Climate bill debate begins with a label fight

Portland Business Journal

Senate Republicans used the “energy sales tax” term several times in a press release early this week lauding Sen. Mark Hass, the Beaverton Democrat whose budget reform effort failed last session in part because not a single Senate Republican would support it.


“Policies of that magnitude should be dealt with in the long session, and the short session should be to add changes that require prompt attention,” Hass told the Portland Tribune. “I think it is fair to say we can start a process to look at that, but I think it is something we should pick up in 2019.”


The term has obvious political advantages for Republicans, turning a complex policy into a tax, and making it a “sales tax” no less. We all know what happens to sales tax proposals in Oregon. Rep. Knute Buehler, a Republican candidate for governor, hopped on board with “tax.” But in a statement to the Bend Bulletin, instead of a “sales tax,” Buehler labeled the proposal “a regressive $1.4 billion new energy tax scheme.”


Solar future in flux


Driving the rush for solar is the impending loss of the state tax credits for residential customers. The credits, which can amount to as much as $6,000, were not renewed by the 2017 Legislature. The credits sunset at the end of the year, with customers required to sign a contract by Dec. 31 and to conclude the installation by the end of March to take advantage of the incentives. Federal tax incentives, which cover 30 percent of the cost of solar, were renewed in 2016 for another five years, although Reismiller notes that “with the federal government talking about tax reform, all bets are off.”




Charter Student Not Allowed To Join Choir At Beaverton Elementary School


Cynda initially thought that a bill recently passed by Oregon lawmakers would help out Ben’s situation. Senate Bill 208 essentially states that both charter school students and homeschooled students can’t be denied participation in “interscholastic activities.” The bill’s language was at one point amended from “athletics” to “interscholastic activities.” However, Cynda would later be told by the Beaverton School District that choir programs don’t fall under that definition.


Maureen Wheeler, a public communications officer for the school district, told KGW that under the bill, “interscholastic activities” are activities governed by the Oregon School Activities Association. Choir isn’t one of those activities. “The Oak Hills Elementary before school choir does not fall under these provisions and it is not an interscholastic activity,” said Wheeler in an email. “In addition, about 90 Oak Hills Elementary students have returned permission forms to participate in this choir. School administration is concerned about managing the current Oak Hills student interest.”


Mayor Urges Portland Schools To Let Charter School Stay Put

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is the latest area leader to call on Oregon’s largest school district to let a small charter school stay where it is. Wheeler is urging PPS board members not to approve the move. In a letter, he said “this proposal conflicts with your stated goals around both equity and excellence.”


New rules for Oregon Promise grant

Bend Bulletin

Going forward, he’d like to see a sustainable, guaranteed funding source for the grant. “We wouldn’t from year to year have to make eligibility changes that would potentially throw a real wrench into students’ planning,” Cannon said. “That would be ideal, that would be true for any scholarship grant program.” Cannon expects the Oregon Promise grant program will look pretty much the same in the 2018-19 school year as it does now. The one change the commission may make is to adjust the $18,000 threshold up or down. The Legislature gave the commission the flexibility to manage the budget for the program, depending on how many students enroll.


Behind the numbers: State testing in Central Oregon

Bend Bulletin

Numbers alone aren’t enough to tell the story behind state standardized test results. It wasn’t that the school made changes to how they discuss the test. Instead, the steep drop-off in La Pine High’s participation rates suggest the extent to which parents can influence testing rates.




Inslee responds to proposed Oregon tolls

The Columbian

At the behest of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, Gov. Jay Inslee has assured Washington legislators that the Evergreen State will have a seat at the table when Oregon begins discussing tolls. Herrera Beutler has led the charge against tolling Interstate 5 and 205, a potential revenue stream as outlined in Oregon’s $5.3 billion transportation plan. On Sept. 15, Inslee sent a response to Herrera Beutler and the nine lawmakers. “We have received no indication that Oregon plans to establish tolls on the state line between Washington and Oregon,” Inslee wrote. “Moreover, Washington state and the Federal Highway Administration will be integrally involved in any decisions before they move forward.”


Tolls a discussion item at regional conference

Portland Tribune

Although the 2017 Legislature directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to apply for the necessary federal approvals by the end of 2018, attendees at a regional transportation conference were told public acceptance cannot be imposed from the top. “Local elected officials have to decide it’s time to try to get this in place,” said Metro’s Andy Shaw. “But I think it’s a mistake to focus on raising money from tolls. The point should be to better manage the system we have, to put a price on it so we understand where the capacity is.”


Don’t expect big federal aid for transportation, former official says

Portland Tribune

If Portland wants to reduce traffic congestion and improve the movement of people and goods through the region, a former federal official says don’t wait for help from Washington, D.C. “I’ll buy you all dinner if we get an infrastructure bill out of Congress,” says John Porcari, who was the No. 2 official at the U.S. Department of Transportation for more than four years. “I would be pleasantly but very much surprised if we get any significant bill out of Congress. I hope I am wrong but I do not see it.”




Skinner Butte gets a little off the top


“We recognize it’s a much loved iconic landmark in the city and are doing what we can to best take care of it,” Miller said. Along with reducing fire danger, she said the thinning will improve wildlife habitat and make room for a possible new trail connecting a loop around the butte. The change will be very noticeable for regular Skinner Butte Park visitors. “It’s definitely going to look different from what people are used to seeing over there,” she said. “It’s going to look much more open.”


Idaho, Forest Service work to boost logging on federal land

The Associated Press

Michigan, Wyoming, Oregon, Nevada and in particular Wisconsin have moved ahead with the partnership. But officials say Idaho — where 38 percent of the land is managed by the U.S. Forest Service — has made rapid progress. “Idaho has really stepped up to fully embrace that ability for us to work with our state partners to get more work done,” said Intermountain Region Forester Nora Rasure, whose area includes 53,000 square miles (137,000 square kilometers) of forest lands in Utah, Nevada and portions of Wyoming, Idaho and California.




Oregon wildfire fighting costs hit $340 million

Hillsboro Tribune

Fighting Oregon wildland fires this year has cost state, federal, local, tribal and private entities more than $340 million and consumed 678,000 acres, as of Monday, Sept. 18, according to state authorities. All of that activity manifested into smoke-filled air and limited visibility for many Oregonians. The “sheer volume of fires all at the same time and continuous days of growth up through Washington and Idaho” created the oppressive conditions, said Doug Grafe, fire protection division chief at the Oregon Department of Forestry.


Rain May Be Dampening the Eagle Creek Fire, But It Could Also Trigger Rock Slides

Willamette Week

Geologists say burned areas are more susceptible to landslides because the rain hits the soil without barriers of vegetation. Even after the fire is out, landslide threats will remain high. “With Oregon’s rainiest months still ahead, it’s extremely important for people to be more aware than ever of landslide hazards in this area,” Bill Burns, DOGAMI engineering geologist said in a press release. Burns is one of the authors of a report released today outlining the significant landslide hazards in the Columbia Gorge.


Firefighters battle blazes without protection

Bend Bulletin

Despite spending hours upon hours around contaminant-filled smoke, most wildland firefighters do not wear any form of respiratory protection on the job. That’s because a device that would truly protect them doesn’t exist. In order for the U.S. Forest Service to give its workers respirators, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would first need to certify a device specifically for wildland firefighting. Despite NIOSH’s call for candidates in 2012, no such device has been approved.




Exclusive: Oregon vineyards labor to keep workers in the field

Portland Business Journal

It’s spurring some change. Wages are rising to try to keep workers in the fields. Mechanization is becoming more common, not because it’s necessarily cheaper, but simply because it’s a way to get work done that needs to get done. Meanwhile, a broader solution appears as elusive as ever. “The ag labor force today, coupled with the demand that exists today, gives us a labor market as tight as it’s been in my knowledge of this industry,” Chambers said. “And unless something is done in Washington, some kind of sane solution, which based on experience I wouldn’t bet on, it’s hard to see how things just don’t become more difficult.”


SolarWorld wins in trade case, setting up Trump decision

Portland Business Journal

For SolarWorld Americas and its Hillsboro workforce an ultimate victory could be their only hope for survival. Employment at the decade-old factory has shrunk from 800 to 300 in the past several months after owner SolarWorld AG declared insolvency.


Amazon in Oregon: Thousands of jobs — and millions in tax breaks

Portland Business Journal

This week, the online retail giant announced plans for a 1-million-square-foot fulfillment center in North Portland, one that would result in about 1,000 new jobs.


Report: Portland growth slows, suburbs speed up

Portland Tribune

So, it may be hard to believe that from 2015 to 2016, suburbs grew faster than cities in this country — including those in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metropolitan area. At least, that’s what happened according to a May analysis of U.S. Census data by the Brookings Institution. “Within the nation’s major metropolitan areas, the suburban population is growing faster than their cities; and nearly two-thirds of the nation’s largest cities showed a drop-off in growth during the last year,” wrote William Frey, a senior fellow with the institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program.




Candidates in Oregon’s top election race building war chests

The Associated Press

An election to choose Oregon’s next governor is more than a year away and the primary is eight months down the road, but the main Democratic and Republican candidates’ fundraising is already going full steam, with a total of almost $2.4 million raised so far.



Salem considers ban on daytime sidewalk sitting


Officials are considering an ordinance that would outlaw sitting or lying on Salem’s sidewalks during the day. With certain exceptions, the proposed ordinance would give police the option to cite and remove violators from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Statesman Journal reported on Wednesday. Kimberly McCullough, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, said an ordinance like this violates people’s rights, and it doesn’t curtail homelessness. She said resources should be directed at solving the root of the problem like the lack of affordable housing.




Editorial: Richardson makes good decision about state audits

Bend Bulletin

When Dennis Richardson was running for secretary of state, he promised audits of Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit program, the Columbia River Crossing and Cover Oregon. But when he came out Tuesday with his 2017-18 audit plan, they were not included. Oregonians should not be outraged. He is making intelligent choices about prioritizing the auditing power of his office.


Editorial: New distracted-driving law


It’ll now be easier for police officers and sheriff’s deputies to enforce the law because there’s no longer the challenge of distinguishing between legal and illegal electronic devices. And let’s hope that leads to more drivers being convicted for a violation that’s far more serious than some phone-to-ear drivers believe.


Editorial: Fighting forest fires


The state already has been activating members of the Oregon National Guard — about 500 so far — to help fight this year’s massive fires. Their training lasts four to five days and may not occur until the last minute, when they’re called up to fight the fire. The Wyden-Merkley amendment would create a force of Guard members well-trained to fight forest fires and ready to deploy immediately when they are needed. This is a step in the right direction, but many more steps are needed to protect Oregonians from disastrous forest fires. Those will come only when the root causes of such fires are acknowledged and action is taken to address the conditions that have led to larger, more frequent forest fires.


Guest: Sure-thing legislation not always a good thing

Guest Columnist: Don Kahle

It’s often said that people would rather not see how the sausage of legislation is made. I have no doubt that’s true. But I also know that the laws that are made are the sausage we’ll all be eating, so ignorance is hardly bliss. Can things be done differently in Salem? Not unless each party’s leaders feel new pressures. That may have to come from the other legislators. If columnists and letter writers can raise enough havoc, voter awareness might change their political calculus. But remember: The team that supports the status quo just won 908-0.


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