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Newsletter by Senator Doug Whitsett, OR District 28 3/16/07
Dear Friends,

       The state of Oregon has reached a new level of absurdity in creating fees. Our office is receiving a tsunami of complaints regarding the demand by the Department of State Land (DSL) for a registration fee for rocks placed along the shoreline as rip rap or as supports for other structures. This torrent of resentment exceeds even that stirred up by the DSL requirement, established during the interim, that docks  on private property that access the waters of the state be registered for a fee. The theory is that the state owns the land between the water and the historic high water mark of streams and lakes. The DSL logic appears to be that, for the state to be fair, DSL must charge a fee for the easement right to cross or place rocks upon that land owned by the state.
       Our office is in the process of determining the specific statutory authority that DSL is depending upon to empower the agency to initiate, implement, and enforce these registration requirements and fees on “docks and rocks”. In the event that the agency does possess that statutory authority, we may consider introducing legislation to change the statute to prevent the agency from collecting fees for “docks and rocks”.

Rainy Day Fund

       Thursday the Senate passed HB 2707 that establishes a state savings account. The bill declares an emergency need for funds allowing the legislature to confiscate the corporate kicker credit for this budget cycle. It then channels that confiscated credit to start a savings account for the general fund. Additionally, up to one percent of the unspent balance of the general fund would be transferred to the savings account at the end of each budget cycle.  The ultimate size of the savings account would be limited to seven and one half percent of the general fund.
       I opposed HB 2707 for several reasons. First, it is a $290 million dollar tax increase on our corporate business community. Although the targeted corporations are often domiciled out of state they do employ tens of thousands of Oregonians. A few examples would be Intel, Hewlett Packard, Weyerhaeuser, and Safeway.        Second, an emergency simply does not exist when our revenue projections for this budget cycle exceed our essential budget level by more than half a billion dollars. Third, the Senate Republicans introduced an alternative that would have diverted existing money from the general fund to create the savings account. That proposal was opposed by all 18 Democrat Senators. As I stated in Senate debate, prudent people do not borrow money to create a savings account, prudent people do not take money that belongs to others to create a savings account, but prudent people do set money aside for a savings account first on a regular basis. Certainly it would be prudent for this legislative assembly to do no less with the public's tax dollars.
       On the same day, HB 2031 also passed out of the Senate. This bill diverts about $25 million of the confiscated corporate kicker credit money to the General Fund to restore the 67% corporate kicker credit to corporations that have gross annual sales of less than $5 million. I voted for this bill because HB 2707, which confiscated the entire 67% corporate kicker credit, had already passed. At least this bill will preserve the credit for Oregon’s smaller corporations. The preponderance of these businesses are privately owned and often are family businesses.

On the Record – Bills to Watch

       Judging from the amount of correspondence I have received, many of you are already aware that the issue of Civil Unions has returned to the table this session. Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2007 are essentially the text from last sessions Senate Bill 1000 split up into two bills. SB 2 prohibits discrimination against persons based on actual or perceived sexual orientation while HB 2007 establishes requirements and procedures for individuals of the same sex to enter into a civil union contract.
       Supporters of SB 2 tout that unlike SB 1000, this bill allows for religious exemptions. But the fact is that the religious exclusions that SB 2 provides are not adequate to protect our religious institutions by any means. It is true that bona fide churches and religious institutions are protected if they take action against someone based on sexual orientation with respect to housing, employment and the use of facilities. However, these protections that the Church Exemption provides extend only to church activities that are “closely connected to the primary purpose of the church.” The definitions of bona fide religious beliefs and churches and how activities are connected to the church would be left up to court interpretation. You can see how this has the potential to undermine the autonomy of religious organizations by exposing them to judicial intrusion. A judge should not be authorized to decide what is or is not the primary purpose of a religious institution or church. I believe this to be an unreasonable government interference with religious practice and beliefs. In addition to potentially jeopardizing the separation of Church and State, this bill would also elevate transgendered and bi-sexual individuals to special minority class status and would establish procedures to allow for “affirmative action to seek out underutilized members of protected minorities” in various areas including public employment.
       As for HB 2007, what can be said on the issue of civil unions that has not already been said?  I believe that the bill merely proposes marriage by another name, which is certainly not what Oregon voters wanted when they passed Measure 36.  In order to support this bill one must believe that the voters intended for Measure 36 to be nothing more than a semantic statement.  I outright reject that idea.

       As always, the purpose of our office is to first and foremost serve as a resource to you, my constituents. My staff and I are here to assist you in your public policy questions and receive your valuable ideas and input. We’ll always maintain an open door and open ear as we strive to ensure that the voice of rural Oregon is heard here in Salem.

Best regards,


For information on all the bills that Senator Whitsett is sponsoring, visit his Legislative Website.

Please Contact or Visit us in Salem

Senator Doug Whitsett
Party: R  District: 28
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1728
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-302, Salem, OR, 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us
Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett


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