The presidential campaign season will kick off in earnest this fall. Voters can expect to be bombarded with all kinds of rhetoric regarding the alleged economic recovery that has taken place since the start of the Great Recession in the summer of 2008. That rhetoric is not matched by reality, especially not here in Oregon.
Any improvement in U.S. household incomes since 2008 has been sluggish, at best. Incomes for Oregon families have been positively stagnant for the past seven years. In fact, the average income for the state’s 1.5 million families is about the same as it was 15 years ago, falling in rank to 29th in the nation. Consequentially, the average Oregon family currently takes home about $300 per month less than the national average.
Youth unemployment remains endangered and a challenge for an entire generation of Oregonians. Around 25 percent of people under 19 years of age and nearly 20 percent of all those under 25 years of age are not working.
“In short, those who allegedly cannot afford health insurance are receiving free coverage, while most of the rest are going without insurance, because they cannot afford the premiums.”
We are now more than six years into the presidency of Barack Obama. The products of his signature redistribution-of-wealth programs are becoming all too apparent, with devastating consequences for states like Oregon that rushed to be among the first in the nation to implement them.
President Obama promoted the 2010 federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to the public as a critically needed program to provide health care insurance to the poor. He claimed that its execution would reduce the cost of delivering medical care; thereby, making it affordable for every American.
The onset of summer means many things to different people.
For young people graduating from high school, it means the official beginning of adulthood. For younger children and teachers, it means that summer vacation can finally get underway.
But for people throughout rural Oregon, it means the auspicious start of what have become increasingly disastrous fire seasons.
The Legislative process often involves bringing various stakeholders together to find solutions to difficult problems. But sometimes, those problems are the result of well-meant but misguided government policies. Too often, the only proposed solutions involve the further expansion of government programs.
A lack of affordable housing has become one of Oregon’s most significant problems. It is reaching a crisis point in places like Bend, where housing stock has not kept up with demand. Working families are struggling to meet their most basic needs for affordable housing.
Since the 1970s, Oregon has pioneered a unique land-use system that heavily regulates the use of every parcel of land in the state. This top-down system restricts the amount of land that cities and counties can zone for residential, commercial and industrial use. Other states have zoning systems in place, but they are not driven by the state government in the same way that Oregon’s statewide central planning regulates landowners. Not one of the other 49 states has chosen to follow our central planning lead since the enactment of Senate Bill 100 in 1973.
The remarkably rapid and very public fall from grace of former Governor John Kitzhaber has been well-documented.
Also well-detailed is the spectacular failure of his Cover Oregon portal to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly $300 million of public federal funds were obtained at his request and “invested” to create the website insurance portal. That operation failed to operate in its entirety and was officially discontinued, scrapped by the State because it was allegedly not even repairable. Oregon is now faced with spending at least an additional $62 million to convert to the Kentucky portal system.
The entire Cover Oregon endeavor is now the basis for an ongoing federal investigation to determine how the money was spent, who benefited and how much of that $300 million must be reimbursed to the federal government. The failed portal is also the source of the State’s enormous, costly and ongoing lawsuit with Oracle, the software giant under contract to work with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to create Cover Oregon.
Rural Oregonians have become all too familiar with the devastating effects of catastrophic wildfires. Those of us in Southern Oregon have witnessed the incredible destruction of the 2002 Biscuit Fire and the 2012 Barry Point Fire, as well as the Bryant Mountain and Oregon Gulch fires in 2014.
All of these wildfires caused severe damage and desolation on both public and private lands. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is charged with protecting most private and state owned lands.
Land owners pay ODF an annual assessment to defend their property against wildfires. The assessment insures that ODF will actively attempt to suppress wildfires but does not insure against losses caused by the wildfires. The State also allocates significant funding to support the fire suppression efforts.
The Oregon Legislature designated Oregon Tech to be Oregon’s Renewable Energy Center in 2001. In 2005 Oregon Tech introduced the first Bachelor of Sciences degree in Renewable Energy Engineering in North America. It is also the first university to offer a Master’s Degree in Renewable Energy Engineering. The University has been the national leader in renewable energy technology for more than a decade.
Common sense, and conventional wisdom, suggest that Oregon Tech’s plan to become the first, and only, “energy-independent university campus”, would receive overwhelming support from the Oregon Legislature. That did not immediately happen.
It turns out, the solar and utility industries are somewhat provincial, when it comes to sharing in the generation of electricity. Their paid lobby advocates effectively use whatever means are at their disposal to protect their turf in the Oregon Capitol.
Cover Oregon is the state’s new government-run health insurance exchange. The exchange is designed to act as an internet portal to purchase medical insurance under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. All private medical insurance policies that choose to access Obama Care federal tax credits must be purchased through the state website. Unfortunately, the Cover Oregon website does not work. It has become “yet another” expensive example of a failed government effort to regulate the free market.
Oregon’s health insurance website is an idea that was backed and developed by Governor John Kitzhaber. He travelled to Washington D.C.to seek-out federal grant funding to create a unique website portal for Oregon. He pronounced that Oregon’s new exchange would be a veritable poster child for all of the national health care exchanges.
Kitzhaber brought home a one million dollar federal grant to study the creation of a health insurance exchange, in September 2010. His subsequent requests and trips to the Nation’s Capitol resulted in seven additional grants, totaling more than $300 million.
Oregon government is attempting to establish regulatory authority over the public use of all of the waters of the state from the headwaters to the sea. The Department of State Lands (Department) is applying its rule making authority to require a permit for the removal of a shovel-full of material from waters of the state when that water is designated “essential anadromous salmonid habitat”.
Focus was recently directed on the absurdity of this ongoing situation when an Oregon State Senator, who also manages an irrigation district, was recently threatened with arrest by two Oregon State Police officers for cleaning a dry drainage ditch. The irrigation drainage ditch is seasonally connected with a stream designated as Essential Salmonid Habitat and is thereby also considered to be “essential salmonid habitat” by the Department! The statutes and rules are convoluted but are well worth understanding because as currently written they will eventually affect all Oregonians.
ORS 535.525 establish that all of the surface and groundwater in the state are controlled by the public. ORS 196.810 further generally requires a permit to remove or infill more than 50 cubic yards of material from the bed of waters of the state. That permit is issued under the authority of the Director of the Department of State Lands
The facts regarding the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana have changed over the past several decades.
Marijuana contains two compounds that produce significant pharmacological effects. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)) is the component that produces an intoxicating high when inhaled or ingested. Cannabinoid (CBD) is the medicinal component that helps to reduce nausea, convulsive seizures, and the symptoms of schizophrenia. It also acts as a significant antagonist that acts to block the intoxicating effects of THC on the human brain.
Marijuana also contains a number of other organic compounds. Research has shown that marijuana smoke contains fifty to seventy percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.