Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
April 18, 2005 73rd Session, Issue 7
Dear Friends, by Senator Doug Whitsett
This past weekend I was privileged to witness the passion and insightfulness of the people of Southern Oregon. I traveled south for two committee hearings, a series of meetings with community leaders and a joint town hall with Representatives Garrard and Gilman. The high degree of citizen participation and the quality of comments and questions demonstrated to all the legislators present that the citizens of rural Oregon are a force to be reckoned with.
On Friday, I attended Representative Garrard’s House Land Use Committee meeting in Medford. The topic was Measure 37 and the more than 100 people in attendance had an unmistakable message for the legislature—maintain the integrity and clear intent of Measure 37. Most landowners want nothing more than to put their land to the use that was allowed when they acquired it. Despite all the doomsday prophecies, this is a fairly simple request that should be respected.
The meeting of the Joint Ways and Means Committee in Klamath Falls on Saturday had attendees spilling out into the street. It was enlightening to hear from the mouths of constituents about the issues that are most important to them. Among the issues of highest concern are seniors issues, community colleges and community corrections.
Nobody denies the importance of funding our K-12 schools adequately. At the same time the concerns expressed at the Klamath meeting demonstrate the importance of not short-changing other critical needs in the process. Luckily there is no need for such a drastic choice.
Oregon simply needs to revisit some of its priorities, specifically the increasing amount of the state budget that goes to employee costs. The percentage of the budget going toward employee costs has created a structural budget deficit that, if it continues, will consume the entire state budget by 2016. Certainly it will never get that far, but this example demonstrates a simple fact-- the escalation in employee compensation is simply not sustainable.
Finally, I was especially pleased to see so many of you at the joint town hall meeting with Representatives Garrard and Gilman. Nearly 100 people attended and discussion included most of the important issues I have already discussed. I want to thank those of you who participated this weekend in an effort to nudge your government in the right direction. After all, if we don’t stand up for rural Oregon, no one else will!
Ways and Means Education Sub-Committee—Work continues on the state’s education budget. Last week’s discussion centered on the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development. For many rural Oregonians, a healthy community college system is the critical link in helping Oregonians transition to the workforce or further education. Next week the committee will take up the budget for Oregon Health Sciences University.
Judiciary—Senate Bill 435, which would increase earned time for certain criminals including Measure 11 offenders, received a public hearing last week. I have made no bones about the fact that I oppose this bill and other attacks on Measure 11. I also reject the argument that this is a necessary step that will help the state save money. While it is certainly true that we might spend less money by letting criminals out of prison, I reject the notion that our money is poorly spent by keeping felons behind bars. Losses due to property and personal crimes committed by released prisoners are no small cost to this state. There are better ways to save corrections dollars with much less cost to public safety. For example, the Department of Corrections has recently elected to undertake a multi-million dollar expansion of prison facilities when there are many unused beds in county jails throughout the state. This is precisely the type of senseless and inefficient use of funds that leads people to say we need to release criminals.
Commerce—The Commerce Committee traveled to Eugene for a public hearing last Thursday. Among other bills, the committee took testimony on Senate Bill 545. This bill would limit the maximum rate of interest on payday loans. As a general rule, I oppose attempts to limit the ability of Oregonians to determine the disposition of their own money. Too much of what occurs here in Salem is centered around the general concept of meddling in the lives of Oregon citizens. I think this particular legislation is a good example of that type of meddling and I simply prefer to leave this type of determination to the business and consumers involved in the transaction.
On The Record –Key bills to watch
House Bill 2754
Representatives Garrard, Gilman and I have all joined in sponsorship of this bill at the request of Oregon Institute of Technology. The bill will create the Oregon Institute of Health Professions at OIT. The bill received a public hearing last Wednesday in the House Health and Human Services Committee. At that time, I testified along with President Martha Ann Dow about the important role of OIT in educating allied health care professionals. OIT is already the state leader in the education of allied health care professionals. This bill recognizes the great work OIT does, and ensures continued success for the future.
For Information on all the bills that Senator Whitsett is Sponsoring, visit his legislative Web site at:
District Visits and Events
The Senator Looks forward to welcoming the President, Faculty and Students of OIT to the Capitol for OIT day on Tuesday, April 19th.
On April 30th, the Senator will attend the Oregon State University Grand Opening Ceremony for the new Veterinary Medical Center.
Please Contact or Visit us in Salem
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