E-Newsletter Volume 7, No. #17



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
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May 24, 2013              E-Newsletter              Volume 7, No. 17

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Hi Everyone,


We are fast approaching another deadline here at the Legislature:  May 31st, when all bills remaining in committee must have had a work session, which is the last stage before a bill is either voted out of committee or dies.  Many committees are in the process of completing their agendas, so we have seen a flood of bills come to the floor for a vote.  I was privileged to carry two of these bills on the House floor: 

SB 465A – “The bill authorizes local governments to record a ‘notice of substantial damage’ when residential structures are damaged by flooding.  For most real property transactions, home sellers must complete a property disclosure statement that would divulge any flood damage.  However, under current law, lending institutions are exempt from these disclosures. SB 465A allows local governments to place notices of flood damage in the public record as a warning to prospective buyers.  Once repairs are completed, that too will be recorded.”  The bill passed unanimously.

SB 598A – The objective of this bill is to improve public safety communications utilizing the latest technology.  “The bill requires multiline telephone systems installed or upgraded a year or more after the bill’s passage, to instantly transmit an accurate callback number and location for calls made to the 911 emergency reporting systems.  Responders must be able to locate the source of an emergency call, particularly in multi-complex facilities such as dormitories or business parks, and even here in the Capitol building, without undue reliance on conversation with a caller.”  The bill passed unanimously.  

This week in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee we held an informational hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new multi-national free trade agreement that our federal government is currently negotiating. It would include the Pacific Rim countries of Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam. 

TPP threatens major trade imbalances throughout the Pacific Rim because many of the prospective partners either have low standards of living or their key economic sectors are virtual state monopolies.  For example, Vietnam has minimum wages one fourth those of China and New Zealand has been called the Saudi Arabia of dairy products.  These examples highlight the daunting challenges that US domestic industries and businesses will face while trying to compete with these other countries.  Potential trade imbalances also open the door for more US jobs being shipped overseas, much like what happened after NAFTA came into effect in 1994.

Beyond the economics of the TPP there are serious environmental and humanitarian concerns from agreements like this.  These countries routinely use child and forced labor, and are unregulated in a host of environmental, consumer protection, employment and public safety arenas.  Adding insult to injury, previous trade agreements have enabled foreign court challenges to our domestic standards and protections.  There is no reason to believe that the US will acquire immunity from additional lawsuits under the TPP and every reason to be concerned that US sovereignty is being compromised in the process. 

Once we join the TPP, the US will have little say over other nations being admitted to the trade pact.  That’s because new nations will be admitted on the basis of a majority vote of the existing members.  The more nations that are admitted, the less influence our one vote will have – and the US Trade Representative has stated that the goal of the TPP is to eventually admit half of the world’s countries (just shy of 100).  To make matters worse, the US, as signatory to the TPP, will be treaty bound to deal with each of the member nations as our trading partner, whether we like it or not.  Talk about undermining our nation’s sovereignty…

The last observation I want to make about the TPP is its utter lack of transparency.  All negotiations are secret and the public, which is to say, “We the People,” (in whose interest presumably this international trade deal is being negotiated), cannot observe the negotiations or review the matters being discussed.

Two decades of US free trade negotiations have left me with the distinct impression that little good, but lots of economic dislocation (business and jobs), diminished protections and loss of our nation’s sovereignty are in the offing.  I worry greatly that the TPP really is NAFTA on steroids.  If anyone would like to read Senator Merkley’s proactive stance on this issue, I have included a link to his letter to President Obama on the TPP:

My committee’s other informational meeting this week, dealt with the over-population of cormorants and their deleterious impacts on threatened and endangered fish stocks. Richard Hannan, Deputy Regional Director, and Nanette Seto, Chief, Migratory Birds of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for the Pacific Region, testified from their perspective about cormorant predation on juvenile salmonids.  From their testimony, it is abundantly clear that cormorants maintain areas of high population densities near much of our state’s critical salmonid habitat.  It is also true that many of these areas are suffering high losses of salmonid smolts.  In some cases the majority of juvenile salmonids are being killed.

What is less clear is whether cormorant densities (East Sand Island in the lower Columbia River Estuary has the world’s largest population) are significantly responsible for smolt deaths.  Whereas cormorants are voracious opportunists, USFWS intends to examine cormorant stomach contents to determine the impact cormorants are having on juvenile salmonid populations.

During the hearing, Committee Member Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach (and former OSP Fish and Game Officer in House District 31), calculated that cormorants eat $250,000 worth of hatchery juveniles and an untold number of native fish every week

Based on the testimony received, our Committee intends to take up the broad issue of predation on salmon between now and the next Legislative Session.  We will do so with an eye towards finding some legislative fixes.

Finally, I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!  I know that there will be many opportunities to celebrate the day with our families, but let’s not forget the meaning behind the day.  Let’s all remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us and for our country…they are our heroes!

Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter!


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