E-Newsletter Volume 7, No. #21



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
June 21, 2013              E-Newsletter              Volume 7, No. 21

 Join us on Facebook


Hi Everyone,


There was high drama over on the Senate side this week as we watched a vote on the Education budget fail on a 15-15 vote. Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) joined 14 Republicans in voting no, but for reasons different than his colleagues from the other side of the aisle.  Senator Edwards had opposed the budget ever since its unveiling because, in spite of the fact that the majority of school districts would be able to avoid further cuts, there were still a few that would continue to experience deep cuts.  The Republicans objected to the budget because they did not feel that reforms to the PERS system went far enough.  Hence, these unlikely bedfellows joined forces to defeat the bill. 

Although this is not a perfect budget, it provides $6.75 billion for schools over the next two years.  This is achieved by a direct appropriation of $6.55 billion plus another $200 million in reductions to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).  A coalition of school advocates supported this budget as at least providing stability to districts that have suffered enormously during the recession.  It is a $1 billion improvement over the last budget approved in 2011, and it is the largest public school investment in Oregon history.

When a measure of this import fails, there is usually a move to reconsider the bill, which Senator Edwards did.  He moved to bring the bill back to the floor for reconsideration on the 21st.  That date has now been moved to the 26th.  During this time, leadership on both sides of the aisle, plus the Governor’s office, is trying to resolve the impasse.  This is the state’s largest budget, so it must be settled before we can adjourn…stay tuned!

I’ve received quite a few emails regarding SB 132A, which requires parents to sign a document declining immunizations on behalf of their child.  First of all, it does not do away with the religious exemption, and in fact expands it to include philosophical belief.  What it does do is ask parents to make informed decisions.  It requires that the document declining immunization must include the signature of a health care practitioner indicating that the parent has reviewed information about the risks and benefits of immunization, either in person or on line. 

This may seem like an unnecessary and burdensome requirement to some; however, Oregon has the highest non-medical exemption rate for one or more immunizations in the US, and some Oregon schools have an exemption rate as high as 70 percent.  A similar requirement in Washington resulted in a 25% decrease in exemptions once parents fully understood the possible consequences of exposure to disease for both their child and other children whose immune systems may be vulnerable.

There is a phenomenon called “herd immunity,” which refers to the resistance to the spread of infectious disease in a group because susceptible members are few, making transmission from an infected member unlikely.  This type of immunity is achieved when approximately 94% of the population is immunized.  Many of us are old enough to remember when polio, measles, whooping cough and many other childhood diseases placed our children at risk of serious illness, paralysis, even death.  The very least we can do is ask every parent to weigh all the information carefully and make their decisions on that basis.  SB 132A passed on a 45-15 vote and I supported the bill.

Finally, after having found wheat genetically engineered to resist pesticides like Round-Up on a farm in eastern Oregon last month, there was a brief meeting on Wednesday to update Legislators and staff on the US Department of Agriculture's investigation. The meeting also provided us some background information on this variety of “Round-Up Ready” wheat.

First off, the USDA's investigation has concluded that this was an isolated incident.  It was a handful of plants on one farm out of the 1400 wheat farms we have in the state. The USDA is not saying much more than that because this investigation has the potential to lead to criminal charges and/or civil fines.

Also during the meeting we learned that this type of GE wheat does not pose a threat to humans (in fact, it was approved for human consumption by the FDA), and that there is a low likelihood of this variety escaping to other fields/farms.

 Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter…have a great weekend!