By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
Dear Neighbors and Friends,
Saturday, December 17th, I was pleased to be part of a large group that gave a warm December welcome to three retired marines who have walked the entire length of U.S. 20 — the longest highway in America — to raise awareness of the 81,600 Americans still missing in action from WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and other conflicts. Funds they raise are dedicated to searching for and recovering the remains of lost heroes.
I reminded the crowd of the memorial signs along our highways honoring those that never came home. Just a few miles east on Highway 20, there are two of these signs remembering the Johnson Brothers. Many Oregon families lost sons and daughters in Vietnam. Only four families lost two children. And only the Johnson Family of Toledo lost two sons in two different branches of the armed forces.
I also spoke of those soldiers, sailors, and airmen who did come home. Seven in ten Oregon veterans are not enrolled in programs to provide housing, health care, mental health care, or job support. Too many desperately need those benefits which they have earned. In fact, a leading indicator of homelessness or suicide in Oregon is having worn the uniform. We can do better.
Saturday was a reminder of the sacrifices made by our veterans and the work that continues by good people on their behalf.
For the first time since 2019, Oregon State Parks will host Whale Watch Week in person along the Oregon Coast.
Every year thousands of gray whales migrate south through Oregon’s waters in the winter, and visitors to the coast can take advantage of a unique opportunity to see their journey.
An estimated 19,000 gray whales are expected to swim past Oregon’s shores over the next several weeks as part of their annual migration to the warm calving lagoons near Baja, Mexico. The end of December is the peak time for their migration. Roughly 30 whales pass by each hour. Whale Watch Week will take place from December 28, 2022, to January 1, 2023.
Check out this map for a list of 17 designated locations volunteers will be staffing. Even if it isn’t Whale Watch Week, these are great locations to be on the lookout for gray whales and other marine mammals!
In the 2021 session, Oregon lawmakers passed a major wildfire preparedness package to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires after the Labor Day fires destroyed thousands of homes across the state in 2020. Now the part that might affect you directly is being changed.
Senate Bill 762 is comprehensive legislation passed with bipartisan support that will provide more than $220 million to help Oregon modernize and improve wildfire preparedness through three key strategies: creating fire-adapted communities, developing safe and effective response, and increasing the resiliency of Oregon’s landscapes.
I supported this measure, but as with any large and complex legislation, there were some parts that raised concerns. One section directed the Oregon Department of Forestry to create wildfire risk maps and plans to require property owners in high-risk areas to create defensible space around their homes. In an earlier newsletter, I provided a link where you could plug in your address and check your risk assessment. The concern was that high risk could translate into higher insurance costs, or that state officials might show up at your doorstep and require you to cut down the rhododendrons around your kitchen window.
This summer, after receiving thousands of public comments and 1,600 appeals from property owners, Oregon State Forester Cal Mukumoto announced his agency would withdraw the map and revise its plans to use the map as the basis for new wildfire protection rules.
Last week, the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Committee signaled their intent to change our approach to wildfire prevention in the coming session, potentially focusing on incentives for landowners to make defensible-space and home-hardening upgrades rather than requirements. On another bright note, according to a state-mandated survey, no insurance companies changed their policies due to the state wildfire map, according to our state insurance commissioner.
Every year, companies, nonprofits, and government agencies across the state are required to report and remit unclaimed property to the Oregon State Treasury. This includes things like uncashed checks, unreturned deposits, forgotten bank accounts, and abandoned safe deposit boxes.
Last year, the Oregon State Treasury launched a new website to help return unclaimed property to Oregonians. Since the program launched, more than $13.3 million has been returned to nearly 11,000 claimants.
If you’d like to check to see if you have unclaimed property, visit unclaimed.oregon.gov, search for your name, and select “Claim.” One of my office staff was surprised to find they had a $75 rebate check they didn’t know about, so you never know what you might find!
Cold weather and winter storms are on the way!
After severe weather strikes, many home and business owners need to file insurance claims. But what does your policy cover? Should you submit a claim? And what if you are not satisfied with the response?
Before submitting a claim, determine whether the benefits of filing a claim for the damage outweigh the costs (often called a cost-benefit analysis). Make sure you consider your deductible as part of that analysis. The amount of your damage could be less than or close to your deductible. Then, determine if a claim will be beneficial to your situation. A reported claim could affect your future premium or ability to get coverage.
The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation (ODFR) provides free consumer advocates help answer questions, understand policies, and dispute claims. In 2020, the Division helped more than 13,600 Oregonians with insurance claims and recovered more than $2.8 million from insurance companies on behalf of Oregonians.
Learn more here, call 888-877-4894 or email email@example.com.
You can also take actions to help prevent losses from occurring in the first place.
- Inspect and maintain your foundation, gutters, and roof
- Insulate and maintain water pipes
- Monitor tree health and trim them as needed
- Prepare your vehicle for winter driving
If your home or vehicle is damaged in a storm, call your insurance company or agent to ask about your policy coverages, exclusions, and deductibles before filing a claim.
And finally, while were discussing the DFR, the Division has resources available for consumers on earthquake insurance. The division also has a guide to help walk you through what steps to take before and after an earthquake.
Last week’s small earthquake off the South Coast is a good reminder to review your homeowners and renters insurance policies and consider purchasing earthquake insurance. If you already have earthquake insurance, this is also a good time to review what it does and does not cover.
Earthquake insurance is not a standard part of homeowners or renters policies. Some insurance companies will allow you to add earthquake coverage as an endorsement, while others will require you to purchase a separate policy. Also, most insurance companies put a moratorium on buying earthquake insurance after an event that scores as low as 4.5 on the Richter scale.
Waiting until after an earthquake to buy insurance is never a good idea, according to DFR. First, you can’t buy insurance to cover damage that’s already happened. And second, after an earthquake, insurers likely won’t sell coverage for some period of time.
My office has been spending a lot of time advocating for constituents who have run into problems receiving their Oregon tax refunds or other state tax issues. We work with the Department of Revenue (DOR) to get these problems resolved.
Fortunately, more help is on the way. In 2021 the Legislature passed HB 3373 to create an independent Taxpayer Advocate within DOR
The new Taxpayer Advocate Office (TAO) is now up and running. You can link to the Taxpayer Advocate’s website here. There you can learn more about the office and its services, and you can use it to contact the office to explain and get help with your problem.
Of course, our office is always available to help you navigate the process.
People often ask me how I monitor so much information and so many news sources. The answer is eClips.
Oregon State Library eClips provides a summary of government and political news each business day from a broad set of Oregon and national newspapers. This is a public service and is free for you to use. Either scan the summaries online (with links to full articles) or subscribe and have those summaries and links sent to your email each morning.
This is a great information resource and I urge you to at least take a few minutes check it out.
Last Tuesday, I was asked to provide an update on legislative plans to address plastics and recycling to the Pacific Northwest Consortium on Plastics.
It is always daunting to speak to a room filled with students, scientists, and activists who know more about the subject than I do. But I resisted the temptation to talk for all of my allotted time and instead left time for questions.
I’m aware of four bills planned for introduction in January.
- A measure to reduce Styrofoam food packaging and packing peanuts.
- A measure to reduce plastic packaging like the hard clear bubbles you have to cut open with a utility knife and then throw away.
- A measure to allow more re-use of storage containers like those used in bulk-food services.
- A measure to expand the “right to repair” so that many common products can be fixed rather than disposed of.
Plastics are a problem that will never go away. Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller particles until they begin to enter of fields, streams, and oceans. Consequently, they eventually enter our plants, our fish and animals, and eventually, us. Research indicates each American ingests about ten grams of micro-plastics each week. That’s about the volume of plastic found in a typical credit card.
(At this point I’ll pause and let you digest that…)
The year is winding down and the Holidays are upon us.
Whatever you celebrate this time of year, please do so with joy, love, and gusto.
address: 900 Court St NE, H-480, Salem, OR, 97301