Brad Witt E-Newsletter

Volume 8 Number 3

Brad Witt

February 18, 2015

Hello Friends,

By the time you read this newsletter, we will have a new Governor for the state of Oregon.  It has been a sad time for us here in the Capitol, indeed for all of us who would not wish this to happen to anyone, much less a man who has devoted more than 35 years to public service.  Having said that, I want you to know that those of us in the Legislature have been hard at work, dealing with the business at hand.  We are committed to making this session a success, and I will so everything that I can to encourage teamwork and consensus on the important issues that lie before us.  I know that I can count on your support as we work through the difficult days ahead.


As I mentioned in my last newsletter, things have gotten off to a quick start this session.  I credit some of this to the prep work that we have been doing during the interim between sessions.  Also, some issues carry over from one session to the next giving us another opportunity to address what might have been a shortcoming in a previous bill.  One such bill came up for a vote last week, HB 2700, which deals with the disbursal of funds awarded as a result of a class action suit. 

Many of us have received a card or letter in the mail informing us that we may be the recipient of some money because a “class” of people has sued a company for wrongful acts.  Most states use an “opt out” method for determining who shall benefit from the award by the court, but in Oregon, the “opt in” method is often used, which puts the burden on the individual to let the court know that they wish to be included.  As a result there is often a sizable pot of money that goes unclaimed.

So what happens to the unclaimed funds when people fail to respond?  In most cases, it reverts to the company, which seems a bit nonsensical.  One of my colleagues used the following example to illustrate what has been happening:  It’s as if a burglar steals 50 TV sets, and when apprehended, the police can only identify 30 owners, so the burglar gets to keep the other 20 sets!  When a corporation is convicted of injuring a certain class of people, sometimes thousands of them, there is no reason to allow them to keep the unclaimed funds.  I feel strongly that a monetary fine should mean something and getting to keep part of it is no punishment at all. 

HB 2700 provides that 50% of the unclaimed moneys be directed to the Oregon State Bar for the sole purpose of funding the Legal Services Program.  The remaining 50% is distributed to any entity the court determines is directly related to the class action; for instance if the offense involved an oil spill, that portion might be directed to the clean-up effort.  Oregon now joins 48 other states that, in some form or another, prevent the return of damages to the offender.  The bill now moves on to the Senate for further consideration.

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Bills of Interest:

HB 2897  Directs the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs to develop a program under which the department provides loan guarantees for qualified veterans for the purpose of refinancing homes used as a principal residence.

HB 2645  Requires community colleges and public universities to establish priority enrollment system for qualified students who are active members of the Armed Forces.

HB 2534  Directs the State Fish and Wildlife Commission to adopt rules prohibiting use of drones for angling or hunting.

SB 434  Grants higher property tax exemption on property of veterans with service-connected disabilities of 100 percent. 

Yours truly,

Representative Brad Witt
House District 31


NAMI Advocates

Advocates from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) came to share the experiences of people in Columbia County living with mental illness. They shared a legislative agenda including support for the Governor's budget, increasing housing funds and accessing important medications. They also shared important concerns about service gaps in our community.  The NAMI walk is coming up Sunday May 17 this year. 

Interfaith Day

I learned so much from Maureen Sloan who came for a visit on Interfaith Advocacy Day.  She shared unsettling numbers on poverty and spoke about the great work of faith communities addressing human service needs that our state and federal programs are unable to meet.


Oregon Student Association

The Oregon Student Association public university and community college students from across the state convened in Salem for a day of lobby visits and a Rally to Restore Funding to Higher Education. 

email: I phone: 503-986-1431
address: 900 Court St NE, H-374, Salem, OR, 97301