September 16, 17 and 18th were spent at the Capitol for Interim Legislative Days. The next day, though there was no session, still held some excitement as a protest scaled new heights!
House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee
The Ag and Natural Resources Committee had presentations regarding the fire season in Oregon. To date the 2013 fire season has cost the state over $120 million to fight, and burned 116,000 acres. It was by far the worst fire season since 1911, when the Tillamook burn destroyed a large swath of old growth forest along the northern coast. There were 150,000 lightning strikes resulting in 1083 fires. Of those, ODF put out over 1000 fires under 10 acres.
The federal forest policies of the last 40 years appear to be contributing to the accumulation of massive ground fuels and dead trees which are creating these conflagrations when lightning strikes. Many of the US Forest Service lands are inaccessible, so getting crews in to stop the fires early is difficult.
Oregon’s timber is valued in excess of $60 billion. Yet we are unable to harvest our timber in a reasonable manner, or to use the funds of this completely renewable resource to better manage the federal forests; help enhance Oregon’s educational outcomes (build schools, reduce class sizes, hire more teachers/professors, improve our graduation rates, teach our young adults jobs skills); keep our roads and bridges in repair; or improve the quality of life for our elderly, disabled, veterans, and general citizenry.
The primary force preventing appropriate federal forest management is a powerful state and federal environmental lobby that controls many of our Congressmen and Senators as well as Oregon’s legislators and state government. The state continues to increase taxes on its working and retired citizens, while decreasing funds for people-oriented issues and increasing funds for environmental causes. We have been willing to sacrifice tens of millions of acres of timber to massive burns over the last decade instead of properly and conservatively processing our timber resources. It is truly a sad commentary on the governing outcomes of this state.
Representative Gail Whitsett
House District 56
Salem, OR – Representative Gail Whitsett has been appointed to the newly created eight-member Special Committee on University Governance and Operations.
Rep. Whitsett said, “House Speaker Tina Kotek recently appointed me as the only woman legislator to serve on this Special Committee. We are tasked with advising the Legislature on higher education policy issues and how our public universities should be operated as our university system is being transformed toward more autonomous, self-managed universities.”
The Special Committee on University Governance and Organization results from legislation passed during the 2013 session. SB 270 established governing boards for the University of Oregon and Portland State University. Other Oregon universities may opt to establish their own governing boards as well.
The months of July and August have found this office very busy since the ending of the 77th Oregon legislative session on July 9, 2013. All legislators and most staff have left Salem and the Capitol, and are now officially in the “interim”, where we are in our local home districts once again.
Senator Whitsett and I returned to House District 56 and Senate District 28 in early July for meetings with many private citizens, including business owners, farmers and ranchers, civic clubs, the elderly, veterans and active military who are our district constituents.
We have also engaged in district informational meetings with Klamath Community College, Oregon Institute of Technology, Kingsley Field, some K-12 school and senior citizen center administrators, private natural resource companies, local public officials, and Oregon’s Secretary of State Kate Brown. We’ve participated in Legislative townhalls, historic dedications, county fairs, and even a film documentary on the Klamath River System!
Newspaper headlines from southern Oregon tell the story of the ongoing surface water cutoff of the Upper Klamath Basin by the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD).
An administrative decision by the OWRD apparently has overturned a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, awarding the Klamath Tribes the entirety of all surface water in the Upper Klamath Basin. Crater Lake National Park is faced with having no water for its lodge and tourist facilities in perpetuity.
Over 500,000 people visit Crater Lake each year, spending in excess of $34 million and providing jobs for 546 individuals. Klamath and Jackson Counties will sustain a very hard economic hit when the Park’s water is shut off.
I would like to discuss the topic of Klamath County water issues.
A combination of actions taken by the Oregon Water Resources Department has resulted in denying irrigation water to much of the ranching and farming community in the Upper Klamath River Basin.
Make no mistake, the severity of the current meteorological drought would make meeting all Upper Basin irrigations needs difficult at best.
From Representative Gail Whitsett’s June 13th Newsletter
On Thursday, June 6th the Oregon House unanimously passed HB 3499-A. This bill provides for written notification of methamphetamine disclosure statements regarding foreclosed auction homes.
The notification reads, “Without limiting the trustee’s disclaimer of representations or warranties, Oregon law requires the trustee to state in this notice that some residential property sold at a trustee’s sale may have been used in manufacturing methamphetamines, the chemical components of which are known to be toxic. Prospective purchasers of residential property should be aware of this potential danger before deciding to place a bid for this property at the trustee’s sale.”
Nationwide, an estimated 2.5 million homes are contaminated with meth chemicals, and about 95% of these homes have not been identified. Consequently, often times highly contaminated residences are sold from owner to owner with the ensuing health problems following the house.
A Message From Representative Whitsett — June 6, 2013
This week has proven to be good for advancing two of my bills through the House: SB 420, regarding mammography, and HB 3499, regarding methamphetamine contamination of foreclosed auction houses. This session, I proposed legislation as a chief sponsor of eleven concepts that were made into bills. Of those eleven, two were allowed hearings by Democrat leadership. Both bills (concepts) have now passed the House of Representatives, and SB 420 - otherwise known as the “Mammogram Bill” - passed the Senate and awaits the Governor’s signature.
SB 420 Speech on the House Floor
Additional legislative concepts that I proposed for bills, but were denied or dissuaded by Legislative Counsel from bringing forward, included:
1.) LC 1935 - A bill that would have denied Oregon state social services to alcoholics or drug addicts unless they were actively involved in a substance abuse recovery program.
A Message From Representative Whitsett
May 22, 2013
Oregon continues to lose jobs in this prolonged recession. Most recent major job losses in Oregon, listed by the Oregon Employment Department, include:
- AEG Facilities, the company that managed the Rose Garden and Memorial Coliseum in Portland, will lay off 900 workers next month. Employees will have the opportunity to reapply for jobs under the new food service provider for the facilities, Levy Restaurants of Chicago. The Oregonian, 4/29/2013
- Xerox Corp. will close its Coos Bay and North Bend call centers in July, laying off about 300 people. The World, 5/1/2013
- Sanyo Solar of Oregon will lay off 52 workers at its southeast Salem plant by the end of June. Statesman Journal, 4/26/2013
- Advanced Energy Industries will consolidate its Bend solar-inverter manufacturing with its operations in Fort Collins, Colo., where the company is based. As of last year, it employed about 115 people in Bend. The Bulletin, 4/11/2013
Recent testimony in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee tells a compelling story of job losses related to the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994. This treaty relates to forest and agricultural products as well as manufacturing products and jobs - which essentially have been lost to Canada and Mexico.
May 16, 2013
A Message From Representative Whitsett
We are 16 weeks into the legislative session, with 6 left scheduled before we are supposed to sine die (adjourn).
Very little has been accomplished to date regarding the most pressing issues at hand. We have passed a very minimal PERS adjustment, and essentially no significant budget bills.
The House and Senate have not brought forward for a vote any major jobs bills, no statewide education budget bills, and no substantial PERS reformation.
A Message from Representative Whitsett
On Thursday, May 1, the Senate Committee on Rural Communities and Economic Development held a 5 hour special informational hearing and Q&A session on the Barry Point Fire, which occurred from August 5, 2012 to the first snowfall in Lake County, Oregon.
This hearing was chaired by Sen. Herman Baertshiger of Grants Pass and attended by Senators Roblan, Whitsett, Prozanski, Burdick, and Representatives Whitsett, Bentz, and McLane. The hearing which included an overview summary by Ed Shepherd of Shepherd & Assoc. This report noted several errors which occurred during the fighting of this massive 93,071-acre fire. Six separate firefighting teams transitioned through the first 20 days of this fire.
Some of the problems that occurred according to the findings included: