Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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March 21, 2005 73rd Session, Issue 3
Senator Doug Whitsett, OR district 28
The legislative session churns on here in Salem. Thus far, I have found this process of representative democracy to be both thrilling and maddening. It is thrilling when you, the represented, make your mark by fighting for the issues that you believe in. It is maddening, however, to witness the non-responsiveness of many of the state agencies who want funding without accountability and who seek statutory authority for actions that they are already taking. We will need to work together to ensure that responsiveness to the people is the rule and not the exception with your government.
This last week marked an important transition in the legislature’s re-vamped budget process. As you may know, the legislature is charting a new course this session in the way that it funds state government. Up until this year, the legislature would begin the budget process by looking at what agencies spent in the previous biennium. This backward-looking process thwarted accountability by focusing on past spending rather than what Oregonians got in return.
The new process demands more of both state agencies and the legislature by concentrating on priorities and outcomes. The process begins by defining the core functions of government that public dollars should be devoted to. From this point, the legislature reviews all agency programs and expenditures and assigns them to one of the core government functions. If a program or expenditure does not correspond to any of the core functions, then theoretically it should be eliminated. This phase of the process came to an end this week.
The next phase in this new process begins next week (March 21-25). In this phase, we prioritize each of the budget requests from agencies and decide which requests rank as the most important and so on. So instead of basing our budget decisions on the past, we are looking hard at what services you want going forward, and allocating your dollars in a way that demands the greatest accountability from those who are spending your dollars.
My feeling is that this new process is a step in the right direction. We have the responsibility to the citizens of Oregon and not to the bureaucracy in Salem, which has taken on a life of its own. The learning curve for many state agencies has proven steep, but hopefully they will learn that the dollars they come and petition our committees for are not theirs, but yours.
As always remember to contact my office at any time. If we don’t stand up for rural Oregon, no one else will!
Ways and Means Education Sub-Committee—As I discussed above, we have finished the review of the many different departments under the authority of the Education Sub-committee. Most recently we heard from the department of Higher Education regarding both higher education and capital construction.
Judiciary—On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee traveled to Pendleton for a public hearing on Oregon’s meth epidemic. The committee heard testimony from law enforcement officials, medical experts and the general public. The committee took no action and heard testimony on only four of the many meth bills that have been proposed, leaving plenty of work undone on the issue. I think we all have a clear understanding of how bad the problem really is. The question facing the legislature is, will we provide Oregonians with a token response, or will we attack the meth producers and distributors in a way that breaks the cycle? At the beginning of the session I signed on as a sponsor of several meth-related bills, which as of right now, have become the victims of partisan gamesmanship, and are buried in the judiciary committee. My hope is that the legislative leadership will consolidate the many pieces of positive legislation into a bi-partisan meth proposal that gives Oregonians the tools they need to take back their communities.
Transportation— I believe the most note-worthy piece of legislation passed to the floor from Transportation last week was Senate Bill 153, dealing with photo red light cameras and photo radar systems. This bill would require any city operating these types of systems for traffic enforcement to make a biennial report to the legislature about how they are operating the program. More importantly the bill would repeal the statutory authorization for these programs by 2008. This bill is an outgrowth of some of the abuses of these programs that have been confirmed in Beaverton. The possibility exists that if the biennial reports demonstrate that cities can make these programs work in a way that is fair and legal that the repeal provision itself could be repealed. Right now, the cities that use these systems are on notice that they have to shape up and operate in a spirit of fairness and accountability.
Commerce—I have mentioned before that I was not really certain what to expect when I was asked to serve on the Commerce committee. After a couple months here I am more convinced than ever that my job in the commerce committee is to be a watchdog for the numerous bills that seek to restrain business in this state. This week the Commerce Committee heard a couple of these bills:
Senate Bill 545
Senate Bill 634
As a general rule, I oppose attempts to limit the ability of Oregonians to do with their money what they will. I adamantly oppose turning the proprietors of payday loan businesses into credit counselors. My office has received many letters from constituents who use these types of establishments and who are confident about their ability to direct their own financial affairs. I see no reason to doubt their word.
On The Record –Key bills Sponsored by Senator Whitsett
Senate Bill 640
This bill seeks to attack identity theft by collecting biometric data such as fingerprints and facial recognition information when a person applies for a driver license. Right now Oregon ranks dead last in the nation in driver license security. By requiring the DMV to collect this type of information, we hinder the ability of identity thieves to obtain multiple driver licenses. The data collected is unique to each individual and is held in a database so that each person seeking a license or renewal is checked against the database. The bill is supported by law enforcement as well as credit unions and banks and a number of legislators. This type of program is already working quite well in other states and would be a very positive step in strengthening the security of Oregon’s driver licenses.
House Bill 2947
This is another bill related to driver license security that would require any person seeking issuance, renewal or replacement of a driver license to submit a social security number or other document demonstrating that they are a legal resident of the United States. My support of this bill is quite simple; we have laws in this state and it is hypocritical of us not to uphold them. Our drivers licensing system should differentiate between legal and non-legal residents of this state. Furthermore, if the Federal Real I.D. act that is currently moving through Congress is passed into law and Oregon does not pass this legislation, no Oregonians will be able to use a driver license as identification for any federal purpose such as boarding an airline.
For Information on all the bills that Senator Whitsett is Sponsoring, visit his legislative Web site at:
This past weekend the Senator Attended the Oregon Hunter’s Association State Board Meeting and addressed the board regarding the State Wolf Plan.
Look For Senator Whitsett
On April 15th Senator will be attending a meeting of Representative Garrard’s House Land Use Committee in Medford to discuss issues revolving around Measure 37. Details T.B.A.
On April 16th Senator Whitsett and Representative Garrard will be holding a joint Town-Hall Meeting in Klamath Falls. Details T.B.A.
Please Contact or Visit us in Salem
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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