- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:

The (Salem) Statesman Journal, Oct. 22, on serving Oregon’s military veterans:

Thousands of military veterans in Oregon do not get the medical care and other benefits they deserve. Why? Because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not know they exist.

That seems incomprehensible. But it is true for as many as 250,000 Oregon veterans. They have not navigated the complex, time-consuming process of registering for potential VA benefits.

Measure 96 on the Nov. 8 ballot would gradually change that. The measure would take about $9.3 million a year from Oregon Lottery receipts and direct that money to state and local veterans services. Two-thirds of the money would go toward helping veterans sign up for VA benefits. One-third would go for direct services, such as getting homeless veterans into housing and helping them find work.

This ballot measure should not be necessary.

But it is because the federal government shirks its responsibility to veterans. Problems at the VA have been well-documented, including an average wait of more than three years to obtain services. And if the VA errs when determining a veteran’s eligibility for federal benefits, the appeals process can take four or five years, according to state Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth.

That is why the Legislature wrote the measure and unanimously sent it to voters. Evans and state Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, were key to that effort.

The funding would come by taking 1.5 percent of Oregon Lottery proceeds. To guarantee that, voters must amend the Oregon Constitution, which is why the measure is before them.

The proposal has its critics. Their concerns are legitimate. When Lottery proceeds are constitutionally dedicated for one specific purpose, such as veterans services, that money no longer is available for other worthwhile programs, such as schools. Already, 48 percent of the Lottery funds are locked up that way. Meanwhile, there is no guarantee of how much Measure 96 will expand veterans services. The Legislature could reduce or eliminate the existing veterans budget and instead only use the Measure 96 monies.

But those criticisms cancel each other. If the Legislature cuts the current allocation for veterans services, that money then can be spent elsewhere. And the estimated $9.3 million a year from Measure 96 is more than the Legislature currently provides for veterans services offices.

The Oregon Lottery originally was dedicated to economic development. Measure 96 is a fitting use of that money. It is estimated that for every dollar the state spends on helping veterans sign up with the VA, Oregon veterans receive $257 in VA benefits.

That means some may no longer require state-funded health care or social services. Over time, that saves money for Oregon taxpayers. Most important, life improves for Oregon veterans.

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The (Yamhill Valley) News-Register, Oct. 21, on electing a new governor:

This election, Oregonians have an opportunity to shift the balance of power in Salem. In the process, they have an opportunity to slow a political agenda being rammed down their throats in a manner that disregards the state’s constitutional mandate that laws must “equally belong to all the citizens.” They can accomplish this goal by voting Salem physician Bud Pierce into the governor’s office.

Pierce has displayed, during this lengthy election season, an ability to fairly represent all Oregonians. He’s toured all sections of the state to hear from residents. While rural regions typically cater more to Republican candidates, Pierce has not hesitated to engage voters in metropolitan areas and respond to their concerns as well.

His opponent, Gov. Kate Brown, who assumed the office with John Kitzhaber’s resignation, is an archetypal career politician.

Rising through the ranks from legislator to secretary of state, she left some admirable marks. But overall, her record reads more like someone fighting for partisan causes than someone working toward the best solutions. And that has been evident in her short stint as governor.

The carbon tax, paid sick leave and minimum wage hike were warm and fuzzy causes. But they were implemented in offputting ways, without regard for their impact on small businesses in an already unfavorable business climate.

Pierce, a longtime oncologist, understands the impact of business regulations in the state. In the pressing needs of health care, homelessness and improving the economy, his vision is more pragmatic than his opponent’s. He fully recognizes that simply shoveling more tax revenue into the state budget isn’t going to solve Oregon’s problems.

His success in the medical field has allowed Pierce to self-fund much of his campaign. So he would enter the governorship beholden only to the voters, not to powerful special-interest PACs and unions.

Pierce has made an investment into making Oregon a better place, and he deserves a chance to see it through.

Unfortunately, Brown’s career is more or less owned by the state’s public employee unions. She has failed to act on efforts to fix the state’s Public Employees Retirement System, settling for supporting the unions’ ill-conceived, unfair Measure 97, a hidden sales tax that will take a bite out of citizen pocketbooks at every turn hope.

Perhaps, given two more years, Brown can achieve a modicum of independence as a leader for Oregon. If she is ultimately elected, we’ll be resigned to pinning our hopes on that.

But we won’t be holding our breath and you shouldn’t either. Brown and her Democratic colleagues have made a habit of enacting laws with emergency clauses. To us, that shows a lack of respect for constituents and anyone disagreeing with their pet political agenda.

Pierce would provide a fresh mentality. His balance of fiscal conservatism and sensitivity to social issues would resonate in Salem.

We need a measured approach to government in our state, one that doesn’t settle for short-term expedience, but actually accounts for long-term consequences. We believe Pierce is the candidate who would best accomplish that.

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The East Oregonian, Oct. 19, on state marijuana revenue:

Oregon’s experiment in legalizing marijuana has been an unmitigated success, and local voters should allow their municipality to participate in a growing industry.

According to a Department of Revenue release from, the state has already overseen more than $160 million is marijuana sales that have brought in $40.2 million in tax money.

Yet many of those dollars won’t reach us here in northeast Oregon, because every municipality opted out instead of cashing in when they banned both marijuana retail sale and commercial growth. Governments that did so include Umatilla and Morrow counties and each and every city in those counties.

It has been a costly error.

Just using the nine month numbers, the decision by Umatilla County commissioners has already kept about $120,000 from going to its law enforcement department. That doesn’t even take into consideration an additional 3 percent local tax that could be instituted, were a dispensary to open with county limits.

Even a small town like Pendleton would be staring at a roughly $26,000 check - not enough to pave the streets in gold, but if it instituted its own local tax it could at least pave a few potholes.

These municipalities better have a darn good reason to turn down good money - but we can’t find one.

The dire warnings about the effects of marijuana legalization have not come true. There have been zero deaths, few serious injuries (those to people making hash oil, not users) no rise in crime, no cultural degradation - no nothing.

The fact is that $160 million of marijuana that would have been sold in Oregon by cartels and local drug dealers was sold over the counter, the state taking its cut with each and every purchase. In addition, those businesses are paying employees, who are in turn paying income taxes, which in turn is fueling the economic engine.

City councils in Pendleton, Hermiston and Milton-Freewater each have the ability to right their council’s wrong by overturning their local ban. Representatives of other cities and both Morrow and Umatilla counties didn’t think enough of their constituents to even give them the option.

Rural Oregon cannot continue to complain about the lack of economic advantages when we don’t to pick up a successful business opportunity when it is laid at our feet. Marijuana might not be your cup of tea, but allowing and regulating its sale is the best way to have more control over it and fund support services at the same time. Also, it allows medical users easier access to what makes them feel better.

Still, no matter what voters decide in November, we should remind readers that possessing and using marijuana remains legal for adults everywhere in Oregon, as is growing it for personal use. The only thing a ban does is keep local governments from seeing any benefits.

Voters have a choice: If they want Eastern Oregon to have a business friendly atmosphere, to increase its tax base and bring in jobs, then marijuana businesses - both recreational and medical - can be a solution. A ban just continues an age-old problem that will never get better.

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The Bend Bulletin, Oct. 23, on the death penalty:

For almost five years now, Oregon’s death penalty has been on hold. Gov. Kate Brown announced recently that will continue until at least the end of the year. If she is re-elected, it will continue through her term until 2018.

It would be better if the governor led Oregonians beyond the waiting game. We need to have an honest discussion about the death penalty and whether it continues to be the punishment a majority of voters favor for those who commit the most heinous crimes in this state.

Oregon’s death penalty was adopted in 1864, rescinded in 1914, adopted again in 1920, rescinded in 1964, adopted in 1978, declared unconstitutional in 1981 and reinstated in 1984. With the exception of the 1981 court ruling, it was voters who decided to make the changes.

When then-Gov. John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on executions in 2011, he did so in part because he believed the penalty to be morally wrong. But he did more than simply slap a moratorium in place. Kitzhaber called for a “long overdue debate” among the state’s residents and lawmakers about the death penalty.

That hasn’t happened. It should. Brown should see that it does. There should be a vote of the people to decide what happens with the death penalty in Oregon.

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The (Eugene) Register-Guard, Oct. 19, on Oregon’s attorney general:

When Oregonians elect an attorney general, competence and broad legal experience are what matter - and Ellen Rosemblum has brought both to the office. Voters should give her a second full term.

Election 2016

Rosenblum won the Democratic primary in the attorney general’s race in 2012, and then was appointed to succeed John Kroger, who resigned to become president of Reed College. Rosenblum, now 65, worked as a lawyer in private practice, a U.S. attorney, a trial court judge and a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals before her appointment.

Rosenblum, nominated by the Democratic, Independent and Working Families parties, has been involved in some contentious matters during her tenure. Her office began an investigation of former Gov. John Kitzhaber over the influence-peddling allegations that led to his resignation, which was later taken over by federal authorities. She sued Oracle Corp. for its failure to deliver a working website for the Cover Oregon insurance exchange and settled that litigation for $100 million.

But most of the attorney general’s work never makes headlines. The office enforces the collection of child-support payments, protects consumers against fraud, provides legal advice to state agencies and assists district attorneys in complex cases. Rosenblum has handled these routine duties capably.

In her second term Rosenblum hopes to focus on protecting older people from financial or physical abuse by caretakers or others, crack down on for-profit colleges whose practices leave students with big debts and worthless credentials, and probe pharmaceutical companies’ role in worsening the epidemic of addiction to opioid drugs. She also wants to complete a legislatively-assigned review of racial profiling by police and an overhaul of Oregon’s cumbersome public records laws.

The Republican nominee is Daniel Crowe, 47, a graduate of West Point who worked for 13 years as a U.S. Army judge advocate and is now a public defender specializing in veterans’ issues. Crowe is harshly critical of Rosenblum, accusing her of incompetence and corruption at every turn.

Some of his accusations are plausible. It’s reasonable for Crowe to argue, for instance, that Rosenblum should have mounted a vigorous defense of Measure 36, the voter-approved amendment to the Oregon Constitution banning same-sex marriage. Rosenblum declined to defend the 2004 measure when opponents sued to invalidate it in federal court.

In other matters, however, Crowe takes his criticisms too far. He blames the state for the Cover Oregon mess, for instance, and then says Rosenblum accepted a bad settlement - but if Oracle wasn’t culpable, Rosenblum did well to get any settlement at all. Crowe also faults Rosenblum for not stopping the state from spending $200 on an unbuilt bridge across the Columbia River, but that failure pre-dates Rosenblum’s time in office.

If Crowe had a longer record of civilian public service, it would be easier to know whether he is a bulldog, a bomb-thrower or a little bit of both. He has time to build such a resume. For now, Oregon has a capable attorney general with a second-term agenda worth pursuing. Voters should re-elect Ellen Rosenblum.

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