Oregon Public Broadcasting
As the partial federal government shutdown cruised toward a 26th day, add anti-harassment training for Oregon legislators and Capitol staff to the list of casualties. State senators Tuesday morning were scheduled to undergo the training on “Leading For Respect,” as part of a slate of programming aimed at achieving a better workplace culture. Legislative staff were scheduled to attend a talk on preventing and reporting harassment. State representatives and their staffs planned to attend the seminars Wednesday. The problem: The training is run by employees of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has been closed under the shutdown. “Irony is when the Oregon Legislature’s new and improved workplace harassment training is canceled because of the Trump federal Government shutdown,” state Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, tweeted on Monday.
Federal employees working without pay during the shutdown, such as air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration workers at airports, are not eligible for unemployment benefits through the state, said David Gerstenfeld, the Oregon Unemployment Insurance Division director. There are 29,189 federal employees in the state of Oregon and about 9,558 of those employees work in federal agencies affected by the shutdown, according to Governing, a magazine for local and state government officials. Gerstenfeld said since the start of the shutdown 1,900 federal employees in Oregon have applied for state unemployment benefits. That compares to just under 450 federal employees who applied for unemployment benefits with the state over the same time period last year. Northwest Community Credit Union is one of thousands of credit unions, banks, credit card and loan companies across the nation working with federal employees to help them pay their bills during the shutdown, according to the Credit Union National Association. Northwest already has helped at least 20 federal employees with small, short-term loans, reduced loan payments or deferred loan payments, said Jan Griffin, NWCU senior director of branches.
As the partial government shutdown roll into its fourth week, many federal offices and facilities around the mid-valley are closed to the public or operating at reduced levels. Offices of the Willamette National Forest, including the Springfield headquarters and the Sweet Home Ranger Station, are also closed. Technically, Forest Service recreation sites are also closed, although most remain accessible to the public at their own risk and without access to facilities including restrooms, according to a statement from the service’s parent agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other USDA operations expected to be closed by the shutdown include county Farm Service Agency offices such as the one in Tangent, although the Natural Resources Conservation Service office at the same location was slated to keep operating, the statement said. Likewise, Market Facilitation Program payments will keep coming in for agricultural producers who have already certified production with the Farm Service Agency.
When her paychecks dried up because of the partial government shutdown, Cheryl Inzunza Blum sought out a side job that has become a popular option in the current economy: She rented out a room on Airbnb. Other government workers are driving for Uber, relying on word-of-mouth and social networks to find handyman work and looking for traditional temp gigs to help pay the bills during the longest shutdown in U.S. history. The hundreds of thousands of out-of-work government employees have more options than in past shutdowns given the rise of the so-called “gig economy” that has made an entire workforce out of people doing home vacation rentals and driving for companies like Uber, Lyft and Postmates.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Cheri Helt finds herself in the middle a lot these days. She ran as a middle-of-the-road Republican, winning House District 54, which is both geographically and politically near the middle of the state. Now she finds herself in the middle of what promises to be one of the most contentious sessions of the Legislature in recent memory. Helt is a moderate in an increasingly conservative Republican caucus, which itself is dwarfed by the Democrats’ 38-22 supermajority in the House. Helt still believes she can get things done, even if politically, she is a minority within a minority. “My hope is we have a very bipartisan session,” Helt said. “I am very excited to work with anybody regardless of party.” Helt spoke Monday in her new Capitol office after being sworn into office for a two-year term. The legislative session formally begins Tuesday. Helt said she is optimistic she will be able to work with Democrats on her goals, which center on education. She’s been named vice-chair of the House Education Committee and a member of the Joint Committee on Student Success. Helt hopes political discussions will move beyond the “D” for Democrat and “R” for Republican partisanship.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
The Oregon Health Authority has changed is policy on hearing aids. Low-income patients can now get two aids, instead of just one. Up to now, the Oregon Health Plan had limited patients to one hearing aid every five years. They can be expensive, costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars. The change came at the urging of Rep. Rick Lewis, R-Silverton, a retired police officer, including a 28-year tenure as Silverton’s police chief. He asked the state to change the rules because people with one hearing aid can feel like sound is only coming from one direction. “When people lose hearing in one ear, they typically lose it in both,” said Lewis. “If they have one hearing aid most sound comes from one direction.” The Oregon Health Authority researched the possible effects of the change Rep. Lewis suggested, and state health officials agreed.
Statewide rent control in Oregon—a concept that terrifies landlords and some economists—appears set to sail through the Legislature. Senate Bill 608, which would limit rent increases and bar no-cause evictions after a tenant’s first year in a building, has powerful sponsorship from House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland). On Jan. 14, the bill received the endorsement of Gov. Kate Brown. “We also need to help Oregonians who have homes but are struggling with the high cost of rent,” Brown said in her inaugural address. “We can help landlords and tenants navigate this tight housing market. Speaker Kotek and Sen. Burdick have innovative proposals that will give renters some peace of mind.” With super majorities in both chambers, Democrats are confident the legislation—which would make Oregon the first state to enact statewide rent control—will move forward.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden will hold a pair of town-hall meetings Friday and Saturday in the mid-valley. Wyden will hold his Benton County meeting at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Monroe High School’s new gym, 365 N. Fifth St. in Monroe. On Saturday, Wyden will hold his Linn County meeting at 3 p.m. at the Russell Tripp Performance Center at Linn-Benton Community College, 6500 Pacific Blvd. SW in Albany. (The best access will be off Allen Lane.) They’re the first two stops in a series of 12 Wyden town halls that will wrap up on Jan. 26. Wyden, a Democrat, has promised to hold at least one town hall annually in each of the state’s 36 counties.
SENATE BILL 501
Klamath Falls News
Ore – Today, Oregon’s legislators return to Salem to prepare for the
2019 session. In their email inboxes, they will find Oregonians have
already begun to react to proposed firearms-related bills. House
Republican Leader Carl Wilson minced no words after review of SB 501:
“It’s clear we Second Amendment supporters have another existential
struggle on our hands,” Wilson said. “Folks need to contact the
sponsors, because the result of this bill will be to criminalize the
average, gun-owning Oregonian.” “No camouflage can mask this
unconscionable move to disarm Oregon’s law-abiding citizens. I will not
compromise on the Second Amendment. Using our own vulnerable and
impressionable, yet immature, children as human shields to mask this
lawless effort is immoral and highly disconcerting. The same people who
place no value on the lives of the unborn, claim that Republicans, who
don’t join in with the gun-grabbers, don’t care about life. This is a
complete distortion of reality. Namely, Oregonians need to rise up and
put a stop to the Democrats’ attempts to commit violence to the
Constitution and endanger their lives. ” — Senator Dennis Linthicum,
District 28 Klamath Falls
“The right to bear arms ensures our liberties and our families are protected. However, Portland-area Democrats have written a radical gun-control proposal for 2019 Session that will make it harder for law-abiding Oregonians to purchase firearms and ammunition. Gun control laws by their very nature only work if people are willing to obey, which restricts law-abiding citizens. Gun control helps the lawless. I stand against this bill and I will continue to support the Second Amendment,” — Rep. E. Werner Reschke, House District 56
“I plan to vote NO on the bill.” — Rep. Mike McLane, House District 55
A new gun-safety bill is expected to work its way through the Oregon legislature this session. The possible changes include strengthening the requirements needed to get a get permit, as well as limiting how much ammunition can be purchased in a 30-day window. Senate Bill 501 is already drawing some backlash from run-rights groups, who are calling the measure an attack on the Second Amendment. Legislators who are sponsoring the bill say it will make common-sense changes to keep Oregonians safe. Similar gun-safety measures have been proposed in recent years but have failed to get on a ballot.
A bill that would increase firearm regulations in Oregon is a reminder that states have vastly different gun laws. In Idaho, for example, you can purchase a gun from a private owner without going through a background check. In Oregon, background checks are required for all sales. The bill proposed to appear in the Legislature this year would require Oregonians to obtain a permit before buying a gun, limit the amount of ammunition a person could buy, outlaw magazines with a capacity of more than five rounds, and create gun locking and storage requirements. If passed, Senate Bill 501 would make Oregon’s firearms regulations among the strictest in the U.S. Compared to most other western states, Oregon already has stricter gun laws.
If your car drives off the road, your house catches fire, or your ex is pounding too loudly on your door in Wheeler County, know this: It’s likely to be a long time before help arrives. Currently, a four-person sheriff’s office patrols the rural county in north-central Oregon. Yet a system of volunteer firefighters and EMTs, in place for more than a generation in the county, is in danger of collapse. The number of volunteer firefighters has dropped by more than half since the lumber mill in Fossil closed more than 20 years ago, taking with it most of the local economy and much of the population. The regional emergency dispatch center in nearby Condon is down three positions. To cover, dispatchers have been working 12-hour shifts for nearly a year. There are no city police departments in Wheeler County and no Oregon State Police troopers are based there, though some can respond from neighboring jurisdictions many miles away.
Herald and News
In a Tuesday morning meeting, the Klamath County Wolf Depredation Advisory Committee discussed the October wolf killing of four calves in the Fort Klamath area. Three of the calves belonged to DeTar Livestock of Dixon, Calif., and were killed on land owned by Bill Nicholson. The other belonged to Roger Nicholson and was killed on his land. Tom Collum, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Klamath Falls District biologist, said ODFW confirmed wolves in the Rogue pack killed the calves. He said more than one wolf was likely involved in the killing. The advisory committee, tasked with distributing state wolf depredation funds to farmers and ranchers, did not make a compensation decision regarding DeTar Livestock’s and Roger Nicholson’s cases. Committee member Lyndon Kerns said they would likely discuss compensation at a meeting within a few months. Kerns estimated each calf, 550- to 650-pounds, had a market value of about $1,000, which would be returned to the livestock owners. The committee also authorized funds from their current grant cycle for extra crackers shells — noise-makers shot from 12-gauge pistols to deter wolf activity. Collum said the cracker-shells would be stockpiled for later use. The committee agreed that funds from their next state grant cycle, which Collum said would begin in April or May, would be used to purchase inflatable dancing tube men as often seen in car dealership parking lots.
Two weeks after becoming the first African-American woman to serve on the City Council, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is speaking out against a small group of white males who frequently disrupt council hearings. “This behavior limits access to those entering this building for the very first time or for those who are new to the political process. This is not the spirit of speaking up for civic change that is the heart of activism,” Hardesty said in a statement released early Wednesday that she read at the start of the Jan. 16 council meeting. In the statement, Hardesty accused the men of using their “privilege” to disrupt the proceedings without adding anything of value to the issues the council is considering. As a result, Hardesty says, many other Portlanders are afraid to come to council meetings, especially parents with young children.
A federal judge blocked the Trump administration Tuesday from asking about citizenship status on the 2020 census, the first major ruling in cases contending officials ramrodded the question through for Republican political purposes to intentionally undercount immigrants. In a 277-page decision that won’t be the final word on the issue, Judge Jesse M. Furman ruled that while such a question would be constitutional, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and violated the law. The ruling came in cases in which 18 states, the District of Columbia, 15 big cities or counties, and immigrants’ rights groups argued that the Commerce Department, which designs the census, failed to properly analyze the effect that the question would have on households with immigrants. The constitutionally mandated census is supposed to count all people living in the U.S., including noncitizens and immigrants living in the country illegally. The administration faces an early summer deadline for finalizing questions so questionnaires can be printed.
Kevin Frazier and Pablo Nieves-Valenzuela
The men who work in our state’s halls of power, including administrative staff, lobbyists and elected officials, need to step up. We need to recognize how our actions as well as our failure to take action affect the safety and well-being of the women who work with us every day. You can’t be what you can’t see. For many decades, Oregon public officials have attested to their commitment to protecting victims of sexual harassment. They made promises to stem the sorts of behaviors that demean, belittle and discriminate. The recent report issued by the Bureau of Labor and Industry — under the administration of now former-Commissioner Brad Avakian — makes clear that these words and pledges are not enough to create the cultural change we need to prevent sexual violence in the Capitol. The men who work in our state’s halls of power, including administrative staff, lobbyists and elected officials, need to step up. We need to recognize how our actions as well as our failure to take action affect the safety and well-being of the women who work with us every day. The report surely has its share of skewed information, but the underlying stories demand substantive changes to Salem’s culture.
Did we not hear former Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi advocate for border security in the past? What changed? Oh, it was Donald Trump being elected and the block-anything-Trump-or-the-Republicans-propose strategy was placed into action. I suppose the United States should adopt the city of Portland’s position to provide for all, regardless of legal status. The wall/barrier — or whatever you want to call it — is for all U.S. citizens to be safe from illegal intruders. Get in line and apply if you want to live in the United States and be able to sustain yourself and your family. Build the wall, Mr. President.
It’s outrageous the government shutdown has continued for more than three weeks with no end in sight. President Donald Trump is staking his political future on a $5.7 billion border wall that experts say would not resolve most immigration problems — and one that he repeatedly promised would be paid for by Mexico. Republicans, most of whom seem to travel in lockstep with him regardless of whether his ideas make any sense, are of no help. Democrats have floated ideas for separating the shutdown from the border wall issue and have been rebuffed. So federal workers aren’t receiving paychecks, our national parks are getting trashed and our air traffic control system is threatened, to name just a few of the cascading ill effects. Yet those who are supposedly leading us continue to collect their paychecks while accomplishing absolutely nothing. We, the people, deserve better.