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Wildfire compensation, lead bullets targeted by Whitsett
  by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 2/19/15
     Several bills sponsored by state Rep. Gail Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, are progressing through the legislative session that began Feb. 2.

   Fire bill

   Whitsett said her bill, House Bill 2501, has been heard by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. She said a vote next week will determine whether it passes out of committee. The bill asks the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to include the cost of private property destroyed in fires that burn more than 1,000 acres.

   “People just aren’t aware of the tremendous loss to private companies and individuals,” Whitsett said.  

   According to Whitsett, fire damages are often relayed to the public in terms of acres burned, costs of suppression or lives and structures lost; however, private landowners also experience devastation to fences, livestock, grazing land, harvestable timber and outbuildings, as well.

   Whitsett said under the bill, landowners can choose to voluntarily report losses to the ODF.  

   Consumer protection bill

   Whitsett said House Bill 2496, a consumer automotive protection bill, slightly tweaks laws in existence by adding one caveat: when consumers visit automotive repair shops, they can take replaced parts home or at the very least, ask to see them.

   “Most places do this already, but we’re putting this as your right to ask for these things,” Whitsett said. “California and Washington do it as a consumer protection,   and I think Oregon consumers deserve the same sort of treatment.”

   About 1 percent of people are interested in knowing the details about part replacement, according to Whitsett. She said the bill will require automotive shops to include a check-off box that documents whether or not customers want to see or take a replaced part.


   House Bill 2503 will be heard today in the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee. HB 2503 grants only the state Legislature with the authority to restrict lead use in ammunition and fishing sinkers.

   Whitsett noted that no agencies or individuals have proposed lead restrictions. She said her bill is intended to preempt any agency, county or individual from banning lead bullets.

   Whitsett explained that the California condor, believed to be impacted by ingesting lead in carrion, may be reintroduced in Northern California. The species’   flight path could expand into Klamath, Jackson, Josephine and Curry Counties, she said. “We want the Legislature to decide if there should be a ban on lead ammunition — not an agency, for example, like the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife,” Whitsett said. “This is saying only the Legislature, as a body, has the right to determine if we continue to use lead in our bullets.”

   Whitsett said hunting and livestock communities support HB 2503; environmental groups like the Sierra Club are fighting it.

   Klamath Tribes

   The Klamath Tribes were awarded $2.6 million to help meet affordable housing needs for tribal members.

   According to a news release, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $15.3 million to 10 Oregon   tribes under the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Indian Housing Block Grant to preserve and expand affordable housing inventories.

   “Our nation is at its best when everyone has a fair chance to thrive,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “These funds will support the innovative work Native American tribes and families are doing to build a more prosperous future.”

   The awards made to Oregon tribes are part of $651 million in funding HUD allocated to 636 Native American tribes nationwide to meet housing priorities through sustainable and innovative practices reflecting culture, heritage and environmental stewardship, the release said.  

   Block grant funds primarily benefit low-income families living on Indian reservations or in other American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The amount of each grant is based on a formula that considers local needs and housing units under management by the tribe or designated entity.

   Secure Rural Schools

   Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, have introduced a bill to renew the Secure Rural Schools program.  

   According to a news release, since Wyden and Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, co-authored the program in 2000, its county timber payments have supplied more than $2.8 billion to 33 of Oregon’s 36 counties. The program, which is currently expired, financially supports schools, law-enforcement and roads in more than 700 rural counties across the country.

   The bill would extend Secure Rural Schools for three years and provide a total of about $360 million annually for more than 700 counties across the U.S. It would also restore mandatory funding of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, which compensates counties that contain federal lands.  

   “County payments are a lifeline for cash-strapped rural communities that are already facing shortfalls to pave roads, keep teachers in schools and firefighters on call,” Wyden said. “This bipartisan bill keeps up the commitment the government made to support rural counties in Oregon and across the country.”

   Secure Rural Schools provided about $107 million to Oregon counties last year, the release said.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN



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