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Regional News Archives for 2013-03


Pot Billboard Stirring Controversey


A billboard in downtown Portland that suggests pot is safer than alcohol is drawing attention, especially from recovering addicts at the nearby DePaul Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center.  Some clients of the center feel it’s encouraging them to  use marijuana – as they are trying to get off of harder drugs. Roy Kaufmann, with the Marijuana Policy Project, sponsor of the billboard, says that a Coors Beer ad was on the building previously. Kaufman's group is trying to legalize marijuana in Oregon.  The billboard will remain in place through the end of April.

Scary Snowpack


The snowpack is below normal in most of Oregon.  The only area where it's above normal is the northern Cascades.  Julie Koeberle, with the Soil and Conservation Service, says conditions in northeastern Oregon was slightly below average.  Some of those snowpacks are nearly half of average, and that's bad news for farmers who depend on the melting snow for summer irrigation.

Bill Would Regulate the Service Animal Industry


Oregon lawmakers are considering regulations for service animals.  Ray Hale, with the Oregon Blind Veterans Association, says that without regulation of the training process, anyone can train a dog and sell it.  The bill under consideration would only take a first step by using federal law as a template.  That means dogs and miniature horses would be service animals, but the state could add other animals in the future as they're determined to be needed.

Naming School Mascots Up for Discussion in Legislature


Some Oregon lawmakers are trying to override the Board of Education ban on the use of Native American names or images for school mascots.  State Senator Jeff Kruse is sponsoring one bill.  Opponents say they have extensive research to prove even a complimentary use of such names can be harmful.  The bill had its first committee hearing Thursday.

Wine Growlers Coming Up


The Oregon Senate revolutionizes wine and cider sales in the state.  A newly passed law will let you carry your growler into a licensed dealer have them fill it with wine or cider - something you can already do with beer.  Senator Lee Beyer's bill passed the Senate Thursday and only needs the Governor's signature to take effect.

Dense Breasts Bill Will Save Lives


Oregon State Senate Bill 601 could save lives.  40% of women have dense breast tissue but may not know it.  Currently doctors are not required to tell a woman about the condition.  State Senator Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward's bill would change that.  Because dense tissue makes it more difficult to detect cancer, the patient may need an MRI.

Suspicious Fires in Salem


Salem Police say they've never seen someone so determined to destroy a strip mall in Salem.  The third fire in five weeks damaged a restaurant at the Plaza del Sol around 4 a.m. Thursday morning.  Officers say all the fires appear to be the work of amateurs using accelerants early in the morning, when the building was not occupied.  Surveillance video shows two men running from the building.   Flames punched through the roof of the La Movida Bar and Grill , but a sprinkler system saved 6 other businesses in the building. 

Dog Tethering Law in the Legislature


Oregon lawmakers are being asked to regulate the tethering of dogs so they're not left chained up in dangerous situations.  A bill would make it illegal to tether a dog if there's a strangulation hazard, if the tether is less than 15-feet, if there's a choke collar and there would be time limits.  Kelly Peterson, with “Fences for Fido” says dogs that are tethered too tightly are more likely to bite.  “Fences for Fido” is a non-profit group that builds fences for dog owners who can't afford them.  They’ve built more than 550 fences in Oregon in the last four years.

Lowering Voting Age Goes to the Oregon Senate


Giving 16 year olds in Oregon the right to register to vote is either a good move for democracy; or it's an invasion of their online privacy.  Proponents of a bill that will lower voter registration age to 16 say it’s important to get the youth interested in the politics of the state.  Like the DMV, the Secretary of State sells name lists to anyone with the money; but representative Tim Freeman hinted at the actual Republican objection: expanding registration to 16 year olds, could add more Democrats to the voting lists. The bill passed and goes to the Senate.

Animal Abuse Bills in the Legislature


Oregon lawmakers are considering bills that would crack down on animal abusers.  Senate President Peter Courtney says they increase fines and penalties.  Animal shelters would also be required to get a license from the state and allow inspections. The head of the Oregon Humane Society told lawmakers that many of the shelters are making money by selling animals from out of state; but then get overwhelmed by the number of animals, which leads to the abuse.

Gas Prices Will Remain High


An OPEC oil minister from Saudi Arabia says crude oil prices need to remain around  $100 a barrel, and that would keep gas prices about where they are.  In Oregon and Washington gas prices dropped around four-cents last week.  Oregon’s average $3.74 and in Washington it's $3.78.  Diesel declined a nickel to $4.10 in Oregon and $4.13 in Washington.  Crude is currently around $95 a barrel; and if that's the target, you can expect prices won't change very much.

 

Great Time for Whale Watching


Gray whales are making their annual spring migration north this week past the Oregon coast on their way to summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Alaska.  Linda Taylor, with Oregon State Parks, says they're easier to see if you can find a viewpoint with some elevation.  If you need help finding the whales, look for the "Whale Watching Spoken Here" signs along Highway 101. There will be volunteers there from 10 to 1 each day during whale watching week.  More than 18,000 whales make the journey twice a year.

Flu Season Not Over


Flu season is beginning to wind down nationwide.  The Centers for Disease Control reporting more than 100 flu-related deaths of children this time around. Matt Laidler is with Oregon Public Health says this flu season's number of reported flu-related hospitalizations - around 450 - is more than double last season's number. Laidler says this prominent strain going around this time influenza a, H3N2, seems to be harder on the body than other strains; more hospitalizations reported every time it makes the rounds. He says there's still time to get the flu shot.

Automatic Voter Registration Proposal


Get your license, and you're automatically registered to vote.  No voter registration card,  no visit to the State Elections website. That’s the proposal from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown who wants to make sure there are no barriers to putting ballots in the hands of all eligible voters.  Initial concerns about the proposal: some worry the plan will unequally benefit one political party over another; others say they're concerned about the security of the voting system.

A Warning About Head Injuries on Kids


With all the talk going on about head injuries sustained by professional athletes, you might be wondering if your little athlete is at risk. Providence Saint Vincent Head of Child Neurology, Doctor Parvayz Pohowalla says the answer is yes, especially in sports with heavy contact, like football or hockey. Remember to look for the signs of concussion: blurred or double-vision, headache, and disorientation.  The doctor says parents should look for symptoms at least a week after an incident. The CDC lists other signs and symptoms on their website.

Gas prices Not Budging for Spring Break


Budgeting for your spring break getaway? Gas prices in Oregon and Washington aren't expected to change much.   38 states, including Oregon that are playing less last week than they were a year ago.  Marie Dodd’s with the Triple A says Oregon's average price for gas is $3.78, about two cents lower than last week,  but 10 cents higher than the national average.  Diesel prices are down a couple pennies, too at $4.10 per gallon in Oregon.  The nationwide average at $4.06.

Legislature Tackles Lottery Retail vs Casino


People living on Portland’s Hayden island see a cluster of lottery retailers as a problem and want some of them closed.  State Representative Tina Kotek is offering a bill to label some of them casinos, especially when the places are there for people to play the lottery. There might be some cheap food and drinks, and cigarettes, but basically they’re there to play the lottery.  Once labeled as a casino the stores would have to revamp their business model.

Some Want Drones Relabeled


Oregon is considering new laws to regulate unmanned aircraft.  Greg Marshall, with a remote control aircraft club in Portland, told lawmakers that calling them "drones" is wrong- they should be referred to as unmanned aircraft, which is what they are know internationally.  The unmanned aircraft industry is booming in Oregon.  There are 84 companies designing all types of planes.  Some that a realtor could use to photograph your house to larger aircraft that could be used in emergency situations to locate lost hikers or map a forest fire.  Besides concerns about over regulation; lawmakers also heard how liability laws could shut down the use of the aircraft.

Lots of Support of Equal Rights Amendment


 

The legal equality of women in Oregon was part of a 1982 court decision.  But Leanne Littrell Di Lorenzo with “Vote ERA.Org” says that is feeble protection.  She reads the 24 word document: “An amendment in the Constitution that says equality of rights under the law, should not be denied or abridged, by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision, in the state on account of sex. She is building support for a state constitutional Equal Rights Amendment.  If it passes the legislature the amendment could be on a state ballot next year.

Pretty Big Rats in Attic


Noises in the attic of a house in Salem turned out to be more than animals; two people were living there.  The woman who owned the house was moving out when she heard the noises.  A friend used a board to keep the attic door shut until police arrived and they took a 30-year-old woman and a 36-year-old man into custody.  Don Thomson, with the Marion County Sheriff's Office, says the two suspects denied stealing items from the house, but they are charged with burglary, because several items are missing.  Both of the suspects have extensive criminal records.

Beach Clean Up is Saturday


It’s almost time for one of Oregon’s most popular volunteer activities - the SOLV Beach Clean-up. Carrie Hearne, 32, of southeast Portland has been heading to the coast for the event for years. She's stuffed bags with pounds of trash, cans, yards of rope.  Oregon's coastline is publicly owned.  Hearne says she volunteers because it's our duty to protect the beaches. Additional details on getting involved at:   www.solv.org.

Bill Will Allow Your to Sue Your Insurance Company


Using Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act you have the right to sue any company you want; with one exception.  You can not sue an insurance company for any reason.  State Senator Chip Shields wants the law changed, saying it’s wrong when insurance companies refuse to pay a big reimbursement.  Insurance companies oppose the Shields law saying other relief is possible for customers and that any change would open them up for suits from all over the country.

There's An App For That


Oregon is teaming up with Google to add information about historical markers and heritage trees to the "Field Trip" App.  Annie von Dommitz, with Oregon Travel Experience, says when you're driving along a highway it'll pop up a message to give you information about the site.  The App is available for both Apple and Android phones.  The Field Trip App also includes information about many other points of interest around you by using your Smart Phone's GPS.

Metal Recycle Bill Amends Law


Oregon lawmakers want to make some changes in the state's strict metal recycling laws.  The laws are meant to prevent metal theft.  But they also limit legal sales.  State Representative Andy Olson says current law requires people have a street address to sell the metal.  But that prohibits legal sales by rural residents who may only a post office box.

New Honor's for Oregon's Fallen Military


A bill in the Oregon Legislature would expand the Roadside Memorial Fund to include fallen soldiers.  Representative Andy Olson says it would begin by renaming a section of Highway 34 near Corvallis for two men: Eric McKinley who was a member of the Oregon National Guard and Marine Tyler Troyer.   Troyer was killed by a sniper in Iraq.  Under the program, private funds pay for the signs and they're installed by ODOT.  The bill passed the House and moves to the Senate.

Eastern Oregon Economy Still Struggling


The jobless rate in Oregon is 8.3%.  But that number covers up a much higher rate in rural communities.  State Senator Ted Ferrioli gave the example of 17% unemployment in Grant County and wondered if it is because of unions or one party dominance in Oregon or the “goofy” land use system.  He also pointed out that Oregonians on average earn $5,000 less than the national average.

New Archbishop of Portland Says Pope Francis is an Excellent Pick


The incoming Archbishop for Portland says Pope Francis will become an excellent leader of the Catholic Church.  Bishop Alexander Sample says the Pope's humility and work with the needy give him the experience he needs to lead.  Sample does not think Pope Francis will bring radical change to the church.  As an Archbishop in Argentina he's already on the record as opposing gay marriage.

Smoking of Any Kind Banned in Cars


The Oregon Senate wants to protect kids from their parents' smoking habits; that was the main argument as a bill outlawing smoking in cars was passed Wednesday.  State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward says “They want to ban smoking any substances while minors are present.  The only amendment to this bill, changed it from just tobacco to any substance, at the request of the Sheriffs Association.” One Senator did vote no on the bill calling it another step on the road to a nanny-state.  The bill now goes to the House.

Bill Would Allow 16 Years Olds Right to Vote


Representative Bob Jenson wants kids to be able to register to vote when they get their first drivers license, to attract younger voters into the voting pool.  The bill is supported by the League of Women Voters; but questions have been raised by the Republican Voter Integrity Project.  The bill did pass committee, but some lawmakers would like an amendment having 16 year olds register as non-affiliated.

Oregon Report Shows Highs and Lows


Public investment on K-12 pubic schools and transportation has sharply decreased in Oregon. That’s some of the bad news included in a new report from the Secretary of State Kate Brown's office. But, there's good news, too. Oregon's violent crime rates are down.  Brown says the report was done to help policy-markers and Oregonians know where the most work needs to be done to continue the process of improving the economy.  The report covers ten years of financial information through 2012.

Seniors Taking Advantage of In Home Care


A recent federal grant will help expand and extend a state program that connects seniors and people with disabilities to resources for care and treatment without leaving home. Elaine Young says Oregon’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection's toll free number and website require a zip code and basic description of what kind of services are needed. The state's recent tally shows more Oregonians, their families and caretakers are using the "A-D-R-C" which they hope will reduce healthcare costs to patients on the government because they're connected to the right kind of care more quickly.

Time Change Can Wreak Havoc


Did you set your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night?  The loss on an hour's worth of sleep can be hard on some people.  Providence Doctor Ken Weizer says the shift can affect some people.  Weizer suggests resisting the urge to load up on caffeine or sugar to compensate for sleepiness; rather, let your body adjust naturally, and consider shifting your schedule by 20 minutes or so a day to ease into the time change.

Tsunami Debris Brings Unique Opportunity


The Japanese tsunami is giving marine biologists a unique opportunity to study invasive species.  John Chapman, at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, says they'll travel to Japan to catalog some of the species that were sent on debris into the pacific and toward the west coast.  It can take a new species years to grow, so the effect on other species might not be known for a long time.

No More Jesus in Longview


The City of Longview has told ministers who provide the invocation at the beginning of city council meetings that they must keep their message sectarian and cannot mention the name Jesus Christ.  Pastor Mark Schmutz says they're ministers of the gospel of Jesus and not mentioning his name goes beyond their convictions, so they won't do invocations in the future.  A group opposing the invocations said they would consider legal action.  They want the invocations eliminated.

Flight Attendants Fighting TSA Rules Change


Flight attendants don't like the new rules that allow passengers to carry small knives on board planes.  Veda Shook is a Portland based flight attendant and President of the Association of Flight Attendants.  She's leading an effort to get the White House to reconsider the rules before they take effect.  She says it doesn't make sense to allow passengers to bring knives on board.  The 9/11 terrorists used box cutters and the new rules allow knives that are only slightly smaller.  The TSA says the changes are needed so inspectors can spend more time searching for more dangerous items.

 

30 year Old Sex Abuse Case Goes to Trial


The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that a sex abuse case from nearly 30 years ago can go to trial.  Attorney Kelly Clark says the ruling is important, because lower courts had ruled that a statute of limitations kept public entities, such as schools, from facing trial if too much time has passed.  In this case, seven men are accusing a former Lake Oswego School District teacher of sexual abuse.  This ruling will allow that case to proceed.

Charities Will Have to Mind Their Expenditures


Portland State Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer has worked with charities and now she wants to police them.  She has gotten a bill through the House stripping charities of their tax deductible status if they don't use at least 30% of what they collect for their services.  The bill now goes to the State Senate.

 

Teen Tanning Restrictions Passes House


Kids under age 18 will need to have a doctor's prescription if a bill passed by the Oregon House also passes the Senate.  Representative Mark Johnson says he supports the bill because statistics prove most melanomas begin from exposure as a child or teen.  Critics of the bill worry it could force some small businesses to close.

 

Sequester to Hurt Oregon Schools


The sequestration budget cuts mean Oregon schools will lose $20-milion.  $6-million  would have been spent helping students with disabilities.  Heidi Sipe, from the Umatilla School District, says without the federal funding, they need to take that money from other programs because they're still required to help students with disabilities.  The cuts will affect 600 Head Start students; 140 teachers will lose their jobs and 80 other school staff members will be cut.

Kratum Suspected in Cowlitz County Death


The herbal supplement Kratom may be connected to the death of a woman in Cowlitz County.  On Sunday, packets of the legal substance were found around the woman's body along with a glass smoking pipe.  Chief Sheriff's Deputy Charlie Rosensweig says it's the same substance that a woman used on Monday when she was caught running in a street naked, swinging a hammer.  Toxicology tests are needed to determine the cause of death.  Kratom is a legal substance that when taken in small amounts is said to increase focus; but in large amounts can cause delusions.

Seclusion Cells Outlawed


Misbehaving school children in Oregon can be put into time outs in seclusion rooms.  But not all schools have such rooms so they buy seclusion cells.  Representative David Gomberg says they are smaller and he thinks can traumatize children.  A bill just passed by the State House will outlaw seclusion cells.  Another bill is being prepared to better define the use of seclusion rooms.

Studded Tires in the Oregon House


The Oregon House is looking at three bills to do something about studded snow tires. Representative Mitch Greenlick thinks a study is needed first.  Greenlick would like to see a studded tire permit fee.  Another idea is a tax on studs.  The issue also raised the question of how many things the state can tax to raise needed transportation money.

Not Much Movement on Gas Prices


Gas prices in the northwest are up six-cents to $3.79 a gallon.  Triple-A's Marie Dodds says diesel prices aren't changing much.  Gas prices will continue to slowly rise and will remain elevated through spring.  Crude oil is lower which should help to take some of the upward pressure off prices. Average prices in Bend are about $3.81 this week.

Portland Police Shoot Man With Shotgun


A man shot and killed by Portland police Monday night on the top floor of a parking garage in northeast Portland was armed with a shotgun and fired at officers before they returned fire.  Sergeant Pete Simpson says officers got aid to the man as quickly as possible.  The Medical Examiner has identified the man as Santiago Cisneros, III, 32.  The officers were not injured; one is a four year veteran of the Police Bureau and the other is a 10-year-vet.

 

Oregon Officials in Europe


 

A delegation of Oregon government and business leaders is in Europe this week, looking to find new markets for Oregon exports and attract investment from the Netherlands and Germany.  Travel Oregon Director Todd Davidson says tourism is an important marketing tool.  He says European tourism to Oregon generates $64-million annually .  Last year, Oregon companies exported $433-million worth of Oregon products to Germany and nearly $198-million  worth to the Netherlands. The delegation, including Governor John Kitzhaber, will spend two days in Amsterdam and three days in Berlin.

Blumenauer Wants to Legalize Pot


 

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer says it's time to legalize recreational use of marijuana.  He says millions of dollars are lost by law enforcement agencies when they are forced to prosecute marijuana crimes.  He continues his efforts in Washington D.C. to move legislation that would take marijuana off the list of bad drugs and move it to the list of drugs that are okay when used responsibly, like alcohol.

Congressman Schrader Says President Not to Blame for Sequester


 

Oregon Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader says it's wrong to blame the President for the massive budget cuts facing the country.  He says that's the job of Congress. He says it's the job of Congress to craft and pass the budget; but it also needs to be a budget the President will sign.  Schrader says it's a missing opportunity to make responsible budget cuts and changes to the tax code to raise revenue.

Geothermal Projects in Oregon Good For the Economy


 

Oregon is leading the nation in geothermal energy development.  The state has 19 projects in operation, under construction or in planning.  Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association, says state government is setting the stage to allow the exploration. Geothermal projects in Oregon currently make enough electricity to power a city the size of McMinnville.  Gawell says that in two to three years that'll increase to power a city the size of Eugene.  The largest project under construction is near the Newberry Crater south of Bend.

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