E-Newsletter Volume 8, No. #8




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 30, 2014              E-Newsletter              Volume 8, No. 8

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Hi Everyone,


I’m writing from Salem today, as we wrap up the second “Legislative Days” scheduled during the interim.  We will have two more before our full session convenes in February, 2015.  Many work groups have been assigned specific tasks to accomplish during the interim and it is our opportunity to hear their results.   

We heard from the Association of Oregon Counties Veterans Committee whose jurisdiction encompasses all matters pertaining to the employment, education, healthcare, pension and other benefits for military veterans and their families.  Specifically, we received an update on the SERVe Program that is a partnership between the Department of Defense, the Oregon National Guard and OHSU to improve the well-being of veterans and their families, as well as to increase retention of veterans and reservists in the workplace by training supervisors to better support their employed service members. 

District 31 has two representatives on the AOC Committee: Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller and Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel.  It’s great to know that our veterans have this kind of support available.  If you know of a veteran or an employer who would like to become involved with the SERVe Program, you can go to their website for further information: www.servestudy.org.

My Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee also covered some important territory regarding the possible listing of the sage grouse as an endangered species.  Before you dismiss this as a topic irrelevant to those of us west of the Cascades, please understand that the economic fallout could be as impactful to Eastern Oregon as the listing of the spotted owl was to Western Oregon.  It would impose a complex set of new federal regulations on an area of 40,000 square miles, virtually half of our state. 

The sage grouse population has diminished by approximately 26% since 2012, mainly due to wildfires, invasive species such as cheat grass, and the spread of juniper, which displaces sagebrush, the sage grouse’s natural habitat.  Oregon is partnering with the BLM to improve the situation before 2015, when the listing is scheduled to go into effect.  We are also working with the agriculture community by supporting local management and conservation efforts.  They have an intimate knowledge of the issues and they will be our greatest resource in preventing the further decline of the sage grouse. 

As mentioned above, the spread of juniper is a serious threat to the sage grouse but it also threatens the entire ecosystem in Eastern Oregon.  I was astounded to learn that one tree draws 35 gallons of water a day, this in an area where water is precious.  State and federal projects are now being implemented that aim to reduce fuel loads, restore vegetative communities, improve habitat, improve watershed health and increase forage.  Both wildlife and domestic livestock operations will ultimately benefit.  And best of all, the wood harvested from these projects has a ready market both as finished lumber and as a component in the growing field of renewable energy production using biofuels.  It’s a win-win for everyone if managed correctly!

Last week in our district the Rainier “A” Street group held a public meeting to brainstorm and discuss the coming renovations.  Street renovation is happening to upgrade the rail line through town, reconfigure parking and beautify "A" Street. This was also a great opportunity to discuss business development, parks and trails.  Conceptual drawings were on display around the room for residents to see some of the ideas.  Drawings highlighted public space downtown on the river with trails connecting the existing park to a proposed boardwalk. The many versions of a public square highlighted Rainier’s connection to both the rails and the river as well as Rainier’s place in history as a town.  For more information and to join the discussion please see: http://www.rainierastreetgroup.org.

Discussions continue with regularity regarding the issues surrounding Cornelius Pass, namely safety and traffic flow.  On the agenda is the installation of a traffic light at the top of the Pass at Skyline Boulevard, and continued modification of the hairpin curves that contribute to so many accidents.  I’ll keep you informed as the work of the neighborhood committee continues…

On Wednesday, we received the quarterly Economic and Revenue Outlook.  Here is a quick summary of the good news:

• In their June forecast, Oregon’s state economists revised the two-year revenue numbers upward by $54 million since the last forecast in March. $30 million of the increased revenue comes from Oregon’s economic recovery, which has added 10,000 more jobs than state economists expected since March’s projections.
• Despite the increase in the forecast, we are still about $74 million in additional revenues away from triggering the personal income tax kicker.

• Oregon is once again a national leader in terms of job gains, with the pace of statewide growth now matching the best years of the housing boom and growing about one percentage point faster than the average state.

Exciting news in district this week! On Thursday 5/29 The Vernonia School District received a donation of refurbished computers from Portland Community College (PCC) Rock Creek.  The District had identified the need to upgrade technology and was reaching out to partners. PCC was able to step up and donate used technology to the district. To be prepared for college and a multitude of careers, students need to be expert users of technology.  This computer upgrade will further move Vernonia Schools to excellence in k-12 education. Thanks for your partnership PCC!

Finally, many of you may be interested in attending the dedication of the Oregon World War II Memorial in Salem on June 6th at 1:30pm.  We have waited a long time for this public acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by those who served our country during this time and all are welcome to participate.  The Memorial is located on the corner of Court and Cottage Streets on the Capitol grounds.  I hope to see you there.

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



town hall

pcc vernonia