GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Oregon is on the precipice of becoming the second state after California to adopt a cap-and-trade program, a market-based approach to lowering the greenhouse gas emissions behind global warming. Supporters call it the United States’ most progressive climate policy, saying it not only cuts emissions but invests in transitioning the state economy and infrastructure to better prepare for more intense weather events as climate change worsens. “We have an opportunity to invest a substantial amount into low-income communities off the backs of the 100 or so major polluters that caused this problem,” said Shilpa Joshi, with the lobbying group Renew Oregon. Joshi has spent years working with dozens of organizations around the state to help shape the final legislation.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon legislators could cast crucial votes this week on a bill that would require denser housing in single-family neighborhoods around the state. The measure has largely been kept out of public view for most of the legislative session. But it’s expected to soon move to the Legislature’s budget committee — and then go to showdown votes on the House and Senate floors in the waning days of a session expected to end this month. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, the sponsor of House Bill 2001, and her allies see the measure as a crucial part of their efforts to ease a housing crunch that has driven up prices and left many people scrambling for a place to live.
Oregon lawmakers are on the verge of requiring officials at the state’s embattled child welfare agency to inform the public more quickly and thoroughly when children die by abuse after recent intervention — or inaction — by their department. Under the new mandate, the Department of Human Services would have to notify the public about a child’s abuse or neglect death soon after case workers learn how the child died. It also would impose stricter standards for the details the agency must disclose about the child’s death.
Expecting lawmakers to voluntarily cut themselves off from the unlimited campaign contributions Oregon’s Constitution allows them might never have been realistic. The Oregonian reports that the primary reform bill lawmakers worked on this session, House Bill 2714, is dead in the Senate after earlier passing the House. After Nike co-founder Phil Knight contributed $2.5 million last year to GOP nominee for governor Knute Buehler, Gov. Kate Brown and legislative Democrats pledged to address Oregon’s lack of the contribution limits this session. (Oregon is one of just five states that do not limit contributions.)
Facing an ever-mounting caseload, dozens of public defenders in Oregon walked out of courthouses and into the statehouse last week to lobby for a bill that would fix a staffing shortage and an outdated contract payment system that has some attorneys representing more than 200 clients at once. A national watchdog report deemed Oregon’s fixed-fee contract system for paying its public defenders unconstitutional earlier this year, and the ACLU has threatened to sue. But sweeping legislation that would fix the problem has been stalled in a House committee since April — and now, two weeks remain before lawmakers go home for the year.
A remotely operated underwater vehicle identified 18 barrels at the bottom of Wallowa Lake Friday, including at least one bearing a label that says it contains one of the two defoliants used in Agent Orange. An unspecified number were intact; others had rusted out. A contractor for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was still assessing the drums late Friday, with divers working between 90 and 120 feet below the alpine lake’s surface to conduct detailed visual and tactile inspections of the intact barrels.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case of an Oregon cake shop fined by the state after its owners refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. But the high court also ordered the Oregon Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision upholding the state’s fine in light of another wedding cake case from Colorado the Supreme Court decided last year. Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa of Gresham, sought to take their case to the Supreme Court last year. They want a court to overturn an order to pay $135,000 in damages, imposed by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in 2015 after the agency found the Kleins had violated a state anti-discrimination law.
Jason Wilson supervises one of the least known and, arguably, most important departments at Salem Health Hospitals & Clinics: sterile processing, where medical instruments go for cleaning before they’re put to work. The department has some of the hardest jobs for Salem Health to fill. “You don’t have to have any previous experience,” Wilson said as he stood amid the hubbub of daily sterilization work. “However, a lot of people don’t know what the job entails.” What it entails is a massive volume of work — the department cleanses not only Salem Hospital tools, but also equipment from other medical facilities under the Salem Health umbrella — and a life-or-death attention to detail.
Due to recent wildfire starts across the region, Monday is the official start of fire season for Northeast Oregon. Fire managers and weather forecasters look for an average fire season for the Blue Mountains, but dry conditions are attracting concern for large wildfires between the Cascades and the Oregon Coast. Dan Slagle, forecaster at the National Weather Service in Pendleton, said there is no strong signal that the summer weather patterns would be unusual, but July and August are predicted to be warm. “We are trending toward cooler and drier weather the next one to two weeks, but longer trends favor warmer than normal conditions,” he said.
Though Astoria has plenty of places for people to live, the city’s housing stock is not fully serving residents, a countywide housing study concluded. The city remains short of affordable and workforce housing, as well as land that’s open and available to build new houses and apartments. At a City Council work session Thursday, consultants recommended a number of strategies, such as code and zoning changes the city could implement to encourage diverse types of development. There are also incentives Astoria could consider to coax developers into building the kind of housing city leaders want to see.
The Navy is taking a second look at whether to send nuclear reactor compartments from the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Hanford for disposal. In 2012, the Department of Defense found no issues that would prevent the defueled reactor compartments of the U.S. Navy’s USS Enterprise from being disposed of at the Hanford nuclear reservation. But a new study is being launched after the Navy identified commercial disposal alternatives, which might cut costs.