GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A group of 16 states has filed a lawsuit in a Northern California federal court against President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, calling the president’s decision to use executive power to fund a border wall unconstitutional. The complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeks to bar the administration from using emergency powers to divert money from other programs to a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, marking the start of a legal battle anticipated by both the president and his opponents. “The President has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency,” the plaintiffs wrote in California et al. v. Trump et al. The lawsuit, spearheaded by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, says that the Constitution gives Congress alone the power to control spending, not the president.
California, Hawaii, Maryland and Oregon are the states that will take the biggest bite out of your earnings after taxes, according to a new analysis. Researchers at GoBankingRates analyzed tax data in each state to determine how much money is left over after federal and state taxes for Americans with a $50,000 vs. $200,000 salary. Nationwide, someone with a $50,000 salary takes home an average of $39,129 each year – or $3,261 per month. The national average income after taxes for someone with a $200,000 salary is $136,700, or $11,392 a month. People making $200,000 a year are in the top 10 percent of U.S. earners, while those earning $50,000 are more on par with the average American, given the median U.S. salary of $56,516.
Gov. Kate Brown is considering selling the state’s workers compensation insurance corporation or tapping its substantial capital surplus to hold down future pension costs for school districts around the state, according to documents obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive under a public records request. The idea is still tentative, the records indicate, and it’s not clear it would raise enough money to accomplish the goal on its own. But if Brown moves forward with such a plan, it would be her boldest move yet to rein in the runaway costs of the Public Employees Retirement System. It’s also one that would face substantial blowback from the business community.
About 75 people answered the legislative Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction’s call for comments Monday, Feb. 18, weighing in on a proposed sweeping change that would put a price on carbon emissions. The second public hearing ran nearly three hours and again the bulk of the testimony was in favor of the cap-and-trade proposal, which would impact every Oregonian in multiple ways, from increasing the cost of heating a home to providing cleaner air. The testimony started with 10 high school and middle school students. They spoke with a level of desperation unmatched by most witnesses, even those leading businesses or industries that stand to be financially pummeled by the legislation.
Salem teacher Jamie Keene went to urgent care early this year after one of her fourth-grade students caused her to pull a muscle in her back. With 33 students in her class at Schirle Elementary, Keene said one regularly hits her, pulls her hair and twists her arms when he gets overstimulated in class. He’d benefit from more individual attention and a smaller class, she said. “It’s not because he means to do it. It’s because he’s not getting what he needs,” she said. Keene was among thousands of Oregon teachers and educators who rallied Monday, Feb. 18, at the Capitol in Salem on Presidents Day, urging increased school funding to cut class sizes and hire more staff like nurses, librarians and classroom aides to better meet student needs.
Public education in Oregon needs “long-term, dedicated, sustainable funding.” That money, specifically, should be allocated toward specialized education, reducing class sizes, hiring more mental health specialists and reducing the workload of those already employed in public schools. More counselors, more educational assistants and more programs that aim to enhance learning and engage students also are needed. That’s according to a handful of the about 5,000 educators, students, parents, lawmakers and others who gathered outside the Oregon State Capitol building in Salem on Monday to call on lawmakers to provide more funds for public education in the state.
The Bend Bulletin
An affordable housing project targeting Redmond received unanimous approval Monday from a House panel. The House Human Services and Housing Committee voted 9-0 to advance House Bill 2336 to the full House with a “do pass” recommendation. Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, is a co-sponsor of the House bill and a member of the committee. Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, also sits on the committee. Both voted “yes.” The bill would allow Redmond to win retroactive approval for the 485-unit Skyline Village development plan with a 50-50 mix of affordable and market priced homes. The project covers approximately 40 acres. The committee hearing room in the Capitol was full with people who had come to testify on Senate Bill 608, which would enact statewide rent control.
Children are our future — and a group of Oregon lawmakers wants the future to be now. They’re pushing a bill that would amend Oregon’s constitution to lower the voting age in the state from 18 to 16. They hope to put it before voters in 2020. Younger Oregonians should have “a chance to participate in the ballot — about decisions that affect their homes, their clean air, their future, their schools and, as we’ve seen, their very lives,” Democratic state Sen. Shemia Fagan said at a Monday press conference announcing the measure.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
There is an effort underway in Salem to change Oregon’s legal voting age from 18 to 16 years old. Portland-based Democratic state Sen. Shemia Fagan introduced a measure Monday to make Oregon the first state in the nation to do so. “It’s time to lower the voting age in Oregon and to give our young people a chance to participate in the ballot, about their decisions that affect their homes, their clean air, their future, their schools and as we’ve seen, their very lives,” Fagan said. The state senator pointed to the young activists who became engaged after the Parkland shooting in Florida, which left 17 people dead. They proved young people are active and should have a right to vote, Fagan said.
Portland Business Journal
The Medicaid funding package advanced out of the Joint Committee on Ways and Mean and now heads to the House floor. Two Republicans on the committee expressed concerns about the impact of the proposed premium tax on small businesses. On the other hand, they said they recognized the need to support smaller hospitals in rural counties, where close to a third of the population is on Medicaid. Rep. Mike McLane, a Republican from Powell Butte, said more consideration should have been given to amendments from Rep. Cedric Hayden, a Republican from Roseburg, that would have exempted either school districts or small businesses. “It’s troublesome that we’re making small businesses disproportionately impacted,” McLane said. “I think we should have slowed down and given Rep. Hayden time and discussed his amendments, and for that reason, I’ll be a no today.” Rep. Duane Stark, a Republican from Grants Pass, said his “no” vote was all about fairness. “I feel like if this were a unanimous ‘yes’ vote, that would shut down that conversation about the deficiencies I see in the premium tax,” he said.
Cycle Oregon is all about long bicycle rides through scenic parts of the state. But the Portland-based nonprofit organization also prioritizes funding community projects in rural Oregon, giving proceeds from its popular cycling events as grants. This year, some of that money will support the revitalization of the old schoolhouse in Creswell. The $2,400 grant will pay for a new porch as part of a larger restoration of the South Second Street historic building.“It’s just exactly what we are trying to do for the small communities in Oregon,” said Steve Schulz, Cycle Oregon executive director.
The Portland School Board is likely to vote soon to yank its sponsorship of the struggling Trillium Public Charter School. The staff of Portland Public Schools has recommended that the school board revoke the charter and the school board’s charter committee agreed. The next step is a public hearing, which has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the district headquarters at Blanchard Education Service Center, 501 N. Dixon St. After that hearing, the school board will schedule a vote of the entire board on whether to withdraw Trillium’s charter. If the charter is revoked, it would be effective after this school year, as of June 30, 2019.
The Bend Bulletin
To get to homes in Crook County’s Juniper Canyon, there’s only one way in or out. County officials and residents have been worried for years that the single access road could be a safety problem in the event of a wildfire or other emergency. Creating a second access road needs to be a priority for the Oregon Department of Transportation and for county officials. The safety of the 4,000-plus people who live in the area demands it. Discussions have gone on for years. Nothing has really changed. People wanting in or out of Juniper Canyon have to take Juniper Canyon Road off of the Paulina Highway. Many homes line the network of roads on either side of Juniper Canyon. The solution county officials and ODOT have discussed recently — as reported in the Central Oregonian — is pretty much the same one as discussed in 2006. A road could be built to connect the Crooked River Highway with Davis Loop in Juniper Canyon.