Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


Klamath gets mixed bag out of short session

  • Dennis Linthicum

    The conclusion of the short session in Salem last Saturday produced both wins and loses for Klamath County.

    A variety of bills were on the table dealing with such issues as irrigation rights, military college funding, cemetery burials and pollution regulations.

    House Bill 4016 would have allowed irrigators within the Klamath Project to temporarily transfer water rights from one property to another to help mitigate potential droughts, but the bill did not make it out of committee.


    Rep. E. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls, worked directly with the committee that submitted the bill. Though local irrigators showed strong support, Reschke said opposition groups put a stop to the proposal.

    “Despite multiple supporting testimonies from local constituents, this bill died in committee, due to opposition from Portland environmental and local tribal groups,” said Reschke.

    Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot said he thought passing the bill was a “no-brainer” given the severe drought expected this summer in the Klamath Basin and was upset with legislators for not taking action.

    “With what we have going on, I was pretty disappointed in our legislature,” said DeGroot.

    Two bills improving access to higher education for Oregon National Guard members were House Bill 4035 and Senate Bill 1557, which passed unanimously in each house of the legislature. HB 4035 allows the state to fully fund college tuition for guardsmen seeking 2-year and 4-year degrees, while SB 1557 affords rights to students attending public colleges who are called to National Guard duty for 30 or fewer consecutive days.

    Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Beatty, said the new policies accommodate the “dynamic circumstances” of military members who may need to drop a class suddenly due to extended deployment or training. Such students will now be able to re-take a class without needing to re-pay for tuition.

    Col. Jeff Smith, commander of the 173rd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard, stationed at Kingsley Field, in Klamath Falls, estimated more than 600 personnel at the base could benefit from for these new programs. He said passage of the bills shows how much legislators value military members and sends a message of support to those thinking about enlisting.

    “This is a huge deal for recruiting and retention,” said Smith.

    Cemetery bill passes

    House Bill 4073, which permanently set in place a policy allowing day-use permits at unlicensed cemeteries, passed unanimously. Reschke was a chief sponsor of the bill and said the policy helps alleviate concerns about Eternal Hills Cemetery, in Klamath Falls, which has been unlicensed since March of 2016.

    A similar bill passed in 2015 established the permitting process on a temporary basis and expired on Jan. 1. Until the legislature renewed the policy, burials could not continue at Eternal Hills, though the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board (OMCB) did approve an interim policy allowing only pre-paid burials to be conducted.

    OMCB revoked the license of Eternal Hills, owner Robert Gordon and manager Tim Lancaster on March 30, 2016, due to repeated violations of state policy. Gordon has yet to sell the cemetery to a licensed funeral service provider and a bankruptcy case against the former business is attempting to force the sale of the property.

    Other highlights

    Other bills supported by local legislators similarly received mixed levels of success and defeat:

    • House Bill 4005, which regulated the rising cost of prescription drugs, passed with bi-partisans support and was strongly backed by Linthicum. The senator said, as an insulin-dependent diabetic, he knows first-hand the kind of hit a patient can take when drug prices rise out of control;
    • Senate Bill 1552, which Linthicum proposed as a way to de-fund the removal of hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River, did not leave committee. The owner of the dams has asked for their removal, though Linthicum argued preserving the dams was important in maintaining Oregon’s hydroelectric infrastructure;
    • Bill 4057, sponsored by Reschke, scaled back regulations passed last year requiring janitorial service companies to register with the Bureau of Labor and Industries. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously;
    • House Bill 4057, supported by Linthicum and Reschke, would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except for medical emergencies, but the bill did not make it out of committee. A similar bill also failed during the 2017 legislative session.

    ‘No’ to cap and trade

    Both men were supportive of a move to take no action this session regarding a proposed pollution abatement bill that would have penalized businesses unable to comply with environmental standards. Linthicum and Reschke were among many who said the short session was not the appropriate time to debate the issue, known as “cap and trade” and the matter was put off for future consideration.

    Linthicum said the proposed bills “were only used for political posturing” and would not have made a difference in carbon emissions as “Oregon is already doing its part as a leader in the green economy.”

    Reschke said he was able to help lead the charge against cap and trade as vice-chair of the House Committee on Energy & Environment. He said the policies “would significantly increase the cost of living for individuals across Oregon.”

    Cap and trade is expected to be back before legislators during the regular session next year.




In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

Home Contact


              Page Updated: Thursday March 15, 2018 06:06 PM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2017, All Rights Reserved