February 12, 2019 Daily Clips

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Oregon House Speaker: Tobacco Industry Shares Blame For Offensive Statement

Oregon Public Broadcasting

As an Oregon senator weathers near-universal criticism for a press release he sent last week, House Speaker Tina Kotek wants to spread the blame further.Kotek told reporters Monday that state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, should apologize for his statement that high tobacco taxes caused the death of Eric Garner. Garner is the black man who was killed by New York City police in 2014 after being stopped for selling individual cigarettes. But Kotek also noted Linthicum’s position isn’t new. “I don’t think you all realize: This talking point about Eric Garner is a talking point from the tobacco industry,” she said. “This didn’t come out of nowhere. People can say it’s a bunch of conservative bloggers, but this particular topic has been used in other states and other places to talk about why we should be fighting an increase in tobacco taxes.”

Proposed Oregon law would tighten system to catch, punish educators who engage in sexual misconduct

Oregonlive

The Oregon Legislature is weighing a bill that would close loopholes and fix weaknesses in state rules that allowed a longtime educator to repeatedly dodge accusations of sexual misconduct in the state’s largest school district. Senate Bill 155 would strengthen the state teacher licensing agency’s powers to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by codifying many of its rules into law and broadening its jurisdiction to cover staff, contractors and volunteers working directly with students, not just licensed educators. In 2017, state lawmakers passed a provision that extended teaching license expirations — educators would need to renew them after five years instead of three. Before then, the educator licensing agency charged $90 per license, or $30 per year. The fee went up to $140, or $28 per year. Still, the legislation patches some major loopholes, Rosilez said. And Roblan said he’s heartened that Democrats and Republicans have been working to amend the bill and get it ready for consideration.

Senator refuses to back down after cigarette tax comments draw rebuke

Portland Tribune

State Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, finds himself alone on a political island after being publicly rebuked by fellow legislators for an inflammatory statement about a police killing. Republicans and Democrats alike condemned him for a news release he sent out criticizing a proposed tobacco tax increase by referring to the 2014 death of a black man in police custody. House Republicans reacted as well. “No purpose is served in relating a cigarette tax request to the tragic death of a man of color,” spokesman Greg Stiles said in the statement on behalf of Republican representatives. “At best, the remarks are unsavory and offensive. Such a comparison is indefensible and has no place in Oregon political discourse.” The House Republicans called on Linthicum to answer questions about the remarks, disagreeing with the assertion that taxes caused Garner’s death.

Supporters, Critics Pack 1st Oregon Hearing On Single Family Zoning

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Supporters and opponents flocked to the first legislative hearing Monday on a bill that would require Oregon cities to allow denser housing in existing single-family neighborhoods. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and other supporters of the measure said it would play an important role in easing Oregon’s shortage of housing – particularly for homes that aren’t out of the financial reach of most residents. But officials from numerous cities said the bill could over-burden local services and cause a number of unintended impact


The urban-rural divide in Oregon has become more pronounced

The Register-Guard

In 1966 in Multnomah County, 59 percent of voters were registered Democrats. In the Eastern Oregon region, 56 percent were registered Democrats. Each region of the state was at least 50 percent Democrat. But, Republican Tom McCall handily won the 1966 gubernatorial election with more than 55 percent of the vote, losing only three counties. The state’s rural and urban split has deepened with the growth of Portland, the state’s only metropolitan area with a population in the country’s top 120 — Portland ranks 25th. Salem, the state’s second biggest metro area, is 126th. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1960, Oregon had a population of 1.772 million, while the Portland metro area had a population of 881,961 — 49.6 percent of the state’s population. In 2017, the census bureau estimated Oregon had a population of 4.143 million, and the Portland metro area’s population was 2.435 million — 58.77 percent of the state’s population. This urbanization of the state’s population is part of a nationwide trend. In 1960, 69.9 percent of the U.S.’s population lived in urban areas. In 2010, that had climbed to 80.7 percent of the population.

Oregon lawmakers debate multiple bills to make gun laws more restrictive

Statesman Journal

For the Oregon Legislature, it’s not a question of whether any firearms legislation will pass this session.  It’s really a question about what will pass. Gov. Kate Brown has made firearms legislation a priority. Democratic leadership, in the majority, is backing her up.  Lawmakers also have ideas of their own. So do high school students from Lake Oswego.  The debate runs along a well-worn path for legislators in Oregon and statehouses across the nation in recent years. The nation’s wave of mass shootings has heightened public awareness of the consequences of firearms, particularly high-powered rifles, falling into the wrong hands.   The proposals — like mandatory gun locks, defining assault rifles and limiting ammunition purchases — draw criticism from Oregonians seeking to protect their way of life and fearful that legislation will have unintended consequences that go beyond preventing tragedies. Not every bill would put restrictions in place. Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, is making a run again at getting Oregon to recognize concealed handgun licenses from any other state, or reciprocity. House Bill 2298 will die, if past efforts are any indication. “I don’t have high hopes,” said Rep. Post, who has pushed similar legislation in 2017 and 2015, when it passed the House.  He compares the concept to out-of-state driver licenses.

Wyden Backs Tax Break For Craft Beverage Makers

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced a bill to permanently reduce federal taxes on the craft alcohol industry. Staggered to benefit smaller brewers, vintners and distillers the most, some $4.2 billion in temporary tax breaks were introduced in 2017. Wedged into the GOP’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act, the reforms were first championed by the Democratic Senator in 2015. Taxing alcohol as a sin goes back to the 1700s, and excise taxes are still levied on things deemed harmful to society — such as pornography, tobacco and alcohol.


LOCAL

Salem’s long-proposed third bridge dies on city council vote

Statesman Journal

The third bridge in Salem is dead. The long-discussed and debated third bridge over the Willamette River in Salem died by a 6-3 vote of the city council Monday night, bringing an end to 13 years of work on the Salem River Crossing proposal and 50 years of discussion about the possibility. “There is no other bridge than this one that will be on the table for the next 20 to 30 years,” Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett said. City councilors Cara Kaser, Tom Andersen, Jackie Leung, Matt Ausec, Chris Hoy and Sally Cook voted to take no action on the remaining land use issues needed to keep the project alive. City councilors Jim Lewis and Brad Nanke voted with the mayor to move forward with the final environmental impact statement that would have kept the project alive. “We are going to recognize starting tomorrow the negative ramifications of what this is doing to the city,” Lewis said.

Fritz: Non-religious rights should be protected

Portland Tribune

The City Council will consider amending the city’s Civil Rights Code to clarify that the rights of those with with a non-religion — such as atheism, agnosticism, or lack of belief in God or Gods — are also protected. The ordinance was submitted by Commissioner Amanda Fritz at the request of Cheryl Kolbe, President of Freedom From Religion Portland Chapter. “This change says that Portland chooses to make certain that non-believers receive the same protection from discrimination as those in any form of religion,” Kolbe said in a Tuesday press release from Fritz’s office. “This is very affirming for those of us who are atheist, agnostic or any other form of non-belief. It is the right thing to do.” State law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on non-religion, and courts have a mixed record on whether non-religion should receive the same protections as religious beliefs.

OPINION


Letter | Homeless problems becoming more visible

East Oregonian

I have had very little contact with homeless people, like most residents in Pendleton. The last few months have opened my eyes. It is a problem in Pendleton and most of these homeless do not choose to live this way. The Salvation Army provide a lot of help for the homeless in Pendleton. A place to get a good meal and help finding other places where they can get the help they need, like Lifeways, Catholic food bank, warming station and a lot of the churches in Pendleton. I know there are others who also help. Some of the help is financed with our taxes, the majority are financed by donations. We need to support these charities who rely on us for funds. I give to the Salvation Army when I can and know the Salvation Army has a good record as to how the funds are spent. If you are looking for somewhere to make a donation you can’t go wrong with the Salvation Army.

February 11, 2019 Daily Clips

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Report: Economic Benefits Of Cap And Trade Will Outweigh The Costs In Oregon

Oregon Public Broadcasting

A new economic report finds Oregon’s proposed cap-and-trade plan would create thousands of jobs and boost household income while creating only modest increases in energy prices. Moreover, the report concludes, the more aggressive interim cap on greenhouse gas emissions proposed for 2035 would create even more economic benefits than a more gradual decline in emissions from 2021 and 2050. An analysis by Berkeley Economic Advising and Research finds capping greenhouse gas emissions as proposed in House Bill 2020 would spur widespread adoption of energy-saving technology by the year 2050. That, in turn, will create significant economic growth, said the research company’s director, David Roland-Holst. The company analyzed the possible outcomes of Oregon’s cap-and-trade plan using economic forecasting tools, existing economic data and the basic outline of the proposed policy, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. “We find Oregon can meet its 2050 climate goals in ways that achieve higher aggregate economic growth and employment,” he said in reporting his findings to the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction Friday.  “This will require a fundamental restructuring of Oregon’s economy. It’s not a simple matter,” he said. “The economy of Oregon 30 years from now is going to be a very different from the one we’re sitting in today.” Kathryn Williams, director of government affairs for NW Natural, told lawmakers her company has crunched some numbers and found natural gas prices will likely increase by double-digit percentages throughout the program. In the early years, she said, rates are expected to go up by 11 percent for residential customers and by 28 percent for industrial customers under the current cap-and-trade proposal, and the increases would continue to grow as the program continued. By 2040, the company projects natural gas bills would increase by 53 percent for residential customers and by 117 percent for industrial customers. Williams proposed changing the language in the existing bill to give gas utilities free pollution permits in the first year of the program and reduce those free permits as time goes on. Her proposal is similar to what California has done with natural gas utilities in its cap-and-trade program.

Parents, legislators push for end to school violence

Portland Tribune

Four days before Chloe Wilson took her life, the 14-year-old from Eugene was meeting with her legislators at the state Capitol, eager to push for more recognition of people with mental illnesses. She died Feb. 26, 2018. Nearly a year later, her father and stepmother, Jason and Roxanne Wilson, returned to the Capitol in Chloe’s honor to push for more robust suicide prevention policies in Oregon schools. Lawmakers are listening. Eighteen senators and representatives have sponsored a plan to direct nearly $2 million per year to address violence and bullying in schools. They call it the “Oregon Safe To Learn Act.” The state would help schools screen for potential violence, promote the state’s school safety tip line, and create programs aimed at preventing suicide, harassment and bullying. The idea is to reduce those incidents. The act would pay for 15 employees at the Department of Education to lead that work. Those employees would help school districts with prevention programs and help coordinate schools with mental and behavioral health care providers. It would also help school and education service districts to establish teams to assess threats to student safety. Those teams would, under the proposed law, also develop intervention plans and connect students and families with local resources and support. In an interview, state Sen. Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, said lawmakers should check back in next year to see whether those measures are effective. State Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, a longtime Bend-La Pine School Board member until last month, was moved to tears by the testimony on Wednesday, Feb. 6. She said Central Oregon lost 15 children to suicide in 2017. In that area, she said, a suicide prevention specialist in Deschutes County works with local schools. “This program that you’re proposing has five suicide specialists, so that means they’re going to have a much broader area,” Helt told Dave Novotney, who helped lead the group that developed the Oregon Safe To Learn Act, during a public hearing on Wednesday. “I would say our one in our county is already overworked and struggling.”

LOCAL

Pledge of Allegiance returns to Fairview City Council

Portland Tribune

In his first two meeting as Fairview’s mayor, Brian Cooper removed the Pledge of Allegiance from the City Council’s agenda without any prior discussion with council members. But at the council’s meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 6, the pledge will be recited once again. Cooper decide to reinstate the oath after receiving criticism from City Councilors and community members. “We have fake (online social media) accounts starting fights and non-Fairview residents calling my office regarding an issue that is basically between seven members of council, who actually have varying opinions on the subject,” Cooper said in email on Thursday, Jan. 31, to Fairview City Councilors obtained by The Outlook. “I had high hopes that we would be able to sit down in a non-confrontational environment and listen to everybody’s concerns and perhaps come up with something better. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem possible anymore.” Councilor Natalie Voruz objected to omitting the Pledge of Allegiance during the council’s Wednesday, Jan. 16, meeting.

Is Portland Ready To Let Go Of Its Commission System Of Government?

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Portland’s City Club wants to talk about the structural problem with our government. No, not PERS, or the lack of a statewide sales tax. The commission system. In a report released Sunday, a research team convened by the civic group recommends a complete overhaul of Portland’s unusual form of government. Portland is the last large American city still using a commission system, in which members of the City Council are elected citywide and serve a dual role as legislators and administrators of individual bureaus. The City Club’s research committee found that the system “is inherently inequitable and has long since ceased to be the most effective form of government for Portland.” The report could be the first salvo in a new campaign to convince voters to abandon the commission system. In the next two years, the City Council has to convene a group of 20 citizens to review the city’s charter and recommend changes to put to voters for approval. Mayor Ted Wheeler says he supports changing the form of government — if voters approve it. Portland’s commission system and at-large elections have long been viewed as problematic by Portland’s mayors and by groups concerned with equity. But voters have remained stubbornly supportive of it. Proponents view it as a point of civic pride, a way to prevent the mayor from holding too much power, and a system that has helped the city lead on environmental issues and other policies that are citywide priorities without a geographic focus. The City Club’s report recommends hiring a professional city manager to run bureaus and oversee day-to-day services, increasing the size of the City Council, and electing that council using districts, instead of having candidates run citywide. Those recommendations are a change of tune from the civic organization, which helped defeat the last effort to ditch the commission system in 2007.

Army helicopters shake Salem awake; Night Stalkers on special ops training

Statesman Journal

Low-flying Chinook helicopters rattled residents late Thursday night from South Salem to Keizer. For much of the day after, no one seemed to know who they were or where they came from. They weren’t from the Oregon National Guard. They weren’t based locally. The large, twin-engine, tandem-rotor military aircraft, conducting a refueling exercise at Independence State Airport, buzzed over local neighborhoods between 10 p.m. and midnight. “They literally shook my apartment so hard that pictures fell off the walls,” Keizer’s Jay Free wrote in a 12:04 a.m. email to the Statesman Journal. “The last one just flew by. Why is this happening? It’s worrying me.” “What are they doing flying so low and so late?” a resident posted around midnight on the neighborhood social platform Nextdoor Sumpter in South Salem. While we don’t have those answers, we can now tell you they were special ops helicopters from the U.S. Army’s 4th Battalion of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. The regiment is better known as the “Night Stalkers,” and its missions include attack, assault and reconnaissance assignments and are usually conducted at night, at high speeds and at low altitudes. They fly the MH-47G Chinook, a special ops variant of the CH-47.

OPINION

Opinion: Our task force protects Americans and upholds the Constitution

Oregonlive

Cannon is a 20-year FBI veteran and the special agent in charge of Oregon. More information about the Oregon Joint Terrorism Task Force is available at https://portland.fbi.gov. The mission of the FBI is twofold: to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. This means we must protect citizens across Oregon’s diverse communities while simultaneously protecting their rights. Last year, people worried about crimes and violence sent hundreds of thousands of tips and leads to the FBI. In Portland, our Joint Terrorism Task Force has been combing through such tips and leads since 2000 to help keep our community safe from violence. Participation of our local police departments makes the task force effective. In addition to providing a mechanism for rapid information sharing, local police officers bring an increased understanding of the communities they patrol every day. They are experienced investigators and can quickly serve as a bridge between the FBI and affected departments in times of crisis. The task force helps us achieve the teamwork between local, state and federal agencies noted as essential by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. The work the task force does in our communities matter. But what matters more is the way we work for the people we serve. Fears exist that the task force will target groups or individuals based on race, religion, immigration status or political beliefs. We take these concerns seriously. That’s why our actions at all times are based on the guiding principles of the Constitution. The task force investigations must be grounded on the rule of law, on integrity, on compassion and on fairness. Every day, we weigh our need to keep people safe with our duty to protect civil liberties and civil rights.

February 8, 2019 Daily Clips

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Oregon State Senator Blames Tobacco Taxes For Eric Garner’s Death

Oregon Public Broadcasting

An Oregon state senator blamed the death of a black man choked by police officers in New York City on high tobacco taxes Thursday in an effort to convince his fellow lawmakers not to increase cigarette taxes. Eric Garner died in July 2014 after a New York City police officer wrestled him to the ground and choked him. Garner was selling individual cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk when he was killed. In an emailed press release titled, “I can’t breathe: Tax hikes might be a death sentences,” Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, is quoted as saying the “partisan majority is ramming their tobacco tax hikes — and billions in other tax hikes — through the Legislature.” “Eric Garner’s death shows us exactly how disproportionate and abusive state power can become,” the press release reads, saying the root cause of Garner’s death was tobacco taxes. “New York tobacco taxes were so high it created a black market. It created violence that led to a situation that led to Eric Garner being killed,” said Jonathan Lockwood, a spokesman for the senator. When OPB called the House Republican caucus to get their thoughts, they already had a response written. “We are prepared, because it’s horrific,” said Greg Stiles, a spokesman for the House Republican Office. “No purpose is served in relating a cigarette tax request to the tragic death of a man of color,” their official statement reads. “At best, the remarks are unsavory and offensive. Such a comparison is indefensible and has no place in Oregon political discourse.” Lockwood said he stands by his press release, adding “everything in the press release is backed up by studies and reports.” House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, told her fellow lawmakers on the House floor on Thursday that she wanted to publicly register her disgust.

Sexual Harassment Training In Salem Upsetting And Offensive

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Laura Hanson thought the sexual harassment training for legislative staffers at the Oregon Capitol would be a unifying event: a clear signal to everyone that harassment in Salem was not tolerated. Instead, the rape survivor had to leave the training for 20 minutes because she was so upset. And she warned other victims of sexual assault who work in the Capitol to skip the trainings. Sexual harassment, and how to prevent it in the future, has been a hot topic in Salem over the past year and a half. First, the state Legislature was rocked by accounts of a state senator who had repeatedly behaved inappropriately with women, including fellow lawmakers. Then an unprecedented investigation by the state labor department found that the Capitol is a hostile work environment. Top lawmakers have promised to do more to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, including improved training. But on Wednesday night, Hanson told members of the newly created Committee on Culture that the current legislative training program was upsetting and offensive. The Legislature is in the midst of a mediation session with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Representatives from the Legislature, victims of harassment and those representing the labor commission met for 14 hours on Monday. They did not reach a settlement.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown: Virginia’s Embattled Governor Should Resign

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Add Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to those calling on Virginia’s embattled governor to step down. Asked in a meeting with reporters Thursday about news that a racist photo appeared on fellow Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page, Brown called the revelations “appalling.” “He should resign,” she said. “We still have more work to do in this country. A lot more work.” Northam has been under fire since the photo — which featured a person in blackface standing next to a person dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb — was first unearthed last week. He has since refused to resign, despite growing calls to do so. Northam has also denied appearing in the photo, but acknowledged donning blackface on a separate occasion. Complicating the matter are scandals now confronting two people in line to take Virginia’s governorship if Northam resigns. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault, which he has denied. And Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also acknowledged this week that he wore blackface at a college party. Asked generally about the situation Thursday, Brown expounded on the issue of racism in public life. “I think part of it is awareness, honestly, on these issues,” she said. “I think some of it stupidity. I think we need a broader conversation in this country about race and the impacts of racial inequities and racial justice.” Brown added that discrimination issues in Virginia “are much more explicit” than they are in Oregon. “It’s right in front of people’s faces,” she said. “Here in Oregon, it’s much more subtle.”

NW Natural says customers face big rate increases under new climate policy

Oregonlive

Natural gas utilities and some of their customers are pushing back on the state’s new climate plan, saying the proposed cap and spend bill would lead to immediate and major rate increases, and only get worse as time goes on. The gas companies’ concerns come amid broader business backlash against the policy, which nevertheless has notably more momentum behind it this year than in previous sessions. Some business groups have called on legislators to hold a statewide roadshow to explain the policy to Oregonians, a move some backers see as a delay tactic. Business lobbies also are sending out polling results they say refute the supposedly widespread voter support for it, particularly when costs are considered. And they’ll be jockeying to see how the legislation can be reshaped in their favor. The policy would require utilities, industrial companies and transportation fuel providers who annually emit more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases to acquire emissions allowances to offset each ton, either from a state auction or from a secondary market from other entities. As the number of allowances declines in future years, they would get more expensive, forcing companies to find ways to reduce their emissions or absorb the cost. The gas and electric utilities are expected to testify at Friday’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, and transportation and industrial companies will be heard from next week. Another item likely to garner attention at Friday’s meeting: a 10-year projection of overall revenues from the program by the Department of Environmental Quality. It estimates that the state allowance auction would raise about $550 million in 2021 and fluctuate close to that level through 2030, as allowance prices rise from $16.77 to $26 per ton but overall emissions decline.

OSU’s Ed Ray: State needs to step up for higher education

Portland Tribune

Oregon State University President Ed Ray made a plea for greater state funding for education during his annual State of the University address Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Oregon Convention Center. Speaking in front of hundreds of university supporters and business people at a noon luncheon, Ray noted that Gov. Kate Brown’s recommended budget for the 2019-21 biennium includes no increase in funding for the state’s university system. Instead, Brown proposes to keep university funding flat, while she seeks $1.9 billion in taxes, which have yet to be identified. If new revenues materialize, Brown has promised a significant portion will be dedicated to higher education. “I appreciate the governor for seeking new funding.” Ray said. “But I must plan the university’s operations on what I know, not what I hope legislators and voters might approve at some future date. Ray noted that student tuition pays more than 65 percent of the cost of operations at OSU’s Corvallis campus, while the state pays about 22 percent. The state’s relative contribution has declined by more than half in the past 15 years, as state budgets have not kept up with the cost of education. Brown’s budget includes $736 million for higher education operations, and university presidents say $120 million more is needed just to stay even due to rising retirement and health care costs for employees. Community college advocates also are concerned about Brown’s budget, which prioritizes K-12 education over colleges and universities. In an interview with the Pamplin Media Group editorial board prior to his speech, Ray said that Oregon ranks about 46th of the 50 states in its support for higher education. If the Legislature doesn’t improve upon the governor’s budget, the resulting OSU budget reduction would hit those services that help students stay in college and succeed.

In state of OSU speech, Ray takes aim at governor’s budget

Albany Democrat-Herald

Oregon State University President Ed Ray used his 2019 State of the University speech as a platform to make a pitch for more state funding for higher education. In a 40-minute address before an estimated 775 people Thursday afternoon at the Oregon Convention Center, Ray took aim at Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed budget, which includes no increase in university support. While Brown has pledged to devote part of a planned $1.9 billion tax increase to higher ed, details of the plan — which has yet to be approved by the Legislature and could find its way to the voters in the form of a ballot measure — remain murky. “I genuinely appreciate the governor for seeking new funding,” Ray said, “but I must plan the university’s operations based on what I know, not what I hope legislators and voters might approve at some future date.” Arguing that even the hoped-for funding from the still-unapproved tax would do nothing to roll back years of steadily rising college costs for students, Ray called on lawmakers to dramatically increase funding for post-secondary education. Ray noted that tuition now provides 65 percent of funding for OSU’s main campus in Corvallis compared to just 22 percent from the state, a 50 percent reduction in the state’s share over the last 15 years. Meanwhile, the educational attainment gap between rich and poor Americans has doubled since 1970.

Toking up off the job? Lawmakers want to keep you employed

Portland Tribune

Oregonians would no longer be compelled by employers to avoid off-duty use of marijuana under a proposal being considered at the Legislature. Legislators also are considering opening the door to exporting the state’s marijuana crop, which far exceeds demand in the state. Senate Bill 379 would make it illegal for employers to tell employees they can’t use marijuana outside of work hours. Senate Bill 582 would allow the governor to make agreements to buy and sell marijuana with other states. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on both Thursday morning, Feb. 7. Both bills would conflict with federal law, which prohibits marijuana consumption. While the state allows Oregonians to buy and use marijuana, many Oregon employers don’t. Workers can be fired for testing positive for marijuana. The proposed law revision would make it illegal to require employees to refrain from any substance legal in Oregon as a condition of employment. It would continue to be illegal to be impaired at work. More than a dozen witnesses testified against the proposal, most working in the construction industry. “You guys are scaring the bejesus out of all my clients,” said Darrell Fuller, a lobbyist representing several business associations opposed to the policy change. Witnesses said workers in the construction sector operate heavy machinery, drive large trucks and do other jobs that require attention and sobriety. Cristina Reyes, an attorney for construction giant Hoffman Construction Co., said the company has a strict anti-drug policy. Drug testing allows them to catch users of marijuana and other substances. If testing wasn’t allowed, those workers could still be on job sites and causing a safety hazard.

State lawmakers consider pair of marijuana-related bills

Albany Democrat-Herald

Oregonians would no longer be compelled by employers to avoid off-duty use of marijuana under a proposal being considered at the Legislature. Legislators also are considering opening the door to exporting the state’s marijuana crop, which far exceeds demand in the state. Senate Bill 379 would make it illegal for employers to tell employees they can’t use marijuana outside of work hours. Senate Bill 582 would allow the governor to make agreements to buy and sell marijuana with other states. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on both Thursday morning. Both bills would conflict with federal law, which prohibits marijuana consumption. While the state allows Oregonians to buy and use marijuana, many Oregon employers don’t. Workers can be fired for testing positive for marijuana. The law revision being proposed would make it illegal to require employees to refrain from any substance legal in Oregon as a condition of employment. It would continue to allow prohibitions against being impaired at work. More than a dozen witnesses testified against the proposal, most working in the construction industry.

Organic farmers seek support from Oregon legislators

East Oregonian

Organic farmers gathered Feb. 6 at the Oregon State Capitol to meet with legislators and push for support of an industry that annually generates $350 million in farm gate sales. They are asking the Legislature to formalize a state Organic Advisory Council, and set aside money in the budget for four full-time positions dedicated to helping farmers transition to organic practices and certifying organic farms. Organic Valley, the nation’s largest organic farm cooperative, hosted the event, which included a reception featuring remarks from Gov. Kate Brown. Last August, Brown and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley visited the Organic Valley creamery in McMinnville, which opened in 2017 with $350,000 in support from the state’s Strategic Reserve Fund. Brown said she is committed to maintaining Oregon as a leader in organic agriculture. The state currently ranks ninth overall with 864 organic businesses. Overall, Oregon farmers generate more than $4.5 billion in annual farm gate sales and services. Other event sponsors included the Organic Trade Association, Oregon Organic Coalition, Organic Materials Review Institute, Oregon Tilth, Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences, OSU Extension, Friends of Family Farmers, Mountain Rose Herbs, Organically Grown Company and Hummingbird Wholesale. Organic producers also spent time meeting with lawmakers, highlighting their businesses and advocating for a greater voice in policy decisions. The Organic Advisory Council would be made up of farmers, researchers, retailers and distributors, meeting quarterly and providing input on proposals affecting the industry.

Not just Oregon: Saudi students in at least 8 states, Canada vanish while facing criminal charges

Oregonlive

They’re not just in Oregon. University students from Saudi Arabia have vanished while facing criminal charges here and in at least seven other states as well as Canada — evidence that a growing number of defendants from the wealthy Persian Gulf kingdom have fled justice in the United States. There are likely more to be discovered. The Oregonian/OregonLive uncovered five examples in Oregon and began searching other states in late January. We’ve found similar cases in Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. We also found two cases in Nova Scotia: Saudi students in two separate incidents skipped bail and disappeared after being accused of sexual assault. In Oregon, each case involved Saudi nationals who vanished before they faced trial or completed their jail sentence: two accused rapists, a pair of suspected hit-and-run drivers and one man accused of having a trove of child pornography on his computer. All were young men studying at a public college or university in Oregon with assistance from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the time of their arrest. In at least four of those cases, the Saudi government paid the defendant’s bail and legal fees. Three surrendered their passports. Some have been tracked back to Saudi Arabia. The revelations have generated national attention and prompted Oregon U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden to seek answers on Capitol Hill.

LOCAL

6 cities sue: Oregon stormwater rules will hike fees for ratepayers, home buyers

Statesman Journal

Six Oregon cities are suing the state Department of Environmental Quality over new stormwater discharge requirements they say will be outrageously expensive for ratepayers and will drive up home prices. The new stormwater permit, for small municipalities, goes far beyond what is required by the federal government, the cities — Turner, Albany, Millersburg, Corvallis, Bend and Springfield — say in separate lawsuits filed last week. In Corvallis, for example, the new requirements would raise stormwater management costs, currently $1.9 million per year, by about 40 percent, city manager Mark Shepard said in a statement. And the requirements add significant financial burdens for developers, they say. “Increased costs related to on-site stormwater retention, for example, appear to be so strict that some undeveloped properties in Corvallis would be rendered undevelopable,” Shepard said. The permit was issued on Nov. 30, 2018, and takes effect March 1. The state issued it “after releasing multiple drafts and engaging in extensive public involvement,” DEQ spokeswoman Katherine Benenati said. It applies to 20 cities and six counties, many of which had been operating under expired permits while the new rules were being developed. “The new permit contains necessary requirements on these municipalities to control stormwater impacts to water quality,” Benenati said. DEQ is still reviewing the claims, but likely will move to consolidate the lawsuits, she said.

County-run medical clinics slash opioid prescriptions

The Register-Guard

As national overdose crisis continues, Lane County’s initiative has drawn notice and accolades. Health clinics run by Lane County have moved aggressively to reduce opioid prescriptions to patients in response to ongoing national concerns about fatal overdoses from the highly addictive drugs. Over the last 18 months, the clinics have cut the number of opioid-prescribed patients by roughly half. They’ve done this by stopping or reducing doses, offering patients alternatives such as acupuncture, yoga and mindfulness training to help manage any ongoing pain and referring to treatment those who have developed a non-medical dependence on the drugs. The steps have been recognized as a best practice nationally and received a state award for innovation by the Oregon Primary Care Association, a nonprofit member association. In his State of the County address last month, Commissioner Jay Bozievich said other agencies are seeking to replicate the program and hailed the initiative as making the county “a leader in fighting opioid addiction.” Private medical providers locally and around the state also are taking steps to stop overprescribing opioids. More than two-thirds of the more than 170,200 drug overdoses deaths nationwide in 2017 involved an opioid, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rising number of drug overdoses is a primary factor in the ongoing decline in the nation’s life expectancy, according to the agency. The recent rise in overdoses is being driven by synthetic opioids, particularly those involving illegally manufactured fentanyl.

County threatens to exclude thousands of students without required vaccinations

Portland Tribune

About 5,000 Multnomah County children do not have up to date vaccinations, so county health officials sent letters to their families Wednesday, Feb. 6, telling them their children would be kept out of school and day care if they don’t get current on immunizations. The annual school exclusion day takes on new urgency this year as a measles outbreak that originated in Clark County, Wash., has sickened more than 50 people, most of them children. There also are four measles cases reported in Multnomah County. “Unfortunately, this is a reminder of how quickly infections can spread when people are not vaccinated, and that’s especially true in places like classrooms where kids spend a lot of time together,” said Multnomah County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “I strongly encourage parents to learn more about measles and the very effective vaccine that can protect their kids.” To protect the population against measles, at least 93 to 95 percent of people need to be vaccinated to create so-called herd immunity. Some schools in Multnomah County dip below that average. About 91 percent of Portland Public Schools students and 94 percent in Gresham-Barlow and Reynolds school district have been vaccinated. Students must get all their vaccinations, or provide an exemption, by Feb. 20 or they could be barred from public and private schools, preschools and H

Deadline for Eugene school vaccines is Feb. 20

The Register-Guard

The deadline for parents to provide proof of their child’s vaccination record or an exemption certificate to their school is Feb. 20. Under state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their immunizations, or have an exemption. If school and child care vaccination records are not up-to-date on Feb. 20, the child will be sent home, according to the Oregon Health Authority. In 2018, local health departments sent 24,725 letters to parents and guardians informing them that their children needed immunizations to stay in school or child care. A total of 4,349 children were kept out of school or child care until the necessary immunization information was received by schools or child care facilities. This year, letters to parents were mailed on or before Feb. 6. Residents can ask their doctor’s office for the vaccine. Several pharmacies also offer the vaccine on a walk-in basis and the vaccine also is available at the Lane County Public Health Office. The federal government offers a website to help residents find a pharmacy that offers vaccines at https://www.vaccines.gov/getting/where/index.html. Officials recommend residents call the pharmacy to make sure they have the vaccine in stock and ask if the pharmacy will take their health insurance.

Hermiston’s Joseph Franell testifies before Congress

East Oregonian

Eastern Oregon Telecom President Joseph Franell jumped into the fray of Congress’ net neutrality debate Thursday. Franell traveled from Hermiston to Washington, D.C., to testify in front of lawmakers from the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee by invitation of Rep. Greg Walden, the committee’s top-ranking Republican. Walden has introduced legislation that would prohibit internet service providers from practices, such as blocking or throttling traffic to lawful websites and requiring sites to pay for prioritization. The idea that all websites, from a small local business’ order page to Amazon.com, should be treated equally is known as net neutrality. Video of Franell’s testimony shows he told lawmakers he believed internet service providers, such as EOT, should be able to prioritize some traffic over others — a 911 call over other calls, for example, or emergency medical information over online gaming. “Students participating in distance education or online standardized testing should get priority over those streaming online movies for entertainment,” he said. Defenders of net neutrality — which Franell accused of “fear-mongering” —have pushed back on the idea of allowing internet providers to pick and choose which traffic they prioritize. They say it would open the door to practices, such as slowing traffic to websites owned by a competitor or promoting a political ideology the provider disagrees with. Franell told committee members Thursday that the Title II era had a “dramatic chilling effect on rural telecommunication in the Pacific Northwest.” Investors were extremely hesitant to invest in rural broadband, he said, and companies had to spend large amounts of time and resources on reporting to the federal government, drawing those resources away from serving customers and expanding service to more rural areas. Franell urged lawmakers to avoid changing the internet back to a Title II utility as they considered rules to prevent bad behavior by service providers — behavior he said EOT and other rural internet providers in Oregon have never engaged in, even when legal.

Warrenton police use overdose kit to revive man

Daily Astorian

When Warrenton police officer Robert Wirt responded to a possible drug overdose outside the Mini Mart in late January, he saw a man laying on the ground, with the only sign of life his slow and shallow breaths. If this had happened a little over a year ago, Wirt would have had to wait for a medic or firefighter to apply Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse opioid overdoses. But Wirt was able to grab his overdose kit and administer it himself. Two doses later, the 35-year-old man was revived. The intervention marked the first use of Narcan by a Warrenton police officer since the department started carrying the medication. At the time, Wirt wasn’t thinking about being the first of anything. The Warrenton Police Department is one in a growing number choosing to carry naloxone — known by the brand name, Narcan — in the wake of a national opioid epidemic. The idea is to enable officers to act quickly in overdose situations where they are first on the scene. Carrying Narcan also helps protect officers when they are handling drugs like fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that, even in trace amounts, can make someone sick if they are exposed to it, Workman said. Across the country, some police departments have been concerned about taking on a job they perceive is better suited to medics.

Shumate drops hint that he is leaving

Mail Tribune

Medford School District Superintendent Brian Shumate may be on his way out of Southern Oregon entirely. “After much reflection and soul searching, I find it necessary to be closer to my hometown and family,” Shumate said in a staff-wide email sent early Tuesday afternoon obtained by the Mail Tribune. Shumate, who has been Medford’s superintendent since 2014, will have his final interview next week for the superintendent position of Troup County School System in Georgia. He told staff that significant life events in recent years have made him want to relocate back to the region. Those include the birth of their first grandchild, the weddings of both their children and illnesses and death of other close family members. He is one of three finalists for the Troup County superintendent position, according to a media release that officials said would go out Tuesday. It’s not immediately clear when Shumate might leave Medford School District if he is hired, but he told staff in the email he will continue to coordinate with the Medford School Board. If Shumate left his position before June 30 this year, he would get none of the $10,500 “retention incentive bonus” offered in his newest contract. The bonus will be parsed out in thirds, one at the end of each contract year, if he is still employed by the district at that time.

California adds protections for Klamath spring salmon

Herald and News

Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission made Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook salmon a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The decision was in response to a petition filed last year by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council. A final decision to list the species will be made within 12 months; in the meantime Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook will be afforded all the protections of a listed species. That will include fishing restrictions, according to a press release from the Karuk Tribe and Salmon River Restoration Council. The move by the Fish and Game Commission forces California to restrict fishing to protect the fish, however, the Tribe and council want to work with fishermen and the agency to develop common sense fishing regulations.

Petroleum Terminal Expands to Allow More Oil Trains Into Portland

Oregon Public Broadcasting

A Portland petroleum terminal is significantly expanding its capacity to unload rail cars, a move that sets the stage to more than double the number of oil trains along the Columbia and Willamette rivers into Oregon’s biggest city, OPB has learned. Zenith Energy, sandwiched between the river and Forest Park in the city’s northwest industrial district, began receiving train shipments of crude from Canada’s oil sands last year, records show, which it stored in tanks and later pumped onto ocean-going vessels. Zenith’s outpost in Portland now has visible construction under way on a project to build three new rail platforms that will nearly quadruple the site’s previous capacity for offloading oil from tank cars, according to building plans filed with the City of Portland in 2014, which the city’s Bureau of Development Services confirmed Wednesday. The site’s expansion of crude-by-rail infrastructure comes despite much public resistance in the Northwest for new oil projects. That includes a vote by Portland’s City Council in 2016 to oppose any new fossil fuel infrastructure. That same year the Northwest experienced firsthand one of the oil-train mishaps that have occurred across North America as more and more oil has been moved by what critics have dubbed “rolling pipelines” and “bombs trains.”

Portland City Council Passes Resolution Denouncing White Supremacist Groups

Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Portland City Council passed a resolution Thursday that condemns white supremacists and alt-right hate groups. The hearing started with testimony from a senior policy advisor to Mayor Ted Wheeler.  Nicole Grant spoke about how the resolution came to be and her own experiences with prejudice and hate as a black woman in Portland. “This resolution is not about white people. It’s about all people with a dedicated focus on those that are targeted as a result of their skin color,” Grant said during opening remarks. All of the commissioners offices worked together to draft the resolution. Grant said the resolution speaks to the need for a cultural shift in Portland so white supremacists will no longer view the city as their playground and hurl threats at its residents and mayor. Grant’s comments were followed by community leaders and organizations that study hate groups. Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer, also testified. His Vancouver, Washington-based organization has frequently held rallies in Portland, and at times those rallies have attracted white supremacists to the city. Gibson denounced the claim that Patriot Prayer is a hate group.

OPINION

Letters: Do not tell students not to fight for gun laws

Portland Tribune

I found Sen. Betsy Johnson’s writing on “We can’t give what we don’t have” (Jan. 31 MyView column) very interesting. Sen. Johnson does have some good points on some topics, but I found her reference in the paragraph on “guns” condescending to some, where she refers to “expect the focus to be on those (gun control) bills pushed by a group of urban high school students inspired by the protests following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.” Many — no, far too many — of our students in recent years have either been killed, injured or lived through a school shooting. These students have looked horror and death in the face and turned time and again to our leaders to “do something” to make these events end. And little or nothing has been done. To require a permit before obtaining a gun, to secure firearms (which will protect innocent children from accessing a loaded firearm) or require background checks on all, even gun show purchases, is just common sense. To those who tout their Second Amendment rights, no one is trying to take away firearms from anyone or deny gun ownership to anyone passing a background check. What is needed are responsible gun ownership laws. These youngsters are a force for making these changes, they are the voting bloc of the future and should receive our respect and support. They, and millions of others who vote, will continue to support their efforts.

Readers respond: Questionable scientific authority

Oregonlive

It’s mind-boggling that Oregonians who recognize the authority of science when it comes to climate change would mistrust the decades of research and immunization of hundreds of millions of people worldwide that attest to the safety of this vaccine” (“Reversing Oregon’s backward slide on immunizations,” Jan. 25). The above quote from The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board actually provides a clue as to the reasons people reject vaccinations. The belief climate change is a settled science is a mindset that encourages a great number of people to accept other scientifically discredited ideas. Science is never settled. Skeptical challenges to prevailing theories should always be welcome. The recent refusal by Chuck Todd of “Meet The Press” to accept any guests that oppose anthropomorphic climate change is more evidence of that closed mindset. Very dogmatic. Shut up and obey.

Intel says huge new Oregon factory will add 1,750 jobs

Oregonlive

Intel forecasts its huge new Hillsboro factory will increase the company’s Oregon workforce by about 9 percent, 1,750 more jobs in total, according to permitting documents submitted to city planners. The chipmaker is already the state’s largest corporate employer. The additional jobs would bring its Oregon workforce near 22,000. Intel has declined to discuss details of its project but confirmed its plans last week to its Hillsboro neighbors. The new facility will adjoin two existing factories known collectively as D1X. Intel hasn’t disclosed a price tag for the work. But new chip factories, known in the industry as fabs, run several billions of dollars apiece. The work will surely be among the largest capital projects in Oregon history. This third phase of D1X, called Mod3, will be 1.5 million square feet, according to permitting documents Hillsboro released in response to a public records request. That’s slightly larger than each of the first two phases and will increase D1X by 60 percent altogether, to just under 4 million square feet. The three phases will be interconnected but will have independent mechanical and electrical systems. Additionally, Intel said it plans a six-story, 1 million square foot support structure with utility services and 2,200 parking spaces.

February 7, 2019 Daily Clips

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Oregon Legislature Treads Carefully Toward Pricing Carbon

Oregon Public Broadcasting

This week, lawmakers are formally introducing a bill that would make Oregon the second state after California to adopt an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The bill has support from Gov. Kate Brown and the statehouse’s other top Democrats, but even its champions are treading carefully to protect the state’s economy as they aim to address climate change. Oregon has been inching toward this major environmental policy shift for years, as it has become increasingly clear that the state can’t meet its 2020 goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. House Bill 2020 builds on an earlier version of cap-and-trade legislation known as the Clean Energy Jobs bill that lawmakers considered but failed to pass during the last session. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, revived the controversial bill by creating a Joint Committee On Carbon Reduction that has been working on the new version since last summer. Now, both leaders and the governor say they’re committed to getting the bill passed this session. Oregon’s cap on carbon emissions would directly apply to about a hundred companies — including fuel suppliers, utilities and manufacturers. But opponents say its indirect effects would be much broader. A new group called the Partnership for Oregon Communities, made up of various farming, logging and manufacturing industry groups, has taken a vocal role in opposing the new bill. Their website features videos of farmers around the state warning that cap and trade will drive up prices for fuel and electricity. Under the new bill, Oregon would set a cap on carbon emissions and require companies that emit 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — roughly the amount of carbon released from burning 136 rail cars of coal — to buy pollution permits, also called allowances.

Liquor Deliveries Might Be On Their Way To Oregon

Oregon Public Broadcasting

In Oregon, having a pinot gris or a potent indica delivered to your door is as simple as a few taps on the iPhone. But try to get a bottle of Irish whiskey without leaving the house and you’re probably out of luck. Under the state’s highly regulated liquor distribution system, home deliveries are out of the question. State Rep. Margaret Doherty says that’s an outmoded policy.“Here in Oregon it is legal to deliver marijuana to your home, but you can’t deliver hard liquor,” said Doherty, a Democrat from Tigard. This session, she’s pushing a bill that would change that. Under House Bill 2523, the state would have the ability to license for-hire delivery services to spirit spirits from the liquor store to your doorstep. These cognac couriers would be required to confirm purchasers are at least 21 and not intoxicated before handing over the goods, and to allow the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to inspect records of deliveries. Doherty sees the move as a way for liquor stores to reach more consumers. “In this day and age when we have everything delivered to our houses, I think it’s a tool that OLCC agents can use to market their products,” she said. So far, HB 2523 hasn’t seen vocal opposition. The OLCC has a neutral stance on the bill, and the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association supports the measure, though its members’ products are already eligible for home delivery. “This may be an opportunity to look at the way we do home shipments or home deliveries of beer and wine as well,” Michael Freese, a lobbyist for the group, testified at a hearing on the bill. “While this bill doesn’t address that … it’s certainly something that we want to explore and work with the OLCC and see if this really is an opportunity to have some consistency across the industry.” Oregon Recovers, a statewide coalition focused on substance abuse, does not have a position on the bill, according to Director Mike Marshall.

Federal hospital price law creates patient confusion

The Register-Guard

A federal effort to make it easier to shop for healthcare at local hospitals by posting prices online may be confusing consumers. The majority of hospitals across the U.S., including PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend, PeaceHealth Medical Center, University District and McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, made the federal deadline of Jan. 1 to post their chargemaster list — an accounting of “sticker prices” for goods and services — on their websites. But hospitals and patient advocacy groups say posting the lists online doesn’t give patients an accurate picture of their final hospital bill. The price lists are full of hard-to-decipher medical descriptions and abbreviations that catalog the price for every piece of equipment, drug and service. But the prices don’t include any discounted rates that a patient’s health insurance company may have negotiated with the hospital or any co-pays, deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs a patient may have listed on their final bill. Going beyond requirement The federal requirements for hospitals to post their pricing information is a part of the Affordable Care Act but wasn’t formalized as a rule until August 2018, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is responsible for upholding the rules of the ACA.There are no fines for hospitals that fail to publish the information, although the Centers are considering creating one.

Bill would aid marijuana users who need organ transplants

The Register-Guard

Oregon lawmakers may tighten restrictions on the state’s organ transplant centers to ensure they don’t discriminate against patients based on marijuana use. House Bill 2687, sponsored by Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, would stop medical providers from recommending that transplant candidates be removed from the organ waiting list managed by the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing because they tested positive for pot, the Statesman Journal reported. In Oregon, more than 850 transplant candidates are on the wait list for organs, according to the organ network. About 340 transplants were performed in Oregon last year. For some, symptoms before surgery are severe enough they turn to medical marijuana for relief. Responding to Nosse’s bill, the state’s major transplant centers disputed turning patients away based on marijuana use. Nosse told the Statesman Journal he took up the issue because he felt bad for the couple. “Why should all these doctors interfere in their relationship and deny her the chance to donate a kidney and improve his life?” he said in a text message. “Medical marijuana is legal.”

Sen. Johnson introduces bill to increase hydropower as a renewable

The Daily-Astorian

State Sen. Betsy Johnson has introduced a bill that would ease the requirements for counting hydroelectric power toward the state’s renewable energy goals — a move some say would weaken an effort to promote new clean power sources. The state’s renewable portfolio standard, created in 2007 and enhanced in 2016, calls for half of all energy consumed in Oregon to come from renewable sources by 2040. Utilities that provide at least 3 percent of the state’s retail electricity sales — PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric and the Eugene Water and Electric Board — have to meet the renewable portfolio standard. Cooperatives can purchase renewable energy credits, a lower-cost option for meeting the standard. The goal is intended to build upon hydropower, which provides more than 40 percent of energy consumed in Oregon, and promote the development of other renewables. Senate Bill 508, filed by Johnson on behalf of retired state Rep. Deborah Boone, would delete many of the requirements related to counting hydroelectric power, enabling more hydroelectric energy to go toward the renewable portfolio standard. Johnson, D-Scappoose, said she is supportive of the bill but deferred questions about it to Boone. Johnson’s bill is identical to legislation introduced by state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, and state Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner. Boone, a Democrat who represented the North Coast in the House for 14 years, claims Oregon is technologically behind many other states and countries that count hydroelectric power as renewable.

More firms want to provide health care to low-income Oregonians

Portland Tribune

Two dozen firms have submitted pre-application letters to serve the Oregon Health Plan in various regions of the state, as compared to 15 such firms that do so now. The prize? A share of the biggest procurement in state history. An estimated $5 billion is expected to be spent on the program in 2020, and similar or growing amounts through 2024. The competition looks to be most heated in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, where six firms have applied for five-year contracts to serve 300,000 Oregonians. Currently, only one such firm, Health Share of Oregon, contracts with the state to serve the health plan in the tri-county region.Based on reforms approved in 2012, the Oregon Health Plan uses what are called coordinated care organizations, essentially insurance companies, to manage care for the state health plan. To qualify for the program’s free care, individual members must earn no more than $1,396 per month, or $2,887 for a family of four. For more than a year, the state has prepared to issue a new round of contracts in the program while instituting further reforms to address concerns about financial transparency and escalating costs. State expenditures have exceeded the growth cap included in the state’s agreement with the federal government for two years in a row. A Health Share press release last week said Health Share’s partners’ “first preference” is to for the care organization to continue, but “some of Health Share’s partners may submit letters of intent as a precautionary measure.” The only non-Health Share company to apply to serve the entire tri-county region is Moda Health. Moda already sells private insurance to people who don’t qualify for the Oregon Health Plan.

Bill adds fallen firefighters names to roadside memorials

Portland Tribune

A bill in the 2019 legislative session would allow the names of fallen firefighters to be included in roadside memorials throughout the state. In 2013, the Oregon Department of Transportation approved roadside memorials to honor fallen members of the Armed Forces, and amended the law in 2015 to include public safety officers. Now, the family of a Columbia County firefighter who died in the line of duty is pushing to have the statute amended to include fallen firefighters. The family of Robert Hales, a former Scappoose Fire District volunteer firefighter and EMT who died from a heart attack following a long shift in 2008, proposed the language change to Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who is sponsoring Senate Bill 528. “Well, I have been close to all of the people on whose behalf it’s introduced,” Johnson said, acknowledging the names of Robert Hale’s family members. “And I think it’s the same motivation of us wanting to recognize the selfless service of police officers and our military who have lost their lives in service to others.”

Sources: Not so fast on tax hikes, Johnson says

Portland Tribune

In the Jan. 31 issue of the Portland Tribune, state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, fired a warning shot across the bow of anyone who thinks Democrats in the 2019 Oregon Legislature are going to raise taxes without Republican support. Democrats barely have three-fifths supermajorities in both the Senate and House, meaning they can raises taxes by themselves if they all vote together. The budget requested by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown requests $2 billion in new taxes for education. A Democrat-controlled committee says schools actually need an additional $3 billion. But in a signed column in last Thursday’s paper, the famously independent-minded lawmaker wrote, “Get ready to lower your expectations.” “Shortly after Gov. Kate Brown was re-elected in November, she announced work would begin on developing tax and fee increases to raise billions of dollars. Unless there are accompanying restraints in spending, there will be no change in Oregon’s financial condition,” wrote Johnson, who represents Senate District 16 and co-chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The push by Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, to require all larger cites to allow multifamily housing in single-family neighborhoods represents a radical departure from previous state policy proposals. Kotek is co-sponsoring HB 2001, which is scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Human Services and Housing on Monday. Feb. 11. According to one article, critical risk buildings includes schools, hospitals and fire stations. High risk buildings include four-plus story buildings on poor soil, or buildings with more than 100 occupants. Medium risk includes all other URM buildings. A timeline for compliance with unreinforced masonry building retrofits would be determined by the risk category, from seven years for critical, to 10 for high, and then 13 years for medium risk buildings.

So Far, Northwest Forest Plan Falling Short Of Biodiversity Goals

Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Northwest Forest Plan was a groundbreaking policy to ensure wildlife habitat would not be lost to intensive logging in the western parts of Oregon, Washington and California. Now 25 years in, a new study shows it’s still a good ways off from achieving those goals. The research out of Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service examined long-term data on bird species that use different forest types, like old growth and less mature, open-canopy areas referred to as “early seral” forests. Bird populations are closely tied to these specific habitats and can be used by scientists to gauge biodiversity. Unhealthy bird populations often mean overall biodiversity is suffering as well. With the Northwest Forest Plan’s (NWFP) focus on preserving and increasing the acreage of mature forests, researchers expected the birds that use these habitats to increase accordingly. But the data showed bird populations are still declining. Severe wildfire is a major culprit for this. For example, the 2002 Biscuit Fire in southwest Oregon burned through a half million acres, largely in wilderness areas. That year, the region covered by the NWFP lost about 100,000 acres — or 156 square miles — of older forest. The agency released a comprehensive review of the forestry, ecosystem and other applicable science that’s come out since the plan went into effect 25 years ago. It covers a broad range of issues, from climate change to wildfire and new threats to endangered species, such as the spotted owl. This “scientific synthesis” is currently not available online “due to a lapse in government funding.”

LOCAL

HB 2075 may help Albany with long-range planning

Albany Democrat-Herald

A measure pending before the Legislature, House Bill 2075, would establish a development readiness program within the Department of Land Conservation and Development to assist local governments with land use goals relating to housing and economic development. What will that mean for the city of Albany? “We’re not sure,” said City Manager Peter Troedsson. The bill would create a program within the state department to provide “financial, technical and other assistance” to local governments to implement or pursue land-use planning goals. It cited the state’s ongoing housing crisis, noting that out-of-date land-use studies, comprehensive plans and limited funds have created barriers to solving the housing problem. If that sounds familiar in Albany, here’s why: Earlier this month, the Albany City Council heard a presentation by Public Works Engineering and Community Development Director Jeff Blaine on the city’s lack of planning for long-term development. Blaine told the council that little work has been done recently to examine the city’s need to prepare for a growing population and continued development, and that his department wanted to “get the ball rolling.” But that sort of planning requires resources, and both Blaine and Troedsson pointed to an eliminated staff position and budget cuts as a reason why the work had fallen behind.

Child safety seat program championed by local mom

Albany Democrat-Herald

When Lindsey Austin had her second daughter eight years ago, she felt confident installing her child safety seat. Two years earlier, when her first child was born, she’d taken advantage of a fire station program that taught parents how to do just that. However, once her girls started the transition to booster seats, she found that the program no longer existed. “I decided I would get certified,” she said. While obtaining her child safety seat installation certification through a three-day program, Austin, an engineering project manager for the city of Albany, noticed an entry on former City Manager Wes Hare’s blog. In 2017, Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 3034, which requires children to remain in rear-facing car seats until age 2, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “As adults, we know what is comfortable and we assign that to kids,” Austin said. “But kids sitting rear-facing don’t know that they’re not looking out the front window and children who are able to talk will tell us that sitting front-facing with their legs dangling makes their feet go numb.” The most common misuses Austin and her team see are parents who don’t fasten the seat securely, misuse of the seat’s attachments and children being in the wrong seat for their height and weight. Austin will represent the city at one of two national conferences later this year on the subject of car seat safety, either in Louisville, Kentucky, or Orlando, Florida. She plans to leave her position with the city’s Engineering Department later this month but will continue running the child safety seat program.

Umatilla County tops state with waste collection event

East Oregonian

Umatilla County collected 12 tons of hazardous household waste at its September drop-off drive, topping every other event in the state. The DEQ is suggesting other counties emulate the program. Gina Miller in the county’s planning department planned and coordinated the Sept. 22 free disposal of household hazards ranging from old paint to car batteries to medications. She delivered a report summarizing the event’s outcomes Wednesday to the county board of commissioners. Miller said 502 vehicles arrived that day to the collection area at the Pendleton Convention Center parking lot with 24,000 pounds of hazardous household waste, 38 gallons of needles and 72 pounds of prescription medications. She said the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reported this was the most successful collection event statewide in 2018. “We succeeded and bypassed all of our goals at this second collection event,” Miller said, referring to the prior event from 2016. These waste collections cost $65,000-$80,000, Miller told the board, but a DEQ grant covered the cost, and contractor Clean Harbors Environmental handled all the waste. Making the event a success, she said, took planning and outreach beginning in April, and buy-in from community partners. Solid waste franchises in the county advertised the event on their billings, and the county sent flyers to churches, doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

State approves sale of land at South Tongue Point for college

The Daily Astorian

The State Land Board has approved the sale of nearly 22 acres at South Tongue Point to Clatsop Community College for its Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station campus. The college will pay the state $826,500 for land on the north side of Liberty Lane it has leased since the 1990s for welding, automotive, maritime science and other career-technical programs. The purchase is funded through the college’s plant fund meant for construction, renovation and acquisition of property. Ali Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Department of State Lands, said the sale will likely close in the next few months. The purchase was a requirement for the college to pursue up to $8 million in state lottery-backed bonds, matched to whatever the college can raise by 2021. A fundraising consultant recently told the college it could only realistically hope to raise about $4 million in a capital campaign by the deadline. The college had hoped to raise $14 million to match with the state bonds and build a new maritime sciences building for its flagship program at an estimated cost of $22 million. “I don’t think we’re planning on scaling back at all,” said Christopher Breitmeyer, the college president. “We’re looking at some other funding mechanisms and talking to various entities to see what we can do to make up for that gap.” The State Land Board also voted to begin due diligence for a sale of more than 100 acres on the south side of Liberty Lane to the Columbia Land Trust. The trust has secured $1.3 million in state and federal grants to purchase the land, roughly encompassing the southern two-thirds of South Tongue Point. The land would be restored into salmon habitat with help from the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce and eventually transferred to the college for use as a living laboratory.

Walden and port talk bridge replacement

Hood River News

Rep. Greg Walden met with Port of Hood River officials Monday morning to get an update on the port’s current and upcoming projects, including the status of the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge Replacement Project. The informal meeting was a chance for the port to brief Walden on the project’s status, and to get advice on avenues they can explore to find federal funding and to possibly expedite the process. Walden expressed support for the project and commented on the necessity of a working bridge for this area of the Gorge. “This (the bridge) is an essential piece of infrastructure,” said Commissioner Brian Shortt, adding that, considering the dynamics of support for this project and the failing state of the current bridge, “It (the project) deserves to be expedited.” Walden said that one of the port’s biggest assets going forward is the unified support backing the project. The port didn’t present Walden with a specific financial ask, but said that their next hurdle is funding the transition period between the end of the NEPA process and construction — approximately $20 million, said Executive Director Michael McElwee, and asked what forms of federal funding would be available to them. Walden pointed to an appropriations bill being considered in the current session, but said, “If there’s a financial ask for the appropriations bill, you need to submit it now,” and offered help from his office in making that happen. The port didn’t decide on a next step, but Project Director Kevin Greenwood said that he will attempt to get staff members from each of the region’s government representatives together sometime in late March to discuss the project.

Ms. Goddard goes to Washington

Portland Tribune

A recent Sunset High School alumna, Alexandria Goddard, attended President Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday evening at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Goddard was the guest of Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, whose district includes Beaverton and much of Washington County. “It was absolutely amazing,” Goddard said Wednesday. “I got to meet people who I’m going to have to call heroes. Seriously.” That included Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — Goddard said she got to talk to her about her voter-activism program at Portland State University — and Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia. Goddard helped organize the March for Our Live while attending Sunset. At PSU, she’s in the Honors College and has created an organization, The Agora Theory, to engage young and underrepresented groups in politics. The organization registered nearly 1,000 students in the Beaverton School District to vote over the past two years with its “Back to School, Back to the Ballot” campaign. “Agora” is a Greek word meaning public space. Gun violence prevention has been a top priority for Bonamici and the House Democratic Caucus.

Salem-Keizer community ‘not ready for integration’ to reach equity in schools

Statesman Journal

Salem-Keizer Public Schools is in a unique position to address overcrowding and inequities across the district. After securing a nearly $620 million capital-construction bond last year, the district embarked on redrawing school boundaries with those goals in mind. Under Superintendent Christy Perry’s charge, the Boundary Review Task Force was supposed to create a better balance of school enrollment counts and educational opportunities between the district’s six high school feeder systems and align future populations with projected school capacities.  Task force members also were told to consider the views and needs of community members from under-served, racially and economically diverse and marginalized groups. Instead of equally distributing resources across the district, they were supposed to make the changes equitable — giving more help to schools and communities with greater needs. Did the task force do what they were supposed to? Technically, yes.  Does the final boundary proposal present an equitable solution to Salem-Keizer’s segregated school system? Many argue — no. Under the new boundary plan, which the Salem-Keizer School Board is expected to approve Tuesday, the older, most racially and economically diverse and overcrowded schools will continue as such, despite improvements under the bond program. The newer, more white and affluent schools also will receive building and classroom improvements, but no additional students. That has some patrons from Salem’s and Keizer’s lower-income neighborhoods venting their frustration and disappointment to school administrators and board members. More than half of the district’s 42,200 students identify with a race or ethnicity other than white.

OPINION

Guest opinion: Oregon can avoid wildfire disasters by building wildfire-resistant communities

Statesman Journal Guest Opinion

In these long, dark days of winter, wildfire may seem a distant memory. But given the last few years of record-setting wildfire disasters in Oregon and neighboring states, now is no time to forget the risks we face. Today’s wildfires are more disastrous for a variety of reasons – a warming climate, a century of fire suppression and fuel accumulation, and because we are putting more people and homes in harm’s way. Across the country, development is fastest in areas with wildfire potential, making future disasters more likely. Fortunately, a decade of research, post-fire analyses, and laboratory experiments have led to new science about how to avoid such disasters and build wildfire-resilient communities. It starts with where and how we build homes. A few simple, affordable modifications to a home’s roof, walls, windows, deck, and landscaping can be the difference between the home’s survival and loss during a wildfire. For example, home survival increases when built with ember-resistant, finer mesh attic vents, noncombustible gutters, and fire-resistant decking. Maintaining a noncombustible landscaping zone immediately around the home can reduce the likelihood of embers igniting the home. Where homes are spaced closer together, additional strategies become necessary to avoid home-to-home ignition, such as using noncombustible siding and tempered glass windows. Wildfire hazard maps can help land use planners and elected officials determine where to implement such wildfire-resistant building standards. A study released last month by Headwaters Economics found the cost of constructing a home to such standards was roughly the same as a typical home. Using wildfire-resistant materials can have added benefits such as reduced maintenance and longer lifespans.

Readers respond: Oregon frogs, the water’s already boiling

Oregon Live

My fellow frogs, the temperature of our pot has just been turned up again. This according to Oregon State’s fourth annual climate assessment report issued Jan. 24 by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, which made it clear climate change is no longer something to discuss only as part of the Pacific Northwest’s future. “It’s happening now — and will get more severe.” Time to jump out and cool down? Or shall we continue to bask in the glow of our CO2 and start planning for who gets the water and who doesn’t?

Natural gas customers face massive rate increases under cap and trade

In Case You Missed it…

Natural gas customers face massive rate increases under cap and trade

NW Natural says customers face big rate increases under new climate policy

Excerpt from The Oregonian/OregonLive

Northwest Natural on Wednesday released a two-page summary of the impacts it foresees, an analysis one lobbyist described as “a cap and trade bombshell.”

The company estimates that in the first year the bill would take effect, 2021, it would increase prices for residential customers by 11 percent ($74 annually), for small commercial customers by 13 percent ($338 annually) and industrial customers by 28 percent (it didn’t provide dollar figures for industrial rate increases). By 2040, with the number of allowances being auctioned far lower, the rate impact would grow to 53 percent ($567 annually) for residential customers, 60 percent for small commercial ($2,965) and 117 percent for industrial customers, Northwest Natural projects.

Click here to view this story in its entirety online.

Statement from Partnership for Oregon Communities in response to latest cap and trade cost increase estimates

“The release of this report today makes crystal clear that cap and trade will break family budgets and place tremendous financial pressure on employers across the state. Under HB 2020 Oregonians would face a 53% increase to heat their homes, a fact that seems particularly relevant during this cold streak.

“It is completely unreasonable to expect Oregon employers to be able to compete in regional and global markets if their energy costs increase by 117%. This program would inevitably drive good-paying jobs out of all parts of Oregon and jeopardize the long-term economic health of our state.

“It’s hard to overstate how much this program could cost Oregonians and how much harm could be caused by its passage.”

This statement may be attributed to Preston Mann, spokesman for Partnership for Oregon Communities.

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February 5, 2019 Daily Clips

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Unusual political pact could open primaries to nonaffiliated voters

Portland Tribune

The growing bloc of Oregonians who don’t belong to any political party could have more say in elections under a new proposal from Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. Richardson got the idea from a former rival: Alan Zundel, the Pacific Green Party’s candidate for secretary of state in 2016. Since the election, Richardson, a Republican, and Zundel have formed what, on its face, is an unlikely alliance between people with disparate political views. Two years ago, Richardson tapped the retired political science professor to lead a task force studying how the state draws legislative and congressional districts. And now Richardson’s office is advocating for Senate Bill 225, which is based on a concept Zundel suggested to him last year. It would allow nonaffiliated voters to participate in their own primary. Richardson’s proposal is before the Senate Rules Committee, where its fate is uncertain. Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who chairs the committee, thinks the issue is still undecided. “Basically it’s too early to tell for sure,” wrote Burdick’s spokesman in an email. Zundel is clear-eyed about the obstacle his idea faces in a Legislature where all legislators represent the major parties. “Making it easier for nonaffiliated candidates to get on the ballot is going to increase the possibility that they’ll have competition,” Zundel said. “And I think they’re less afraid of competition, per se, and more afraid of splitting the vote, causing somebody to lose an election who may have had a majority if there wasn’t another candidate in the race.”

Oregon Ships Foster Care Children To Other States — And The Number Is Growing

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Child Welfare officials offered welcome news last fall in a report to Gov. Kate Brown: It had been weeks since they placed a foster child in a hotel. The development was an improvement for the state Department of Human Services, which weathered a firestorm of criticism and a civil lawsuit in 2016 after it was revealed Oregon foster care children were being placed in hotel rooms. Many of those children struggled with mental, behavioral and psychiatric issues, but the state didn’t have anywhere else to put them. But in the report, it seemed agency officials were making headway in finding placements for some of the state’s more vulnerable children. A task force focusing on children and youth with specialized needs has been meeting and is pushing legislation this session to help “the approximate 500-800 children and youth who are inappropriately placed … not considered necessary or consistent with the needs of the child,” according to the task force’s agenda. Gelser spoke of the importance of creating a more integrated system that supports Child Welfare to offer children the placement and resources they need. And said it’s important to be thoughtful about giving mandates to the Department of Human Services. It’s not enough to tell them to stop putting kids in hotel rooms.  “We need to take the next step of asking ourselves: ‘Well, if they don’t do that, what will they do instead?” Gelser said.

Oregon Human Services in-home care still lags behind audit benchmarks, report says

Statesman Journal

The Oregon Department of Human Services still has significant work remaining on most recommendations in a state audit of the agency’s program that provides in-home care to the aging and disabled people. That’s the conclusion of a followup report that the Secretary of State’s office released Tuesday about work done since the original audit, which was released in October 2017. The audit had found shortcomings in programs and oversight of the Aging and People with Disabilities Program, which served about 13,230 people in 2017. The audit made 11 recommendations. Work on seven of those have started, but remain incomplete. The other four recommendations have been fully put in place.  Unfinished work includes establishing minimum home-care worker training requirements, putting a new model for the home-care worker program in place that reduces the workload of staff, and developing a skills assessment for home-care workers.  The agency has put recommendations in place that include training for case managers to recognize when consumers need more help and monitoring the care they receive and contacts with staff.

Blumenauer to skip Trump’s State of the Union again

Portland Tribune

When President Donald Trump delivers the annual State of the Union address, at least one Oregonian’s face will be missing from the crowd. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-OR, announced that he will not attend the traditional update on the nation’s status, held this year on Tuesday, Feb. 5. In his place, Blumenauer invited Nate Mook, executive director of the Word Central Kitchen, to listen to the speech. The World Central Kitchen was founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres, and Blumenauer says it has provided millions of meals to the hungry, including survivors of Hurricane Maria and furloughed federal workers during the recent partial government shutdown. “The thought of spending Tuesday night in the House Chamber listening to the reckless, self-centered man who occupies the White House holds no interest for me,” Blumenauer said. “Just like in past years, I plan to skip a speech that will be filled with lies, deception and divisiveness.” He continued: “The amount of damage, division and confusion Trump has inflicted on the American people over the last six weeks has been a blemish on the new Congress and I refuse to be witness to his continued antics.” This will be the third year in a row that the Oregon congressman has not attended the State of the Union.

Oregon Trail Blazers? Lawmaker urges team to change name

Portland Tribune

Why should Portland hog all the glory? A new resolution proposed in the state legislature calls on the Portland Trail Blazers to adopt a new, more inclusive title: the Oregon Trail Blazers. “Blazermania affects Oregonians from all walks of life and from every area of the state, regardless of the city they call home,” writes state Rep. E. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls, in House Concurrent Resolution 15. “We recognize the importance of the team to the entire State of Oregon and its place in the hearts of Oregonians across the state.” It should be noted that only the team owners and the National Basketball Association can approve a new team name, but the nonbinding resolution would “urge” the switch if it is passed into law. The Portland Trail Blazers earned their nom de hoops back in 1970, following a contest that allowed fans to vote for their favorite name, with the final selection made by a judging panel.Rep. Reschke didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The proposed resolution was first spotted on Twitter by Gordon Friedman.

Teachers Union Report Warns Of ‘Crisis’ From Disruptive Student Behavior

Oregon Public Broadcasting

It’s when students are having such a hard time that they scream or threaten their classmates and teachers. They lash out physically — hitting or kicking. They climb on top of desks or knock over furniture or throw pencils or scissors. Teachers or administrators are left with no good choices: either restrain the student and risk the child’s physical and emotional well-being or clear the room of everyone except the student while they trash the place. A new report from the Oregon Education Association comes from outreach to 2,000 teachers over nearly a year, aiming to press the case to lawmakers that addressing childhood trauma — and its dramatic effects on public school classrooms — should be a top priority for additional investment and policy changes. More than half of the hundreds of teachers who responded to an Oregon Education Association poll on disrupted learning say they’ve experienced “at least one room clear this year.” It’s difficult to confirm the results from the statewide teachers union or to determine how many room clears have actually happened because the Oregon Department of Education doesn’t collect information on the practice, and there’s no uniform definition or protocol for the response.  But it’s not a brand new problem. Teachers in Oregon public schools have been raising the alarm about deteriorating classroom conditions for years. The new report from the Oregon Education Association — the statewide teachers’ union — tracks its involvement in the problem back to a task force on special education two years ago.

Lawmakers Gear Up To Make Oregon The 1st With Statewide Rent Control

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Legislative heavyweights were the first to testify Monday in favor of a measure that would make Oregon the first state in the nation to adopt statewide rent control, a signal the bill is likely to move swiftly through the state Legislature. “Oregonians cannot afford to wait another year … They are losing their housing now,” House Speaker Tina Kotek, a key lawmaker behind Senate Bill 608, testified to members of the newly-created Senate Committee on Housing. Under the bill, landlords across the state could raise rent no more than 7 percent per year, plus the annual change in the consumer price index. The bill carves out an exemption for rental properties that are less than 15 years old. Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who has been a landlord for 35 years, said there is nothing in the bill that would “disadvantage a responsible landlord.” Republicans on the committee said the measure was written with urban Oregon in mind and ignored the rural part of the state. “The likely outcome from this legislation is fewer affordable housing units and increased rent throughout the state,” said Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend. Shaun Jillions, with the Oregon Association of Realtors, echoed the sentiment that rent control has never been proven to be effective. He also pointed out that in the past decade or so, the relators have been involved in housing policy discussion at the statehouse. This time they were excluded, he noted, saying their input could have improved the bill. Democrats have a supermajority in both chambers of the state Legislature. The Senate Committee on Housing approved the bill. The measure now moves to the Senate floor for a vote.

What Should Oregon Look Like? The Fight Over Single-Family Zoning

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Julia Metz stands on a sidewalk in Northeast Portland’s Woodlawn neighborhood, pointing across the street to a triplex that stands out next to a long line of single-family houses stretching down the block. “We replaced one home and were able to provide three homes instead on the same-sized lot,” said Metz, who works at Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, a non-profit that developed and manages the homes. This is a prime example of the kind of housing that House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, wants to see scattered throughout neighborhoods that have been zoned exclusively for single-family homes. The powerful lawmaker has introduced House Bill 2001, which would require every city of more than 10,000 and county of at least 15,000 to allow so-called “middle-housing” in residential neighborhoods within their urban growth boundary. She’s talking about two, three and four-unit homes. She also wants to encourage cottage clusters – small units grouped around a central courtyard – small accessory units added to homes and more liberal rules allowing existing homes to be subdivided. But this is their major attempt to spur market forces to increase the state’s supply of housing – which by one estimate falls more than 150,000 units short of demand. Shaun Jillions, a lobbyist for the Oregon Association of Realtors, said he has talked with Kotek’s staff about potential concerns about some of the details of her bill. But he also warned that the push to expand what’s allowed could ignite fervent opposition in the suburbs. “There’s a reason people move out there,” he said. “They want a single-family detached house in a neighborhood with a bunch of kids. They don’t want a four-plex right there with eight cars now piled out in the street.” Kevin Hoar, an Oregon Republican Party official who has followed zoning battles in his unincorporated Washington County community north of Beaverton, said this bill exacerbates the difficulty Oregon has in meeting the demand for affordable single-family homes. Jodi Hack, a lobbyist for the Oregon Home Builders Association, said her group supports easing rules for multi-family development in urban areas. But she said she wants an amendment to Kotek’s bill making it clear that up-zoning existing single-family neighborhoods wouldn’t change the calculations for expanding the growth boundary – at least not until it becomes clear how much extra development results.

LOCAL

Junction City Winnebago plant losing 220 positions with production shifting to Iowa

The Register-Guard

Winnebago will cut 220 jobs at its Junction City campus — lowering its workforce in Lane County from 250 to 30 employees — the RV giant announced Monday. “That’s a lot of jobs for a small town,” said Rick Kissock, executive director of the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce in Junction City. The Lane County town has about 6,100 residents. Just about two years after starting production of large diesel-powered motor homes in Junction City, Winnebago Industries detailed plans to shift diesel manufacturing back to another campus in Forest City, Iowa, Winnebago spokesman Chad Reece said Monday. The company expects to begin the transition immediately. The company will wrap up production of Class A recreational vehicles in Oregon by August, Reece said. “We have not achieved our targeted operating efficiency and profitability goals,” Winnebago Vice President Brian Hazelton said in a statement. He noted that the company bought the manufacturing and service facilities of former motor home maker Country Coach in 2015 to capitalize on the experienced RV workforce in the Northwest. Whether Winnebago keeps the property or sells it, the chamber’s Kissock said he is hopeful the buildings will be home to more jobs again soon. The 30-employee RV service operation that Winnebago plans to keep open in Junction City will continue to make repairs to Winnebago, Country Coach and other brands of motor homes.

Intel confirms plans for Hillsboro factory

Associated Press

Intel has acknowledged it will soon start building a massive new semiconductor factory in Hillsboro. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the company told about 50 residents living near its Ronler Acres campus that it will build a third phase of its massive D1X manufacturing complex, confirming a newspaper report last month. Intel also said it plans a new technology building to support the factory with emergency generators, utilities and additional parking. Intel was vague on details, including the project’s exact size and timing. Hillsboro city officials say the chipmaker recently submitted construction permitting applications but the city has yet to fulfill public records requests for the documents. The chipmaker says it plans to start work in Hillsboro sometime in 2019 but plans remain contingent on unspecified business and economic factors.

Stetz-Waters to speak to Linn Dems

The Albany Democrat-Herald

Fay Stetz-Waters, former Linn County circuit judge, will be the guest speaker Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Linn County Democrats’ monthly general meeting in the Albany Public Library meeting room, 2450 14th Ave. S.E. A social time with light refreshments starts at 6 p.m. The meeting begins at 6:30. Stetz-Waters served as circuit judge from November 2017 through Jan. 4 this year. She also has worked as a 911 dispatcher, Legal Aid attorney, administrative law judge and hearings officer. She is a Marine Corps veteran.

Port of Astoria loses $1.5 million state grant

The Daily Astorian

The Port of Astoria has returned a state infrastructure grant of more than $1.5 million because of delays in proving winter storm damage from 2015. The Port in 2016 received the state money to repair about 30,000 square feet of decrepit dock on the west side of Pier 2, where seafood processors handle much of the catch in Astoria. The grant would have required a one-third local match. The agency attempted to use the state grant as a local match on a larger pot of relief money it has sought from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover significant damage to the central waterfront from the 2015 storms. The Port has gone back and forth with FEMA, trying unsuccessfully to prove that issues under Pier 2 were caused by the storms. As of last fall, FEMA was offering less than $1.5 million overall, while the Port has estimated that between $6 million and $10 million is needed to repair storm damage. During the negotiations, the Port has repeatedly applied for extensions with the state to keep the 2016 grant available. The state has ceased offering Connect Oregon infrastructure grants through this year while it funds several specific multimodal projects around the state. Katie Thiel, program manager of Connect Oregon, said the money meant for the Port will go toward funding those projects. The future availability of Connect Oregon grants will depend on revenue returns from a new 1 percent tax on the sales of vehicles, she said.

OPINION

Make sure clean fuels program works

The Bend Bulletin

We have a rule for government programs: They should work. And not just work for work’s sake. They should make progress toward a deserving goal. That’s why Oregon legislators should pass Senate Bill 348. It directs that the state do a cost-benefit analysis of its low carbon fuels program. The program’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gases. That might help with global warming. Does the state’s program produce a benefit worth the cost? Of course, Oregon lawmakers would never let a program like this continue without checking, right? The program is designed so fuel importers gradually lower the carbon intensity of their fuels. They can do that by blending in lower carbon fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. But if they can’t meet the toughening standards that way, they can buy credits from public transit districts, biofuel producers and other credit generators that sign up. The extra costs of fuel get passed along to consumers in what they pay at the pump. The state claims the program is a resounding success. “Over the first two years of the program, approximately 1.7 million tonnes of GHG were reduced at a cost to comply less than a third of a penny per gallon,” the DEQ reported earlier this month. But as Oregonians have learned from the state’s wasteful Business Energy Tax Credit Program, disastrous launch of the Oregon health care marketplace, terrible performance in caring for foster children and more, it’s always a good idea to dig beneath the surface of what the state says in happening. The Bulletin is already in a legal battle to get public records that would explain details about how the clean fuels credit market is working. Chevron and REG, an Iowa biofuels producer, are fighting to keep those records hidden. Hmm, there couldn’t possibly be something they don’t want Oregonians to know? Passage of SB 348 won’t answer all the needed questions about the state’s low carbon fuels program. It’s a good start.

February 2&3, 2019 Weekend Clips

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Lawmakers unveil new version of much-anticipated climate legislation

OregonLive

A first draft of Oregon’s much-anticipated climate legislation hit the street this week in Salem, and though business and industry may not offer a full-throated endorsement, or even tepid support, there was a lot more for them to like about the rewrite from last year’s version. The cap and invest bill, as it’s commonly known, has been under debate for three legislative sessions. This time around, it’s a top priority for Democratic leaders, who now have a supermajority in both legislative chambers, a governor who looks on the bill as a legacy issue, and strong backing from environmental, social justice and low-income advocates. Republicans and some business groups, meanwhile, see the policy as substantial new tax on businesses and consumers that could scare jobs away while doing little to move the needle on global carbon emissions. The legislation would set an economy-wide limit on emissions of greenhouse gases that declines each year. Utilities, industrial companies and transportation fuel providers that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents would be required to annually acquire emissions allowances to cover their emissions, either in a state auction or on a secondary market. As the cap ratchets down, those allowances would get more expensive, forcing companies to reduce their emissions.

Oregon Governor On Measles Outbreak: ‘Get Your Children Vaccinated … Holy Smokes’

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon’s governor had some choice words about the ongoing measles outbreak in the Portland region when she spoke at a forum in Bend on Friday. “Please get your children vaccinated,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “We know that what we are doing is not working because we’re seeing the measles outbreak. I’ll let the medical people talk about how important it is, but holy smokes, this is basic science. It absolutely is.” “Oregon statutes around requiring immunizations are — from a national perspective — relatively weak,” Brown added. “The state senator (Elizabeth Steiner Hayward) who attempted to strengthen our vaccination rates was literally bogged down by avid parents. Honestly, I think the medical community needs to speak out.” Brown’s comments Friday aren’t the first time she’s been outspoken about her support for immunizations, even though some Northwest areas rank among the lowest vaccination rates in the country. During an October debate against Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler, Brown said “we probably give parents a little too much leeway.”

Oregon’s offshore tax law change from last Legislature could change again

Statesman Journal

Oregon’s offshore tax system faces a potential overhaul in the Legislature, one year after lawmakers repealed the state’s five-year old tax haven legislation. The debate is about Oregon’s role in the global marketplace and its need to collect taxes from corporations with interests outside the U.S. Lawmaker actions from 2018 will get scrutiny in the debate, too. Tax reform advocates say Oregon lawmakers moved too quickly when they repealed the state’s  tax haven law. That law rerouted the Oregon-earned income of companies based offshore for tax collection purposes. Oregon’s former tax haven law was a blacklist: It targeted and named countries, like the Cayman Islands, San Marino and the Cook Islands. The new effort would not bring the blacklist back. Instead, it would put a reporting system in place requiring corporations to disclose where they earned money.  Critics of Oregon’s current tax system say the state needs to do more to reduce the likelihood of corporations exploiting loopholes and moving money outside Oregon and the U.S. to avoid taxes. Supporters of the 2018 repeal say the blacklist discouraged investment and job creation from corporations with legitimate interests outside the U.S. The repeal was part of a larger tax bill, Senate Bill 1529, which was sparked by federal changes that Congress made to corporate tax law.

Oregon measure would ban charging ‘pet rent’

Associated Press

Three Oregon lawmakers are looking to give renters a break by eliminating the special fees landlord charge for pets. KOIN reports that House Bill 2683 would wipe out the monthly fees and with the exception of a deposit, it would prohibit landlords that allow pets in their units from charging tenants additional rent or fees simply based on possession of pets. The lawmakers who sponsor the bill said it would also prevent rent prices from going up further than they already are in a tight housing market. Ron Garcia with the Rental Housing Alliance said he feels the bill is misguided and will hurt the people it’s trying to help. He said because those fees are needed to compensate for pet wear and tear and he feels landlords will end up charging more for deposits

LOCAL

Portland expects up to $3.5 million from unique CEO tax

OregonLive

Portland expects the city’s unusual tax on companies with high-paid chief executives will bring in between $2.5 million and $3.5 million in its first year, in line with forecasts from when the city approved the law. Last year was the first Portland’s unique tax was in effect, capitalizing on new federal regulations that require companies to disclose the ratio between what their CEOs make and median employee pay. Portland won’t disclose how much individual companies have paid under the tax, citing taxpayer privacy protections. And nearly 100 companies have sought extensions while they adjust to the new taxes. Even if the tax hits the top end of Portland’s forecast range, $3.5 million is a tiny share of the city’s $621 million general fund — 0.6 percent, to be precise. Publicly traded companies were first required to report CEO ratios in 2018, covering their 2017 financial results. Among Oregon-based companies, 2017 ratios ranged from 379-1 (Nike) to 28-1 (NW Natural.) Companies will begin reporting last year’s pay ratios in the coming weeks. Executive pay is creating a new class of super wealthy, Novick argued, distorting executive pay and economic power while diverting corporate resources that could be used to raise the wages of the lowest paid.

Oregon awards $1.3 million tax break for nonprofit to create 5 warehouse jobs

OregonLive

Portland nonprofit Ecotrust, found last year to have broken the rules when it secured $1.3 million of state tax credits for a questionable sawmill deal, has requalified for all that money with a new deal to create five warehouse jobs in Tualatin. Meanwhile, Oregon Department of Justice officials continue what a spokeswoman described Friday as a “very active” investigation into the original sawmill deal. Officials at the Oregon Department of Revenue and state economic development agency Business Oregon concluded last year that Ecotrust had not legitimately qualified for the tax credits because it “failed to accurately characterize and disclose the intended use of proceeds,” among other failings, documents show. Regulators gave the eco-centric nonprofit 90 days to make an above-board transaction to keep the credits. Ecotrust subsequently proposed giving a local office supplies distributor $3.6 million to buy a Tualatin warehouse, a deal the nonprofit says will create five jobs paying about $15 an hour. Regulators at Business Oregon and the Oregon Department of Revenue approved that redo nearly two weeks ago.

Q&A: Diamond Project president reveals more details on baseball stadium, ticket prices, bond

OregonLive

The group pushing to bring a Major League Baseball team to Portland has a busy few months ahead. The Portland Diamond Project is finalizing its first face-to-face meeting with the league commissioner since the local backers announced a stadium plan for a Northwest Portland marine cargo terminal.  They continue to meet with city officials, who will have to approve the rezoning of the site and figure out a way to get up to 32,000 fans there.  And a looming milestone arrives in May, when the group must begin paying the Port of Portland for exclusive negotiating rights to the cargo terminal site.  It’s still unclear where the group will find the money to fund the stadium and acquisition of a team. The Portland Diamond Project this month disclosed its charter members, who are bankrolling the early efforts. And The Oregonian/OregonLive’s John Canzano reported the group had shown Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler letters from investors pledging more than $1.3 billion. The group, which has kept its major investors close to the vest, declined to confirm that number and it hasn’t disclosed its big-money backers for the $2.5 billion effort. But Craig Cheek, the Diamond Project’s president, sat down for a wide-ranging conversation that covered expected ticket prices, a bill that would take back the Oregon Legislature’s 2003 approval of bonds for stadium construction and his pitch for a small-market team.

OPINION

Opinion: Campaign finance reform needs a new approach

Knute Buehler

Nearly 25 years ago I began my relationship with campaign finance reform efforts in Oregon, leading the only coalition to pass a significant ballot measure on the issue. This experience, which included a diverse collection of organizations such as League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, provides important insight for campaign finance reform efforts by Gov. Kate Brown and others today. However, Oregon’s current campaign finance laws clearly need reform, as the recent gubernatorial election demonstrated with record spending on both sides. As I experienced firsthand, the tendency is to match spending dollar for dollar in an escalating fashion ­– especially when the election is competitive. This needlessly turns into a positive feedback loop fueled increasingly by national and special interest dollars. Contribution limits, which Brown is advocating for now and I supported in the past, will not solve this problem, but rather make our campaign finance system worse. Dollars would instead flow away from (mostly) transparent candidate campaigns to shadowy organizations, surfacing as independent expenditures. One only needs to look to the federal races to see the truth of this claim. Opaque super PAC’s, not accountable to any constituency other than unknown boards, spend millions protecting special interests and spreading propaganda with reckless abandon. Voters can show their opposition to candidates’ messages at the ballot box, but they are powerless against the proliferation of these organizations. Campaign finance reform has complex and difficult hydraulics: When the flow of money is impeded in one direction, it seeps through the cracks in another. Instead of contribution limits, which would lock in incumbent advantage and encourage more dark money spending, Oregon should pursue The People’s Pledge as a more transparent, innovative and legally viable solution.

Opinion: Adding tenant protections for housing stability

Tina Kotek and Peter Courtney

Every Oregonian, every human being, needs a place to call home. Shelter is a basic need. Safe, stable housing for everyone is the foundation of a safe, stable community. Unfortunately, we hear stories everyday about extreme rent spikes and sudden evictions across Oregon that are robbing people of their basic human right to shelter. In 2017, there were over 152,000 Oregon renters who paid more than half of their income on their housing, according to the American Community Survey. That’s one in four renters. Too many renters are just one unexpected financial crisis away from becoming homeless. We know from newspapers and social service providers that Oregonians in every corner of the state have experienced unbearable rent increases and unfair evictions. The Legislature must confront this crisis head on. We must smooth the way for more construction. We must increase emergency housing assistance. We must publicly finance more affordable housing across Oregon. We believe all solutions should be on the table if our state is to get ahead of the housing crisis. One of those solutions is Senate Bill 608. The rental market needs more predictability and fairness. Senate Bill 608 seeks to address two main issues that have wreaked havoc on too many renters: No-cause evictions and sudden extreme rent increases. Today, our laws allow many renters to be evicted with as little as 30-days’ notice for no reason and for renters to receive unlimited rent increases. Senate Bill 608 is an innovative, hybrid solution combining common sense tenant protections with reasonable accommodations for landlords and developers. It prohibits no-cause evictions after 12-months of a tenancy. The bill also protects people by preventing extreme rent increases.

Readers respond: How will baseball stadium affect climate?

OregonLive

I have two questions for those who want to bring a major league baseball team to Portland: Do you care about global warming and the devastating effects it will continue to have on communities, people of lower socioeconomic status and wildlife? Have you considered what the carbon output of building a baseball stadium will be, including fossil fuel consumption from construction, electricity, vehicles stacked in line waiting to get into parking lots as well as the team and its associates’ means of travel on buses, vans and airplanes? I challenge the Oregonian/OregonLive to conduct an in-depth study of the impact on the environment and carbon emissions from having a professional baseball team come to Portland. I would want to have this information before deciding whether or not to support it.

Readers respond: Rent control bill offers no relief

OregonLive

I read in the Jan. 19 article, “Oregon lawmakers propose unorthodox approach to rent control,” the state Legislature is likely to pass a rent control bill this year. It will “limit” rent increases to 7 percent, plus inflation. So, let’s see what that does for me. I am retired, and this year we got a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase, which equates to about $50 a month for me — by far the largest I’ve received in the seven years I have been retired. Based on this proposed legislation, my landlord will be “limited” to raising my rent by 9.8 percent, which in my case would be about $101 a month. Wow, thanks a lot. I already pay half my income in rent, so I can see in a few years with these incredibly strict “limits,” I will be out on the street — or who knows where. Just how I dreamed of spending my golden years. Kind of makes me wonder how many of our legislators are landlords and how many of them are tenants.

January 31, 2019 Daily Clips

SOS MARIJUANA AUDIT

Oregon marijuana regulators fail to meet even basic standards, state audit finds

Oregon Live

Oregon’s marijuana program has failed to keep up with mandatory inspections, its weak testing system threatens to expose consumers to contaminants and regulators have done little to address black market diversion, according to an unsparing new audit from the Secretary of State released Wednesday. The audit represents the first detailed examination of Oregon’s regulation of the legal cannabis market since voters said yes to legalization in 2014, when supporters promised that state oversight would rein in an industry that had flourished for decades in the underground market. Auditors concluded that regulators have failed to meet even basic promises. It found, for instance, that just 3 percent of recreational marijuana retailers had been inspected and only about a third of growers. It said the state’s medical marijuana program, long a source of black market diversion both in the state and nationally, has “structural weaknesses” that “greatly increase the risk of diversion.” The audit also found an inadequate testing system. For years, Oregon has struggled with its pesticide testing regulations, which are intended to ensure that products meet certain standards before they land on retailers’ shelves. The state has since imposed tighter regulations, but the audit found that it lacks a way to verify the accuracy of test results. It also said that while the state requires certain tests for recreational cannabis, testing isn’t required for most medical marijuana. And while other states require tests for heavy metal and microbiological testing, Oregon does not.

Audit lights up legal weed spillover

Portland Tribune

Oregon’s system for regulating legal cannabis likely fails to prevent spillover to the black market, state auditors said Wednesday. That increases the risk that the state could be subject to more federal scrutiny, said Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, whose audits division released a report Jan. 30 on state regulation of cannabis. Oregon has two systems for legal cannabis: medical, which voters approved more than 20 years ago, and recreational, which Oregon voters supported in 2014. Auditors studied the controls on each program, finding there were significant gaps. While a growing number of states are legalizing cannabis, it remains illegal federally. State auditors waded into the fray this year, finding that state oversight is insufficient, particularly when it comes to medical marijuana. Additionally, they said, the state could improve testing of marijuana products to protect public health and should consider testing cannabis products for heavy metals and microbiological contaminants. It should also make sure labs that test cannabis are consistently accredited. The agency halted processing new recreational marijuana license applications in June so state officials could catch up on a backlog. Gov. Kate Brown wants to change state law to allow the OLCC to cap licenses based on market demand and other factors. The state doesn’t have as much authority to regulate medical growers’ activities, auditors said. And they found there aren’t enough inspectors of medical cannabis, there is high turnover among the inspectors the program does have, and money coming into the program through fees is dropping off.

Audit: State failing to regulate marijuana

East Oregonian

Oregon’s system for regulating legal cannabis likely fails to prevent spillover to the black market, state auditors said Wednesday. That increases the risk that the state could be subject to more federal scrutiny, said Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, whose audits division released a report on state regulation of cannabis. Oregon has two systems for legal cannabis: medical, which voters approved more than 20 years ago, and recreational, which Oregon voters supported in 2014. Auditors studied the controls on each program, finding there were significant gaps. While a growing number of states are legalizing cannabis, it remains illegal federally. In early 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded previous federal guidance on cannabis that had allowed more leeway for state-legal programs during the Obama administration. Shortly thereafter, Oregon’s top federal prosecutor, Billy Williams, made headlines when he lambasted what he claimed was a rampant problem of diversion from the state, with tons of legally grown Oregon cannabis leaking across state lines and into the black market. State auditors waded into the fray this year, finding that state oversight is insufficient, particularly when it comes to medical marijuana. Additionally, they said, the state could improve testing of marijuana products to protect public health and should consider testing cannabis products for heavy metals and microbiological contaminants. It should also make sure labs that test cannabis are consistently accredited.

Oregon audit finds flaws in pot regulation system linked to black market

Statesman Journal

Oregon’s system for regulating legal marijuana has flaws that increase the risk of the drug entering the black market and leaving the state, a state audit found. The Secretary of State audit, released Wednesday, took a comprehensive look at the state’s regulatory framework for recreational and medical pot. It also found that the state needs to improve its laboratory testing requirements and increase oversight of licensed marijuana businesses.  For example, the audit found the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational marijuana, lags in business compliance inspections after they have an initial inspection for their license.  Such inspections began in June 2018. As of October, the commission had only inspected 3 percent of 591 licensed retail shops — 16 locations. The audit underscores state regulators’ struggle to keep pace with Oregon’s pot industry. Since midway through last year, medical growers who produce weed for three or more patients have had to use the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s Cannabis Tracking System. Regulators said last year they would ask state lawmakers for additional tax money to help regulate medical marijuana. Some have floated the idea of creating an entirely new agency to regulate marijuana in Oregon, instead of having separate agencies split regulatory responsibilities. Others have proposed exporting Oregon weed to other states. Opponents called the audit proof that Oregon can’t control its pot industry.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Governor vows more money to fight fires

Mail Tribune

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown vowed Wednesday to find more money this year to lessen wildfire dangers and to push for a more aggressive firefighting response to reduce the devastating impacts of months of smoke on the region’s health and economy. “We will obviously be having conversations with the Legislature about more resources, particularly for this area,” Brown said. The governor made a number of stops in Medford Wednesday, including at the Medford Air Tanker Base, where she highlighted a $1.5 million grant to the Rogue Forest Restoration Partnership. It’s part of $6.3 million in grants to be used over the next few years to thin federal, state and private forests around six communities in Southern Oregon to help avoid the kind of wildfire that destroyed much of Paradise, California, last fall. “These fires are more ferocious, more fierce than we’ve seen before,” she said. Brown signed an executive order Wednesday that creates a council to find ways to improve the state’s response to wildfires. “Make no mistake, Oregon is a national model for fire response,” she said. Brown wants to increase harvest levels on federal land and strengthen the partnership with federal forest agencies, as well as support organizations that undertake forest thinning operations.

Gov. Kate Brown Announces New Council To Assess Oregon Wildfire Response

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order Wednesday creating a new council that will examine the efficacy of the state’s response to wildfire. The Oregon Wildfire Response Council is charged with reporting their findings no later than Sept. 30. “We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can, that we are employing the best practices in the entire country, and that we are building support among all Oregonians for the sustainable funding needed to change this pattern,” Brown said. According to the governor’s office, the panel will look at “wildfire education, prevention, suppression, attack, and community recovery.” The governor announced the executive order in Medford. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners held a recent hearing where they heard concerns from residents about increasing smoke and forest and wildfire management. The general consensus from the public was that officials needed to be more proactive to protect communities. The governor announced a $1.5 million grant to the Rogue Forest Restoration Partnership. The money will be used by Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative and partners to move forward with restoration and fuels management work in the region.

GOP, Democrats at loggerheads over cap-and-trade proposals

Portland Tribune

Just a week into the 2019 Legislature, unrest between Democratic and Republican legislators has surfaced over landmark legislation to reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions. Legislators have been anticipating the environmental push as a major issue in the session, putting Oregon in the forefront of tackling carbon emission changes through government policy. The proposal could affect every Oregonians in many ways, increasing costs for things like gas and manufactured goods. On Monday, Jan. 28, Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, aired his grievances in a Portland Business Journal article, saying he had been shut out from crafting of the legislation despite being a vice chair of the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction. n Monday, House Republicans accused Democrats of hiding the bill, expected to become public Thursday. “From what I have heard from many people is that bipartisan ideas are the best,” Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, said in the Republican statement. “This should be a bill that is bipartisan for all Oregonians. Yet, the fact is, the bill has only been seen and written by one party. I think that one might need to simply say we don’t want your help in this bill.” Denbrow said no one is being shut out. He said a legislative attorney assigned to the legislation took a week off during the holidays and the process is taking longer than expected. The partisan divide comes just months after an election cycle that gave Democrats a three-fifths majority in the House and Senate as well as re-election of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. Republicans had warned that Democrats would act alone to push through major legislation. Democrats have promised continued work with their Republican colleagues.

Early In Legislative Session, Oregon’s Justice System Is Clamoring Loudest

Oregon Public Broadcasting

The troubling anecdotes have been piling up in the Capitol: open judgeships in southern Oregon that almost no one is interested in filling; massive stretches of highway left completely unpatrolled; poor defendants being unconstitutionally churned through the justice system. This year’s Oregon legislative session has been billed as an opportunity to find big money for health care and education, but in the first week of action, it’s been members of the criminal justice system making their case most strongly for more resources. The pleas, so far, have come from three entities very well acquainted with asking lawmakers for new resources when the session comes around, often with little result. But this year, with Gov. Kate Brown and members of the Democratic leadership highlighting their support, new money might well be on the way — if lawmakers can find it among an array of other big-ticket necessities. Oregon judges had a similarly plaintive plea for judiciary committee members nearly a week earlier, when Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters showed up to ask for higher pay and more judges. Judges have succeeded in getting $5,000 salary bumps from lawmakers in recent sessions, but their proposal this time around, House Bill 2238, would do far more. Oregon currently contracts for nearly 100 percent of the public defense services employed statewide — a marked difference from states that employ their own public defense attorneys. But what makes Oregon’s system so concerning, a report from the nonpartisan Sixth Amendment Center recently found, is that it pays for those services by shelling out a flat fee for every case a contractor takes. Lane Borg, executive director of the Office of Public Defense Services, says he’s not sure how far the Legislature might get in righting the ship this session. At a minimum, he’s hoping for a mandate to both improve transparency in the public defense system and re-work the pay structure to something more suitable.

Oregon’s Wyden turns up pressure on FBI about Saudi role in student disappearances

Oregon Live

Oregon’s senior U.S. senator on Wednesday formally requested that the FBI turn over any information it has about multiple cases where students from Saudi Arabia vanished while facing criminal charges in the state. Sen. Ron Wyden asked FBI Director Christopher Wray if his agency has any evidence that the Saudi government provided assistance to the suspects at the center of an Oregonian/OregonLive investigation as well as any other Saudi national charged with crimes in the U.S. The Oregonian/OregonLive has revealed criminal cases involving at least five Saudi nationals who disappeared from Oregon before they faced trial or completed their jail sentence. They include two accused rapists, a pair of suspected hit-and-run drivers and one man accused of having with a trove of child pornography on his computer. In at least four of those cases, the Saudi government paid the defendant’s bail and legal fees. Wyden, a Democrat, said he’d like a response by Feb. 8. His letter comes a day after he prodded the FBI director during an open hearing by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that brought the nation’s intelligence chiefs to testify before lawmakers.

Effort to help southern Oregon winegrowers is caught in backlog caused by federal shutdown

Oregon Live

Winegrowers in southern Oregon faced financial ruin after a California winemaker claimed wildfire smoke tainted their grapes and refused to buy them. Now, the rejected fruit that was turned into wine by local vintners is facing another setback. Two Oregon wineries stepped in to buy the grapes, but getting the Oregon Solidarity wines they produced to markets on time is in doubt because the federal agency that approves labels has a huge backlog, a hangover from the government shutdown. Nationwide, makers of alcoholic drinks face disrupted business and lost revenue. If another shutdown starts in about two weeks, as President Donald Trump has threatened if Congress doesn’t provide money for a border wall, the backlog could persist. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, both Oregon Democrats, warned of “disastrous” consequences in a letter to John Manfreda, administrator of the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. They urged Manfreda to dedicate all resources to clearing the backlog of applications. Retailers are counting on having the wines and to do promotions, she said. The wines will be sold nationwide and will be available to buy online. Rogue Valley Vintners, a southern Oregon nonprofit made up of wine producers, growers and community partners, will get the proceeds.

Oregon Could Become The 2nd State To Regulate Plastic Straws

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Restaurants across Oregon would be forbidden from handing out single-use plastic straws without a customer’s request, under several bills that lawmakers are considering this year. If passed, the policy could make Oregon just the second state in the nation to regulate plastic straws statewide, after California passed a law last year. But lawmakers first need to answer some big questions. As Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, put it during a committee hearing on Tuesday: “Who do we follow, California or Portland?” A bill currently before the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee would make it illegal for any restaurant to give customers a plastic straw without first being asked — a policy that resembles a wider-ranging ordinance passed by Portland City Council late last year. Breaking the law would be punishable by $25, with a $300 yearly limit on penalties. But an amendment to the bill introduced by state Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, would pare the law down, ensuring it applies only to full-service restaurants — not fast food. That’s akin to California’s law. And in a twist that concerns environmental groups and Portland city officials, the amendment would pre-empt any city in the state from enacting its own rules for drinking straws. That would take precedence over Portland’s policy, sharply decreasing the number of restaurants regulated in the city.

New Oregon bill would ban charging pet rent

KGW

Renters, sick of forking over extra fees to cover pets, could soon see some relief. The newly proposed Oregon House Bill 2683 “prohibits landlords that allow pets from charging tenants additional rent or fees based on possession of pets.” In other words, if passed, it would ban the practice commonly known as “pet rent.” Christian Bryant is the president of the Portland Area Rental Owners Association. He said property owners charge pet rent to cover general wear and tear that builds up over time. That build-up is faster, he said, in units that house pets. “Normal wear and tear is something that you can’t use deposit funds for, and so that’s where, if you’re a landlord who decides to accept pets for your rentals, you need to be conscious of the fact that you’re going to be replacing your carpet probably a couple years before you would if you only had tenants that didn’t have pets,” Bryant said via Skype Wednesday. Some commenters on social media worried the bill, if passed, would backfire on tenants, prompting landlords to ban pets from their properties altogether or raise rents across the board. Bryant said that could easily happen. “I would definitely say so,” he said. “The reality is with all the changes going on at the state level, and especially if it’s a landlord that owns properties in Portland because they have a lot of changes happening there… landlords as a group are starting to get pretty reactionary.” The bill’s chief sponsor is Rep. Rob Nosse, a Democrat from Portland.

Lawmaker shores up protections for new moms, pregnant women

Portland Tribune

Most people who testify at the Capitol bring slide presentations, graphs or official letterhead to make their point. State Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie, brought a breast pump as she talked in support of her proposals to give women more latitude to be working mothers. Nursing mothers use the device, which resembles a handheld fan but with a suction cup where the blades would be, to pump and store breast milk when they can’t directly feed their babies. Power wanted to show her colleagues why nursing moms should get dedicated breaks during the work day to pump. Under current law, Oregon workers at firms with 25 or more employees are allowed one half-hour break every four hours. Power’s bill — House Bill 2593 — would match the state with federal law, which doesn’t limit pumping breaks. It would also require all employers, regardless of size, to provide breaks for pumping milk. Employers wouldn’t have to pay workers during those breaks beyond the time an employer is required to provide paid rest periods. Waiting too long between pumping sessions or feedings can be painful and lead to serious infections, Power said. And she said many women can work while pumping — whether it’s working on a legal brief or driving a truck. Through a separate bill, HB 2341, Power also wants the state to require more employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to pregnant workers. That could mean a chair for a cashier who usually must stand, or light duty for a worker who can’t lift heavy items, or more frequent breaks to use the bathroom. Right now, Oregon salaried workers at firms with fewer than 25 employees don’t have a legal right to such accommodations. “I can go ahead ask my employer for that without things going horribly south and be worried about losing my job,” Power said of her proposal. Under Power’s bill, employers who would face “undue hardship” to accommodate pregnant workers wouldn’t have to comply.

Oregon Sen. Lew Frederick Condemns Racism at Portland-Area High School Basketball Game

Willamette Week

Last week, members of the Parkrose High School girls’ basketball team had racist remarks hurled at them during a game against St. Helens High School. The girls and their coach, who spoke to FOX 12 about the harassment, say St. Helens fans called the athletes the n-word and made monkey noises at them before and after the game. On Tuesday, Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) shared the incident with colleagues during a chamber meeting in order to spark discussions on how the Legislature can address and protect people from bias crimes. “Colleagues, I’ll start with a quote: ‘The Parkrose school community, students and families deserve better and should expect a welcoming environment, free of racist comments, when they attend events. Disrespectful language and behavior does not represent the teachings of the St. Helens School District. I am personally mortified and embarrassed by the bigoted actions of those involved. It is upsetting that the ignorance of a few reflects on our entire community. If we stand silent in the presence of racism, we are culpable.’

LOCAL

Portland to condemn white supremacists, ‘alt-right hate groups’

Oregon Live

Portland’s City Council has prepared a resolution that recognizes the city’s “racist governing history” and condemns “White Supremacist and Alt-Right Hate Groups.” The resolution states the city “will not tolerate hate in any form” and will commit to training all city employees on the history and effects of white supremacist ideology and how to identify it. Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement that Portland has become a place where people “are now emboldened to express hate, spread fear and do harm against those who simply do not look like them.” Far-right activists with the group Patriot Prayer and their white nationalist allies the Proud Boys last held a planned event in Portland in October of last year. The most serious violence linked to their 2017 and 2018 rallies included fistfights and beatings with improvised weapons between far-right and far-left rallygoers. The mayor and all four city commissioners sponsored the resolution, an “extremely unusual” step that Schmanski said speaks to the council’s unity on the issue and “the shared urgency we feel about sending an unequivocal message.” The resolution, first reported on by the Portland Mercury, notes racist actions taken by previous officials in city and state posts. It cites as examples Oregon’s entry to the union as a whites-only state, legislators’ initial refusal to ratify constitutional amendments extending equal protections to all people and ending slavery, Portland’s practice of displacing black residents and a “history of bias” on the part of police officers.

Elevated light-rail in Tigard? TriMet considering it

Portland Tribune

Residents got their first look at possible alternatives to track alignments and the location of a final Bridgeport Village station as part of a “Bonita to Bridgeport” open house Jan. 24, part of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project. TriMet representatives unveiled those proposals to a packed house held in the community room at Tigard Public Library. Last fall, TriMet came up with a locally preferred alternative for the new rail line, a 12-mile route that begins south of the Portland Transit Mall, travels through Tigard and is expected to end in the Bridgeport Village area. However because of public response regarding the project’s Draft Environmental Statement, the Southwest Corridor project team sought two potential adjustments to the line between Bonita Road and the Bridgeport Village area, according to TriMet officials. As a result, TriMet is working with a plan to elevate the tracks over Upper Boones Ferry Road as part of the locally preferred alternative. However, those elevated tracks would result in significant more costs and impacts so TriMet is offering the possibility of building a shorter bridge over Boones Ferry Road but via Southwest 74th Avenue.

Salem third bridge: City Council shows few signs of advancing proposal as deadline nears

Statesman Journal

The Salem City Council showed few signs of advancing a proposal to build a third traffic bridge over the Willamette River following a roughly two-hour fact-finding meeting Wednesday night. Councilors questioned officials on topics ranging from the displacement of nearby businesses and residences that would likely have to move to make way for the bridge to how to pay for the proposal. To the costs, options on the table are a property tax, a gas tax, a vehicle registration fee and tolls. But the mix of those revenue generators would likely be determined after councilors decide to move forward with the bridge proposal. A consequential vote is poised to come as early as Feb. 11, when the council could either advance the proposal, signaling to other involved agencies they’re committed to building the crossing, or essentially let the bridge proposal crumble. The issue before councilors is completing final environmental impact statement for the bridge. That would likely result in the Federal Highway Administration issuing what’s called a “record of decision” to either build or not build the bridge. Part of completing the impact statement involves Salem responding to issues raised in 2017 by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, according to the city report. Problems raised by the board, such as the use of a wrong population estimate, put the brakes on the project.

OPINION

Friedman | The age of surveillance capitalism

East Oregonian

Around the end of each year major dictionaries declare their “word of the year.” Last year, for instance, the most looked-up word at Merriam-Webster.com was “justice.” Well, even though it’s early, I’m ready to declare the word of the year for 2019. The word is “deep.” Why? Because recent advances in the speed and scope of digitization, connectivity, big data and artificial intelligence are now taking us “deep” into places and into powers that we’ve never experienced before — and that governments have never had to regulate before. I’m talking about deep learning, deep insights, deep surveillance, deep facial recognition, deep voice recognition, deep automation and deep artificial minds. Around 2007, we took another big step up. The iPhone, sensors, digitization, big data, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and cloud computing melded together and created a new platform that was biased toward abstracting complexity at a speed, scope and scale we’d never experienced before. So many complex things became simplified. Complexity became so fast, free, easy to use and invisible that soon with one touch on Uber’s app you could page a taxi, direct a taxi, pay a taxi, rate a taxi driver and be rated by a taxi driver. Over the last decade, these advances in the speed of connectivity and the elimination of complexity have grown exponentially. Because as big data got really big, as broadband got really fast, as algorithms got really smart, as 5G got actually deployed, artificial intelligence got really intelligent. So now, with no touch — but just a voice command or machines acting autonomously — we can go so much deeper in so many areas. But deep trust and deep loyalty cannot be forged overnight. They take time. That’s one reason this old newspaper I work for — the Gray Lady — is doing so well today. Not all, but many people, are desperate for trusted navigators. Many will also look for that attribute in our next president, because they sense that deep changes are afoot. It is unsettling, and yet, there’s no swimming back. We are, indeed, far from the shallow now.

Opinion: A solution to tackle the inequities in Portland schools today

Oregon Live

Portland Public Schools needs a clear-eyed disrupter to immediately address a five-alarm fact: Our city’s historically-underserved students with the highest-needs are still not getting the education they deserve. According to a recent Secretary of State audit, roughly 80 percent to 90 percent of the district’s African-American students did not meet grade-level standards on 2017-18 achievement tests. The failure to provide long-range and real-time equitable solutions for our kids is systemic, larger than any one superintendent, school board, administrator, teacher, teacher’s union or parent group. In order for us to close the achievement gap together, Oregon needs to fully fund our schools after years of disinvestment — and we need to ensure those hard-earned dollars are inextricably tied to outcomes. Portland Public Schools could do this by embedding a permanent change agent within the district. An equity reform team headed by a chief equity officer – fulfilling a greater vision than in its previous incarnation – could provide a constant through line for transformation, ensuring that the district equity policy adopted eight years ago becomes an effective, meaningful document.

Four Days. Hundreds of Miles. Eight Town Halls. 1,700 Oregonians

Agreement Reached to End Partial Government Shutdown

The agreement reached by Congressional leaders and President Trump to reopen the government provides a new opportunity for all sides to get together and work out a solution that provides enhanced border security for our country while making sure important government services continue.  As the February 15th deadline looms, I will continue to do all I can to encourage leaders of both parties to find a resolution to these issues.

Four Days. Hundreds of Miles. Eight Town Halls. 1,700 Oregonians

While the partial government shutdown continued, I used the time to hold town hall meetings in southern, central, and eastern Oregon from Friday, January 18 through Monday, January 21.  During the four days, more than 1,700 Oregonians took time to share their concerns and questions in Grants Pass, Medford, Klamath Falls, Bend, Madras, Prineville, Burns and Ontario.  These town halls — just like letters, emails, phone calls, individual meetings, and telephone town halls — help me update my “to-do” list to take back to Washington, D.C. During the last session of Congress, I responded to more than 168,000 phone calls, letters and emails. And since 2012, I’ve held 156 town hall meetings.  I look forward to continuing these meetings in the coming weeks throughout the vast second district.

After my town hall in Malheur County, I gave a quick recap regarding the topics discussed. Click here or on the image above to view my video.
Travelling from one side of the state to the other, I held town hall meetings in eight counties across our vast district, from Josephine and Jackson to Harney and Malheur.
1. Grants Pass — Friday, January 18

I kicked off my series of town hall meetings in Josephine County at the Grants Pass High School Performing Arts Center. Much of our discussion focused on wildfires and smoke, which is no surprise since Grants Pass residents were inundated with wildfire smoke like much of southern Oregon this summer.

In Congress, I worked hard to pass into law the most significant reforms to forest management in more than a decade. That includes a fix to the way we pay to fight wildfires starting in 2020, so that we are not robbing funds used for forest management to pay to fight fires. This will finally treat wildfires like the natural disasters that they are. But there is much more work to be done.

During the town hall, one Grants Pass resident asked about the impact of wildfire smoke on our environment and health. According to the United States Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency, the carbon emissions from wildfire smoke in Oregon in 2015 was the equivalent of 3 million cars and three-and-a-half coal fired plants.

This makes it clear that the status quo of forest management needs to change.
2. Medford — Friday, January 18

Following my town hall in Grants Pass, I headed to Medford, where residents raised similar concerns. I heard from a woman at my Medford town hall who told me how wildfire smoke is hurting the local economy. A real estate agent, she told me that some people are leaving southern Oregon, selling their homes, and vacant houses are left on the market because of the wildfire smoke.
This economic impact is being felt across the region. Wildfire smoke cost the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland about $2 million in 2018. That was a result of more than 26 outdoor performances having to be canceled because of wildfire smoke. That’s more canceled shows than in all five previous seasons combined.
We need to get to the root of this problem, including the way we tackle fires on federal land.

In 2017, there were roughly the same amount of fire starts on federal lands and state lands in Oregon. However, 95 percent of the acres burned from wildfires occurred on federal land managed by the Forest Service. During the town hall, I heard concerns about the response to wildfires that start on federal land, and that we need to be getting on these fires sooner to stop them from getting out of control.

During hearings I held in Congress over the last two years, I told federal forest officials that they need to consider the health, environment, and economic impact of wildfire smoke when determining how to fight wildfires that start on federal land.

Walden frustrated by feds’ response

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden on Friday blasted the federal response to wildfires that have devastated the Southern Oregon economy, jeopardized local health and prompted an outcry from residents over what they believe is a “let-it-burn” philosophy.

“I don’t know if there’s a policy like that, but I hear it enough,” Walden said to about 400 people at a town hall at Central Medford High. “They’ve got to get on them quicker.”

Click here to read more from the Medford Mail Tribune.


3. Klamath Falls — Friday, January 18

From Medford, I headed to Klamath Falls for my third town hall meeting of the day. While some of the discussion again focused on improving forest management to prevent wildfires, as well as other national topics, we also talked about local issues like the water challenges facing the Klamath Basin. During the town hall, I heard about the fear farmers in the Basin have that severe drought conditions will continue to threaten their livelihoods. Addressing this issue is a top priority for me in Congress.
Last Congress, I worked to secure needed drought relief measures for Klamath Basin irrigators to help them survive the water year in Oregon. Congress authorized $10 million annually for four years to the Bureau of Reclamation to implement needed drought relief measures for the $181 million agriculture economy in the Klamath Basin.That means that we will be better prepared if we have another challenging water year in the Basin in 2019 and subsequent years after that. As I said during the town hall meeting, I will continue to work closely with farmers, tribes and others in the Basin to ensure our agriculture community in Klamath Falls can thrive for generations to come.

Walden catches up with Klamath Falls in town hall
… Water Infrastructure Act
Walden also addressed drought relief funding allocated in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA).
“It’s authorized $10 million for each of the next four years, if necessary,” he said.
Click here to read more from the Klamath Falls Herald and News.

 4. Bend — Saturday, January 19

On Saturday afternoon, I held a town hall in Bend at Mountain View High School. One topic that was at the top-of-mind for participants during the town hall was climate change and boosting renewable energy. As we work to address this issue, I am committed to finding solutions that prioritize adaptation, conservation, and innovation. However, I believe we can do this without taxation, overregulation, and economic stagnation.
Last Congress, I led the effort to pass into law legislation that would boost hydropower production across the country.Hydropower generates 40 percent of the electricity in Oregon and has great success as a renewable energy source in our state.
The bill we passed into law will streamline the permitting process for adding hydropower generation to existing water infrastructure, so we can complete more projects like Central Oregon Irrigation District’s Juniper Ridge hydro project. This project turns piped irrigation water into enough power for 3,300 homes, while also conserving water for farmers and fish.
We also streamlined permitting for closed-loop pumped hydropower projects. The Swan Lake Pumped Hydropower Project is in development near Klamath Falls, which aims to generate enough power for 600,000 homes. This is the kind of innovation we need to boost renewable energy and adapt America’s power portfolio in a way that benefits both our economy and environment.

5. Madras — Sunday, January 20

On Sunday, I kicked off the day with a town hall in Madras. Before the town hall began, veterans with the Madras Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 12141 completed the “Posting the Colors” ceremony, when the American flag and Oregon flag are posted at the front of the room, before we said the Pledge of Allegiance.
The veterans with Madras VFW Post 12141, like all of the men and women who have worn our country’s uniform, are owed a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. The least that we can do is ensure America’s veterans are receiving the care and support they deserve at the VA. During my town hall in Madras, I gave an update on my work in Congress to do just that.
With my support, Congress passed historic funding for the Veterans Administration — more than $70 billion to help the VA improve care for our veterans. Importantly, this funding emphasizes boosting mental health care, opioid abuse prevention, and rural health care programs. This is the largest dollar amount ever for the agency.

We also passed into law the VA MISSION Act, which bolsters the VA to boost care for our veterans. Importantly, this legislation includes my bill to introduce medical scribes into the VA system to handle paperwork and patient record keeping, so doctors can focus their full attention on their patients. This resulted in a 59% increase in the number of patients doctors can see per hour in the private sector, and we want to bring that success to our veterans at the VA.
I’ve helped more than 8,000 Oregon veterans and their families with problems at the VA. If you or a loved one needs help with the VA, or any other federal agency, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at 800-533-3303. I will do everything I can to get results for you.

6. Prineville — Sunday, January 20

On Sunday afternoon, I headed over to Crook County for a town hall meeting in Prineville. The main topic of concern was the partial government shutdown, which was still ongoing at the time of the town hall meeting.
This concern was raised at every town I held, and is a concern that I hold as well. As I said during these town hall meetings, I have empathy for the federal workers, their families, contractors, and local businesses who were caught up in this. That’s why I requested that my pay be withheld during the partial shutdown.
But also let me be clear: It’s essential to any country’s security to have meaningful border security. I support securing our border with barriers, technology, and additional personnel, and believe Congress should come together with the President to strengthen border security. We’ve consistently done so in a bipartisan manner in the past.  At the same time, I do not agree that it makes sense to furlough the people working on the biological opinion in the Klamath Basin, or forest fuels reductions in southern Oregon, or grazing permits in eastern Oregon, or any of the other important projects federal agencies need to complete in our district.
That’s why I voted repeatedly to open federal agencies like the Forest Service, BLM, and others that have nothing to do with the important debate over border security. I also voted repeatedly to immediately pay the federal workers impacted by the partial shutdown. I hope leaders in Congress can come to the negotiating table with the President to fund the government in the longterm and address the concerns I heard from Oregonians in Prineville and across our district.

Walden talks shutdown, border security, more at town hall
In the midst of a federal government shutdown driven by disagreements over border security, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden held a town hall in Prineville where that topic and others were discussed at length.
Walden kicked off the session, which drew about 150 people to the Crook County High School gym on Sunday afternoon, by addressing his views and voting regarding the shutdown.
“I broke with my party to reopen some of these agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and others that have nothing to do with debate over border security,” the Republican congressman said. “I voted to fund those agencies, and I will continue to do so.”
Click here to read more from the Central Oregonian.

On the road again…

My view just east of Brothers as I traveled to Burns for town hall number 155 since 2012.

     7. Burns — Monday, January 21
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I continued my series of town halls with a meeting in Harney County. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life was a testament to peaceful, productive, and respectful civic discourse and engagement. The town hall meetings I held throughout southern, central, and eastern Oregon certainly honored this legacy.

During my town hall meeting in Burns, I took the opportunity to talk about my efforts in Congress to expand internet access in our communities. More than 23 million Americans do not have adequate access to broadband services, including many people in eastern Oregon. That’s why I continue to lead efforts in Congress to bring broadband to rural America and connect our communities with the 21st Century economy.
Last Congress, I helped pass into law the first modernization of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in more than two decades. This legislation that is now law is called the RAY BAUM’S Act, named after La Grande native, former state lawmaker, and my friend Ray Baum who tragically passed away from cancer last year.
RAY BAUM’S Act will help boost the development of next-generation wireless broadband known as 5G, and improves FCC’s ability to expand broadband infrastructure in rural Oregon. Last year, I brought FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to eastern Oregon to learn more about the benefits of expanding broadband into our communities. 
Broadband can boost access to telehealth, improve precision agriculture, and help our first responders in an emergency. Bridging the digital divide will continue to be a top priority for me in Congress.

Walden holds town hall in Harney County
U.S. Congressman Greg Walden held a town hall meeting in Burns on Monday, Jan. 21, in which he recapped the issues he’s working on in Washington, D.C., and listened to concerns from residents…. 
… Walden talked about the need for bringing more broadband into rural areas, and the ever-increasing speed of digital service.

8. Ontario — Monday, January 21

Following my town hall in Burns, the Cub Scouts of Pack 467 in Ontario welcomed me to Malheur County for my 156th town hall meeting since 2012.

During the town hall meeting, I discussed how the majority of the work we do in Congress is bipartisan. Partisan legislative fights may receive the bulk of national media attention, but those fights are the exception, not the rule.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, where I served as Chairman, passed148 bills through the House of Representatives in the last Congress, 93 percent of which received bipartisan votes when they passed and 57 of which became law. That includes our landmark opioids package, which included more than 60 individual bills that passed the House by overwhelming bipartisan voters. 
A crucial piece in our efforts to combat the opioid crisis is the work of community health centers. There are 12 community health centers that serve more than 240,000 Oregonians at 63 delivery sites across our vast district. Community health centers like Valley Family Health Center in Malheur County provide vital health care services, like substance abuse treatment, to patients in rural and underserved communities.

During the town hall meeting in Ontario, I presented Valley Family Health Center Executive Director Tim Heinze with a copy of legislation I passed into law to extend funding for community health centers. Last year, Tim gave me a tour of the community health center in Ontario and I saw firsthand the work of the Valley Family team to provide health care to our community.

Under my leadership, we were able to get a two-year reauthorization of community health centers at the highest funding levels ever. This means that Tim and others can continue to care for the Oregonians who get care at community health centers.

Looking Ahead

While I was originally scheduled to continue my series of town halls in eight more counties across our district, last minute scheduling changes in the House required that I return to Washington, D.C. for legislative business.

Town halls originally scheduled for last week will be rescheduled for later dates and announced accordingly. I will be sure to keep you updated on the details for these upcoming meetings and hope to see you at a town hall in your community!

That’s all for this update. Remember, you can always keep in touch with me via email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

It is an honor to represent you in the U.S. Congress.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District

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January 29, 2019 Daily Clips

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Faith group wants to ban assault rifles in Oregon

KGW

A faith group held a rally and vigil Sunday evening in Portland, calling for a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Lift Every Voice is made up of religious leaders, students, and other organizations. More than 100 people packed into Augustana Lutheran Church for the event. There were several speakers, including two high school students who said they should not have to live in fear of a shooting at their schools. The group said they hope to ban assault weapons to prevent mass shootings. “They are the tools of choice in the majority of mass shootings,” said event speaker Liz McKenna. School lockdowns and mass shootings are why many who attended the rally said Oregon gun laws need to change. he group proposed two bills to the Oregon Legislature. One would ban assault weapons and require those who already have them to either register them and pass a background check or get rid of them. The other bill would ban large capacity magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets. Read more on their website. Group members said they are not against the Second Amendment or people having guns, but said there is no need for assault weapons.

Oregon bill targets jobless benefits with eye on next federal shutdown

Associated Press

Anticipating possible additional federal government shutdowns, Oregon’s Senate president has prepared a bill that will allow federal employees who are working but not being paid to receive unemployment benefits. The draft of the bill also would allow a state-funded program to pay unemployment benefits to active duty U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed in Oregon who are legally compelled to provide regular service without compensation during a shutdown. Lisa Taylor, spokeswoman for Senate President Peter Courtney, said the bill is expected to get its first reading in the Senate Tuesday. House Speaker Tina Courtney said she hopes the bill gets bipartisan support and that it passes before the agreement by President Donald Trump to end the shutdown expires Feb. 15.

Legislators prep for two years in ‘superminority’

Keizer Times

Sen. Kim Thatcher and Rep. Bill Post, the two Republicans representing Keizer, are expecting a trying 2019 session. Democrats hold a supermajority in the Oregon Legislature and the governor’s office which means that Republicans have little recourse when it comes to stopping the bills they oppose without getting Democrats to cross the aisle. What Thatcher and Post are hoping is that Sen. Peter Courtney can reign in his party to some degree. “He’s the last Oregon statesman and that’s what this session will be about,” Post said. “But he has a fractured caucus and I think it will be difficult to keep the more divisive stuff at bay,” said Thatcher Post is again trying to free up allergy sufferers to purchase Sudafed-type medication without seeing a doctor for a prescription. Oregon’s restrictions on Sudafed are some of the strictest in the nation while other states keep the medication behind the counter and allow purchase of the medication as long as the consumer presents a photo ID. Post has new hope for the bill, which has failed previously, because it appears to have the support of House Speaker Tina Kotek. “All the legislators are tired of driving to Vancouver for Sudafed,” Post said. Post is pushing for a new $2 million allotment for recipients of SNAP and TANF benefits. He knows it isn’t going to be popular with some of his constituents, but he’s heard from many families who are running out of money for basic needs like diapers before the end of the month. Another bill that even Post admits is something of a surprise for him, is one that would give certain youth offenders a chance for a sentencing review before being transferred to adult facilities.  “I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with the youth at McLaren as part of my church (Salem Evangelical), and I’ve met enough of these guys who can say they were being idiots or made a mistake. I have a young man in my mind who deserves a break, and this is coming from a hard-on-criminals guy,” Post said. While they are still waiting to see what other major issues rise to the surface, one issue they are united in standing against are gun control efforts including a proposed limit on ammunition sales and outlawing magazines with a capacity of more than five rounds. “Only allowing someone 20 rounds a month limits people’s ability to be proficient with their weapons. That’s a safety issue for me,” Post said.

Starnes continues crusade for campaign finance reform

East Oregonian

Patrick Starnes, former candidate for governor, earns a living now as a carpenter renovating an 1878 house in Brownsville. In his spare time, he is working to remodel Oregon’s campaign finance laws to cut the influence of major donors. Limiting campaign money was a primary plank for Starnes as he campaigned for governor last year as the candidate of the Independent Party of Oregon. He took no more than $100 from any single donor though Oregon law would have allowed him to take checks of any size. Shortly before the election, he dropped out in a deal with Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, getting from her promise to champion campaign finance limits in the 2019 Legislature. He means to hold her to that promise and is continuing his one-man campaign for reform. He calls on the governor’s office regularly to check on campaign finance proposals. He’s been assigned a point person in the Governor’s Office, executive assistant Jack Polales, to meet with weekly. “The commitment is important to see it through rather than getting the promises from everyone,” Starnes said. He also shows up at legislators’ offices, sometimes unannounced, with a bright smile on his face and a ready speech on why there should be controls on how much donors can spend on political campaigns. Some legislators have already agreed to support a constitutional amendment needed to make limits legal. “Some lawmakers aren’t interested in it and don’t think it’s a big issue,” Starnes said. His dream is to limit campaign contributions to $1,000 for individuals and political action committees each election cycle. In 1997, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that such limits violated Oregonians’ constitutional right to free speech, but voters could authorize the caps by approving an amendment. Legislators in each chamber have proposed separate referrals to voters revising different parts of the Constitution. The legislation would let voters decide whether to allow caps but proposes no specific limit.

‘Noisy few weeks’ forecast on cap and trade bill

Portland Business Journal

Cap and trade legislation will be unveiled late this week, beginning what Democratic lawmakers expect will be a robust public discussion of the climate policy. Some Republicans have grumbled about not being in on crafting the bill over the past month, and the Partnership for Oregon Communities, an alliance of business groups opposing the climate policy, accused Democrats of keeping voters in the dark. Sen. Cliff Bentz, an Ontario Republican, said he’d devoted hundreds if not thousands of hours to cap and trade over the course of the past year, but had been shut out of discussions since just before Christmas. Asked about that in an interview, Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Portland Democrat who co-chairs the committee, said the bill — likely to be posted online Thursday and introduced in a Friday public meeting — will be strongly informed by that earlier work. “I really feel like it has been a very public process,” Dembrow said. “We had so many hours of public hearings and meetings.” Dembrow said Democrats expected to have the bill out to the public earlier, but the writer working on it in the legislative counsel’s office was off for two weeks over the holidays. Dembrow said the bill will be “very similar” to SB 1507, legislation that was introduced last year, with “more clarity” on a wide range of potentially contentious issues, including oversight, handling of vulnerable industries and the rate of the cap’s decline. And then stakeholders will have a chance to pick it apart, he said. “The bill that comes out this week is going to be subject to amendments that I know will be there — I have some in mind,” Dembrow said. Dembrow forecast a “noisy few weeks” for the committee. “People will get up during the public process that we will have and they will talk about the lack of public process,” he said. “In the end, I’m confident all voices will have the opportunity to be heard.”

Keizer Republican wants Oregon Health Authority overpayments returned

Statesman Journal

A Senate Republican from Keizer wants the state to demand back millions of dollars the Oregon Health Authority overpaid to organizations that coordinate Medicaid benefits for approximately 1 million Oregonians. State Sen. Kim Thatcher revealed a legislative proposal Monday that would require the Health Authority to recover all overpayments to coordinated care organizations within 60 days of the bill’s passage. The issue dates back to late 2017 when an Oregon Secretary of State audit found the Health Authority could have avoided spending an estimated $76 million on patients who were members of coordinated care organizations, but may have been ineligible for coverage under the Oregon Health Plan, also known as the state’s Medicaid program. The estimate included about $17 million in state money. Thatcher’s proposal is designed to get coordinated care organizations to pay back the money. “We need to know why this has been allowed to happen and how we can prevent it from ever happening again,” she said in a statement. “Every dollar thrown away is a dollar robbed from taxpayers that is not spent on promised health care for those most in need.” Health Authority officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Courtney bill would support federal workers in Oregon during next shutdown

Statesman Journal

As federal employees returned to work Monday after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney pushed forward on a bill to support those workers in the case of another shutdown. The bill, which will be introduced in the Senate Tuesday, would allow Oregon federal workers required to work without pay to apply for unemployment insurance through the state’s Employment Department. As the law is currently written, employees working without pay are exempted from unemployment insurance. The bill would also allocate funds to financially support members of the Coast Guard not receiving pay. About 10,000 federal workers in Oregon were either furloughed or worked without pay during the shutdown. There are about 28,000 federal employees statewide. Legislative leaders, including Salem’s Democratic senator, discussed this idea in the days leading up to President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats coming to an agreement that reopened the government on Friday. But the stopgap legislation only funded the government for three weeks as both sides begin to debate paying for Trump’s border wall, meaning another shutdown could be on the horizon. “What D.C. does or doesn’t do is outside of the Oregon Legislature’s control,” Courtney said in a statement. “We can’t force the federal government to pay its employees, but we can extend the safety net to everyone.” Senate Republicans spokeswoman Tayleranne Gillespie said Republicans would be open to discussing the proposal. Kotek said she wants the bill to stay above partisan fighting.

Temporary rules restrict Oregon solar development

Oregon’s land use regulators have temporarily expanded restrictions on solar arrays on high-value farmland over the objections of advocates who claim they’ll impede development. Solar facilities larger than 12 acres on high-value farmland have required conditional use permits in Oregon, but ambiguities in the regulatory language raised concerns among farm and conservation groups. For example, one project was approved without a permit last year because the county government determined it didn’t “preclude” agriculture use, since bees could still forage beneath the solar panels. In response to these concerns, the Land Conservation and Development Commission issued temporary rules clarifying that solar projects cannot “use, occupy or cover” more than 12 acres, regardless of whether they “preclude” farm uses. During a Jan. 24 meeting in Salem, the commission voted to approve additional provisions prohibiting most solar development on top-quality soils: those defined as Class I, Class II, prime and unique. However, the revised rules will allow solar facilities of up to 20 acres on such soils if the project includes a “farm use element” for the project’s duration, as determined by county land use rules. The special rules for “dual use” facilities are set to expire in 2022. Due to a request to submit additional information, the commission will also revisit the solar rules again at its meeting on March 21-22 with the goal of enacting permanent regulations. A representative of Renewable Northwest, a nonprofit that supports solar energy, hopes the additional information will be compelling enough for the commission to decide changes need to be made to the rules. The rules are likely just the beginning of the conversation and 1,000 Friends of Oregon would like to see Oregon continue to revisit the issue and develop a statewide vision for renewable energy and land use, Darzen said. Data collected by Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development — which is overseen by the commission — indicates 80 projects are currently proposed on nearly 1,000 acres of high-value farmland in the Willamette Valley. Although solar advocates argued that proposed solar projects represent less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the nearly 1.46 million acres of high-value farmland in the Willamette Valley, DLCD recommended enacting the stricter regulations because the farmland impacts have been “disproportionate” in some areas.

LOCAL

Paychecks, seasonal hiring top priorities for reopened federal agencies in Lane County

The Register-Guard

Federal workers were back on the job Monday around Lane County, the first day of work after a record-setting 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government. In all, 590 people in Lane County work for agencies affected by the shutdown, said Brian Rooney, a regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department in Eugene. The largest federal employers in the county are the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. “We don’t really know how many didn’t work or how many weren’t paid,” said Rooney of those workers impacted by the shutdown. Rooney said he would have a clearer picture of the impact next month once he receives payroll data. Federal officials said that one of the first tasks after the shutdown is to make sure employees receive paychecks promptly.The Springfield building shared by the BLM’s Northwest Oregon District and the Willamette National Forest Supervisor’s Office was abuzz Monday as workers for the two public land agencies returned to work, said Willamette National Forest spokesperson Chiara Cipriano. During the shutdown, national parks around the country drew media attention due to visitors running unchecked across the signature landscapes. Snow this time of year already limits how much of the park visitors to Crater Lake can access, and about a month ago officials fully closed the seven-mile road to the Rim Village to vehicles, saying the closure was “due to conditions caused by the impact of human waste buildup on the park’s water system.” McCabe said the closure helped minimize trash, human waste and other potential damage issues.Over the weekend, snowplow drivers cleared the road to Rim Village and on Monday Crater Lake’s visitor center reopened. Winter is slowest time for visitors at Crater Lake, with most people coming on the weekend to go skiing or snowshoeing.

Pacific Power rolling out new smart meters in Clatsop County

The Daily Astorian

Pacific Power will start rolling out new smart meters in Clatsop County in February that track power usage by the hour. The project is part of a $117 million investment by the private utility in 590,000 smart meters across Oregon, including 24,000 in the county. The installations will begin on the north side of the county and move south, with completion expected between the end of April and early May. The smart meters have a communications module that uploads power usage data via a secure wireless mesh network to Pacific Power’s servers. About six weeks after installation, customers will be able to look at their hourly power usage on a secure website.  Cory Estlund, Pacific Power’s manager of field support, said there are about 70 million smart meters across the U.S. More than two-thirds of Oregon homes and businesses have them. The utility waited several years to allow the technology to be refined and come down in price before investing.  The change to online meter-reading will cut 100 positions from Pacific Power’s statewide workforce of 5,500, including six in Clatsop County. Pacific Power gave employees two years’ notice of the change and has helped them find other internal positions or other employment, Dunlap said. Some people have raised concerns about privacy from data collection and health worries over the mesh network, which sends information via radio waves between a collection of devices. Estlund said the concerns are largely the result of fearmongering online. Pacific Power has been reaching out to customers about the installations. Workers with Aclara Technologies, the manufacturer of the new meters, will visit homes and businesses with badges identifying them as installers for the utility. There is no charge for installation. Customers can opt out of having the smart meters installed, but face a $36 monthly fee for meter reads.

Portland parks facing $7 million shortfall

Portland Tribune

Portland Parks & Recreation is facing a potential $7 million shortfall in next year’s budget — 7.5 percent of its approximately $94 million operating budget.Commissioner Nick Fish, who was assigned the parks bureau four months ago, says the because costs are outstripping revenues, the City Council will have to make “hard choices” about the budget. Fish says he has already curtailed spending. “Effective immediately, I have directed PP&R to severely limit hiring, spending, and training. As we develop a sustainable plan to bring costs in line with revenues, we’ll continue to consult with the community,” said Fish, adding, “My goal is to put PP&R on solid financial footing while continuing to deliver the high-quality services our community expects.” The bureau had previously been overseen by Commissioner Amanda Fritz. The shortfall is largely caused by personnel costs increasing faster than revenues generated by the bureau, the FAQ sheet says. More than a quarter of it revenues come from fees for programs, which the City Council has kept low to encourage public participation. “Personnel costs are growing at a fast pace. In 2016, we added more than 100 new full-time employees following a labor arbitration. But between Council allocated General Fund and program fees, we can’t keep pace with growing costs for healthcare, PERS, cost of living adjustments, and other benefits.” The problem has been growing for years.

While Portland school board reconsiders police contract, students want a voice

Oregonian

As the Portland school board considers withdrawing its support for a contract to pay the city more than $1 million per year for nine full-time police officers to patrol the district’s high schools, students want more say in what happens. Students from across the district opposed the Dec. 11 school board vote to approve the contract and wanted to pressure the City Council, which also would need to approve it, to spike the agreement. “Ideally, for me, and for a lot of students I’m working with, is that we’re wanting this program to end,” Roosevelt High School senior Isabel Mace-McLatchie said. “Our needs are already being met by the administration and security at our school.” She’s part of a group called No SROs PDX, which uses the acronym commonly used to refer to school resource officers, as officers in schools are known. The group argues that uniformed police officers aren’t necessary to maintain order in Portland’s public high schools. Instead, Mace-McLatchie and Grant High senior Micah Mizushima say, teachers, administrators and school security guards should be the ones disciplining students.

OPINION

Letters: Support carbon dioxide emissions limits

Pamplin Media Editorial

The research firm Rhodium Group reported on Jan. 8 that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions rose sharply by 3.4 percent in 2018. That report was very troubling, because last October the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned us that we have less than 12 years to take significant climate action or we will face very damaging consequences. Fortunately, we do have solutions. 1. Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs bill, to be voted on and passed in the upcoming 2019 Oregon legislative session. Clean Energy Jobs is a policy to put a limit and price on climate pollution from the largest polluters in the state. It will secure greenhouse gas reductions and reinvestment into communities across Oregon to create clean energy jobs and a thriving economy, especially in communities that need it most. 2. Ask your members of Congress, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Rep. Greg Walden and Washington U.S. Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, to support the recently introduced bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 7173). This congressional bill would be effective at reducing carbon pollution by over 40 percent in 12 years. It’s good for people by improving health and saving lives by reducing pollution that Americans breathe. Best of all, it’s good for the economy, creating 2.1 million additional jobs over the next 10 years.

Opinion: Hear your students, PPS board, and rescind agreement with police

Oregonian

On Tuesday night, Portland Public Schools board members will vote on whether to suspend an agreement they approved last month to pay the Portland Police Bureau for school resource officers in high schools. The PPS Board should absolutely, unequivocally vote to rescind that decision and make a choice that reflects the voices of those most impacted – the students. As a concerned educator who shares the racial identity of students who are historically disproportionately harassed – and killed – by law enforcement, and as a citizen who has been personally targeted by Portland police in my community, I share the following thoughts. The presence of law enforcement in schools is a critical issue with profound ideological implications. This is a significant decision that reflects the mission, purpose and overall strategy of the district. Yet, the majority of the school board voted for the agreement in haste even after the only person of color on the board, Julie Esparza Brown, gracefully and courageously provided the counter-perspective to this short-sighted proposal. Guided by her awareness of students’ experiences and her own ideological views about the excessive nature of armed officers in schools, Esparza Brown was the lone vote against the agreement.