GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Democratic lawmakers leading the Oregon Legislature’s quest for new business taxes are pressing the state’s largest business association to take a final position on which type of tax it prefers. In a letter sent on Thursday to Oregon Business & Industry President Sandra McDonough, Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton and Rep. Nancy Nathanson of Eugene laid out three options to raise an additional $1 billion a year in new business taxes.
Oregon legislators heard testimony Monday on a bill that would prohibit courts from asking defendants about their immigration status, a move advocates said would help encourage immigrants afraid of deportation to participate in the judicial system. It’s one of a pair of bills advocates said would help apply Oregon’s laws equally to immigrants of various statuses who are experiencing unintended consequences in state courts. House Bill 2932 would also require a defendant be informed on how a plea might impact their immigration status and give them more time for a plea decision afterward.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
As ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft push to expand their influence throughout Oregon, state lawmakers face a debate: what rules should the companies comply with when doing so? Two bills before lawmakers this session would sketch very different paths for how the popular companies could move beyond major population centers like Portland, Salem and Eugene to less dense parts of the state.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown wants to select a new secretary of state who does not plan to seek re-election in 2020, saying that person should be focused on running elections and not running for office. Brown told reporters Thursday that when she was elevated from secretary of state to governor in 2015 with the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber over an ethics scandal, she named a secretary of state to replace her who would not run for re-election the following year.
Many political observers around Oregon were surprised late last October when the most prominent third-party candidate for governor dropped out of the race and endorsed Gov. Kate Brown for re-election. Patrick Starnes, nominee of the Independent Party of Oregon, said he decided to back Brown because he believed they shared common cause on perhaps the biggest policy issue of his campaign: campaign finance reform. “We’re going to get this done,” Brown vowed at the time. “No question in my mind.”
The Oregon House approved a 10-year ban on fracking to explore for oil and natural gas. Lawmakers voted 42-12 on Monday to prohibit the process, which injects high-pressure liquids into underground rock to extract oil and gas. The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration. There are currently no fracking operations in Oregon. But developers say there’s potential for coalbed methane extraction in the Willamette Valley, which this bill would also block.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Fraud. Sham. A tremendous wrong. These are choice words from Oregon’s Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Republican Rep. Greg Walden about the Huntington Treaty of 1865. This week the delegation introduced a bill to nullify the contract, which has long been considered illegal by federal judges and elected officials. “This legislation is a monumental opportunity to reverse a villainous fraud committed long ago against the Warm Springs people,” said Warm Springs Tribal council chairman E. Austin Greene Jr. in a press release.
Four years of investigation into the illegal timber trade in West Africa led an environmental group to the doorstep of Roseburg Forest Products, one of the Oregon’s largest and oldest timber companies. In a study to be released soon, the Environmental Investigation Agency claims tens of millions of Americans have been exposed to illegally-sourced timber “because of the negligent role of the manufacturer and the complicity of the American importer.”
The long roads of Eastern Oregon have gotten lonelier for Oregon State Police over the past four decades, and troopers are now lobbying to reverse the trend. At a Joint Committee for Ways and Means hearing in Pendleton on Friday, several troopers used their off-duty hours to tell state legislators that they needed to commit to bolstering OSP’s dwindling ranks. The issue isn’t limited to Eastern Oregon.
Hours after President Donald Trump signed his first veto, Rep. Greg Walden’s vote in favor of the vetoed bill was on a lot of minds in Hermiston. During a town hall at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center on Friday afternoon, Walden fielded several questions about his decision to vote for a resolution blocking Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to get more funding for a border wall. Trump vetoed the resolution Friday, and Congress is not expected to be able to rally the needed two-thirds majority to overturn the veto.
A new report lifts the veil on the arrests made in Portland Public Schools — but numbers alone are unlikely to quell the fractious debate over armed officers inside local classrooms. The seven-page document from Portland Police Bureau’s strategic services division outlines a deluge of calls for service from schools that quickly narrows to just a trickle of arrests.
Supporters of the proposed county courthouse have formed a political action committee to campaign for the $154 million bond measure that Lane County voters will decide in the May 21 special election. The committee, Equal Justice for All, has raised $8,125 in contributions to support the bond, Measure 20-299, according to the state’s online campaign finance database.
Housing issues are among the most pressing problems facing Oregonians and are having an impact on their health, according to the 2019 County Health Rankings Report being released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Fully one-fifth, or 20 percent, of Oregon households are facing severe housing problems, defined as overcrowding, high housing costs or lack of kitchen and plumbing facilities.
Cooper Whitman, the president and CEO of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce, will step down in mid-April to take the position of economic development specialist with Marion County. Whitman has led the Corvallis chamber since August 2015. He said he had mixed emotions about his departure.
A state’s financial commitment to higher education says something about its aspirations — and right now Oregon appears to be striving for mediocrity. Gov. Kate Brown’s blueprint for the 2019-21 biennial budget had called for state funding for operations at public universities to stay stagnant, at $736 million. At that level, Oregon may not even be able to hang onto its current ranking — a dismal 46th — in state taxpayer support for higher education. And with employee retirement and health care costs rising fast, a flat-funded budget actually would mean a decrease in money available for instructors, counselors and student services. It also would mean higher tuition, which puts a greater onus on students and parents to pay for a college education.
As I begin my term as a Metro councilor, I frequently ask myself: What kind of region are we going to leave for future Oregonians? What communities will benefit from our decisions? I believe the issues we work on are interconnected. As we develop strategies to support a healthy climate, affordable homes, options for getting around and access to nature, we need to ensure the outcomes benefit everyone — particularly the people who have borne the brunt of injustice for so long.