E-Newsletter Volume 8, No. #4



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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February 19, 2014              E-Newsletter              Volume 8, No. 4

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Hi Everyone,


Many of you have written to me about the failure of the Cover Oregon website to function as designed, and your dismay about the lack of accountability.  Before I discuss the Legislature’s remedy for this, I want to state most emphatically, that I consider the roll-out to have been a thoroughly inept series of events.  My colleagues and I are focused on holding those responsible for this fiasco accountable, fixing the problems expeditiously, and making sure that it never happens again.   

On Monday, the House passed HB 4122, which requires an Independent Quality Assurance review for all public IT contracts that are over $5 million and other public IT contracts that meet specific requirements.  In order to make sure the additional oversight leads to appropriate action, the bill also requires that the reports are sent to key people who will review them promptly and then make mid-course corrections if necessary.   At the end of the day, regardless of the agency, Oregonians need to know that every dollar spent on products and services carries the responsibility to make sure that we get what we bargained for, and that vendors are held accountable for their performance or lack thereof.

On the positive side, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that over 100,000 Oregonians now have health care through Cover Oregon who did not previously qualify, and the numbers are growing daily.  These folks picked up the phone or filled out a paper application or worked with an insurance agent and they are now covered.  They had the determination to do what needed to be done for their families and I want to acknowledge their perseverance.   

Another bill of importance to my district is HB 4107A, which expands the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Revolving Fund to allow businesses in areas with high air pollution levels to access the loan program.  The fund was initially established in 2013 to provide loans to Oregon’s public bodies and federally recognized tribes.  Now, entities both public and private that must participate in the State Vehicle Inspection Program, will qualify.  These loans will assist in the purchase of new alternative fuel vehicles and/or the conversion of existing gasoline or diesel vehicles to alternative fuels.

The Department of Energy will administer the fund and it will be self-sustaining as the applicant will pay one-tenth of one percent of the loan amount, or $2500, whichever is less, into the fund.  Too, the bill may enable a number of businesses who, coming off of the Great Recession, find it particularly challenging to obtain the capital necessary to upgrade their fleets.  By enabling local employers to upgrade their commercial fleets, HB 4107A should provide a boost to business productivity, local employment and good, clean Oregon air.

Another bill of interest, HB 4143A, deals with unclaimed class action settlement damages.  At some point in time, we have all received a letter or post card informing us that we are part of a class action suit because we purchased a certain product or service that failed to perform as expected.  Currently, when an award of damages is made in favor of the injured parties, a large percentage of the injured parties do not bother to file a claim.  Under current Oregon law, all unclaimed damages remain with the defendant.  It’s like being found guilty and only paying part of the fine.

HB 4143A directs courts to order all unclaimed damages of a class action suit to be deposited in the Legal Aid Supplementary Account within the Department of Administrative Services, and the interest earned will be distributed to the Oregon State Bar for use in funding Legal Aid services.  As you know, Legal Aid provides legal representation for low income and indigent clients who cannot afford an attorney.  Fundamental to our system of government is the notion that everyone, regardless of means, deserves representation in a court of law. There are never enough resources to fund this important work, so I was happy to support this bill.

Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter.  I look forward to your feedback on these issues or any others that are of interest to you.  Have a great week!