April 14, 2019 Weekend Clips

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

PERS Plan Would Limit Tax Rebates, Affect School Retirement Benefits

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has released her long-awaited plan to tackle the state’s financially troubled public pension system. The governor’s proposal, made public Friday, includes a long list of ideas to raise around $3.3 billion over the next 16 years to shield Oregon schools from most of the rate hikes facing Oregon public employers. State leaders are trying to dig their way out of a pension debt now estimated at nearly $27 billion. The plan includes proposals that could affect taxpayers, the business community and the state’s 70,000 school employees. Among other things, it calls for capping next year’s “kicker” income tax rebate at $100 — a move that would divert up to $500 million from taxpayers into the PERS school rescue fund.

Oregon Lawmakers Want Answers On Out-Of-State Foster Care Kids

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon lawmakers questioned Child Welfare officials in a hearing Thursday. They wanted to know why the number of foster care children being sent out-of-state skyrocketed and how a 9-year-old could be sent to Montana for six months and never be checked on by a caseworker. “Something here has gone very, very wrong,” said Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, who chairs the Senate Committee on Human Services and convened the hearing. “We cannot ignore it and we have to keep this issue front and center until we are satisfied each of these kids are safe.”

Oregon Senate votes to change the way Oregon helps pick the U.S. President

Oregonlive

The Oregon Senate voted on Tuesday to join a movement designed to award the presidency to the winner of the popular vote. The 17 to 12 vote on Senate Bill 870 came after an hour-long debate. If the bill is approved by the Oregon House and signed into law, Oregon would join 14 other states and the District of Columbia in the National Popular Vote compact. The idea behind the compact is that state legislatures would award their state’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes nationwide.

For senators working to tighten laws on teacher sexual misconduct investigations, deja vu in 2019

Oregonlive

It’s been 10 years since Oregon lawmakers Sara Gelser and Arnie Roblan sat on the House Education Committee and ushered through a bill requiring the state’s school districts to draft rules addressing sexual misconduct by teachers. The legislation was a response to a 2008 Oregonian investigation that found officials all too often let problem teachers slide, allowing them to resign from their jobs and move to other districts as complaints went uninvestigated.

Oregon exporter dodged crude oil spill preparedness drill

Oregonlive

Zenith Energy, Oregon’s largest facilitator of crude oil exports, last year defied its agreement with state regulators to show it could control and clean up a major crude spill at its Willamette River terminal in Portland. Instead of drilling with the sludgy, toxics-emitting Canadian tar sands crude that travels by rail through the Columbia Gorge and North Portland neighborhoods to Zenith’s facility, the company used diesel for the mock cleanup. Diesel is easier to practice with because it is less toxic and easier to clean up than Zenith’s crude.

How Land Managers Select Prescribed Fire Areas

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Before we began stopping fire in its tracks, forests were healthier. They had fewer trees, more open space and more fire. “In a lot of our forest systems, we’ve excluded fire for so long. There used to be 30 to 40 times more fire than we’re seeing now,” said Reese Lolley, with the Nature Conservancy and Washington Prescribed Fire Council.  “For forest health, there’s a need to put fire back in those landscapes.” That’s why land managers are using prescribed burns and thinning to restore forests and reduce the extra wood, sticks and needles that fuel megafires. Different land managers look for certain things when they’re selecting where prescribed fires will work best.

LOCAL

Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputy shot, killed

Oregonlive

A sheriff’s deputy in southwest Washington died after he was shot Saturday night while checking on a vehicle that was blocking a road northeast of Kalama. The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office has not identified the deputy, and although investigators have located a “person of interest” in the shooting, they are still seeking information about the incident. Shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, the deputy was sent to check on a vehicle that was blocking Fallert Road near Kalama River Road, according to a sheriff’s press release issued Sunday morning.

State seeks camping ban on Willamette River banks and islands through Eugene

The Register-Guard

tate officials are seeking to ban overnight recreational use and camping on the more than dozen small islands that dot the Willamette River through Eugene. The State Land Board on Tuesday authorized the Department of State Lands to begin the process to impose the ban. The department’s director, Vicki Walker, a Eugene resident and former state senator, said she’d authorize an emergency nighttime closure starting May 15 while the rulemaking is underway. The draft rules as initially proposed would prohibit any recreational use of the islands between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. between Randy Papé Beltline and the Interstate 5 bridge. No camping or fires would be allowed at any time.

OPINION

Editorial: Gov. Brown’s PERS plan offers a strong start (Editorial Agenda 2019)

Oregonlive

Gov. Kate Brown’s new proposal for taming Oregon’s voracious pension debt gives plenty for people to dig into. Her multipronged strategy, aimed at protecting K-12 school districts from skyrocketing contributions to the Public Employees Retirement Fund, leans on taxpayers, lawmakers and public employees to all give at least a little. And while there will be considerable debate in the weeks ahead over the merits and shortcomings of Brown’s proposal, it represents a true show of leadership from the governor on a crisis that she has long chosen to downplay. Brown’s proposal, released on Friday, calls for creating a dedicated fund – seeded with $800 million in one-time money, supplemented with other revenue streams and invested in the market – that would help pay down the PERS debt of Oregon’s K-12 school districts, as The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Ted Sickinger reported. While that won’t erase the amount districts owe, it would stave off the dramatic increases school districts will have to pay PERS over the next 14 years to cover retirement benefits for current workers and retirees. Such a fund would also help ensure that much of the $2 billion in new education revenue that legislators are trying to raise will go to classroom investments as intended rather than simply backfill PERS.

Opinion: A multi-faceted approach to solving Oregon’s traffic congestion

Oregonlive

Everyone who travels around the Portland-Vancouver area knows how much more congested the roads are compared to a few years ago. No matter if you go around town or out of town, to work, play or home, we see increasing delays everywhere. The numbers help tell the story. Oregon Department of Transportation’s latest Traffic Performance Report shows delays on the region’s freeways have increased 20.1 percent increase from 2015 to 2017. As our population and economy grow, morning and afternoon rush hour lasts longer, freight companies dispatch their trucks in the middle of the night to avoid congestion and everyone is spending more time in traffic and less time with friends and family.

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