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Western Oregonians woke today (Dec. 27) to something we don’t often see. Snow on the lawn. Snow on the roadways. Snow on our beaches.

A cold front from Canada spread across the Pacific Northwest on Sunday morning, triggering winter storm warnings for areas west of the Cascades.  The change is beautiful. But the cold and ice can also be daunting. Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency lasting through January 3 due to projected severe weather across the state. This weather is expected to bring heavy snow and sustained temperatures below freezing, resulting in potential transportation failures, and possible disruptions to power and communications. Winter weather is especially dangerous for anyone experiencing houselessness and can also pose a greater risk for older adults and people with disabilities.

This interactive map predicts snowfall expected over a 24-hour period. It updates automatically every six hours. Tap anywhere on the map to see the local forecast and use the arrows at the bottom to adjust timeframes.

24-Hour Snowfall Graphic

 

Across our district, people are understandably anxious about driving in the snow. The best way to stay safe is to simply not go out at all. That’s obviously not always an option, but if conditions look difficult, consider staying in. If you have to drive, try to get out ahead of a storm. If that doesn’t work, consider waiting until after it passes. This especially applies to those traveling along highways or over mountain passes. Use Tripcheck.com for conditions and cameras before getting on the road and consider re-routing your travel to safer roads if necessary.

Give yourself plenty of time. Snowy roads will mean slower driving, and potential road closures on your route. Leave early and don’t rush. As you’re driving, watch out for other vehicles and pedestrians. Give yourself plenty of room to stop in case you hit a slick spot.

Here are a few other tips I found online:

Earlier today I read an inquiry on Facebook. “Does anyone know if Highway 18 is open??” Yes! The State of Oregon knows and is happy to tell you and show you pictures! Tripcheck.com is always a great resource for tracking conditions, delays, and cameras before getting on the road.

Tripcheck Cameras

 

While most of us enjoyed a warm and loving holiday month, the news was not good for everyone.

After 25 years of providing care to seniors in Tillamook County, Nehalem Bay House and Kilchis House announced on December 14th that they are closing their doors in February 2022. The closures will impact 29 residents at Kilchis House in Tillamook and 26 residents at the Nehalem Bay House. Nehalem Bay and Kilchis House are staples in the Tillamook community and some of the only options in the area for low-income seniors to live and receive care.

A majority of the residents at these two buildings are on Medicaid. CARE, Inc., a non-profit organization that has managed the communities since 2012, cited the workforce shortage, substantial increases in wage and labor costs, and the need to rely upon more expensive temporary staffing agencies as the reason for the closures.

Tillamook legislators reacted quickly to this sad news, meeting first with CARE administrators and county commissioners, and then with the state Housing and Community Services Department to explore short and long term options. When CARE called last week worried that they would not have sufficient staffing over the holiday weekend, we reached out to the Department of Human Services who dispatched an emergency response team to make sure residents were cared for.

CARE, Inc. will now begin working with each resident to secure new placements, with a focus on finding appropriate assisted living communities in Tillamook County or close to residents’ family members. Placements may also occur in the Portland Metro, Seaside, or Lincoln City areas based on residents’ needs and community availability.

The CARE closings are a serious problem. But I’m concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Susan and I have just completed the difficult and emotional process of finding assisted living for her mother. The options here on the coast are limited and expensive. Assisted living typically costs from $5,000 to $8,000 per month with memory care more limited and more expensive. When a resident has spent down all of their own resources, the state will step in with Medicaid support. But the Medicaid reimbursement does not cover the full costs for these now low-income seniors which leads many for-profit homes to limit Medicaid beds.

Costs are going up. Employees are harder to find for this demanding and emotional work. And often potential employees can make more flipping burgers than cleaning bedpans. Meanwhile, a third of our population here is over the age of 65.

As a legislator, as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services, as a consumer, and as someone approaching my 70th birthday, I well understand that we can and must do better for our parents and grandparents.


 

When the final gavel came down in June to conclude the 2021 regular legislative session, a number of new laws were approved covering topics that ranged from police oversight to use of cold medicines. Most new laws take effect January 1. While some were contentious, many passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support.

Here are some highlights published by the Oregonian:

POLICE REFORM: George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer triggered a national reckoning on civil rights. Oregon lawmakers responded with a dozen bills aimed at improving police conduct and oversight.

PUBLIC MEETINGSHouse Bill 2560 makes permanent a pandemic-era change. It requires government agencies, whenever possible, to stream their meetings online and give the public the opportunity to testify remotely. The bill passed the House 42-5 and the Senate 25-2.

COLD MEDICINE: Oregon was one of just two states (Mississippi was the other) that required a prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a restriction established to limit people’s ability to buy large quantities and use it to make methamphetamine. But lawmakers concluded that a multistate system for tracking purchases, and meth production shifting to labs outside the country, made Oregon’s law obsolete. So House Bill 2648 repealed Oregon’s restriction. Now, people can buy cold medicines by asking a pharmacist, who registers the transaction with the database. The bill passed the House 54-4, and the House 27-2.

ELECTIONSHouse Bill 3291 requires Oregon to count ballots mailed the day of the election. Previously, counties would count only ballots actually received on or before Election Day. It passed the House 39-21 and the Senate 16-13. This will delay how quickly election results can be determined but is likely to lead to higher election turnout.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Senate Bill 8 requires local governments to allow development of affordable housing even on land not zoned for residential use, with some exceptions for lands designated for heavy industry and publicly owned properties next to sites zoned for school or residential use. It also lowers the duration for which such housing must be classified as affordable, from 40 years to 30. The bill won overwhelming legislative support, passing the Senate 25-5 and the House 46-3.

RACIAL EQUITYHouse Bill 2935, known as the Crown Act, bans discrimination in schools or the workplace “based on physical characteristics that are historically associated with race.” The law specifies hair style and hair texture among those newly protected traits. It passed the House 58-0 and the Senate 28-1.

JUVENILE SUSPECTS: Senate Bill 418 establishes that if a police officer intentionally uses false information to elicit a statement from someone under age 18, that statement will be presumed to be involuntary. The bill passed the Senate 24-4, and the House 53-2.

TEACHER UNIONSSenate Bill 580 requires school districts bargain with teacher unions over class sizes at schools with high concentrations of low-income students. The House approved the bill 36-21 and the Senate voted 18-11 in favor.

HOMELESSNESSSenate Bill 850 requires that death reports for homeless people list the person’s residence as “domicile unknown.” Supporters hope the bill will help track the number of people who die while experiencing homelessness. The bill passed 22-5 in the Senate and 52-0 in the House.

MARIJUANAHouse Bill 3369 allows nurses to discuss possible medical use of marijuana with their patients. It passed the House 47-5 and passed the Senate 21-6.

RIDE SHARESHouse Bill 2393 calls for Transportation Network Companies, like Uber and Lyft and cab companies, to upgrade insurance coverage to protect their passengers and drivers. Until now, a loophole allowed taxicabs and the ride share companies to avoid providing this basic coverage, although Lyft has done so voluntarily. It passed in the House 52 votes in support, with six representatives excused, and the Senate 21-1.

Oregon House Chamber

It can be challenging to track the work of the legislature. Fortunately, at the end of each legislative session, the Legislative Policy Research Office (LPRO) publishes a summary report of selected measures that were considered. The Legislative Summary Reports highlights all policy measures that received a public hearing during the regular session.

After the 2021 legislative session, LPRO also published a shorter, user-friendly Legislative Summary Briefs by Topic. These briefs highlight substantive changes to Oregon’s policy landscape based on measures considered during the 2021 legislative session. The 18 individual briefs are organized by policy areas (links listed below), and they offer essential background information, identify relevant legislative history, and include related measures, agencies and programs.

LPRO has also created this new web page for summaries of legislation. The page is set up for browsing by policy topic, and if you prefer a compilation of topics, full summaries of legislation are available by year on the right side of the page. You can also click on the topics to read through the new briefs.

OLIS 101

Snow Day!

 

As I wrote this report Sunday morning, the weather vacillated from large falling snowflakes, to blustery flurries, or light rain and streaks of sunshine through the trees. The view from my office window to our rhododendron garden was beautiful, but also enough to keep me inside except for occasional runs to the woodshed.

Here's my favorite snow song.

Please stay safe, drive cautiously, and have a care for others this wintery week. And next weekend, enjoy a responsible and celebratory Saturday New Year as we turn the page on 2021.

 

 

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