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Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-302, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us     Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett
E-Newsletter                       February 24, 2008 

Dear Friends,

       The Legislature adjourned sine die at 9:41 P.M. Friday February 22nd ending the nineteen day special session. Of the 109 bills introduced, 73 were passed and 36 failed. A number of good pieces of legislation are now awaiting the signature of Governor Kulongoski; they include:

1.) Ways and Means Committee bill HB 5100 included the authorization to issue the $3.5 million in Article XI G bonds needed to complete construction of the Martha Anne Dow Oregon Center for Health Professions. The funding needed to complete the entire facility is finally in place after three long sessions and a great deal of bipartisan effort in the Oregon Senate. 
2.) The one bill that I was allowed to introduce was passed without dissent in both chambers. SB 1095 will require a minimum $500,000 bond for security release while awaiting trial for the manufacture or the delivery of more than 10 grams of methamphetamine. Ten grams is about 100 doses. The bill enjoyed strong support from law enforcement agencies across Oregon.
3.) As Vice-Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I worked closely with Chair Floyd Prosanski (D-Eugene) and with the help and support of a wide array of law enforcement professionals to pass SB 1087. These Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police, District Attorneys, and community corrections officers agree that as many as 95 percent of property crimes are drug and alcohol related. SB 1087 passed the Senate 23-7 and the House 54-2. This bill creates significant increases in penalties for property crimes, assures that repeat offenders will serve long jail sentences, and provides significant funding for drug and alcohol treatment both in state and local corrections custody. The bill is expensive and is therefore referred to the people for them to adopt or reject, much as Measure 11 was adopted by a vote of the people. A companion measure specifically addresses how the drug treatment will be applied, who will be eligible for that treatment, places strict limits on sentence reductions, and provides for swift and appropriately severe punishment for those who fail to complete the treatment program.
4.) The legislature passed, and Governor Kulongoski has already signed, a bill that requires proof of legal presence in order to obtain or renew an Oregon driver's license or ID card.
5.) Ways and Means Committee bill SB 5556 included adequate funding to provide for 24/7 police coverage on all major Oregon highways. The agency will be able to hire and train as many Oregon State Police patrol officers as they are able to recruit.
6.) SB 5556 also provides and additional $400,000 for Oregon Project Independence. OPI is a nationally recognized program that allows seniors to remain in their homes where they prefer to reside, costs about 80 percent less than residential care, and actually has significantly better outcomes. The increased funding was not enough but was a significant step in the right direction.
7.) The same bill also included authorization for the Oregon Military Department to sell the Klamath Falls Armory to the City of Klamath Falls for cash and real estate exchange. This bill will allow the city to move forward with its plans to establish their public safety division at that site.
8.) Legislation was passed in 2007 that required all gasoline sold in Oregon to be an ethanol mix. The poor policy of that bill has become evident as the ethanol mix has become mandatory. Ever more examples of engines that will not perform with, or have component parts that are harmed by, the ethanol mixture are discovered each week. Moreover, ethanol has a greater affinity for water than gasoline and when it absorbs the water it becomes heavier than gasoline. The mixture then separates from the gasoline and cannot be put back into solution. This creates a very real public safety hazard for aircraft and watercraft that use automobile fuel. Working with Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappose) I was able to amend SB 3638 to allow the sale of ethanol free premium fuel for use in aircraft, watercraft, vintage automobiles, off road vehicles and gasoline fueled tools.
9.) The Legislature recognized that Oregon has traditionally used mountain snow packs for water storage and that in recent years our mountain snow packs are melting earlier in the year. SB 1069 provides for $1.75 million for grants to develop state water storage feasibility studies. Each grant must have a 50% matching contribution from a source other than the state of Oregon. An additional $750,000 was appropriated for a specific aquifer recharge feasibility study in Umatilla County.
10.) Two bills were passed to help protect Oregonians from predatory lending scams including so called mortgage foreclosure counselors. Equally important, a poorly crafted and inequitable bill that would have severely restricted the types of mortgages offered by state chartered lending institutions was defeated in Senate committee.

       The legislature failed to address several pressing issues. Once again it failed to pass legislation to create legislative oversight of government accountability for spending and to root out waste. It failed to pass the Chalkboard plan to train teachers for excellence even though Oregon recently received and “F” in teacher training policy by 'Education Week' in spite of the fact that we spend over $100 million annually in teacher training. It did nothing to address secret deals that school districts make with employees that enable sexually and physically abusive teachers to remain in our schools.
       Even though the March revenue forecast was down by nearly $180 million, the legislative leadership refused to address several important issues of state finance that have the potential to cause severe problems for the Oregon budget even if the future revenue stream does not slow further.

1.) No action was taken to roll back the $3.5 billion increase in spending that was authorized in the 2007 legislative session.
  2.) No action was taken to rollback the enormous pay increases that governor  Kulongoski promised state employees including 24 percent increases for  about 60 agency directors, 16 percent increases for nearly 5,000 middle level managers, and an additional 4 to 5 percent for several thousand rank and file public employee union members. These raises were largely in excess of the $125 million already appropriated by the legislature for public employee pay increases.
3.) No action was taken on the elimination of the tort liability limit by the Clark v. OHSU Supreme Court decision. The decision is estimated to have cost OHSU at least $25 million in increased insurance costs. All state, county, and municipal agencies are similarly affected resulting in as yet undetermined, but certainly huge increased costs across the state.
4.) No action was taken to address the potential loss of some $430 million in federal timber payments to counties.

       Our office had the pleasure to carry a resolution on the Senate floor honoring the life and achievements of Dr. Martha Anne Dow. I would like to share with you some of my floor speech so that you can get an idea of what a truly amazing person she was.

       Martha Anne Dow was an original – a unique individual who was a perfect fit for the Oregon Institute of Technology and for Klamath County. She served as the President of OIT from 1998 until her death in September 2007. She was no stranger to the halls of the Capitol. A year ago, she was busily making the rounds to each of us, championing the Oregon Center for Health Professions. “How did I ever get involved in politics?” she would laugh, knowing full well that government and education, and the politics of both, are pivotal partners in creating a healthy, thriving state.
       The legislative process was one that intrigued and invigorated her. I've been told by members of her staff that during her illness she demanded to be kept abreast of what was going on here in Salem. Her true interest in the work we accomplished here began in her home state of Montana. The wife of her undergraduate mentor was a state legislator, and Martha Anne saw first hand the heartfelt drive of government officials determined to help their constituents.
        Martha Anne was also passionate about her calling. She had an open-door policy that found students, faculty, staff and community members able to walk in and take a seat in her office. Her approachable demeanor belied her many achievements. But first and foremost Martha Anne was a business woman. She possessed exceptional vision for identifying areas of need that she turned into areas of opportunity, positioning her university for the future. She was far ahead of the curve in recognizing the progression of computer technology into industrial production. She developed the Oregon Renewable Energy Center at OIT long before “green” was trendy. The center is now the Oregon University System’s keystone program for geothermal, photovoltaic and hydrogen fuel cell technology.
        While President at OIT, Martha Anne enjoyed many accomplishments and saw plenty of growth at the university. Under her leadership, the assets of the Oregon Tech Foundation grew from $12 million to more than $20 million. Along the way, her quality programs attracted top students from across the country, growing OIT’s enrollment by nearly 1,000 students. With her hard work, the demand for OIT graduates has driven their starting salaries to the highest level in the Oregon University System. Nearly 90 percent of OIT graduates are employed within their profession, or are enrolled in post-graduate education within six months of graduation. More than 70 percent of these graduates live and work in Oregon. These enviable statistics are no accident. To achieve them, Martha Anne asked industry leaders what her graduates needed to know to compete in the job market. She tracked her OIT graduates for several years, asked their employers how they were doing, and discussed what else her graduates might need to know to succeed. In short, she made certain that her OIT graduates were ready for the workplace.
       Martha Anne’s signature accomplishment is the program and the building that bears her name – the Martha Anne Dow Oregon Center for Health Professions. She started the crusade for the Center in 2003, seeking contributions, pledges and grants to build the matching funds for Oregon University System bonding. When those funds were in the bank, she refocused her efforts to Salem where she refused to take no for an answer. The predictable result of her efforts was to secure the bonding needed to construct the first phase of the building to house the center. Fifteen months later, that building was completed, occupied and educating health care professionals. She continued her fund raising crusade and collected more than $12 million in matching funds for a $9 million bond to build a second phase of the Center. Once again she focused her efforts on the legislature to obtain the bonding critical to finishing the project.
       Then tragedy struck Martha Anne and her family when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Her valiant fight for life ended just days after a grateful community and student body gave her a fifteen minute standing ovation when she arrived in a wheelchair to be recognized at the opening dedication of the Center named in her honor. The second phase of the building is now under construction and with the remaining bonding just authorized by the legislature, can be completed and occupied by classes this fall. Although Martha Anne did not live to see it finished, those of us left behind will never “take no for an answer” until her last great vision, the Martha Anne Dow Oregon Center for Health Professions is completed at the university she loved so much.
       Martha Anne was a remarkable woman who will be long missed throughout the state of Oregon.

       Martha Anne's family was present on the floor when the Senate honored her life work by unanimously passing the Resolution 30-0. We were delighted that they could be there for the poignant moment.

       In closing, we want to personally congratulate Oregon's Teacher of the Year 2007-08, Mr. Mike Geisen who teaches science at the Crooked River Middle School in Prineville. He has been selected by his peers as the best of the best. The Crook County School District has developed into one of Oregon's best under the leadership of Superintendent Steve Swisher. We are proud of all of you.

Best regards,



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