By Representative David Gomberg, House District 10
Hello Neighbors and Friends,
Many of you have written to me expressing concerns about a proposed aerial herbicide spraying in South Beaver Creek. This operation would cover a total of 473.6 acres spread over 8 smaller parcels. The permit is authorized by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) between September 2nd. and November 30th. This aerial spraying plan is set to be carried out on behalf of ANE Forests of Oregon to reforest their clear-cut timberland.
Many of us have concerns about the effect of aerial spraying on our coastal environment, residents, and wildlife. I am particularly troubled to hear how this operation could impact the watershed and water intake operations at the Seal Rock Water District (SRWD) and their 5500 water users. While I have been assured that precautions will be taken to ensure the spray operation will not adversely impact this domestic water supply, the District reports they will need to halt intake and rely on a reserve supply (purchased from outside the water district) while testing water quality during spray periods to ensure contaminants do not enter the drinking water. That’s an additional expense the district will have to incur and a serious problem during a period of low water supplies.
Additionally, I am concerned about the uncertainties of what consequences could look like for the drinking water supply, and wildlife, if contaminants were to be found at unsafe levels following testing.
I am not convinced that this proposal is being put forth in the most responsible and accountable manner and I have been working to learn more and help convene stakeholders engaged with the issue.
My staff and I have been in contact with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), SWRD, and Lincoln County to determine how best to proceed from here. Other state agencies, such as the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Governor’s office have also been looped into the conversation. I will be doing my best to provide updates as I learn more.
I’m aware of informal petitions online at Prevent Aerial Spraying in Beaver Creek. The formal comment period for this permit remains open until this Thursday, August 17. If you wish to support, oppose or otherwise comment on the spray permit, you can submit remarks via email to email@example.com and add your voice to the record. To ensure your voice is correctly added to the record, please include this notification number in the subject line of your email: 2023-553-09307.
You can also write your comment to the Oregon Department of Forestry’s stewardship forester at the following address:
763 NW Forestry Rd
Toledo, Oregon 97391
I was interviewed this week by KATU about oversight of the Oregon Racing Commission (ORC). “This is a small agency but a big deal.” I told the reporter. The Racing Commission regulates a declining number of live horse races and no live dog races in Oregon but does license businesses that take over $6 billion annually in online bets from around the country and the world. Oregon’s revenue on these wagers was about $3 million, or less than ½ of one percent.
For a bit of context, the Oregon Lottery had annual sales of $1.7 billion last year and transferred $900 million to Oregon’s Economic Development Fund.
During a terse budget hearing earlier this year, I asked hard questions about agency operations, online betting, continued support for dog racing, and animal welfare. I observed that we have passed laws prohibiting dog racing here but facilitate dog racing in Mexico, Europe and Australia. The agency answered some questions and remarkably, refused to answer others.
You can see portions of our budget hearing here.
- Lack of turnover and vacancies on the Commission. Some members continue years after their terms expire.
- Little oversight or reporting of money disbursed to the Oregon horse industry or race organizers.
- “Ambiguous” state gambling laws that pose a risk to the economic interests of tribal nations.
- Controversy over approval of machines allowing bets on races that have already occurred.
- Over $6 billion annually from online wagering on races conducted inside and outside of Oregon. The state receives about $3 million each year, with the majority going to ORC to support Oregon horse associations and those running horse race meets.
I voted no on ORC’s biannual budget but it ultimately passed. That’s as it should be since agencies need to be funded. But we succeeded in drawing attention to the problem. Governor Tina Kotek also indicated her disapproval by letting the budget item move forward without her signature.
My work in Salem often involves challenging expenditures and questioning agency performance. This small Commission is one example of how we can do better.
Senate President Rob Wagner recently wrote, “Maintaining good health is something we all as individuals strive for, and it is imperative the Oregon Legislature and state government continue to put the health and wellness of our people as our top legislative priority”.
Governor Tina Kotek held a ceremonial signing for a number of our bills tackling behavioral health care and the fentanyl crisis this week. There is still work to be done, but the bills we passed this session will save lives. The majority of these bills passed with broad bipartisan support.
House Bill 2757 provides a stable funding source for Oregon’s two 9-8-8 call centers and helps to build out the mobile crisis response system so that services are uniformly available 24/7 across the state. Oregonians can call this easy-to-remember phone number and receive immediate mental health care through one-on-one conversations. In Oregon, 9-8-8 resolves or de-escalates 97% of calls it receives.
House Bill 2395 and the Opioid Harm Reduction Package will save more people experiencing opioid overdoses by making overdose reversal medication more accessible. This will reduce the number of opioid-related deaths in Oregon and get more people into treatment. With this law, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services providers, educators, school administrators and others will be able to store and administer Narcan or Naloxone.
Senate Bill 1089 establishes a Universal Health Plan board to explore options for implementing universal health care in Oregon so we can make sure we have the best system to provide high quality health care access to everyone. The recommendations made by this board will be presented to the legislature in 2026.
Senate Bill 1041 makes medically necessary breast cancer diagnostic imaging tests and supplemental breast exams free to patients by requiring commercial insurance plans to cover those costs.
Senate Bill 192 requires increased reporting on prescription drug pricing so the state can make better informed decisions and continue to work to reduce health care costs that put families at financial risk. It requires pharmacy benefit managers and companies that handle prescription medicines to report the money they receive from drug manufactures. The law also makes improvements to the Prescription Drug Affordability Board.
House Bill 2697 addresses the state’s hospital staffing shortages and will help providers deliver high-quality care for their patients. It sets nurse staffing ratios and minimum staffing levels for particular hospital units, and empowers frontline health workers to have a voice in their workplaces. Nearly 70% of Oregon’s nurses say they are experiencing severe burnout, with more than three-quarters reporting that their work lives are dangerously stressful due to unsafe levels of staffing and poor working conditions. This has led to significant turnover in hospitals, further exacerbating staff shortages.
Another significant part of our health environment begins today, as working Oregonians who need to take time off work to care for important personal and familial life events can begin applying for paid leave benefits through the state’s new paid family and medical leave program, Paid Leave Oregon. Oregon is the 11th state, plus Washington, D.C., to implement such a program.
Paid Leave Oregon covers paid family leave, medical leave, and safe leave for working Oregonians. Employees can apply for the following reasons:
- To care for themselves or members of their family during the birth of a child, or to bond with a child after birth, adoption, or placement of a child in their home through foster care.
- To care for themselves during a serious health condition.
- To care for a family member when they have a serious health condition.
- If they or their child experience sexual assault, domestic violence, harassment, or stalking.
The state legislature created Paid Leave Oregon in 2019. Most workers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave annually through the program.
The local highlight this past week was the Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow Parade in Siletz. Senator Dick Anderson and I were honored to serve as Grand Marshals and later were presented with gift blankets from tribal leaders Delores Pigsley and Bud Lane.
I also was drawn into the controversy affecting college athletics in Oregon as the University of Oregon left the Pac 12 in jeopardy to align with the Big Ten, abandoning more than 100 years of sports history and tradition in favor of broadcast media dollars. I’m an old Beaver. When asked by OPB, I opined, “The Ducks will have a longer ride to their games now in the bus they just threw the Beavers under.” How these changes affect the investments in OSU sports infrastructure, scholarship commitments to students, and college funding remains to be seen. The future of athletics is in transition. But the prestige of our academic programs is solid and was never in doubt.
In the next few days, I have plans to meet with the Governor’s staff to discuss support for and the future of Oregon’s five Marine Reserves. Three of those five are off the shore of our district. I’ll also be meeting with the new Director at OSU’s Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station (COMES).
I’ll be visiting the Angell Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Yachats, attending ribbon cuttings in Newport, talking with Family Forward Oregon about child care, and joining the Lakeview Senior Living Beach Block Party Dinner.
I will close today as I did last week with a reminder that we expect intense weather across the district this week. Temperatures are hot. Fire danger is extreme. And the tempting ocean beaches are full of sneaker waves. Please enjoy but be careful out there.
address: 900 Court St NE, H-480, Salem, OR, 97301