STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
The Bend Bulletin
Republicans have selected Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, as the new House minority leader for the 2019 session that starts Jan. 22. He will replace Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, who has served as leader since 2012. McLane chose to step down from the top House GOP spot after an election that left Republicans at a 38-22 disadvantage. House Democrats have more than a three-fifths “supermajority,” which will allow them to pass tax legislation without needing Republican votes. McLane, who was first elected in 2010 and became leader in his second term, will continue to serve in the House but without a leadership position. Wilson said he would lean on his predecessor for help. “Rep. McLane has given so much to this caucus and to our state over the last six years,” Wilson said. “It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.” Wilson knows he has his work cut out for him, telling Oregon Public Broadcasting that with its relatively small numbers, the House Republicans are “not even legislative speed bumps” for the upcoming Democratic agenda.
My Columbia Basin
The Oregon Legislature Joint Interim Committee on Student Success has toured schools throughout the state, listening to local stakeholders for several months. InterMountain Education Service District Superintendent Mark Mulvihill says it appears that the committee will help put rank and file lawmakers on the same page as the educators. The top concern the task force reports on finding is the mental health of students. IMESD is beginning to work on that issue for its member schools this year. “Hopefully, we’ll see some innovation and some funding toward that,” Mulvihill said. “That was the number-one thing that the joint committee identified – behavioral issues.” Mulvihill said the group also learned that career and technical education is vital to high school students in preparing them for the real world, especially if a classic path to higher education isn’t of interest to them.
Cap and trade is all but certain to pass the Democrat-controlled Oregon Legislature in 2019, whether rural Oregonians like it nor not, says state Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario. Under cap and trade, the state would implement a limit on carbon emissions beginning in 2021, which gradually lowers over the course of 30 years. Companies can buy credits on the open market to exceed the limit, and money raised by the program would go into a funding pool for climate-friendly initiatives. The bill aims to reduce Oregon’s emissions from 55 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, to 10 million tons. But as Bentz was quick to point out, those savings are .00125 percent of global emissions, which total 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. “This will not resolve climate issues,” he said. Meanwhile, Bentz said fuel providers will buy allowances to exceed the carbon cap at $16 per ton of carbon dioxide, which he calculated will increase the price of gas by 14 cents per gallon in the program’s first year.
Last year, Oregon increased its deposit from 5 to 10 cents on bottles and cans of soda, beer and other beverages purchased in the state. A more lucrative deposit has raised concerns that more bottles and cans from Washington are being redeemed in Oregon, undermining the state’s redemption system. “We do know that there are problems based on the number of interactions we have with people coming from Washington,” said Joel Schoening, spokesman for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, the industry-led cooperative that manages the state’s bottle bill. While there are no clear figures on how big the problem is, Schoening said that the annual cost to the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative is in the six-figure range. There’s also anecdotal evidence from both states it’s happening. Oregon state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Democrat who represents a district bordering Washington, said she’s heard enough complaints that she’ll introduce legislation to crack down on people trying to redeem out-of-state bottles. “I have all the data I need, which is hearing from my grocery stores that they are drowning in out-of-state (bottles and cans),” said Johnson.
Governments in Oregon unreasonably delay handing over public documents or charge too much for that access, and put records of elected officials sometimes nearly beyond reach of citizens, according to a new state report. Those are the findings of Ginger McCall, Oregon’s public records advocate and included in a formal report issued last week by the state Public Records Advisory Council. Her observations are her own, though, based on her experiences in recent months with government officials, reporters and editors and citizens who want public documents. McCall found that Oregon’s public records laws are confusing to government and requesters. It allows government officials to delay or withhold records that should be public, and there is little punishment for agencies who violate the law. If citizens or others want to challenge a government’s decision to withhold public records, the recourse can be a costly court battle. Since April, McCall has trained 1,300 government employees and on Oregon’s public records laws. She has also been called on in 90 instances by reporters and editors for help getting government records. The council’s report is meant to inform Gov. Kate Brown and the Legislature and promote reforms in the law.
OREGON LEADERSHIP SUMMIT
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown did not directly address the biggest question facing her administration when she appeared at the 2018 Oregon Leadership Summit on Monday morning — how she wants the 2019 Oregon Legislature to raise the additional $2 billion needed to balance the proposed budget she released last week. Instead, Brown talked in general terms about the need for “more investments” in issues she prioritized in her proposed budget, including education, health care and climate action.
Gov. Kate Brown kicked off a meeting of business leaders from across Oregon on Monday by trading praises with a hand-picked panel of executives supportive of Democrats’ push to raise several billion dollars in taxes and fees next year for Medicaid, education and tackling climate change. As Oregon rides the peak of the economic cycle, Brown said, “I believe that the time is now, and I think Oregonians agree with that.” Members of the governor’s panel at the Oregon Leadership Summit in Portland certainly sounded supportive, as they complimented each other on their work addressing the state’s most pressing problems.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
With Democrats dominating the Legislature, and pledging to find big new revenues next year, Oregon business leaders on Monday made what amounted to a plea. They’re asking lawmakers to include in any budget deal significant savings in the state’s ballooning pension costs. And they’re offering up their preferred ideas for when the Legislature asks businesses to pay more. “Our economy is the most volatile in the nation,” said Debbie Kitchin, principal of Portland-based contractor Interworks, during an address at the Oregon Leadership Summit in Portland. “A one-sided solution won’t work.”
Portland Business Journal
Even with Oregon’s success in increasing the health insurance rate to 95 percent, now is not the time to rest on our laurels, the CEO of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center told attendees at the 16th annual Oregon Leadership Summit on Monday. “We have a lot to be proud of, but Oregon still faces many challenges,” Gill Munoz said. The latest United Health Foundation rankings of healthiest states placed Oregon at No. 20, basically the middle of the pack. Diabetes and hypertension are “increasing the burden on individuals and families,” Munoz said. “It’s not time to fall back on short-sighted formulas of cutting benefits or eligibility” for Medicaid, he said. “We don’t need pockets of health but healthy communities across the entire state. We need all sectors of the economy to come together to raise us to the next level.”
No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings. In fact, as a wealth adviser put it, hiring a woman these days is “an unknown risk.” What if she took something he said the wrong way? Across Wall Street, men are adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era and, in the process, making life even harder for women. In finance, the overarching impact of avoiding women can be, in essence, gender segregation. Interviews with more than 30 senior executives suggest many are spooked by #MeToo and struggling to cope.
Oregon has landed a $689,000 grant to help the state eliminate disparities in education rates between the overall population and students from African-American, Latino and Native American backgrounds. The Lumina Foundation provided the grant, announced Tuesday. It has planning, research and other support for states to draw on to try to increase college graduation rates. Tuesday’s money goes to Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission to help the state join a coalition of states that have pledged to improve graduation rates. Lumina’s money will help Oregon identify adults with college experience who have yet to earn their degrees, then contact those people and encourage them to consider re-enrolling. Nationally, Lumina said fewer than 30 percent of African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans have a post-secondary degree. The foundation said the comparable number for white Americans is 46 percent.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Staff at Adams Elementary School in Eugene got so fed up with behavior problems in their classrooms, they showed up in force at last week’s school board meeting. Teacher Ann Piazza recited problems facing students with medical needs — a litany that followed testimony earlier in the evening from parents of kids with such needs. Meg Carnagey followed with a multi-part list of how students disrupt classrooms: they walk out and roam the halls, or they stay and break things or throw room-clearing tantrums. And worse. “That includes […] physical aggression such as hitting, punching, tackling, biting, choking and/or kicking directed at students and staff,” Carnagey read. The letter from Adams’ staff was also on behalf of a neighboring school, El Camino del Rio, but these problems are not just in Eugene. Portland teachers have delivered similar messages. State officials and teachers unions have convened meetings recently to examine the problem. Those conversations come as Oregon legislators discuss making a big investment next year in the state’s struggling public school system. School board members, teachers and legislators all agree that Oregon’s education spending has barely kept up with rising costs, as school outcomes like graduation rates have stayed in the national basement.
Portland Business Journal
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said he will approve a proposal to remove limits on coverage for hepatitis C treatment. The Oregon Drug Use Review/Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee, which advises OHA on prescription drug coverage, on Thursday recommended a change in prior authorization criteria. The change will allow all Medicaid patients with chronic hepatitis C to receive treatment, without fibrosis-related restrictions. “I look forward to approving this recommendation to expand treatment coverage for OHP members,” Allen said in a statement. “Oregon has the highest mortality rate associated with hepatitis C in the country. We have an opportunity to eliminate hepatitis C in our state, and this is a key strategy to get us there.”
Gov. Kate Brown’s wildfire response in her proposed budget offers cold comfort to Southern Oregonians looking for relief from long summers of smoke that have damaged the local economy and endangered public health. “What the governor is proposing is nothing,” said Dave Schott, executive vice president for the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association. “The disappointment resonates with everyone down here.” “The charge of the Council is to evaluate Oregon’s current system for responding to large fires, and determine whether or not the current model is sustainable. The Council will issue a report in September of 2019 to make recommendations for the future of Oregon’s wildfire response infrastructure,” Brown’s proposed budget stated. Brown also wants to hire a person to look for more grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offset damages caused by wildfires. Brown’s office didn’t answer requests for a response Friday and Monday, offering only to provide background information on the proposal. “It’s disappointing that, A, the funds are so limited and, B, that the funds are to study the effects rather than doing something about the wildfires,” Hicks said. “I think every summer for the last decade has been a case study in wildfires, and enough is enough.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee said Tuesday that it was hit with a “cyber intrusion” during the 2018 midterm campaigns and has reported the breach to the FBI. The committee provided few details about the incident, but said the intrusion was conducted by an “unknown entity.” “The cybersecurity of the committee’s data is paramount, and upon learning of the intrusion, the NRCC immediately launched an internal investigation and notified the FBI, which is now investigating the matter,” spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement. “To protect the integrity of that investigation, the NRCC will offer no further comment on the incident.”
The economic agreement President Donald Trump said he reached with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Saturday showed signs of unraveling Tuesday, with the White House threatening new penalties against Beijing and multiple officials seeking to downplay expectations for an eventual deal. Trump, in a series of Twitter posts, threatened to slap a range of import penalties on Chinese products if they did not make major changes in their economic relationship with the United States. “President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will,” Trump wrote. “But if not remember, I am a Tariff man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power.”
Portland Business Journal
President Donald Trump was taking a “dangerous” path by attacking Jay Powell and legislation might be needed to protect the Federal Reserve chairman, a bipartisan pair of US senators has warned. Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrat Chris Coons from Delaware said in an interview that the US president could attempt to take a similar approach to Mr Powell as he did to former attorney-general Jeff Sessions, whom he sacked after the midterm elections. The pair floated the idea of legislation to preserve the Fed’s independence after Mr Trump complained that he was not being “accommodated” by Mr Powell and that he was “unhappy” with his selection of chairman. Mr Flake, Mr Trump’s loudest Republican critic in the Senate, offered the example of Zimbabwe as a “really severe case of what happens when presidents overrule the central bank. We don’t want to go that direction.”
The New York Times
House lawmakers filed a two-week stopgap spending bill Monday that would ensure that the government remains fully funded as the nation mourns former President George H.W. Bush this week. The measure, which includes funding for the Homeland Security and Interior departments and other federal agencies, would push a showdown over funding for a wall on the southern border to Dec. 21, just before Christmas. It is expected to be passed by unanimous consent this week, according to people familiar with the talks.
For 90 minutes, Wyden, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 1996, answered questions from the community as well as from Tualatin High School students. One came from a community member who wanted to know the senator’s stance on the Green New Deal, or Congressional stimulus packages that focus on the environment and climate change. Wyden said if ever there was a wake-up call, it came after Thanksgiving when President Donald Trump’s own scientists laid out a plan as to how dire climate change has become. “This is urgent business,” Wyden said. He said there are currently are 40 separate tax breaks for fossil fuel providers. “I am going to propose throwing them into the trash can,” the senator said, adding he is pushing for three tax breaks that would benefit the environment.
The Bend Bulletin
The East Oregonian analyzed ODOT crash data and OSP news releases to get an idea of how many people died on the roads 26 months before and 26 months after the speed limit increase went into effect. Total deaths went up from 60 to 66, representing a 10 percent increase. Over the same time frame, traffic deaths on other state roads fell by 3.5 percent.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A new audit finds problems with how the City of Portland is managing environmental restoration projects and “green streets” designed to control stormwater. The Bureau of Environmental Services is spending millions on projects aimed at improving water quality, restoring wildlife habitat and preventing flooding, but auditors found the bureau often can’t prove those projects are meeting their goals. “The Bureau cannot report on overall progress because there is no inventory of restoration projects on which to base reporting, none of the projects we reviewed had quantifiable goals, and there are no protocols for consistent monitoring or data collection,” the audit states.
Mayor Ted Wheeler now says he expects to run for re-election despite a comment last month that indicated the opposite was true. His new comments came as political circles continue to buzz about what Wheeler muttered in the presence of a reporter for The Oregonian — that he “can’t wait” for his term as mayor to end in two years.
Our schools are struggling in well-documented ways: Oregon students have one of the shortest school years nationally, classroom crowding has mounted as schools cut teaching positions to save money, and as a result of decades of underfunding, graduation rates are among the lowest in the country. By failing to act for 28 years, we have failed our children. Now, however, we have strong signs of hope on the horizon. Realizing that hope will require hard decisions about reforming our revenue system to pay for public services, including schools.
The Bend Bulletin
Gov. Kate Brown’s new proposed budget and policy agenda has some nice ideas — and some that are completely wrongheaded. Brown aims to spend $2 billion more to improve education, help families with child care, add more affordable housing, add more state troopers, add more auditors and add more. Those new goodies sound great. But we need to know the math. Where does the money come from? Running government like a business would mean when you outline a bunch of great things to buy or invest in, you need to show where the money comes from. Anything else is monkey business. Even running a home budget, we’re sure Oregonians can draw up their own wish lists real quick. There’s got to be a responsible plan to pay.
Gov. Brown can send a powerful message not only by approving resource requests but also by calling for the implementation of all the recommendations in the Secretary of State Audits Division report to strengthen and standardize the internal audit function across state agencies. By implementing those recommendations, state agency internal auditors would be better able to assess risk and offer assurance on performance, ultimately bringing the best possible service to Oregon’s citizens.
Portland Tribune Editorial Board
This coming year, there’s a way to give those school districts a little relief. It would take some political guts, but we call on Oregon lawmakers to make the tough call. The Legislature should suspend next year’s income tax “kicker” refunds and use the money to reduce the pension debt saddling our public schools. The Oregon Constitution provides for lawmakers to suspend the individual kicker rebates if there’s a two-thirds vote in both chambers. Lawmakers have only suspended the individual kickers once, back in 1991. Suspending the kicker rebates will be hard for Republicans who treasure them as a brake on government spending. But public schools are in crisis, and this is the prudent, fiscally conservative thing to do. And schools are more popular among GOP constituents than the state or local governments. Democrats have long positioned themselves as the champions of public schools. We ask them to prove it next session by helping schools clear out some of the mountains of pension debt that were imposed on them without their consent.
In late October, Oregon’s Department of Education released its much-awaited report card for Oregon schools. The report showed us two things: One, that schools haven’t made much progress since the last one; and two, that education is of high enough interest to Oregonians that the report’s timing became a political football in the governor’s race. As we approach the 2019 Oregon legislative session — and once again, the state tries to balance its budget while ensuring adequate funding for all education programs — we wanted to ask Oregonians’ opinions about education in this state. The answer depends on which schools you’re asking about. Oregonians have slightly more faith in their local schools than they do in schools across the state. Forty-two percent feel their own districts are doing a good job of educating, while 30 percent feel the same about the state’s schools, and 45 percent think schools statewide are doing a poor job. The largest gaps in perceptions about school performance are between members of different political parties and those with different political ideologies. For example, 51 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of liberals think their local schools are doing a good job. Just 33 percent of Republicans and only 27 percent of conservatives agree.
Herald and News
With a summer of choking smoke still fresh in local residents’ minds, Gov. Kate Brown’s solution is to create a committee to study the state’s wildfire response. She’s allocated $400,000 for said study in her proposed budget that totals $83.5 billion. That’s billion with a B. If that news has smoke coming out of your ears, you’re not alone. In her budget message, Brown says she will issue an executive order establishing something called the Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response: “The charge of the Council is to evaluate Oregon’s current system for responding to large fires, and determine whether or not the current model is sustainable. The Council will issue a report in September of 2019 to make recommendations for the future of Oregon’s wildfire response infrastructure.” Next September. Anyone who spent the last summer in Southern Oregon can tell the governor, and anyone else who cares to ask, whether the current model is “sustainable.” We don’t need to wait until next September — when the 2019 fire season likely has burned tens of thousands more acres and cost hundreds of millions of dollars — to know that what is needed is not another study, but action.