in September. The report reinforced the view of Federal Reserve policymakers, who cited a strong job market when they announced they were increasing a benchmark interest rate — the third hike in a year. The labor market, the Fed said, “has continued to strengthen and … economic activity has been rising at a strong rate. Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low.” The Fed is forecasting the economy will grow 3.1 percent this year — that’s up from the 2.8 percent it projected in June.
Port Director Ryan Neal said the port had to identify a site that met some requirements before they could apply for the program. The site had to be vacant, slated for industrial use, and had to provide a minimum of 25 jobs. The East Beach Industrial Site, which the port has identified for development, is about 982 acres, and could provide about 800 jobs, Neal said. He said the site improvements have to be completed by 2023. According to the program, rural sites must also pay employees wages higher than the county or state average, whichever is lower. The Port of Morrow was the second site in the state to receive the RSIS designation, after the Port of Portland’s Troutdale-Reynolds Industrial Park. The Port of Morrow is the first to qualify for the program since Business Oregon changed the application process last year.
Finally, our poor naked mountain is getting dressed for the winter. That’s right: It’s snowing on Mount Hood. After a record-breakingly hot summer — a month’s worth of days over 90 degrees — Friday’s rain in the valley and snow in the mountains might be all we need for a state holiday.
The idea behind Measure 102 is a good one: Oregon should allow cities to pursue public-private partnerships for desperately needed affordable housing. Unfortunately, the Legislature wrote a flawed constitutional amendment to accomplish that end. Oregonians should reject it so that lawmakers can come back with a better version next year. The authors of the Constitution recognized the risks of entangling local government with private industry. If taxpayers are footing the bill, taxpayers should retain ownership of the final product or receive a substantial public good, not just pad private sector profits with public subsidies. The constitutional clause also is a barrier to corruption that prevents public officials from diverting tax dollars to their cronies in the private sector. Those were very real dangers in 1857, and they remain dangers today. If Oregon is to create an exception for affordable housing, it must provide adequate safeguards to ensure it is not abused. Measure 102 failed to include those safeguards.
The Bulletin Editorial Board
As if to remind Oregonians why the upcoming election matters so much, the board that oversees the state’s public pension system will meet Friday to adopt employer-contribution rates for the next two years. Prepare to hear cries of “ouch” from government offices and school districts across the state. Because the PERS investment fund, even when booming, doesn’t generate nearly enough money to support the system fully, the PERS board periodically adjusts the percentage of payroll individual agencies and districts must contribute to make up the difference. If fixing, or even mitigating, Oregon’s ongoing PERS crisis were simple or politically easy, it would have been done years ago. Because it is neither, concerned taxpayers should look to support candidates who are serious about addressing the problem. Electing them is no guarantee of success, as just about any reform to the system will face legal challenges. But electing PERS do-nothings will guarantee the continuation of the status quo.
The Bulletin Editorial Board
Two of Central Oregon’s smallest cities, Sisters and Culver, are asking voters to reconsider their ordinances governing marijuana. In Sisters, “yes” votes would both allow the sale of weed and impose a 3 percent tax on sales, while in Culver a “yes” vote would maintain a current ban on the drug. Voters in such diverse communities may well come up with different answers to the marijuana question. Sisters voted to legalize marijuana in 2014; Culver residents did not, and sentiments may not have changed in either. That’s OK. Local communities should be able to decide their own fates on such matters rather than being forced to accept an outcome dictated by those who live elsewhere.
The Bend Bulletin
The proponents frame a woman’s decision to have an abortion as a “choice.” That’s a clever appropriation of the word “choice,” but in fact, most women who “choose” abortion do so because they already have children to care for, cannot afford more, need to work, finish their education, etc. Ending an unintended and unwanted pregnancy is not a choice for them, but often a necessity. The proponents, claiming to be acting for the benefit of women, trot out the usual unscientific drivel that abortion has long term ill effects on women. None of this has ever been shown to be true, but, especially in this political climate, “truth isn’t truth” and their end justifies their means. Let’s be honest. These folks just don’t like abortion. Guess what? Nobody does! But history shows you don’t stop abortion by making it illegal. You just make it more dangerous. My opinion on this is informed by the summer of 1970 which I spent as a third year medical student at the Philadelphia General Hospital, on OB-GYN, helping care for a ward full of women, most of color and all low income, suffering from the effects of back alley abortions. Some of these women died. Such a scene is unthinkable today. But is it? If we truly want to prevent abortions and save money, we should make contraception free and easily available to women and men, demand real sex education in our schools and help people not get pregnant unless they really want to have a child. That’s the “choice” we should be talking about.
What a waste of their supporters’ money. Anyone (else) for a new law restricting the amount of money a candidate can spend on these ads, or better yet, banning them completely? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a third-party candidate who, of all things, would be an honest, kind man or woman who wouldn’t be afraid of telling the truth, practicing the Golden Rule, and following the Constitution and the principles upon which our nation was founded? Someone who really cared about our wonderful people and meeting our needs instead of his or her own agenda? Is there such a person to be found in this day and age? If so, would you please stand up and be counted.