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Oregon Congressman Greg Walden newsletter


Dear fellow Oregonian,

I’m in the middle of another busy week here in the nation’s capital, occupied with many committee hearings, constituent meetings, and key issues on the House floor. But I wanted to take a moment to update you on what I’ve been up to over these past few weeks before I return to Oregon on Friday to complete my 332nd round trip. Next week I’ll be off on another extensive swing through eastern, central, and southern Oregon, which I’ll update you on soon.


As you may remember from the last e-newsletter, I hit the road in eastern Oregon for an extensive four-day swing during the President’s Day District Work Period that covered 1,124 miles. Here’s a recap of those travels:

Day One – Wednesday, February 20

After a three hour drive from Hood River, I started the swing off with
a tour of the Diesel Technologies Program at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton with about 20 administrators, staff, faculty, and industry folks. There’s a real need for diesel technicians in the area, and the school has done a great job to fill that nitch. The program is now in the second year of a three-year Department of Labor job training investment of $1.2 million, and I was happy to see the funding being put to such good use. BMCC President John Turner and his faculty are leading a fine institution. I really think the federal investment will help ensure a well-trained workforce that’s ready to help grow the economy of eastern Oregon.

Next, it was down the road to La Grande
to open up the first-ever full-time Second District office in eastern Oregon. It was wonderful to see over 100 community members and leaders attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony to show their support for the office’s presence in eastern Oregon. I’ve long wanted to open a full-time office in this part of the district, and I knew it was essential to have an eastern Oregonian with knowledge of the area’s issues staff the office. After working for me for six years, first in Bend and then as my senior resources policy advisory in Washington, D.C., Colby Marshall (a Burns native) and his wife (also an eastern Oregonian) were ready to head home to the open spaces of eastern Oregon (think Blue Mountains instead of blue suits). Colby is a great fit to help the people of the area, and folks are always welcome to come visit at 1211 Washington Avenue or give a ring at (541) 624-2400 to let Colby know how I can help out.

Immediately following the reception, we rolled up our sleeves and got right to work in the new digs, testing out the videoconferencing technology that will allow us to connect my offices in Medford, Bend, Hood River, La Grande, and Washington, D.C. with each other. I met with Eastern Oregon University Interim President Dixie Lund; my senior policy staff in the nation’s capital connected in via the videoconferencing system. We discussed the repositioning plan at the university, which will help ensure they continue to grow Oregon’s workforce and keep good jobs on the eastern side of the state.

Then it was on to Baker City for a meeting with the Farm Bureau. Local president Peggy Browne, Oregon Farm Bureau President and American Farm Bureau Vice President Barry Bushue, and nearly 20 others shared their views on topics such as county payments, water resources, forest policy, and the farm bill. As regular readers of the newsletter know, those are top priorities of mine, and ones I’m working with my colleagues to make headway on in Congress.

Day Two – Thursday, February 21

The day started with
a really fun stop at Vale Elementary School in Malheur County to take a look at a neat pilot computer initiative. Students there are able to download assignments and projects, complete the work, and then the teachers can access the information and assign a grade…all with no paper exchanged. The school is really doing a good job of preparing these students with the technological skills they’ll need for the 21st century. Principal Darlene McConnell (who is a former high school classmate of mine) and Vale School District Superintendent are doing great work and really dedicated to the youth of the area.

Following the classroom visit, I presented new Eagle Scout Collin Peterson with a flag flown over the Capitol. As an Eagle Scout myself, I know how much work is required and I always like to be able to express my congratulations personally.

The next stop was at another school,
this time in Prairie City, where I met with about two dozen leaders from all around Grant County for what turned into an impromptu town hall. We talked a lot about the resource issues that affect the area, and how important healthy forests are to the economy and environment of rural Oregon. Afterward, I visited a classroom at Prairie City School to discuss my job as congressman.

The day’s travels ended with a dinner with Harney County Judge Steve Grasty and Commissioner Dan Nichols in Burns. The theme of the meeting echoed what I had been hearing for much of the swing; frustrations with federal land policy, from county payments to public access to wildfire prevention and response. I share in their frustration. I’ve been working hard with Congressman Peter DeFazio and a bipartisan group of rural representatives to provide a long-term extension of county payments, and I’ve worked closely with Washington Congressman Brian Baird to identify ways to fix federal forest policy to create healthier conditions in our national forests.  But much work remains on all of these fronts.

Day Three – Friday, February 22

As you may remember, southeast Oregon was hit hard by wildfire this past year, and that dominated the talk of
a roundtable I organized in Burns among ranching and farming groups and representatives from the county, the state, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and other federal agencies. When I visited Burns shortly after the Egley Complex fires began last year, the residents in the area were pretty darn frank with me about how frustrated they were with the communication from federal agencies during the crisis. At this meeting, I was able to get the agencies to commit to training a group of local folks to work with fire command teams before the next fire season to try to prevent such a breakdown. Those present at the meeting also told me about the need to conduct after-fire assessments. It was a positive working meeting with over 50 people, and hopefully the groundwork we laid can help avoid similar problems in the future.

Our last stop in Burns was a meeting with the High Desert Partnership (HDP), a coalition of ranchers, agency officials, local government leaders, and environmental groups to develop sustainable ecological, economic, and social policies for the Harney Basin. They’re doing good, proactive work to avoid conflict in that part of the state.

After another long stretch of road, I arrived at the North Lake Medical Center in Christmas Valley in Lake County to tour the new facility, which is a real asset to that community. The clinic’s completion in October 2007 was the culmination of over 20 years of work to develop a new clinic in this rural, medically-underserved community. As a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over health care policy, and co-chair of the bipartisan House Rural Health Care Coalition, quality access to rural health care continues to be one of my top priorities. I also received a briefing on the current status of the Over-the Horizon-Backscatter radar facility in Christmas Valley.  We hope to convert this old military radar facility into a modern renewable energy site utilizing the power transmission lines that used to serve the radar transmitters to bring green power back to the grid.

Day Four – Saturday, February 23

On Saturday morning, I headed out to Liskey Farms in Klamath Falls to learn how they’re using geothermal energy to power a new biodiesel production unit, raise tropical fish, plants, insects and soon produce electricity. Engineering and marketing students from the nearby Oregon Institute of Technology joined me, and we talked at length about the important role of renewables in America’s smarter energy future. I’ve been telling my colleagues on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming about the exciting and unique energy projects in the Northwest. Last year, I helped secure $500,000 for the OIT’s new Geo-Heat Center, and found out at my visit to Liskey Farms that there is 199-degree water just 18 feet below the surface that is capable of running a 10 megawatt power plant.

The last stop was in Gilchrist at the Interfor Pacific mill. The Klamath County mill is very dependent on federal timber sales and finding adequate supply is often a serious problem.  Between the downturn in the housing market and a limited supply of timber, the workers at the mill have suffered weeks of layoffs.  In fact the day I was there, was the last day of operations for the month.  After the tour of the mill, I spoke to a crew of about 100 workers, and I told them that federal forest policy needs to change. The current policy puts mills out of business, can bankrupt small communities, and leaves Oregon’s future with a legacy of choked, unhealthy forests or, even worse and increasingly all-too-common, burned dead forests. It makes no sense.  We need to get our over-grown forests back in balance and doing so will produce domestic jobs and wood products.

Southern Oregon Meth Project

After returning from Washington, D.C. for another week of legislative business, I was in Klamath Falls on Monday, March 3 for the Southern Oregon Meth Project forums to educate middle and high school students and the community at large on the dangers of meth use. In the afternoon, the students heard from some experts with first-hand experience about just how damaging meth is.

Later that night, the message was drilled home to parents and others in a separate session. Several hundred people attended each forum. These kinds of gatherings always deliver an important message: meth lays waste to individuals, families, and communities alike. I’ve held many similar town halls in the past across the district, and was pleased to participate in this one, as well.

There are signs we may be getting a better handle on the epidemic, partly thanks to aggressive federal, state and local initiatives to curb the production and use of this poison. But make no mistake, more needs to be done to not only prevent meth use, but also to rehabilitate those caught in its grip, and prosecute those providing the dangerous drug to our communities.


You may remember in the last newsletter that I expressed my frustration that the House majority leadership had refused to allow the House to vote on the bipartisan Protect America Act, which passed the Senate with 68 votes.

The bill is a critical anti-terror law that closes loopholes in our intelligence laws and protects our civil liberties. The President and the Senate leadership are on the same page and the bill could become law if the House leadership would schedule it for a vote.

Thursday night, the House convened a rare, secret session — the first since 1983 — to discuss the threats to our country and the reasons behind why the provisions contained in the Senate measure are so very important to protecting our country from attack.  We started that secret session at 10:15 p.m. and the discussion lasted an hour.

While obviously I cannot discuss what was said, I can tell you what I learned made me more convinced than ever of the importance of renewing the foreign surveillance program as envisioned by the Senate.

Unfortunately, on Friday the House was again denied the opportunity to vote on the Senate measure and instead the majority approved a bill that, in my opinion, leaves our country unnecessarily vulnerable.

Meanwhile, as Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell wrote, “without the act in place, vital programs would be plunged into uncertainty and delay, and capabilities would continue to decline.” It’s been a month since the law expired, and the threat to our country remains.

In other news…

As a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, we’ve reviewed some interesting topics in the last couple weeks, including food safety and sustainability, wireless consumer protection, climate change in developing countries, the renewable energy economy (which we know much about in the Northwest), nuclear power, and fuel pipeline safety. Thankfully, we have held no new hearings on Roger Clemens.

A steady stream of people from the Second District continues to come through Washington. I met with people from Nyssa, The Dalles, La Grande, Klamath Falls, Baker City, Medford, Hood River, Vale, Bend, Ashland, Pendleton, Boardman, John Day, Sisters, Jacksonville, Redmond, Burns, and Grants Pass.

This week I received a special honor from the National Association of Community Health Centers. They named me a “Distinguished Community Health Superhero” (no, there’s no cape with the award) for 2008. Last year, the same group honored me with the “Community Health Defender” award. I continue my work to address the unique challenges of delivering quality health care to rural Oregonians. The system of community health centers and clinics across our district provide essential and timely access to health care for thousands of our neighbors. I’m continuing to work with them and the home health care folks and other providers to make sure people who need care get it in a timely and affordable manner.

I also met with Governor Ted Kulongoski who was in town recently to brief our delegation on his priorities, which included extending the county timber payments program and some enhancements for the Oregon National Guard’s mission and resources, among other things.

I addressed the gathering of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, where I pointed out how important the Columbia River deepening project is to the economy of the Northwest and we discussed the problems related to the damage to the lock at John Day Dam.  Keeping commerce flowing on the Columbia is essential for our economy in the Northwest.

A lot of local associations visited the Capitol over the last few weeks.  I hosted county commissioners from across Oregon for breakfast during last week’s National Association of Counties meeting in the nation’s capital. As you might expect, county payments dominated the discussion and Oregon’s commissioners hit the halls of Congress hard to press our case to members across the country.

The League of Oregon Cities and the Oregon Community Colleges representatives were back talking about ways to strengthen the partnership between cities and the federal government, and the importance of job training and education for our workforce.

In all, I had over 90 meetings and hearings on my schedule during the last two weeks here in the nation’s capital. I’ll spend Saturday in Heppner, then home on Sunday before hitting the road again next week to visit Umatilla, Morrow, Crook, Deschutes, Jackson, and Josephine counties to focus largely on  health care, economic and workforce development and other issues important to district, state and nation as I continue my regular visits throughout the 20 counties in our vast district.

Until the next newsletter, you can refer to the Library of Congress website
here for more information on what’s happening in Congress. You can always reach me through my website or by contacting any of my offices in Oregon or Washington, D.C.  If you would like to unsubscribe from this mailing, simply reply and type the word “unsubscribe” in the subject box.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
Member of Congress


Dear fellow Oregonian,
Greetings from Washington, D.C. where I this week returned following a very busy summer district work period. I have much to update you on regarding my extensive visits with residents in eastern, central and southern Oregon, along with some legislative accomplishments from earlier this summer. I’ll also preview some legislative priorities for the remainder of the year in this edition of the Congressional Connection.
All in all, it’s been a very busy summer, as my swings in August alone covered nine counties, with over 30 public meetings and events and more than 2,000 miles covered on the road. I have visited nearly all of the 20 counties in the vast Second Congressional District twice or more this year, and my visits will continue for the rest of the year. In fact, I’ve made 55 official visits this year to counties and held hundreds of meetings across the district. It is certainly a challenge representing such an immense district, but one I welcome with enthusiasm as it is always a joy to interact with the people of central, southern, and eastern Oregon and it’s where I get my best “to do” list to take back to our nation’s capital each week.
The summer has been packed with many meetings and public events in Oregon during both the weekends in June and July following workweeks in Washington, D.C., and also during the summer district work period in August. I held multiple town hall meetings in southern, central, and northeast Oregon, which covered a diverse range of topics and attracted a broad range of people.
During the first week of the August district work period I made a swing through northeast Oregon. I met with the Oregon Wheat Growers League and the Pendleton Rotary before heading to Enterprise for meetings with local residents over the Forest Service’s proposed Travel Management Plan, a town hall in the evening and a tour of and meeting at the Wallowa Lake Dam the following morning to discuss the successful House passage of my bill to authorize essential repairs to the dam. Later that day I was honored to help dedicate the brand-new Elkhorn Valley Wind Project in Union County. I visited the construction site in April, and am happy to see such wonderful progress on a project that will create 100 megawatts, or enough energy to meet the annual needs of over 25,000 Northwest homes. I was able to meet separately with the Baker, Umatilla, and Union County commissioners to brief them on progress in Washington, D.C., and also to hear the latest on the issues affecting each county.
Water was very much on the mind in Milton-Freewater in Umatilla County, where I met with members of the Walla Walla Basin Watershed Council and other local officials to discuss the Walla Walla River Restoration Feasibility Study. I also met in Hermiston with stakeholders of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Umatilla Basin Phase III Project for which I helped secure a federal investment to continue. Representatives from the Westland Irrigation District, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Umatilla County, and local farmers attended. This long-term project will provide a secure supply of water for irrigation needs and fish habitat. After a long day of meetings, I was able to meet at the Umatilla County Fair with many students involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America and also met with the Umatilla County Fair Court.  Later that evening I attended the Farm-City Pro Rodeo and had a great time visiting with residents and watching the rodeo.
In central Oregon, I spoke to and took questions from members of the Bend Rotary and also attended the groundbreaking for the new terminal at Redmond Municipal Airport. Senators Smith and Wyden, and many other local officials and residents also joined this outstanding event.  Before leaving Washington, D.C. for the August district period, I submitted a tribute in the Congressional Record commemorating the history of Roberts Field. Then I drove 175 miles to Medford to begin a swing through Jackson and Josephine counties, where I had the honor of handing out service medals to a group of southern Oregon military veterans. I attended the dedication of a very exciting new facility in Ashland, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Clark R. Bavin Forensic Lab, which is the only crime lab in the world dedicated entirely to wildlife and is expected to serve both the national and international communities. I also spoke to the Grants Pass Rotary and attended the groundbreaking of the new terminal at the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport.  Like the Roberts Field event, it was very well attended and highlighted the smart and needed growth of the airport to accommodate the region’s growing business and passenger needs.
In-between my travels throughout the district, I also held a number of requested meetings in my office in my hometown of Hood River.
Rural Health Care
Congress has made progress on several of my top legislative priorities since I wrote you last. I joined my fellow co-chair of the Rural Health Care Coalition, Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), to unveil the Health Care Access and Rural Equity (H-CARE) Act of 2007, H.R. 2860. This bipartisan legislation, which has 66 cosponsors to date, is a comprehensive bill that proposes several improvements to our nation’s health care infrastructure. The improvements would help rural health care providers address the unique challenges associated with delivering quality health care close to home in rural areas like Oregon’s Second Congressional District.
As you may know, we introduced similar legislation last year and were successful in passing some of its provisions. One new aspect of the legislation this year is the flexibility it gives to Critical Access Hospitals. During my many meetings with health care providers across the state the past year, I have been told of the burden of the 25-bed daily maximum rule for Critical Access Hospitals, which are so designated because they are the only hospital for many miles around. However, the 25-bed daily cap is firm; if a hospital exceeds it, they could potentially lose their “critical access” designation and the federal investments that come with it. Thus, these hospitals can do little else but refuse care to the 26th patient, forcing the patient to make the difficult decision to either travel extensively to the next hospital or forego treatment altogether. H.R. 2860 would give hospitals the flexibility to treat patients as they come in as long as their average daily bed occupancy does not exceed 20. Click here for more information on the bill and a list of the groups that support the H-CARE Act of 2007.
Oregon Water Resources Development Act
The House also unanimously passed the Oregon Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 495), which I sponsored and introduced early this Congress in January. The bill includes four separate projects that would provide important tools to help balance land use, conservation, and public safety. Proper management of water is one of the most serious issues in many parts of Oregon, and the projects included in this bill see to it that water is handled the right way. The legislation is actually a collection of four separate acts, including the Deschutes River Conservancy Reauthorization Act, the North Unit Irrigation District Act, the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation Act, and the Little Butte/Bear Creek Subbasins Water Feasibility Act. Click here for more information on each of these acts. Now that the Oregon Water Resources Management Act has received solid bipartisan support for two straight sessions, I will continue to work closely with the Senate to ensure that this legislation gets to the President’s desk as quickly as possible so we can deliver sound results for water users, conservation groups and the public across Oregon.
The Fairness Doctrine
When the Senate’s proposed immigration legislation was defeated earlier this summer, many proponents of the bill blamed talk radio for torpedoing the highly controversial bill. Some senators were not pleased about the fact that some talk radio shows helped to mobilize an effective grassroots effort. Now, some legislators are proposing to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which found its origins in a 1949 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation that required broadcasters to "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance." This was interpreted for many years to essentially mean that any station that broadcast one political viewpoint must also provide the opposite political viewpoint too, essentially suppressing political speech on the airwaves. Facing mounting pressure from the courts, in 1987 the FCC dropped the Fairness Doctrine, ushering in the current era of diverse and vibrant talk radio that has been so valuable to the public exchange of ideas.
In 1949, there were only about 3,000 broadcast radio stations across America. Today, however, with over 10,000, the media landscape in this country is much different. The marketplace of ideas has never been more diverse and competitive. Whether you are looking at a print publication, listening to the radio, or perusing the Internet, it is never a challenge to find someone expressing his or her opinion on a matter of national significance.
Unfortunately, those in Washington, D.C. who are interested in bringing the Fairness Doctrine back would muzzle the voice of talk radio. This is a blatant assault on the First Amendment, and as a broadcaster for over 20 years I am extremely concerned about it. The First Amendment is the underpinning of our political discourse and the underpinning of our democracy. It is what allows the free flow of vibrant and diverse discussion of every viewpoint in our country.
Congressman Mike Pence, myself, and 202 other members of Congress are supporting the Broadcaster Freedom Act (HR 2905) to protect the First Amendment and broadcasters’ rights. We must pass this legislation to protect the fundamental right to free speech.
County payments
I continue to work with the rest of the Oregon delegation to identify a way to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (county payments). While we were able to secure a one-year emergency extension of the program to fund the program through the current fiscal year, I am nonetheless very frustrated that more action has not been taken in this Congress to come up with a long-term solution that ensures the federal government keeps its commitment to rural communities. Of course, if the legal gridlock could be undone to actually generate more revenue from the public lands — as has always been intended in federal statutes — there would not be such a drastic need for the federal government to deliver funds to counties where it owns, in some cases, over 75 percent of the land in the county. While a revenue source that has solid bipartisan support has not been identified, we in the delegation continue to pursue every means at our disposal to ensure that the federal government is a good neighbor to rural America.
H.R. 811 – The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007
When I was originally approached to support H.R. 811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007, I signed on as a cosponsor because I support its goal of ensuring a paper trail in elections. Indeed, Oregon already ensures a paper trail in its elections because of our unique mail-in ballot system. However, local election officials soon alerted me that this legislation could seriously complicate voting procedures in the state and ultimately threaten Oregon’s electoral integrity. I passed along the concerns of Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and multiple county clerks in our district to the sponsor of the bill, but was not assured that Oregon’s concerns would be addressed. Therefore, I tried to remove my name from the bill as a cosponsor, but could not do so due to a technicality in the House rules. I expect this bill to come to the House floor very soon, and will continue to do all I can to modify the bill to ensure that Oregon is not adversely affected.
My Washington, D.C. office is currently accepting applications for interns. Interns are an integral part of my office as they help with office management, constituent services and various other hands-on projects. Serving as a congressional intern is an exciting educational opportunity for those interested in learning more about Congress and the inner-workings of the House of Representatives. Those interested should fax or e-mail their resume with a cover letter, as well as any questions they might have, to Melinda McIntyre in my Washington, D.C. office (Melinda.mcintyre@mail.house.gov or fax: (202) 225-5774). Applicants should be in college or graduate school, or recent graduates of either, and willing to spend approximately three months working in the office.
I look forward to a busy September in Washington, D.C., with important meetings on both the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. I will also be attending many more meetings in the district during the upcoming weekends and will keep you posted on them. Until the next Congressional Connection, remember that for more on the current happenings in Congress, you can always refer to the Library of Congress website here. And you can always reach me through my website or by contacting any of my offices in Oregon or Washington, D.C. Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter, and I look forward to updating you again soon on my work for the people of Oregon’s Second District.
Best regards,
Congressman Greg Walden


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