|Representative Phil Barnhart's E-Newsletter|
This is the ninth e-newsletter that I will be sending out during the 2005 session of the Oregon State Legislature. The purpose of this newsletter is to keep you informed about the progress that the Legislature is making, and about the work that I am doing to represent House District 11 and to support the values that we all hold dear: educating and nurturing our children, supporting our seniors and disabled, and protecting our communities.
The Oregon House unanimously passed HB 3333-A, creating a Wounded Soldier Relief Program, and HB 3334-B, a property tax exemption for Oregon National Guard and military reserve members called to active duty for more than 178 days. As Vice-Chair of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I strongly supported these measures' passage.
The Wounded Soldier Relief Program would be funded by a charitable check off on tax returns and would be used to help wounded Oregon National Guardsmen and reservists who are returning from combat. The federal government should provide adequately for wounded soldiers when it sends them into harm's way. Since it does not, we will give generous Oregonians a chance to help.
The property tax exemption is basic fairness: our citizen soldiers should not have to pay taxes on the property that they have left behind while they are taking a pay cut to serve abroad.
The House passed a bill that I co-sponsored with Senator Prozanski that will require white water rafting guides to meet minimum training standards, to carry throw bags on their rafts, and, along with their passengers, to wear personal flotation devices on significant rapids. I was approached last year by the family of a constituent who drowned while rafting. His guide was inadequately equipped and unprepared to save him, even though the guide had met every legal requirement for registration.
SB 579-A was endorsed by the Oregon Guides and Packers Association because they believe that it will promote safe rafting on our scenic rivers. I commend most Oregon outfitters for already voluntarily following these rules.
The Senate passed SB 545-A , which would cap interest on PayDay loans, which are becoming progressively more problematic in Oregon. SB 545-A would protect consumers from the predation of PayDay lenders that charge astronomical interest rates on the unsuspecting.
The Senate determined that approximately 500 percent annually, while a very high interest rate, will protect borrowers from the much higher current rates. Washington and California already have this rule, and their PayDay loan industry continues to effectively do business. I have asked the House leadership to give SB 545-A an up-or-down vote.
The Senate has passed SB 527-A, which Senator Morrisette and I co-sponsored with two of our Republican colleagues from Klamath Falls. The bill now comes to the House, where we will face an uphill battle. I believe that local governments and citizens deserve a chance to give input when potentially polluting facilities are going to be sited in their neighborhoods. This bill would give local governments a place at the table about siting energy plants. The House leadership killed a similar bill that we introduced earlier in the session, but I am encouraged by the Senate's resounding "yes!" in support of SB 527-A.
I couldn't believe it! On a nearly party-line vote, the House majority passed HB 3457, which contradicts Ballot Measure 3, which 67% of Oregon voters passed in 2000. HB 3457 would allow government agencies to seize private property from Oregon citizens, without limitation, when the agencies have probable cause to suspect citizens of criminal activity, even when they have not been convicted, charged or arrested for a crime.
Before Measure 3, agencies would seize property from suspected citizens, and often would return less than 20 percent when the citizens were proven not guilty or not charged. This bill would return us to that practice, giving the police a financial interest in seizures and encouraging corruption. Oregon is not affected by the police corruption that we have seen elsewhere, and we want to keep it that way.