A proposal to increase penalties for people who buy sex with children has been watered-down in an Oregon Senate Committee and Senators aren't happy about it; but they moved the proposal to the House anyway, trusting a committee to will do the work to restore some of its strength. Senator Floyd Prozanski says, in it's latest form, the bill only makes the sex trafficking crime a felony on a third offense, but when they're done amending it in the House, they hope it will maintian a very stiff penalty for the first offense, including jail time. Shared Hope International, a group working to end human trafficking, recently gave Oregon a grade of "D" on their report card. They say the state's laws do not give law enforcement the tools they need to investigate, arrest and imprison pimps and johns who abduct and sell children for sex.
A federal appeals court judge from San Francisco has ruled that Oregon’s ban on same sex marriage and the federal defense of marriage act are unconstitutional, but the decision won't overturn either law. Jeff Manning, in the Oregon Attorney General's Office, says this wasn't a lawsuit; it was decided by a judge, because it was a federal personnel matter. It was the decision of one judge and not the entire panel. Alison "Tex" Clark challenged a decision by the federal government that denied her spouse benefits coverage. They were married in British Columbia, but the federal government didn't recognize the marriage as legal.
Got old drugs? The Drug Enforcement Administration and local police agencies want to take them off your hands this weekend. DEA Special Agent Selby Smith says the goal of the 6th Annual “Take Back Day” is to collect and safely dispose of 165 tons of old prescription medications, to keep them out of the hands of children and others who would abuse them . Last year's event collected 2.7 tons of meds in Oregon. In Central Oregon, the Black Butte Ranch Police department can collect your old prescriptions.
Foreclosed homes are becoming an expensive problem for local governments in Oregon. Representative Lew Frederick says it can be nearly impossible to track down the owner of a foreclosed home when the properties are overgrown with weeds or become camps for squatters. His bill would change that by allowing local government to attach a lien on the property for maintenance cost. The bill goes to the State Senate.
The State of Oregon is ordering Western Sky Financial to stop doing business here and fined the company $17,000. Van Pounds, with the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities, says the South Dakota based company was charging excessive interest rates and they have received seven complaints. Western Sky is also not registered to make loans in Oregon. Pounds says that before you take out a loan with a company you can check them out at the Consumer and Business Services website.
The plan to make the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System affordable is either a great idea or a disaster waiting to happen; but whichever it is, it has passed the House. Representative Jason Conger of Bend does not think the fixes to the money monster will work. The co-author of the plan is Representative Peter Buckley; he says it calls for reduced cost of living adjustments, and putting off increases in employer contributions. Critics say some of those fixes will sunset in two years and reignite the debate.
Answering a text message can put you in jail; if you do it from the jury box. A judge in Oregon noticed an unexpected glow on a juror's chest while the courtroom lights were dimmed during video evidence in an armed-robbery trial. The juror was texting. Marion County Circuit Judge Dennis Graves cleared the courtroom and excused all jurors except Benjamin Kohler, 26. Graves held Kohler in contempt, and Kohler spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday in the county jail.
Oregon lawmakers are being asked to name "Oregonite" and "Josephinite" the state minerals. Jim Urbanick is with the Oregon agate mineral society. He says the minerals are closely tied chemically to rocks from space. The bill had it's initial hearing in committee last week. the state rock is the thunderegg.
The high price of gas is causing us to drive less, shop less and go to restaurants less often. That’s according to a survey from the Triple-A. Marie Dodds says the point where the price of gas affects our spending habits have changed. When prices go higher, it starts to cause some people to move closer to their jobs, it increases carpooling and the use of public transportation.
The Oregon Senate has sent a bill that would add post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, to the list of medical conditions that may be treated by medical marijuana. Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson says many veterans testified in committee hearings that pot is the only drug that helps ease their minds and prevent terrifying flashbacks to war. Opponents of the legislation say they cannot support prescribing a drug that is still illegal in Oregon. The House will consider amendments written to address concerns the state police have with the plan.
A plan to raise taxes of wealthy Oregonians and corporations is opposed by Republican Representative Jason Conger, of Bend. He believes it will bring some unintended consequences in some areas that are important to the state. The bill would remove itemized deductions for upper income tax filers; and Conger says that not being able to deduct mortgage interest will hurt the construction industry. Democratic representative Jules Bailey says the extra $275-million would help schools. The bill passed the House Revenue Committee and will get a vote in the full House.
Support is building inside the Oregon State Capitol for trying to convince voters to vote for a sales tax as a way to solve the state's budget shortfall. J.O. Wilson with Associated Oregon Industries says they see a sales tax as a way to improve the economy and create jobs. Tax reform has a long way to go in the legislature before it can be referred to voters.
Gas prices continue to decline; down two cents over the last week. Oregon’s average is $3.67 and in Washington it's $3.70 a gallon. Triple-A's Marie Dodds says now that refineries have converted to summer blends of production; the supplies of gas and diesel are increasing and that should cause prices to continue to slowly decline. Diesel was down 2¢ to an even $4.00 a gallon.
Oregon has an unemployment crisis with 181,000 people looking for work. But, a new report shows there were nearly 23,000 jobs that went unfilled over the winter. Jessica Nelson, with the Oregon Employment Department, says many of those jobs should be in demand. But a third of the jobs require education beyond high school. And jobs such as nursing require even more education. There were about 8 unemployed people for all of the jobs that were available.
Victims of hate crimes told their stories as Oregon lawmakers considered changes in what they now call crimes of intimidation. Dau Tucker moved to Oregon a couple of years ago with her family and says she’s dealt with over 30 incidents of discriminations since moving here; some were blatant, most were subtle. A proposed law would, among other things, make it easier to prosecute persons committing bias crimes.
The future of education in Oregon school districts may've just gotten a boost from Oregon lawmakers. Representative Sara Gelser wrote a bill that will allow students to use, for educational purposes, the electronic devices that they already bring to school. This will make moving to a 1 to 1 technology initiative more affordable to a school district. Districts that have supplied the devices to students for class work have seen grades go up. But districts can't afford to buy the devices for all students. The Gelser bill has passed the House.
The local branch of the FBI will run a Twitter contest this week to debut the "@FBIPortland" Twitter account. To participate, follow and watch for clues today through Friday; make a list of your answers. The first person to provide the correct list of answers on Friday will win a collectible FBI Challenge Coin. Beth Anne Steele with the Portland FBI Office says they'll use the account to share valuable information. There are rules the local FBI Office has to follow about posting on twitter: They won't respond when you "Tweet" at them, and they won't re-tweet your tweets.
An airlift of dogs and cats brought 157 animals from overcrowded shelters in Southern California to Hillsboro Airport. Amanda Giese, with the Panda Paws Rescue in Vancouver, says all of these animals would have been euthanized. The animals will go to eight rescue groups. Veterinarians will examine them and spay or neuter them before they're put up for adoption. The group wings of rescue coordinates the airlift. It’s the largest number of animals flown to Oregon since 100 dogs were brought to the state in December.
An Oregon House committee heard testimony on a bill to crack down on employers who deny their workers lunch and rest breaks, as required by Oregon Labor Law. An Oregon Farm Workers Union representative told lawmakers he's seen workers require medical attention after being denied breaks to eat. House Bill 3307 would mandate that employers pay workers time and a half for each day they violate state labor law.
A proposed Oregon bill would allow breweries and wineries to sell what they make out of what might be called "mobile premises". The bill is from Representative Jim Weidner. He says the mobile growler refill station will only be allowed on premise where existing licenses for alcohol sale is already in operation. Officially, the OLCC is neutral on the idea but they are worried about how such a facility would be regulated and policed.
A little card is at the center of controversy in the Oregon State Senate. Benton County D.A. John Haroldson supports the idea of issuing drivers cards to undocumented immigrants, he says it's a matter of safety, and citizens have a right to have competent drivers on the road, and they should not reform immigration by increasing the numbers of drivers who are not competent. Critics say the cards actually reward people who enter the country illegally. The bill has the Governor's support.
Acting on a tip, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office found an alligator in a shed on a property in Mulino. They brought the reptile man, Richard Richey, along to help wrangle the gator. There was a pool inside of the shed, but it was too cold and the alligator wasn't able to digest its food. The alligator was about 4-feet long and 12 years old. The owner had it since it was a baby. He no longer had permits to keep it. Richey will make it part of his collection of reptiles in Colton. He takes a travelling exhibit to local schools to teach kids about reptiles.
The Blue Angels have cancelled all of their performances for the rest of the year, because of federal budget cuts. That includes the Oregon International Airshow. Herb Gillen says they have signed the Private Patriots Jet Team to take their place. The Patriots have performed at the Hillsboro Airshow in past years. They are more expensive than the Blue Angels, but Gillen says they don't expect that'll be a problem. He says that because they're a private group there are some maneuvers they perform that the Blue Angels can't. The Patriots have also been signed to perform at Seattle's Sea Fair where the Blue Angels perform annually.
Heads-up, if you're looking for love online: The Oregon Attorney General's Office warns scammers are posing as U.S. soldiers, looking for your cash. Spokeswoman Ellen Klem says a guy using an untraceable email address, will start by fast-tracking his declarations of love, then begin pressing for money. One Oregon woman lost $750,000. Klem says don't wire money to someone you've never met; it’s almost impossible to get back. More tips at www.oregonconsumer.gov.
If you have old auto or marine batteries around your house...you should get rid of them. Triple-A's Marie Dodds says they've teamed up with several auto repair shops to accept batteries for free during April, in celebration of Earth Day. The old batteries are recycled; the sulfuric acid is neutralized and the lead is melted, purified and re-cast for use in new batteries.
Oregon companies want to reverse a trend. As American companies outsourced jobs overseas, homegrown workers lost the skills needed to do modern manufacturing jobs.
Andrew McGough with work systems of Portland says despite recent success at finding work for hundreds of metro area workers, he supports a new plan to fund worker training and upgrades for selected companies.
More students with disabilities are going to high school, partly due to increased support for those students in lower grades and during their early years. A proposal in the Oregon Legislature would create a pilot project to try out a new program to help those students transition into high school. Educators testified in favor of the plan. No one opposed the bill. Another hearing will be scheduled before it's moved to the House floor.
A new report released by the Children's Trust Fund of Oregon has disheartening news for Oregon victims of child abuse. Thousands of kids and their parents aren't getting the guidance they need to reduce abuse because of limited funding for programs proven to work. Senator Chuck Thomsen says the costs of helping a child abuse victim is skyrocketing – costing the state over $210,000 in their lifetime. The report recommends increasing funding for prevention programs aimed to heal children and families and keep kids from entering state care or the justice center later in life.
The usual supporters and opponents packed a State Senate hearing room in Salem Friday to talk about four proposed gun control bills. But Rachel Lucas with Safer Oregon, a victims protection group, asked them to find common ground. Portland Police Chief Mike Reese supports the bill. The issue which seems to have the most support is for more background checks.
Signs continue to point toward growth in Oregon’s economy through the end of the year. University of Oregon Economics Professor Tim Duy says it's broad based...but some areas are doing better than others. The U of O Economic Index remains at its highest level since the recession began. Duy says the recovery will be moderate.
When Jeff Fuller, 36, crashed into another car in downtown Portland, he should have just stopped where he was. Lt. Mike Fort says it happened across the street from Central Precinct. When an officer pulled behind Fuller, he backed into the police car, and then crashed into two other police cars as he tried to get away. Fuller was tased and taken into custody. He’ll be charged with assault and could face additional charges.
The little guy who helped launch an Oregon success story is on his way to official recognition. The microbe used to make beer (saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a step closer to official microbe status. Representative Mark Johnson served up the bill, saying it’s become part of Oregon’s culture, because it’s used to make beer. He says microbreweries are credited with adding more than $2-billion to the state economy.
Gas prices have fallen a couple of cents in Oregon and Washington to around 3-71 a gallon, but Marie Dodds, with the Triple-A says prices could be on the rise again, soon. Diesel prices also fell a couple of cents to $4.03 a gallon. Dodds says that unless something causes prices to change, they should remain near this level through spring. This week you'll pay an average of $3.69 for gas in Bend.
Medical Teams International is gearing up to help Lebanese authorities care for more than a million Syrian refugees who have fled across the border to escape civil war in their own country. Spokesman Joe Di Carlo says with no sanitation in the tent cities, communicable diseases are spreading like wildfire. The agency is getting ready to send medical teams to Lebanon to set up mobile clinics to treat the refugees. They are working to deploy the first team by mid-April. You can help by donating online at www.medicalteams.org.
Tuition equity is now law in Oregon. Governor John Kitzhaber signed House Bill 2787 into law Tuesday, giving children of illegal immigrants who graduate from Oregon high schools the same state-subsidized tuition legal residents pay. The Governor says every Oregonian deserves a shot at the American dream, and public education is the vehicle by which that dream is fulfilled. Critics say the state should not be subsidizing college educations for people who violate immigration laws. But the Governor says tuition equity will help Oregon capitalize on the investment already made in these students in our K-12 system. The law takes effect starting next school year. Oregon is now one of 15 states with tuition equity laws.
A proposal in Oregon to increase the amount of marijuana you can possess without getting a felony is drawing opposition from sheriffs and district attorneys. Katie Suver, with the District Attorneys Association, says judges currently have the ability to change the penalty based on the circumstances. Sheriffs don't want the amount of possession to increase above "less than an ounce." Marijuana supporters want it increased to "less than four ounces." The bill remains in committee.
The legalization of marijuana for recreational use may seem inevitable. But as Oregon lawmakers consider it, Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett is worried about the loss of federal grants. A House committee heard testimony on the bill but then sent it to another committee without any recommendation on whether it should be passed.
Unmanned aerial vehicles are the future of law enforcement, and Oregon lawmakers want to be sure the "spy in the sky" isn't looking where it shouldn't. State Representative John Huffman wrote a new bill. The Bill would set down rules for how, where and when drones could be used. The Bill passed out of committee and has support from the ACLU.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad says they take many successful steps to prevent coal dust from falling from their trains; but a letter of intent to sue BNSF and multiple coal companies argues they're not doing enough to prevent pollution along the lines. Eric de Place with the Sightline Institute says more research needs to be done to fully understand the damage coal does to the eco-system. The Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper and Friends of the Columbia Gorge are among several environmental advocacy groups that have warned the coal and rail companies they have 60 days to show they're doing more to prevent pollution, or they'll sue, claiming violations of the Federal Clean Water Act.
About 2300 Oregonians work in "sheltered workshops". The U.S. Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall, says the intellectually and developmentally disabled are told they have to do the work if they want needed state benefits. A federal class action lawsuit says the state is breaking the law. If successful it would allow qualified disabled people to get integrated employment. The pay is better and the person would still qualify for necessary benefits.
Police have a crime fighting tool they can't use. Oregon law won't let them use pictures taken with red light cameras in criminal prosecutions. Defense lawyer Aaron Jeffers says changing the law would violate some people's privacy. Police, however, offer example of crimes that could've been solved had they been able to use those pictures. Lawmakers are working on changing current law.
Cleaner burning gas will cost you more money, but how much more depends on whom you ask. The EPA wants to lower sulfur content in gasoline. They say it'll increase the price of gas by a penny. Marie Dodds, with the Triple-A, says refineries are predicting a price hike as high as 9-cents a gallon. If approved, the new gas would be phased in starting in 2017. The EPA is taking comments for the next month before making a final decision.
How much should the Oregon Lottery spend to advertise its games? A proposed law in the state legislature would cap spending on advertising at one-percent or less of gross income. Stacy Shaw, Marketing Director for the lottery, says limiting the lottery could make it difficult for them to keep up with competition, and that could lead to lost revenue for state programs like schools and parks. Supporters of the proposal say they're concerned the advertising encourages abuse of the lottery games. They also argue some of the advertising dollars should be spent on the programs the lottery was created to fund.