E-Newsletter Volume 7, No. #3





Representative Brad Witt
District 31

Phone: 503-986-1431    900 Court St. NE, H-374, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: rep.bradwitt@state.or.us    Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/witt
State Seal
February 15, 2013              E-Newsletter              Volume 7, No. 3

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Hi Everyone,


It’s our second week of session, but the activity level feels like we have been here for much longer than that.  I think that the Legislative Days that we have during the interim really do help us to get up to speed much quicker than we used to, and we are already into some very substantive issues.  One of these is the subject of human trafficking.  I have introduced HB 2395, which I hope will help us curb this horrifying crime.  Following is my testimony before the House Judiciary Committee that will give you some background on the issue and explain what I am hoping to achieve:

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, I am appearing today in support of HB 2395, a bill that creates a 5-member task force on human trafficking.  The task force would be both bi-partisan and bi-cameral, convened to study the issues surrounding human trafficking and to make recommendations for legislative solutions.

According to a UN report, there are 2 ½ million victims globally and the University of Pennsylvania reports nearly 300,000 cases nationally, of human trafficking.  Closer to home, in Portland, during the past year (March 2012 through January 2013), 10 adults have been charged with either the trafficking of minors or with offenses related to the trafficking of minors for sexual purposes.

I want to emphasize that those 10 adults represent a mere fraction of those who perpetrate these types of crimes.  The crimes themselves remain hidden to avoid prosecution, victims are reluctant to report the crimes committed against them out of fear of being beaten or killed, while adult victims are often times charged as prostitutes.

I want to also point out that human trafficking is not limited to the sex trade.  Many victims endure months, if not years, of forced labor.  Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the US constitution in 1865.  Yet, it exists today, throughout the world, across our nation and in the streets and neighborhoods of our beloved state.

Human bondage is a difficult concept.  Even more difficult, perhaps, is the notion that 12 and 14 years olds are being bought, sold and pimped as veritable sex slaves.  Please help put an end to this scourge.  I urge your favorable action on HB 2395.

During general discussion following my testimony, it was suggested that the task force membership be enlarged to include law enforcement, victims and their advocates, and others who have direct experience with this crime.  I believe that the increased cost of a larger taskforce is worthwhile and I support it.  If you would like to support the bill, you can send a message to the Committee Chair, Rep. Jeff Barker at rep.jeffbarker@state.or.us.  I’ll keep you posted on the bill’s progress.

In Committee…

In the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this week, we held several public hearings with a high volume of testimony: HB 2700, regarding an agricultural loan program to help people get into farming; HB 2257, broadening the ways the Dept. of State Lands can amend water rights certificates; and HB 2233, dealing with the removal of derelict and abandoned vessels.

HB 2700: Witnesses for this bill testified about the difficulties of entering into the agricultural sector for younger and beginning farmers or people without long-term connections with agriculture.  Several urban and small scale farmers also testified as to their inability to get federal or commercial loans due to their size or the large expense.

HB 2257: Often water rights certificates are in the name of a previous owner, even though the land and water rights might have been sold, or those previous owners have passed away. Witnesses for the bill testified how being able to change the names on these certificates will save time and money for larger entities like cities or counties, and help individual water users eliminate ambiguity regarding who has the rights to that water. Members of the committee had concerns mainly due to the lack of a standard fee and possible future legislation that could make this, a voluntary program, mandatory in the future.  (I will be forming a work group to resolve any possible conflicts)

HB 2233: The State Marine Board and the Department of Environmental Quality are seeking a statutory change regarding how they can deal with derelict and abandoned vessels, ships, etc., on Oregon's waterways and ports. This measure would shorten the time allowed for the Marine Board to remove these vessels, and clarifies who can remove them. DEQ would have an increased ability to investigate vessels for possible hazardous materials that pose significant risks of environmental pollution by means of a vessel's derelict condition.  Members of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, and Metro supported this bill. Members of the committee wondered if DEQ's new investigative powers might constitute an illegal search.

Late Breaking News…

This morning, the Legislature received the Quarterly Revenue Forecast from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis…it was a mixed review.  The forecast projects state revenues will increase in the current biennium (which ends on June 30th) by $162.3 million and decline in the 2013-15 biennium by $74 million.  The net result is an additional $87.1 million available for the 2013-15 biennium.  Although we are happy to see the lines on the chart moving in an upward direction, we will still have a lot of work to do to reconcile the needs of our state, particularly education, with the anticipated revenue.  As the session progresses, I will keep you updated on how we go about doing this as we work toward a balanced budget.

Please enjoy the pictures that follow, and have a great weekend!




BW testifying

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on the issue of human trafficking,
a serious and growing crime in Oregon.  I was assisted by my intern, Collin Erickson,
from Clatskanie, with research for this testimony.

 Martha testimony
Martha Olmstead, with the Columbia County Community Action Team, testifying passionately
regarding the plight of homeless veterans before the House Veterans Committee.

 Wage Theft
The Oregon Coalition to Stop Wage Theft met in the Capital to advocate for justice
in the workplace and to meet with individual legislators.