By State Representative Suzanne Weber
Welcome back for my newsletter district update!
I have been so very busy working in the legislature researching new bills, listening to public testimony regarding bills in my three committees, and meeting with constituents in between the House floor schedule and committee schedule. While this schedule is very full I am still able to dedicate time and staff to solving problems for individuals in our district.
Two very important issues that are not part of the bills being introduced in the legislature, but are extremely important to the individuals in our district are described below.
I received an email plea for help by a friend of an individual who lives in our district. The email was heartfelt and explained how her friend had applied for unemployment but had not received it for many months. To hear of this individual’s inability to continue his business due to COVID 19 shutdowns is all too common these days. But to hear how he had done all he should and was not receiving unemployment insurance is intolerable.
Due to the Employment Department’s inability to process his claim he was unable to pay for fuel or insurance for his car, keep his phone turned on, or even pay for the basic needs of his child. I cannot help the issues that brought him to the point of shutting down his business, but I can help overcome the roadblock that was stopping payment on his unemployment insurance claim. Within a couple days of receiving the initial email plea for help by his friend, we were able to locate and correct the action that had prevented payment of 14 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits.
While it saddens me that this has happened at all, I am glad his friend reached out to me so that we could help fix the problem and get this person payment that he was due. Please know you can use our office if you are having similar difficulties with a state agency.
Recently Alaska released their spending plan for Fishery CARES Act funding. You may wonder why this matters to the district. It indeed has caused much distress to your commercial fishing friends and neighbors that fish in Alaska each summer but live here on the North Coast of Oregon.
The Fishery’s CARES Act Funding was made available to Oregonians late last year and approximately 300 businesses in the fishing industry were provided relief by this act. Those businesses that were helped include processors, harvesters, retail, and charter businesses. However, many in our distinct were left out of the relief money intended to help them through this pandemic because they fish in Alaska and were denied by Oregon.
Alaska has now put out their application process and they have excluded those who reside in states that were given Fishery CARES Act money, even though the individual did not qualify in their home state because they fish in Alaska. This Federal money was intended to support the fishing industry, specifically those that lost more than 35% of their commercial fishing income in 2020. Excluding Oregonians that live here, pay taxes here, spend their hard earned fishing income here, and raise their kids here is a terrible misstep of the administration of this federal CARES funding. I intend to advocate for those fishers to receive the federal funding that is due them to the extent that I am able.
But I need to hear from those in this situation. I encourage you to reach out to myself or my staff so we can gather the information needed to make a difference.
District Video Updates
Here is my latest “From The District” video with my Chief of Staff Adam Schwend. Click the picture to view.
My thoughts on the Oregon State Revenue Forecast that came out at the end of February.
The Landlord Compensation Fund was released and the state has already closed round one. However, if you still want to participate in this program the next round will open in April. Click this link or the picture below to get more information.
COVID-19 Vaccine information and updates can be found at each of the County links. Or you can click the Blue OHA picture to determine your eligibility in Oregon.
There are so many bills being introduced that concern all of us. It is vital that you know how to look up the bills that interest you in O.L.I.S. Oregon Legislative Information System. I encourage you to watch this video that my colleague Senator Betsy Johnson produced to aid our constituents in navigating the Legislative System, particularly during Covid-19 shutdowns.
Right now in the Capitol
I have been getting many emails related to several legislative proposals as well as the issue of redistricting.
Redistricting is the once-a-decade process of redrawing United States House of Representatives (Congressional) and Oregon State Senate and State House of Representatives (Legislative) district boundaries to account for changes in population.
The House and Senate Committee on Redistricting has set 10 dates for the upcoming “Virtual Roadshow”. The purpose is to gather public input regarding the 2021 legislative redistricting process, beginning Tuesday, March 9th, and concluding on Saturday, April 10th. Clatsop, Tillamook, Washington, and Yamhill counties you’re going to want to pay attention to this. Do you believe the state has been served well by the last redistricting? Do you believe the current district boundaries are fair? Tell us why or why not. You can testify or submit written testimony at this link
The first of these meetings for public input is Tuesday March 9th at 5:30 PM and covers Clatsop, Columbia, parts of Multnomah, Washington, and Yamhill counties.
These two bills seek to add more taxes to timber harvesting and has been the topic of many emails by constituents. HB 2379 would impose a severance tax on the owner of timber at the time of harvest at five percent of value of timber. HB 2598 would impose severance tax on all timber harvested from public and private forestland. This may be a good time to point out that housing costs have gone up tremendously for many other reasons. The cost of lumber being taxed should not be another reason to make it more difficult to provide affordable housing.
Another big issue we are hearing about is the proposal of tax increases on beer, wine, cider, and spirits. HB 3296 would serve to increase privilege taxes imposed upon manufacturers or importing distributors of malt beverages, wine or cider. This bill would increase tax on beer and cider by nearly 3000% and increase taxes on wine by nearly 2000%. While I understand the need for tax to fund programs that provide services for the people of Oregon, I do not believe in adding new taxes to beverages in an industry that was one of the hardest hit during the COVID-19 shut downs. I can’t fathom why we would add insult to the injury these businesses have already sustained.
This bill is currently in the House Committee on Behavioral Health
I have signed on to HB 3177 the “Covid Business Equity Act” that would explicitly limit the Governor’s power to impose restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms, and other fitness establishments, unless those restrictions apply to all businesses broadly.
HB 3173 is another bill I think is important to our district. It would remove the requirement that the amount of net proceeds from the Oregon State Lottery allocated to the County Fair Account not exceed $1.53 million annually. Our County Fairgrounds are an important part of our community for so many reasons. Tillamook County Fair brings in 70,000 people every year. That is more than double the population of the entire County. County fairgrounds are an integral part of the community, culture, and economy of each unique county. It is unconscionable to statutorily limit what money goes into the fair without consideration for inflation or other factors, especially when county fairs were cancelled last year, now is not the time to limit the funds that go to county fairgrounds.
Committees I am Assigned to
Use the links below to find out what bills have been assigned to our committees and watch or listen to any of our hearings.
How to Reach My Office
I need to hear from people throughout our district while the legislative process continues so that I can stay abreast of what is happening locally.
Contact my office directly at Rep.SuzanneWeber@oregonlegislature.gov or by calling 503-300-4493
My Team is here to help!
Adam Schwend, my Chief of Staff, is located in Tillamook and advises me on policy and bills. While most of his time is spent working remotely, he is at the Capitol once per week.
You may email Adam directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katy Pritchard, my Constituent Services Director, is located in Astoria and is one more way that I am able to stay connected to our district while serving in Salem.
Contact Katy at email@example.com or 503-986-1432.