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Lawmakers hear (Klamath) water pact update
Rep. McLane reviews Cover Oregon
LaMalfa votes against omnibus bill
by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 1/24/14
     During a three-day informational legislative session last week, the Oregon House agriculture and natural resources committee heard updates about the Klamath Basin “agreement in principle” (AIP).

   According to Rep. Gail Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, the presentation was given by Richard Whitman, Gov. Kitzhaber’s natural resources adviser.

   If approved by the Klamath Tribal Council and a host of irrigators, the AIP will become one component of proposed legislation that will cover the upper Basin, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) including onproject irrigators, and the Klamath Hydro Settlement Agreement with PacifiCorp, which   may involve removing four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.

   Whitsett said the state plans to introduce legislation regarding legalizing in-stream water leasing as part of a pact among stakeholders above Upper Klamath Lake.

   According to Whitsett, the committee plans to carry a bill that would require the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) to prove interference by scientific methods — such as determining actual porosity, permeability and transmissivity properties — before groundwater irrigation wells are shut off due to possible interference with surface water.  She said OWRD has listed more than 200 groundwater irrigation wells that may be shut off if the Tribes, which have time immemorial rights, make a call on the water.

   “This bill, if passed, would help keep the government from arbitrarily taking irrigation groundwater,” Whitsett said.

   During a special committee on university governance, legislators heard updates about the desire of four regional and technical universities to have their own governing boards, Whitsett said.  

   “I support an independent board for OIT, with governance remaining in the Klamath Falls area and keeping our own president,” she said.

   Rep. McLane reviews Cover Oregon

   Republican House Mike McLane said Cover Oregon was called before the House and Bruce Goldberg, the acting director of Cover Oregon, testified during an informational legislative meetings last week.

   The three-day session was for house members to hear from committees and state departments about statewide issues before beginning a 35-day session next month. No votes were made during the session.  

   McLane said many expressed frustration with the $200 million spent to produce the failed online Cover Oregon marketplace.

   The Cover Oregon state exchange was created in lieu of residents being required to purchase Affordable Care Act health insurance through the federal exchange. The Cover Oregon site, which was   scheduled to launch in September, has been unusable. Oregon residents who have applied for the ACA have filled out paper forms.

   ACA requires citizens have health care, beginning Jan. 1, or be subject to tax penalties.

   “There was urging by several Republican legislatures to stop this train wreck of a program and to shut it down,” he said.

   McLane explained that only Gov. Kitzhaber has the authority to shut down the site, but he vowed legislative officials will remain vigilant until a resolution is reached. McLane explained that he doesn’t support continuing to spend money on a failed system with no exit strategy. No deadline has been given for   when the website will be functional.

   According to McLane, a Ways and Means Committee session report revealed the Department of Human Services may request an additional $100 million “to fulfill services the agency feels it needs to offer.”

   “That would cause a significant pinch on the state’s end balance,” he said.

   LaMalfa votes against omnibus bill

   Congressman Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., voted against the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by the House last week, according to a news release.  

   The bill, which wraps 12 annual spending bills into one comprehensive piece of legislation, funds defense programs and domestic programs such as education, law enforcement and assistance programs. The bill also eliminates the threat of another government shutdown until October. It was passed by a vote of 359 to 67.

   “This measure should have gone through the full appropriations process so each program and expenditure received an up or down vote, and that wasn’t the case,” LaMalfa said in the news release.  

   According to the release, LaMalfa was pleased with many of the steps forward in the bill, but he believes some spending increases need reform. Kevin Eastman, a spokesman for LaMalfa, said as much as $200 million is included in the bill for land acquisition by government agencies. He pointed out that the federal government owns 28 percent of U.S. land.

   “We believe that number should be zero,” Eastman said.  

   Eastman said LaMalfa would have liked to see legislation for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program included in the bill. PILT agreements compensate local governments for lost property tax revenue from non-taxable federally owned lands.

   In LaMalfa’s district, Lassen County won’t receive about $1.5 million in tax revenue this year and Modoc and Siskiyou counties lose more than $500,000 a year from non-taxable, government owned land, Eastman said.




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