Witt: Back in the Capitol for Legislative Days
Lawmakers were back at the Capitol this week for our Legislative Days, during which time we hold informational committee meetings to hear updates on legislation implementation, receive reports from state agencies and task forces and keep current on issues important to all Oregonians.
As legislators we are responsible for developing and approving a balanced budget. We monitor spending through quarterly budget updates. During legislative days, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released the December 2019 Economic and Revenue Outlook. It was great news for the state; our economy is strong and continues to perform well. We are seeing a steady job market, good wages and promising signs of growth. We have record reserves and the median household income of Oregonians is above the national average for the first time since the late 1970s.
While times are good now, we can't take that for granted. It is our responsibility as the Legislature to continue to spend carefully, increase our reserves, and invest wisely.
On Monday, Nov. 18, I was pleased to meet with Oregon author Brigette Harrington and have her autograph her newly released book. "My Oregon." Brigette is a 10-year old Hillsboro girl who won the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Essay contest and then helped light the Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, D.C.
My House Natural Resource Committee took up several issues this week, starting with the Governor's Council on Wildfire Response. Created last January, the Council has spent the last nine months actively meeting and reviewing Oregon's current model for wildfire prevention, preparedness and response. This comprehensive report included recommendations for future legislation, such as to create fire-adapted communities, restore and maintain resilient landscapes, and enable safe and effective wildfire response.
Another informational session was held on regulatory changes to the federal Endangered Species Act, which currently protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories. The changes would end the practice of treating threatened species the same as endangered. Threatened species would still enjoy some of the same protections as endangered, but their status would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Another change would allow the economic consequences of a species' protection be taken into consideration during a listing. Decisions would be determined by the best available science, but the cost of the scientific evaluation would also be considered. The committee heard a variety of stakeholder testimony on the ESA regulations, which was valuable information for committee members.
Finally, committee members heard a presentation regarding a bobcat incident in a Eugene school. Last month, a bobcat kitten wandered into the Oak Hill School, it was captured by the Lane County sheriff's deputies, and then after consulting with wildlife officials, it was killed by an OSP trooper by crushing its skull. The next day a second juvenile bobcat was found on the school grounds, was captured by ODFW, checked out by a veterinarian and released without harm. There was some question about the differing approaches to humane treatment of these animals and other wildlife, and ODFW will study this incident and work to update their annual mandatory training for staff from ODFW and OSP. The agency will also be reaching out to other enforcement agencies with training opportunities relating to human interaction with wildlife.
My Natural Resources Committee will also be looking at ways to improve future agency response when humans encounter wildlife in unusual circumstances.
Even when I am not in Salem, I'm still working with constituents, community leaders and other elected officials on matters that impact our lives. We check our messages regularly, so if you have a concern or comment or need help regarding a state issue or agency, please contact my office. It is my privilege to represent you in the Oregon House of Representatives, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for reading my newsletter and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
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