GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Oregon lawmakers would raise state school funding to $9 billion in the coming two-year budget if they approve plans unveiled Tuesday. That would be $657 million more than the state gave schools in the past two years. Nine billion is also at least $100 million more than Gov. Kate Brown or the legislature’s top three budget-writers had proposed giving schools in 2019-21. Even so, legislative analysts say that would barely be enough to maintain current service levels in Oregon schools. School funding is the largest single portion of the state budget, accounting for nearly 39 percent of the Oregon’s general and lottery fund budget during the last budget cycle. But per-student, Oregon school funding is relatively low compared to other states and Oregon lawmakers are moving toward a $2 billion tax hike on businesses to improve school performance.
The state’s largest business organization made a stunning pivot Monday night in pulling its opposition to the largest tax proposal in front of the 2019 Legislature. Oregon Business & Industry is now “neutral” on a business tax that would fund massive reform to the state’s education system. For months, OBI was vocal in its opposition to the plan, but said it got enough concessions in private meetings with House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, that it will no longer try to stand in the way of the tax. The move left a deep split in the business community. “A deal implies we actually got something,” said business lobbyist Shaun Jillions, who heads the trade association Oregon Manufacturers and Commerce. “We don’t feel positive about it at all,” he told the Oregon Capital Bureau. Under a proposal approved by a legislative committee Monday night, April 29, most Oregonians would see their income tax rate dip slightly, while many businesses would pay more. The tax plan attached to House Bill 3427, which will get a House vote Wednesday, May 1, requires most businesses to pay about half a percent of their annual sales over $1 million.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon Child Welfare caseworkers were in Salem on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to give their agency more money to help alleviate crushing caseloads. “Oregon’s foster care system is in crisis; we’ve known it’s been in crisis for years,” said Melissa Unger, the executive director of SEIU Local 503. “Decades of insufficient revenue and the resulting underfunding of essential services has impacts, and it is time for us to step up and fund our Child Welfare system to protect vulnerable children.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Federal energy regulators granted approval and a license Tuesday to an energy storage project near Klamath Falls, Oregon. It’s the first facility of its kind in decades to be licensed in the Pacific Northwest and, if built, will be the largest energy storage facility in the region. Developers of Swan Lake North pumped storage plan to build a new reservoir system to store electricity from the grid. When electricity is plentiful and inexpensive, pumps will push water to a 60-acre reservoir high on a hill. Then when demand rises, the facility will release that water over turbines to a lower reservoir. As with a hydroelectric dam, the spinning turbines generate electricity that can then be fed back to supplement the grid.
Bullets have been flying across the Willamette River into populated areas of Keizer for years, and on Tuesday the Oregon Senate passed a bill intended to stop that from continuing. Sponsored by Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, Senate Bill 1040 is a narrow and, as she said, “highly negotiated piece of legislation” designed to create additional liability for a single rock quarry that is used as a shooting range for the owner’s friends and family. The bill states that the owner or operator of a quarry would be liable for injuries from bullets straying from the property if the owner fails to take “reasonable measures” to prevent straying bullets after being notified that it is occurring. The person firing the weapon that caused any injury would also be liable.
On May Day it’s not unusual to see marches and protests in various cities across the country. Portland is no exception. May Day marches in years past have caused damage and blocked streets and freeways. Although no plans or permits have been issued in Portland for street marches associated with May Day, Portland police encourage road users to be aware of the potential for delays, closed roads, or traffic interruptions should a march or protest develop during the day.
Portland-based Cura Cannabis sold Wednesday for $949 million in an all-stock transaction, one of the biggest deals ever for a company operating in the legalized marijuana business. Cura sells its cannabis oils on the wholesale and retail market under the Select brand and operates in California, Arizona and Nevada. The buyer is a Massachusetts company called Curaleaf Holdings, whose shares trades on the Canadian market.
Albany Democrat Herald
The 11,000-square-foot former Wells Fargo building at 300 W. First Ave. in downtown Albany may not sit empty much longer. Tuesday morning, Linn County Commissioners Roger Nyquist and Will Tucker voted to offer the Central Albany Revitalization Area $1.5 million for the property, the same amount CARA paid to buy the vacant building and parking area in February. But CARA put the two-story property back on the market two weeks ago with an asking price of $1.1 million, with plans to hold onto some of the parking space.
The city of Pendleton held its first budget committee meeting Tuesday morning, and although discussion touched upon the Public Employees Retirement System and street funding, committee members didn’t comment on one of City Manager Robb Corbett’s stated concerns. “We largely rely on the (Umatilla County Special Library District), which seems to be (in) a state of flux as it tries to determine the appropriate method to appropriate their tax dollars,” he wrote in a 2019-20 budget statement he read before the committee. “The city is concerned as this threatens to reduce or share of tax dollars for operations.”
After three years of work and planning — and numerous Since You Asked inquiries — the $120 million highway project meant to relieve congestion on Highway 62 is open for business. The Oregon Department of Transportation announced the opening of the 4.5-mile Oregon 62 Rogue Valley Expressway just after midnight Wednesday in a concise email that said the thoroughfare is “open to traffic.” The 4-lane highway starts by Poplar Drive in Medford and takes drivers out to White City near Corey Road.
The Daily Astorian
Emergency responders in Clatsop County consistently administer naloxone for opioid overdoses at rates higher than the state average. It’s one aspect of a larger opioid abuse problem that some hope can be eased by a methadone clinic scheduled to open in Seaside this fall. Last week, representatives from the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. and CODA, a Portland-based drug treatment provider, shared with the county Board of Commissioners how a methadone clinic might help. “It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s a tool,” said Tim Hartnett, CODA’s executive director.