Dennis Richardson – OHA Audit Report

OHA Audit Report — Agency of Wasteful Spending

 Secretary of State


The State of Oregon

900 Court Street NE, Salem, Oregon 97310  –

Secretary Richardson

OHA Audit Report

Agency of Wasteful Spending

As part of my commitment to make Oregon government more transparent and accountable and to ensure “liberty and justice for all” Oregonians, I am sending you my Secretary of State newsletter.

Today, my Audits Division released the long-awaited and detailed Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Audit Report entitled, “Oregon Health Authority Should Improve Efforts to Detect and Prevent Improper Medicaid Payments.” This report documents the failure of OHA and its previous leadership to meet the federal requirements for eligibility and the wasting of hundreds of millions of dollars that could have been spent caring for Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens or educating our youth.

To put this audit into perspective, on May 17, 2017, the Secretary of State Audits Division released our first Audit Alert. It informed Oregonians and their legislators that OHA had failed to disclose that 86,000 individuals had not had their eligibility evaluated within the one-year federal time limit. The actual number of unevaluated Medicaid recipients turned out to be 115,235. Of that number, it was finally determined that 47,600 were ineligible for the benefits being paid for them. There were various causes of ineligibility—higher than allowed income, individuals who had moved out of state, or those who merely failed to respond to written status inquiries.

Consider the magnitude of these expenditures spent on ineligible benefit recipients. At an average monthly cost of $383, the cost for benefits alone was more than $18 million per month or nearly $219 million annually, if the 47,600 individuals had been ineligible for only one year. The auditors specifically estimated in the attached OHA Audit Report that $88 million was misspent between March 1 and August 31 of 2017 alone.

The OHA Medicaid audit was a difficult audit to complete. Under its previous leadership, OHA’s delays, obfuscations, and failure to cooperate with the Secretary of State’s audit team was so blatant that the Audit Report was required by national standards to disclose such lack of cooperation. See the report’s special section entitled, Impediment to Audit Completion on page 14.

Before the new administration assumed the reins, OHA’s credibility had sunk to a new low with additional multi-million dollar disclosures of waste and incompetence.

Since the Secretary of State’s OHA audit was completed a month ago, The Oregonian reported information that was not disclosed to our auditors. The article reports that OHA misspent more than $74 million dollars of Medicaid funds on improper payments unrelated to audit findings contained in the audit report released today. Some of these unrelated improper payments disclosed by The Oregonian have already been repaid, and others will endanger Oregon’s already precarious budget situation.

On November 17, the Portland Tribune reported $112 million dollars of additional wrongful payments disclosed by OHA’s new leadership.

The information in the above articles is substantiated in a November 17 letter from OHA’s new Director, Patrick Allen. In the letter to Governor Brown, there are 18 examples of OHA programs where tens of millions of dollars have been misspent.

Public disclosure of the longstanding mismanagement of taxpayer funds is the first of many steps OHA needs to take to improve transparency, efficiency, and accountability to Oregon taxpayers.

The one positive point from such depressing news is that the 2017-19 OHA budget assumed the full 115,235 caseload. Thus, because OHA over-estimated its caseload by 47,600 Medicaid ineligible recipients, nearly $100 million of General Fund will now be available to the legislature for other purposes (47,600 x $383 x 24 months x 22.5% state G.F. portion of total cost of benefits).

In closing, today’s OHA Audit Report provides the best information the audit team could obtain from OHA’s previous uncooperative leadership and administration. The amount of wasteful and incompetent spending at OHA has been staggering and has gone on for at least the past four years. Soon Oregon voters will be considering whether or not to approve tax increases intended to provide additional funding to the OHA. With such abysmal examples of OHA misfeasance and obfuscation, OHA faces tough questions about its credibility and its ability to appropriately spend the money it is provided.

—Dennis Richardson

Jeff Helfrich appointed as State Representative for House District 52



Jeff Helfrich appointed as State Representative for House District 52

Hood River resident to represent constituents in Multnomah, Clackamas and Hood River Counties


Sandy, Ore. – Jeff Helfrich has been appointed by a unanimous vote of Multnomah, Clackamas and Hood River County Commissioners to serve as the State Representative for House District 52. Helfrich, 49, is a resident of Hood River with a long career in law enforcement. He will fill the remainder of former Representative Mark Johnson’s term in office after Johnson accepted a position as the President and CEO of Oregon Business & Industry.


“I am incredibly humbled to have earned the support of our community in this appointment process,” said Helfrich. “I will continue leading efforts started by Rep. Mark Johnson to improve education, the economy, and protect our environment and way of life in the Gorge and across Oregon. I also vow to work on improving our community’s health and safety as well as disaster preparedness, and increasing government transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. I will make sure that I, and my staff, are available to help identify and address community concerns so that the community’s voice is heard and responded to not only in Salem but directly in the district as well.


Jeff has worked in public service for more than 30 years, including over 25 years in community policing with the Portland Police Bureau. Prior to his law enforcement career, Jeff served in the U.S. Air Force and was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He also previously served as a member of the Cascade Locks City Council, Cascade Locks Planning Commission, Cascade Locks Budget and Charter Review Committee and Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD) Board of Directors.


“Jeff will be a great addition to the House Republican caucus and to the Oregon House,” said House Republican Deputy Leader Greg Barreto. “His law enforcement background combined with experience serving as an elected leader within his community will suit him and his constituents well as he begins his time in office.”


House District 52 includes residents in the communities of Hood River, Sandy, Troutdale, Gresham, Damascus and Cascade Locks.




Daily Clips



Timber Towers or Clean Air? Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Big Priorities Don’t Go Together

Willamette Week

“Promotion of cross-laminated timber by the state was intended to help rural Oregon businesses, employees and communities,” says Mark Johnson, CEO of Oregon Business & Industry. “Sadly, state overreach will cause more harm to rural Oregon by putting cross-laminated timber and other manufacturing at risk.”

Democrats will pick Oregon’s next Republican lawmaker

The Oregonian

With so much on the line — a supermajority for Democrats, and a superminority for Republicans — politics is inevitably in play. Johnson and Preston Mann, executive director of the House Republican Caucus campaign arm, complained Tuesday about second-hand reports they’d received that House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and public employee union officials attempted to influence commissioners’ vote.

Forecast: Oregon’s growing tax revenues could help next budget

The Oregonian

Oregon’s tax revenues continue to outpace expectations, state economists told lawmakers in Salem on Wednesday. The latest state revenue forecast calls for an additional $47.4 million in general fund and lottery revenue above the last estimate in August.

Gov. Brown, Google team up to urge students to study computer coding

Portland Tribune

Governor Kate Brown lent her star power to a Google event at Parkrose Middle School Tuesday, a gathering designed to get kids excited about careers in coding. “We are struggling, frankly, to diversify the workforce in the designing and coding arena,” said Brown, noting the class had a mix of races and genders. “And so, if we can get kids interested in middle school, we capture them for life.”

Capitol roundup: PERS, Christmas and more

Bend Bulletin

Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, will re-introduce legislation to curtail one type of pension spiking by public employees. A similar bill died without a hearing during the 2017 session, but Whisnant is going to give it the old college try.

Val Hoyle all but locks up Oregon labor commissioner race

The Oregonian

Former Democratic House Majority Leader Val Hoyle has positioned herself as all but certain to win one of Oregon’s top political offices half a year before the election is held.”I’m not taking anything for granted,” she said. “It’s an open seat and I don’t have the expectation that it’s my seat.”


New housing developments could prove challenging for Medford schools

Mail Tribune

Housing developments approved in the Medford area spell potentially significant increases in students entering the school district’s already overcrowded elementary schools. Data and maps compiled by the city of Medford and combined with district information project how many students may relocate to or move within the district in the next few years. The numbers give a clearer picture of the growth the district needs to account for as it considers the long-term readiness of its facilities to house students.

Proposed Home For ACCESS Academy Would Move Students With Special Needs

Oregon Public Broadcasting

After months of uncertainty, Portland’s alternative school for talented and gifted students may have found a new home. In a proposal shared with parents and school staff Tuesday, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero floated moving ACCESS Academy to a two-building campus in Southeast Portland.


The state of the press: fewer reporters, bigger government

Portland Tribune

Information about government increasingly comes from well-paid government employees – what does that mean for the reporters who are left and the democracy we all live in?


Editorial: The fine for Kitzhaber’s ethics violations should sting

The Oregonian

In the December 2014 email, Kitzhaber wrote about the ethics commission: “We will convey that we are willing to take this all the way and have a strong case for prevailing. But the end game is not actually to have the complaints dismissed but rather to negotiate a stipulated settlement agreement in which we might acknowledge some minor mistakes we may have made and have the matter resolved at the March meeting. Do I have that right?” Thankfully for Oregonians, the current commission made sure he did not.

Editorial: Treat Sisters homeowners fairly on vacation rentals

Bend Bulletin

Facing growing interest in vacation rental permits, the city of Sisters is trying to find the right mix of regulation to head off problems other communities have faced. It needs to do so in a way that treats all homeowners fairly.

Guest: County must unite behind legislative decisions

Court Boice, Curry County Commissioner

If governed by responsible commissioners, it simply allows our county the potential for sound business options. It is not “Boice’s plan.” It is, however, a precise new and helpful law sponsored by state Rep. David Brock Smith. I worked with him to design it for Curry County. During the 2017 legislative session, his HB 3435 passed both the Oregon House and Senate with unanimous and strong bipartisan support, then was quickly signed by the governor.

Guest:Second Amendment doesn’t preclude laws for gun safety

Dale Lugenbehl is a faculty member in the Social Sciences Department at Lane Community College and the author of research articles on the subject of critical thinking.

In general, it will also be helpful to mentally reframe the issue more accurately as one of gun safety, rather than gun control. Doing so will help to keep gun owners and gun rights advocates in the discussion, and finally begin moving us toward effective nonpartisan solutions to gun violence.






Local lawmakers at center of changing Senate

Portland Tribune

Big changes are coming to the Oregon Senate, and Washington County lawmakers will be in the midst of it for 2018.


Oregon GOP supports Kruse, accused of sex misconduct, remaining in Senate while investigation underway

The Oregonian

A spokesman for the Oregon Republican Party on Monday said Sen. Jeff Kruse should remain in office while an independent investigator looks into multiple accusations of unwanted touching by the senator. If the claims are substantiated “then perhaps there might be a reason to call for his resignation,” said party spokesman Kevin Hoar.


Buehler and Brown on course to break spending record

Bend Bulletin

Gov. Kate Brown and Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, have together raised $5.3 million in the 2018 race for governor, putting them on pace to blow past the most expensive governor’s race in state history.


Nursery association honors government, agency backers

Capital Press

The association gives the annual awards to state or federal elected officials or to key government agency personnel who are “solution-oriented, who consider the nursery and greenhouse point of view and who act as a partner, regardless of party affiliation,” executive director Jeff Stone said in a prepared statement.




State’s psychiatric hospitals still without chief


Hoping to jump-start the recruitment, OHA officials now say they will increase their maximum starting salary for a successful candidate, but they declined to specify how much they are willing to offer. The initial superintendent job posting offered a maximum starting salary of $182,000 a year. Members of the hospital’s advisory board say they’ve been disappointed with the overall quality of the candidates they’ve been asked to interview during the two-year job search.




Forest Service moves closer to wilderness area permit proposal

Bend Bulletin

After eight months and more than 500 comments from Oregonians, the U.S. Forest Service is closing in on a proposal that could protect Central Oregon’s most scenic areas from overuse.




Multnomah County soda tax campaign postpones target date after spending $800K

The Oregonian

Backers of the initiative raised more than $900,000 but have less than $85,000 left after collecting almost 30,000 signatures. Because those were on documents approved for the May election, the signature drive will have to start over to get a proposed initiative before voters next November, said Multnomah County elections spokesman Eric Sample. Steenbergen said she and other campaign leaders decided to postpone their drive because they believe the higher voter turnout expected in November improves their chance of passing the measure.


Multnomah County Republicans Want Greater GOP Input on Federal Judicial Selection Process

Willamette Week

Today, James Buchal, a Portland lawyer and the chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party, wrote to Trump, complaining about the process for filling a vacancy on the bench for the U.S. District Court of Oregon and for another on the Ninth District Court of Appeals that is typically given to an Oregonian. “Something is very seriously wrong with your appointment process for federal officials establishing federal policy in the State of Oregon,” Buchal wrote, noting that the “gatekeeper” for the appointment process is an aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)  and that the six-member judicial selection committee responsible for vetting candidates contains only one registered Republican.




Lt. Governor To Ban Guns In Washington State Senate Galleries

Northwest News Network

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat who serves as the president of the Senate, issued that order Monday, extending a previous order banning openly-carried guns in the Senate galleries. “I don’t want us to be implementing this type of order the day after some type of tragedy,” Habib said in a phone interview with the Northwest News Network and the Associated Press. “I want us to be doing it preemptively and in a way that’s respectful.”




Editorial: Brown is making a questionable gamble

Bend Bulletin

Given the efficiency with which Congress has acted this year, and not just on CHIP, Brown is taking a gamble in telling the OHA to keep the program afloat after the money runs out. CHIP is a program worthy of saving, but to simply assume federal funding will arrive to allow OHA to recoup its expenditures is a gamble she shouldn’t take.


Editorial: State makes right call on insurance


In Oregon, state officials believe that some 40,000 of the covered children would have to move to Medicaid, known here as the Oregon Health Plan. But the state would have to pay to keep coverage for the remaining 79,000 children. Brown said she wanted the state to take action now, so that affected families would have some certainty that their coverage would continue. It’s the right move for Oregon and for these vulnerable families, but it’s just a stopgap. Congress should go for the easy win and renew the program.


Guest column: Make the commitment to OSU-Cascades

Amy Tykeson and Jane E. Teater are co-chairs of NOW4 OSU-Cascades, a community outreach group focused on campus expansion.

OSU-Cascades is a game-changer for our region. Please join us in support of the campus expansion by writing to your state representatives, the governor and legislative leadership and urging them to follow through with the state’s commitment to higher education in Central Oregon.


Guest: Oregon poised to help workers save for retirement

John Scott directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ retirement savings project

Since 2012, lawmakers in 40 states have introduced measures to create or study state-sponsored retirement savings plans for employees who otherwise wouldn’t have them. Legislation has passed in California, Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland.Oregon is in the vanguard, and OregonSaves could be a model for a viable and sustainable savings solution.

John Scott directs The Pew Charitable Trusts









Woman reports sexual assault, waits year for answers due to police lab backlog

The Oregonian

Oregon’s stockpile of thousands of untested sexual assault kits is a longstanding problem that the Legislature tried to address last year with Melissa’s Law, named for Portland teen Melissa Bittler, who was killed in 2001 by a serial rapist.
The law is intended to ensure sexual assault evidence is tested in a timely way. The state got $1.5 million to hire nine DNA and biology evidence technicians, bringing to 44 the total number of staff who analyze the kits and other evidence. The effort to speed things up at the lab has had the unintended effect of slowing things further for months.


Wolves’ return to Oregon brings political debate

The Associated Press

The fact that Oregonians are debating when and how to kill wolves at all is incredible given the predators didn’t exist here a decade ago, said Derek Broman, carnivore coordinator with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. As the point person on the upcoming wolf management plan, he hears from dozens of competing interests on what to do with wolves.


Harrowing Wildfire Season Ends, But Political Debate Burns On

Oregon Public Broadcasting

“What’s made it different this year is that it’s now clear that the fires are bigger and hotter and more powerful,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. He’s a central figure in the congressional fight over wildfire funding and forest policy.


Oregon vehicle registration fees will increase Jan. 1

Portland Tribune

In addition to a vehicle registration fee increase, a package produced by the Legislature is funded by increases in other transportation-related fees that take effect Jan. 1.




Unions Will Endorse in Hotly Contested Oregon Senate Appointment

Willamette Week

The competition to succeed state Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) is one of the most complex, hotly contested and consequential metro-area legislative appointments in many years.

One sign of how meaningful it is: Unions and trial lawyers are taking the unusual step of endorsing choices for a seat that’s appointed by county commissioners.


Multnomah County Soda Tax Supporters Postpone Vote On Measure

Portland Tribune

“Because of shifting political currents, the Coalition for Healthy Kids & Education has decided that focusing on a higher turnout election will maximize our chances of success. While this means we won’t be on the ballot in May 2018, we will continue our strong grassroots campaign over the next year, with a close eye on the congressional election in November 2018,” said campaign manager Terri Steenbergen.




Guest: Clean Energy Jobs bill will put state on right path

Lucy Vinis is the mayor of Eugene. Kitty Piercy was Eugene’s mayor from 2005 to 2017

We have a tremendous opportunity in 2018. Our state Legislature can create an innovative and constructive pathway for our community by passing the Clean Energy Jobs bill. We can take action that strengthens our triple bottom line across the board. We can strengthen the personal health and economic health of the families in our state. It all is tied together: the well-being of our community, our economy, our families. Our job is to build a bright future for our children, and create the prosperity our families need now to have a good quality of life.




Lawmakers want swift sexual harassment consequences, but split over calls for resignation

The Washington Post

Lawmakers embraced a bipartisan bill that would modernize procedures for handling sexual harassment allegations on Capitol Hill, but they were divided Sunday over whether congressmen facing allegations should resign or face some other immediate consequence.



ICYMI: Pass Whisnant’s PERS reform bill



In Case You Missed It

Pass Whisnant’s PERS reform bill


Editorial: Pass Whisnant’s PERS reform bill

Bend Bulletin Editorial Board


Even without full-blown reform of the state’s Public Employees Retirement System pension rules, there are small changes to be made that could save the system money and make it more equitable. State Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, has found one of those changes and will introduce a bill to effect it in next year’s short legislative session.


Call it the “Mike Bellotti Pension Reform Act,” if you wish.


Bellotti, the former University of Oregon football coach and athletic director, collects more than $45,000 per month in PERS benefits, based on a final salary of more than $1.3 million a year. But there’s a catch. Only $299,000 of that sum actually came in salary from the University of Oregon. Much of the rest came from outside sources but was included when the state calculated Bellotti’s retirement benefit.


Thus, Bellotti, in his final years at UO, received endorsement money from Nike and the Oregon Sports Network, according to The Oregonian. In addition, there were ticket sales incentives and other perks that boosted his final salary.


It’s worth remembering that Bellotti, while he’s the beneficiary of a system that allows Oregon’s public employees to boost their final salaries with money from outside sources, did not game the system. State law says universities and community colleges must adopt standards governing outside income; it does not prevent that income from being lumped in with regular wages when calculating PERS benefits.


Whisnant’s bill would change that by making it clear that money from outside work, even if it must be approved by the university, cannot be counted as part of a public employee’s salary.

The change would not automatically erase PERS’s financial problems, to be sure. The system’s unfunded liability, currently pegged at more than $25 billion, won’t change much if Whisnant’s bill is approved.


What the bill will do is close a gaping PERS loophole. Whisnant’s bill should be approved.


Click here to view this editorial online.






Mark your political calendar, the next year will be busy

Bend Bulletin

Elections come fast and furious in Oregon. It’s less than a year until the 2018 election, when Oregon will choose a governor. But the political marathon has months to go until that final day. Voters will see a lot of electoral activity in the meantime.

The Man Who Knows More Than Anybody Else About Oregon’s Tax System is Retiring

Willamette Week

State Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), the chairman of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee, has worked closely with Warner for years. “Paul Warner is one of the most treasured people in state government,” Hass says. “Gracious, kind and a talented. Everyone appreciated his evenhanded approach to working through difficult problems. His kind, helpful demeanor is remarkably the same, whether he’s talking to the governor, a legislator, an intern or a reporter. Oregon’s government will not be the same without him. There are plenty of talented economists—but they will not fill his boots.”

Oregon pays $750k to foster kids who were isolated in Spanish-speaking foster home

The Oregonian

The state of Oregon has paid $750,000 to three English-speaking foster kids who were placed in the Gresham home of Spanish-speaking foster parents and forced to wear filthy clothes smelling of urine and sleep in a windowless basement.

Former NFL Quarterback Drew Bledsoe Weighs in on Oregon’s Governor’s Race

Willamette Week

On Nov. 21, Buehler, who’s seeking the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, next year, reported an in-kind campaign contribution from Bledsoe—$3,528 worth of wine for a campaign event. (Bledsoe twice donated to Buehler’s legislative campaigns in the past, $500 each time.)


Small businesses face big hurdles to survive

East Oregonian

According to the federal Small Business Administration, about a third of businesses fail within the first two years and only half make it past five. Those odds are what have helped inspire “shop local” and pro-small business movements like Small Business Saturday, which encourages people to shop at a small business the Saturday after Thanksgiving.


Portland schools’ top lawyer lacks an Oregon law license

The Oregonian

Portland Public Schools’ top lawyer isn’t licensed to practice law in Oregon despite being on staff since June. Now he is quitting the job that requires him to hold that credential. Jim Harris resigned after less than six months on the job, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced Monday. The Oregon State Bar informed Harris on Nov. 9 that it is investigating whether he illegally practiced law by serving as the school district’s general counsel without being admitted to practice in Oregon.

Expert says PPS lawyer’s lack of license is a problem

Portland Tribune

An expert in professional conduct for lawyers says the fact that Portland Public Schools’ new general counsel, Jim Harris, lacks a license to practice in Oregon is a problem that likely violates state ethics rules. “It’s pretty simple,” Lucian Pera, a nationally recognized expert on legal ethics, tells the Portland Tribune. “You’ve got to be recognized by a jurisdiction somehow before you can act as a lawyer.”

Texas fires special-education director, citing past allegations in Oregon

Associated Press

They say they fired Kash after learning that she is being sued in Oregon for allegedly trying to cover up sexual abuse of a 6-year-old student. Kash was the director of special education at the Rainier School District at that time. The suit is filed by two former employees who say Kash and her husband, the district’s superintendent, did not believe the allegations and ordered them not to report the outcry.

Rudy Crew, much criticized in Oregon, could become president of City University of New York

The Oregonian

Education leader Rudy Crew, who spurred controversy during his year as Oregon’s inaugural chief education officer, has been named by the New York Daily News as a potential candidate to become president of the City University of New York. Crew, who left Oregon after 13 months in his $280,000-a-year Salem job, is president of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, a job he has held for four years. That college is one of 24 senior colleges, community colleges and graduate and professional schools that comprise the City University of New York.


Oregonians buying health coverage face new deadline, changes

Portland Tribune

Shrinking networks of doctors and hospitals covered by plans increasingly lurk as pitfalls in the individual market, which serves more than 200,000 Oregonians. And so does a landscape of premiums and subsidies that continues to shift.


Housing emergency declared in Grants Pass

Associated Press

A rural county in southern Oregon has joined larger West Coast places in declaring a housing emergency. The Josephine County Board of Commissioners took the action this week, hoping to free up state assistance and suspend some state rules, the Daily Courier reported . The board asked Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to declare a two-year emergency.

OCHS fighting homelessness in Oregon with new funding

My Columbia Basin

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) has announced the release of $40 million in funding to provide homeless prevention and assistance to Oregonians statewide. The Community Action Agency and partners across the state will be implementing those resources and delivering through the Emergency Housing Assistance program and State Homeless Assistance Program. Both of these resources are used to immediately get Oregonians off the street and into shelter and help them eventually find long-term, stable housing.

Oregon Housing releases $40 million to assist homeless, at-risk

Suislaw News

“OHCS and the Community Action Agencies have an important opportunity to use this historic investment to make significant progress toward our goals of reducing homelessness, reaching the hardest to serve, and ensuring that Oregonians have a safe and stable place to call home,” said Governor Brown.


Lawsuit Argues Jail’s ICE Contract Violates Oregon Sanctuary Law

Oregon Public Broadcasting

A Wasco County Judge is set to hear arguments Wednesday about whether Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facilities, known as NORCOR, are violating Oregon’s sanctuary law.


Wolves’ return to Oregon brings conflict and opportunity

Associated Press

Today, Oregon’s statehood is secure, but the future of its wolf population once more hangs in the balance. Wolves have returned after decades, and this time, humans are having a much more contentious discussion about what to do with them. It’s a political debate playing out against the backdrop of a rapidly growing wolf population, a jump in wolf poaching and demands from ranchers and hunters who say the predators are decimating herds and spooking big game.


Health center scores $13.2M loan

The Dalles Chronicle

John Huffman, in his new role as state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, announced Monday that the agency was investing $13.2 million to improve access to health care services for Gorge communities. The loan will be used by One Community Health, a nonprofit provider, to replace its Hood River dental and medical complex, 1220 Indian Creek Road.


Editorial: Pass Whisnant’s PERS reform bill

Bend Bulletin

Even without full-blown reform of the state’s Public Employees Retirement System pension rules, there are small changes to be made that could save the system money and make it more equitable. State Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, has found one of those changes and will introduce a bill to effect it in next year’s short legislative session. Call it the “Mike Bellotti Pension Reform Act,” if you wish.

Editorial: State hasn’t earned trust for a $700 million new tax

Bend Bulletin

Oregonians of all political parties need to make one thing clear before the short 2018 legislative session begins: We don’t trust state officials to spend wisely what could be as much as $700 million a year in new revenues. That $700 million is what the state might collect each year if lawmakers approve a new “cap and invest” carbon tax in 2018. The tax would charge some, but perhaps not all, large businesses for their carbon output.

Editorial: Money woes add up fast for Health Authority

Albany Democrat-Herald

There is one additional thing that might help Brown make the case, but it’s a step she’s resisted: She can appoint an independent investigator to delve into the workings of the Health Authority. Brown has expressed confidence in Allen, but he might welcome an additional set of eyes on the issue. And it would put a concrete action behind the governor’s promises about transparency in this matter. It might help ease the concerns of some voters. An independent investigation would be of benefit in other ways as well: It could help clarify exactly what went wrong and help the Health Authority avoid similar mistakes in the future. The governor should set aside her reservations and give the green light to an independent investigation.

Editorial: Oregonians are right to have suspicious minds

Bend Bulletin

It’s possible Garrett has a poor memory. It’s possible Garrett doesn’t have the humility or wisdom to admit when he doesn’t know or remember. But what we do know is Garrett is the man in charge of a state agency managing millions and millions of taxpayer dollars. Remember what happened in 2015? He failed for two weeks to share updated numbers with a workgroup trying to put together a transportation package. It killed the deal. And he purposefully misled legislators about problems at ODOT or he didn’t know the seriousness of the mistakes his department makes. Is it any wonder Oregonians are suspicious of state government?

Editorial: State should invest in OSU-Cascades

Bend Bulletin

Investing in the campus equals investing in the future of Oregon. It could help move more of the state from a resource-based economy to a technology and medical base. Central Oregon can be the tip of that future. But the region is underserved by higher education opportunities. It is underserved by the advanced workforce training needed.

Editorial: Where a ‘home for everyone’ collides with ‘not in my neighborhood’

The Oregonian Editorial Board

A city-commissioned report by Johnson Economics warned that the proposed cap would make building in Portland less profitable, thereby discouraging builders and resulting in fewer new units built in Portland than under current laws. Considering that Portland is in a crisis because the housing supply is already tens of thousands of units short, it makes no sense to adopt a cap that would further crimp supply.

Editorial: Filling a tech need


Oregon Tech should take a bow for seeing a serious need and devising a practical program to help meet it, as should the businesses supporting the new program.

Editorial: A homeless kid in every classroom


The state Department of Education reported on Nov. 15 that 22,541 students in Oregon schools were homeless last year, or 3.9 percent of the entire public school population. That’s nearly one child in 25. That’s one per classroom.

Editorial: Republican tax plans could hurt Oregon college students

Daily Astorian

The Republican tax plans making their way through Congress would hurt Oregon college students, especially ones who attend private, nonprofit schools.

Column: Thankful for the rich

Elizabeth Hovde, The Oregonian

Do the rich benefit from this tax plan? Yes. Tax cuts will hit people who pay the most taxes. Cutting income taxes for lower-income families, who already have no income-tax burden, isn’t possible.

Guest: The time to prepare for winter is now

Seth Crawford, Crook County Judge

It’s also critically important that every citizen keeps emergency supplies in their home. The State of Oregon recommends that every Oregonian have a minimum of two weeks of food, water, prescription medication and basic necessities on hand at all times. In addition to these supplies, it is important to have alternative cooking and heating sources.

Guest: Emissions cap boosts kids’ health

Joel Nigg, OHSU

I support strategies like the Clean Energy Jobs bill to protect our air for the next generation. Kids raised with healthy air learn better. With so many challenges to their development, it only makes sense to fix what we can. That will help them be better able to focus, and over time should reduce their problems with attention and self-regulation that are important for success in school. Healthier, more successful children are the ultimate investment. They become healthier, more successful adults, with better occupational outcomes and fewer problems with the judicial or other systems.


Oregon Politicians Divided on Issue of Net Neutrality

Associated Press

Two of Oregon’s most powerful politicians have spoken out in favor and against recent federal action to begin repealing online net neutrality regulations established during the Obama administration. Net neutrality describes open access to the internet, requiring service providers to offer free and equal access to online material. The Federal Communications Commission moved Tuesday to begin repealing the restrictions, which could enable big internet carriers to charge extra for online services such as Netflix.

Tax cuts, government shutdown on Congress’ agenda as Christmas deadline looms

The Oregonian

The crush of unfinished business facing lawmakers when they return to the Capitol would be daunting even if Washington were functioning at peak efficiency. It’s an agenda whose core items — tax cuts, a potential government shutdown, lots of leftover spending bills — could unravel just as easily as advance in factionalism, gamesmanship and a toxic political environment.





Businessman from The Dalles appointed to Oregon Legislature

The Oregonian

In a statement, Bonham said his appointment to the Legislature is “an incredible honor.” “While I know I have big shoes to fill, I believe my desire and passion for helping people in conjunction with my business background will make me an effective leader in Salem,” he said.


Commissioners pick Bonham to fill Huffman’s House seat


The Dalles businessman Daniel Bonham was appointed Monday by a vote of Wasco, Jefferson, Deschutes and Wheeler county commissioners to serve out the Oregon House District 59 term of John Huffman, another The Dalles resident who recently resigned from the position. Bonham, 40, owns a stoves and spa business and and will fill the remainder of Huffman’s term in office after Huffman vacated the seat to accept a federal appointment.


Capitol Roundup: State gets new legislator as Congress debates taxes

Bend Bulletin

The Central Oregon delegation to the Legislature added a new member Monday. Republican businessman Daniel Bonham, of The Dalles, was chosen by a special panel of commissioners representing counties in the 59th House District, which includes northern Deschutes County and all of Jefferson County, as well as Wheeler and part of Wasco counties.


Oregon health agency’s money troubles double in new report

The Oregonian

Due to errors involving abortion, prison, undocumented immigrants and other factors, the state might have overpaid its contractors or owe other entities as much as $78 million, Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen disclosed in a letter to Gov. Kate Brown made public Friday. That’s on top of $74 million in overpayments The Oregonian/OregonLive reported last month.


ODOT director says problems at Motor Carrier Division have been fixed

Statesman Journal

Oregon Department of Transportation director Matt Garrett told a legislative committee last week that the agency has fixed problems at its Motor Carrier Division detailed in a recent internal audit, a 15-month, $180,000 Oregon Department of Justice investigation and a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit settlement.


Another Oregon State Senator Accuses Kruse Of Inappropriate Touching

A second lawmaker filed a formal complaint on Tuesday accusing Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, of unwanted touching, even after she asked legislative lawyers to intervene. In her complaint, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, detailed a recent conversation with Kruse in which she explained why his behavior bothers her.


Oregon Democrats Vote To Keep Party Primary Closed

Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Oregon Democratic Party won’t allow non-affiliated voters to take part in its 2018 primary. At a party meeting in Portland on Sunday, a resolution to open the Democratic primary did not get the two-thirds majority needed to pass.


Wheeler seeks 5 percent cuts in next budget

Portland Tribune

Mayor says the city needs to save money to pay for cost increases, like salary and PERS premium increases.




Portland tolling committee begins work

Portland Tribune

The 25-member committee is charged with recommending tolling options for Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 in the Portland metropolitan area.


Portland Region Officials Begin Work On Congestion Pricing Tolling Plan

Oregon Public Broadcasting

The advisory committee is supposed to deliver recommendations to the transportation commission by June 2018. The next step is to seek federal approval for a congestion pricing plan by the end of next year.


What Oregon’s new “Transportation Bill” means for you: Part 1


When House Bill 2017 goes into effect January first, the average Oregon driver will pay eight cents for each mile driven in gas tax and registration. That’s about $6 to $40 each month, and nearly $77 a year in exchange, for better roads and more reliable trips. Money from HB 2017, also known as the Transportation Bill, will fund major projects within the state.


TriMet Blames “Economic Displacement” for Decline in Portland-Area Bus Riders

Willamette Week

“Ridership loss has been driven by a diverse range of factors including changing employment levels and recession era fare increases and service cuts,” write TriMet senior planner Tom Mills and TriMet data analyst Madeline Steele. “TriMet’s analysis surfaced one driver of ridership loss that stood out among the rest: the impact of the economic displacement of low-income earners from inner city neighborhoods to first ring suburbs.”




Knute Buehler talks safe opioid prescribing practices

Portland Business Journal

“This is becoming a huge political issue,” Buehler, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, told about 100 doctors assembled at the Salishan Conference Center in Gleneden Beach. “We have a full-blown public health crisis in this country. It’s becoming increasingly devastating and personal.”




Lane County unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in October, virtually unchanged from September


The county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in October compared with 4.7 percent in September, according to the Employment Department.




Deer and elk disease comes to Central Oregon

Bend Bulletin

Oregon saw its first confirmed case of a fatal and easily spread disease that affects deer and elk earlier this month, thanks to a Madras hunter.




Editorial: Time for Sen. Kruse to resign

The Oregonian

So do the elected officials in the Capitol who have wasted time in recent years carefully choosing how they navigate the halls and where they sit to avoid unwanted contact. Please vacate your seat, Senator, and make room for someone who will respect their colleagues and can actually get the work done.


Editorial: Kruse should resign


If Kruse were to resign, it would not be the first time: He quit a House seat in 2004 to run for the position he now holds in the Senate. But his resignation came 125 days after he moved out of his House district — throughout that period, Kruse was in violation of the constitutional requirement that legislators live among the people they represent. Kruse appears willing to ignore the rules when it suits his purposes. The people of District 1 deserve full representation, particularly when the Legislature convenes in February. Kruse’s problems aren’t likely to be cleared up before then. He can serve his constituents best by resigning.


Editorial: Ethics panel shows it has a little bite


Kitzhaber said he was surprised by the reaction of the commissioners, and added that he’s not as worried about the level of the fine as he is in “clarifying how the Commission believes I may have violated Oregon ethics laws, having an opportunity to respond to the Commission’s allegations, and then assuming responsibility for any infractions I may have committed.” And, indeed, all of that would be good — and it has the potential to bring this matter to a more satisfying conclusion than a $1,000 fine could have supplied. But if the commission wants to reach that endpoint (and, in the process, leave a clear message for other Oregon public servants to heed), it will need to remember that it has a bite to go along with its bark.


Editorial: Oregon governor should confront climate change in ways that help economy, as well as environment

Daily Astorian

Continuing that theme, Kate Brown said that a small state such as Oregon can have a global impact by being a petri dish for innovation. We hope that she returned from COP 23 energized to confront climate change in concrete ways that help the state’s economy — especially in rural Oregon — as well as the environment.


Editorial: Don’t use speech to deny the speech of others

Bend Bulletin

Schill and the UO administration should stand their ground. Protest is a time-honored tradition on university campuses. But that doesn’t mean anyone should be able to use their speech as a weapon to deny others the right to be heard.


Guest: Gun control laws do make a difference

Paul Kemp is a gun owner and a founding member of Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership and an advisory member of the Giffords Oregon Coalition

There is no denying that gun violence is a complex problem. But as a founding board member of Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership, I know there are some evidence-based steps that Oregon’s leaders can take to help the roughly 450 Oregonians who die every year from gun violence.


Guest: Gov. Brown calls cybersecurity top priority

Alex Z. Pettit is the state’s chief information officer

The people of Oregon entrust public and private institutions with their most sensitive personal and financial information. Oregonians’ expectations of privacy shouldn’t hinge on the agency or business with whom they are transacting. However, increasingly sophisticated and coordinated cyber attacks put this information at ever-greater risk. Individual and isolated interventions are no longer sufficient to defend our businesses, our communities or our people.


Editorial: Protecting elephants


If the U.S. wants to help preserve a threatened species — which happens to be the emblem of the Republican Party — and support economic growth in African countries, a better alternative is to support ecotourism. This type of tourism attracts far more visitors to an area — and more money and jobs for the local population — than trophy hunts for a small number of the financial elite.




As net neutrality heads for repeal, Oregon’s Walden and Wyden lead opposite ends of the debate

The Oregonian

The Federal Communications Commission moved Tuesday to begin repealing regulations established during the Obama administration that seek to ensure “net neutrality.” It’s a hot-button issue that has long divided two of Oregon’s most powerful politicians.