E-Newsletter Volume 8, No. #1


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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January 17, 2014              E-Newsletter              Volume 8, No. 1

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Hi Everyone,


Greetings from Salem!  We are in the third and last series of interim committee meetings intended to prepare for the upcoming legislative session in February when we will be here for the entire month.  Front and center this week has been the continuing controversy surrounding the roll out of the Cover Oregon website.  Many of you have expressed frustration at the process, and believe me, you are not alone.  Although some progress has been made in the last several weeks, we still need to know what went wrong, not so much for the purposes of placing blame, but in order to make sure that all Oregonians who need health care will have access to it before the enrollment period expires, and to make sure that we don’t experience similar problems in the future.
Dr. Bruce Goldberg, Director of the Oregon Health Authority, and now Acting Director for Cover Oregon, spoke to both Senate and House Health Care Committees yesterday to try and update the members and the public on the status of the enrollment process.  Shortly after the website foundered, IT managers identified 45 critical software issues that needed to be resolved – we are now down to 13.  Outside experts have been enlisted to review what Oracle, the chief contractor on the project, has accomplished.  The state is withholding $20 million of the $90 million contract until the website has been satisfactorily revamped.  Dr. Goldberg indicated that the next two weeks will be critical in determining the fate of the website. 

In the meantime, extra personnel are working 24/7 to process applications by phone and mail. Nearly 180,000 Oregonians have successfully enrolled, which is about 70,000 short of where we thought we would be at this time.  Cover Oregon is working with private insurance providers to make sure that people will still be able to make the March 15th deadline for coverage this year.  I encourage everyone who is still trying to apply to keep trying, and I will keep you informed as I receive updates.

On a more positive note, I’d like to share the news from eastern Oregon and my experiences on an amazing trip.  During the week of December 16, myself as the Chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, and Vice-Chair Lew Frederick (HD 43– Portland) traveled almost 1,000 miles in 4 days to hear from our neighbors in other parts of the state.  Stops included Boardman, Helix, La Grande, North Powder, Baker City, Ontario, Burns and Madras Oregon.  This region of our state produced almost $1.7 billion in farm and ranch products last year.  Click here to view our route

Travelling over the Cascades the towering firs of my home district give way to ponderosa and lodge-pole pines; the sky opens and ancient rock formations frame a dry and windswept landscape.  We live in a state of diverse bioregions with a variety of crops, resources and lifestyles.  Over the course of many miles, numerous meetings and many, many wonderful people, the trip affirmed for me that we are all Oregonians; our values are the same. We all love where we live, we take pride in the things we create and we believe in protecting our natural resources so that we can continue to enjoy their bounty for generations to come..

A few themes emerged on the trip: 

  • Education and research – The expertise and technical assistance of the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service and its agents cannot be overstated. These professionals and the science that backs them are key rural links to educational programs that match community needs to research and support.
  • Water! - Quantity and quality of water are central issues to dry land farmers who contribute $1.16 billion to the economy of our state.  Private and public partners are coming together to develop stewardship plans for this finite resource. Work is ongoing to measure use, allocation and improve water storage. Here too, OSU Extension is a great resource to rely on.
  • Predation and invasive species - Wolf predation of livestock is a concern for ranchers throughout Northeast Oregon.  Medusa Head Rye and Cheat grass are non-native invasive species that crowd out native bunch grasses, a foundation of rangeland that allows cattle and wildlife to thrive. Juniper is also out-competing native sagebrush which provides cover and nesting sites for the sage grouse.  Everyone that lives on and works this land is aware of the delicate balance between nature and culture.
  • Local and federal jurisdiction - Interaction with other government bodies can be cumbersome at best.  There is a bright spot with good coordinated science involving OSU and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.  Most folks we met advocated for local controls of resource management on the ground, and continued local landowner partnership with the Oregon Departments of Forestry, Agriculture and OSU.
  • Happy that we were there!  We all recognize the need for more conversations among Oregonians who call the diverse bioregions of our state home.

I look forward to the fast approaching February session and the opportunity to continue conversations around how we can keep Oregon a place that we all love and which nurtures both human and natural communities.

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