E-Newsletter Volume 8, No. #6



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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March 5, 2014              E-Newsletter              Volume 8, No. 6

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Hi Everyone,


There are probably few things more painful than chronic hunger.  According to the Oregon Food Bank, since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008, food box distribution in this state has increased by 41%.  Regional food banks now distribute about 350,000 more food boxes annually than before the recession.  92,000 children eat meals from emergency food boxes, and 3.9 million emergency meals were served at soup kitchens and shelters.  And because the federal farm bill cuts food stamps, it is virtually certain that hunger in our state will increase.

As you know, the food bank’s ability to meet this enormous need depends on contributions of both food and money.  Local food drives are the most visible of these efforts, but it’s important to know that 57% of the donations come from food industry sources, many of whom are the farmers in Oregon who generously share their bounty.  In order to encourage this network of suppliers, the House passed SB 1541 today, that reinstates a tax credit for crop donations.  I was proud to be a chief sponsor of this bill.

The crop donation program was first established in 1977; it lapsed for some time, and then was reestablished between 2005 and 2011.  SB 1541 reinstates the program effective 1/1/2014 through 1/1/2020, and it gives farmers a tax credit of 15% of the wholesale value of donated products.  This helps farmers defray the cost of getting fresh produce from their fields to the food banks across the state.  Perhaps most important, the food that goes out the door to our seniors and our children reflects our values as a state: that no one should go hungry, and the food that we give them should be no less nutritious than what we would want for ourselves.  The bill passed both chambers unanimously.

From a bill that garnered total support to one that could not get out of committee – SB 1570, dealing with the Clean Fuels Program.  This lack of movement bears some explanation.  Back in 2009, the Legislature passed the Clean Fuels Program, which was designed to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels by 10% over 10 years.  DEQ has been collecting fuel data from producers and importers, but it has not yet implemented the program’s carbon reduction requirements. The intent of the bill was to remove the sunset and allow the agency to continue developing the program.

Although I support a reduction in carbon emissions, the failure of this bill to pass out of committee reflects some of my own concerns regarding the impacts of this bill on the cost of fuel, particularly in rural areas where it tends to be more expensive anyway.  I am loath to create yet another burden for rural communities that are already struggling to compete in the marketplace.         

The Governor has now taken the process in hand and, using his executive powers, directed the DEQ to move forward with full implementation of the Clean Fuels Program.  The Governor also announced a new Clean Fuels Work Advisory Committee, made up of both business and labor leaders, whose task it will be to leverage the potential of clean fuels in Oregon and accelerate job creation and investment.  There are no oil refineries in Oregon, but there are biofuel producers, feedstock growers, a burgeoning electric vehicle industry, and propane, natural gas, and other innovative fuel companies ready to invest in the state if they know what the rules are.

Wednesday, I voted to support the mayors, county commissioners and local law enforcement officials who contacted my office in support of SB 1531C, the bill that would permit our locally elected officials to regulate the location of medical marijuana dispensaries in our communities.  This bill is about reinforcing local authority in state statute so cities and counties have the clear authority to site these facilities without constant litigation.

 This has been a contentious issue because some feared that local jurisdictions might be too restrictive.  In order to keep close tabs on this, cities and counties will now have until May 1, 2015 to put their ordinances in place.  The bill also provides the Oregon Health Authority with the power to regulate marijuana-infused products marketed and attractive to youth.  We will revisit this in the 2015 Session to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Finally, Tuesday was an especially good day for some of the bills that I co-sponsored this session.  All passed overwhelmingly and are now in the Senate for further consideration…

HB 4116B:  The Aspiration to College bill increases support for community college students who are from low-income backgrounds or the first in their families to attend college.

HB 4117B:  Appropriates $500,000  to fund summer programs that will add at least 60 hours of learning time for over 5,000 of Oregon’s most vulnerable students.

HB 4154B:  Pushes to extend the individual enrollment deadline for Cover Oregon by a month, and to secure tax credits for small businesses eligible for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). 


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