Lawmakers, local leaders discuss priorities
The champagne has stopped flowing and the confetti has fallen. Now it’s time for legislators in Oregon and California to get to work.
A variety of issues are expected to reach the floors of the two Legislatures, from health care in both states, Measure 37 in Oregon and budgets in California.
Representatives, assemblymen and senators from both states told the Herald and News what their priorities are for the 2007 session and what they think will see the most attention from their respective legislative bodies.
Likewise, community leaders in Klamath, Lake, Modoc and Siskiyou counties shared what they’d like to see lawmakers focus on during the session.
Convenes Jan. 8
State Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, will serve on the Transportation and Economic Development and General Government subcommittees which are part of the Senate Ways and Means C o m m i t t e e . The appointment will allow him to influence budget spending in those areas.
The subcommittee assignments will help the senator achieve a number of his goals this session. With more than $49 billion in the state budget, Whitsett wants tighter control of spending and establishment of a rainy day fund.
He said the state also likely will need to step in and help districts affected by the loss of federal timber payments.
“From a public service standpoint, we need to put a lid on this,” Whitsett said of spending.
Increased funding for public safety and better care for the elderly and veterans are other priorities. Whitsett also wants to see more academic accountability for K-12 education and annual disclosure of school board financial records.
The senator said he expects labor issues to receive attention during the session and a possible moratorium on Measure 37, the controversial land-use law. Civil unions and other gay rights issues also are expected to reach the floor, he said.
State Rep. George Gilman, R-Medford, will be vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee as well as a member of the Ways and Means Economic Development Subcommittee.
The Transportation Committee position will help the representative influence transportation projects and funding. Gilman also plans to advocate for a new health care plan, though he is still researching the options available.
“I don’t know what we’re going to come up with,” he said.
Water rights and affordable housing are on Gilman’s list. He also plans to fight a mandate for biofuel use with tax credits offered instead. As a personal goal, Gilman said he wants to find state funding for the foster grandparent program he participates in.
Gilman said to expect health care, Measure 37 and education to dominate a large portion of the session.
State Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, will serve on the Joint Ways and Means Committee as well as the Natural Resources and Health and Human Services subcommittees that are part of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The assignments will help the representative advocate for improved care for the elderly in the Klamath Basin and improved l e g i s l a t i o n defining Measure 37, which could become a natural resources issue.
Increased funding for the Oregon State Police, establishment of a rainy day fund and more funding for higher education are among Garrard’s priorities. A $200,000 detoxification center for public safety use and increased funding for KLEOS also are on his list.
Garrard said he thinks schools and other children’s programs will fare well this year and expects an education budget of more than $6 billion. Legislative ethics, health care and gay rights also will likely make it to the floor, as well as Measure 37 concerns, he said.
Overall, the representative said he expected lawmakers to become more centrist and less partisan this year.
“I think many of us feel we need to accomplish things in this session and get out,” he said.
Klamath County commissioners want the state Legislature to clarify Measure 37, a controversial land-use law passed by voters.
The law has caused problems since it was approved by voters two years ago and needs attention from state officials.
“It’s consuming huge resources in this county, and I know it is in the rest of the state,” said commissioner John Elliott.
Commissioner Al Switzer said he wanted to see more attention paid to transportation needs this year. All roads and highways, from the state to the city level, need attention, and the state needs to find funding for projects, he said.
Better education funding, more patrol officers and increased resources for crime labs are needed by the Oregon State Police as well, commissioners said.
Ray Sims, Lakeview town manager, also was concerned about funding for education, particularly with the loss of funding from federal timber payments. The loss of those funds also will affect Lakeview’s and Lake County’s ability to maintain its roads.
“We’re not in a crisis situation at the moment, but it’s on the horizon in the next year or two,” Sims said.
Increased funding for the Oregon Department of Transportation and the development of Highway 140 into a truck route is another wish of Sims, as is more funding for 911 dispatch services.
Overall, the Legislature needs to be more proactive about helping local governments before issues turn into problems, he said.
Greg Thede, Klamath County School District interim superintendent, said he was most concerned about the state providing adequate and stable funding in the next year. Proper funding would allow the district to restore programs, improve technology and equipment and put more money toward maintenance.
Cec Amuchastegui, Klamath Falls City Schools superintendent, also is concerned about stable funding to maintain current programs and restore others.
Dan Keppen, executive director for Family Farm Alliance, said he’d heard concerns from the agricultural community about where they’ll fit in the now Democrat-controlled state government’s plans.
Farmers and ranchers worry environmental and anti-agriculture groups will have more clout with legislators in Salem as well as in Washington, D.C., he said.
Jim Hunter, Klamath Falls police chief, would like to see a detoxification facility in the Klamath Basin, not just for criminal reasons but also for treatment needs. Services for the elderly and mental health are badly needed as are more resources for the Oregon State Police, he said.
Convened Jan. 3
State Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, said committee assignments were not yet out for the California Senate though he would like to be back on the Senate Appropriations Committee as he was last year.
Economic development for northwestern California is the senator’s first priority this year. Increased job security and a better standard of living is necessary for families to stay together and stabilize communities.
Transportation also will receive Aanestad’s attention, and he said he looks forward to continue bringing in money for road projects while representing other concerns from constituents.
The biggest issues to face the California Legislature this year will be the state’s budget and a statewide health care system, he said.
The state has had multimillion dollar budget shortfalls for the past few years, and Republicans will likely seek to reduce spending as much as possible. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to start a health care program for every Californian will likely run into problems as a result of the state’s budget difficulties, Aanestad said.
State Sen. Dave Cox, RFair Oaks, wants to continue serving on committees dealing with California’s budget, environmental, health and banking and finance concerns in the 2007 session.
A variety of issues face both the state and his northeastern California district, the senator said. Improvements in health care, whether it be in its delivery or coverage, is needed. The California corrections system is in need of reform now that a special master is in charge following federal investigations.
Cox said he planned to bring as much money as possible to his constituents to help with infrastructure with the passage of bonds on the November ballot. Every thing from schools to roads are in need of repair.
Continued economic development is another of the senator’s goals for the region as is helping to resolve the water crisis surrounding the Klamath River.
DOUG LA MALFA
State Assemblyman Doug La Malfa, R-Richvale, will serve as vice chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee.
The assignment will serve the assemblyman’s interest in helping producers and ranchers in northern California. Agriculture issues such as food safety and water storage will be priorities during the 2007 session, he said. Ensuring other infrastructure needs in the north are met by the state’s recently passed bonds are another concern.
Issues surrounding health care also will get heard on the Assembly floor, La Malfa said. A government program won’t necessarily be the answer, but increasing accessibility to care for all Californians is necessary. Trimming the state’s budget is also important.
“We can’t continue to rely on windfall income,” he said.
Modoc County Supervisor David Bradshaw wants state as well as federal lawmakers to help find solutions to the loss of more than $3 million in federal timber payments from the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act.
Restoring timber production is one way the supervisor said the issue could be approached.
Increased water storage in the Klamath Basin also is important to keep agriculture alive, as is helping struggling rural hospitals.
Harry Carlson, director of the Intermountain Research and Extension Center, didn’t have a long list of priorities for state lawmakers, but he wants to see continued improvement in the state’s regulation of pesticides.
Joe Moreo, Modoc County agriculture commissioner, said the state needs to focus on maintaining its water infrastructure and storage as well as weed control and quality assurance for some of the state’s crops.