- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:

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The Eugene Register-Guard, Sept. 6, on Trump ending the dream

From a political point of view, President Trump’s announcement that he is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for immigrant youth is probably a smart idea. He has passed the buck to Congress.

From just about every other point of view - economic, humanitarian, historical, geopolitical - it is a terrible idea. Congress has no proven capacity to act on immigration issues.

Deporting illegal immigrants is a big issue for Trump’s shrinking base, and was one of his key campaign promises. Deporting those who were brought into the country as toddlers or infants, however, presents tough problems, even for Trump.

Abruptly ending DACA in six months, as Trump threatens - or promises - to do would be cruel and disruptive. Trump has given Congress a six-month deadline for action, with failure bringing painful and self-defeating consequences.

First, there’s the question of the United States’ credibility, already shaky after reneging on some major international agreements. The federal government made a deal with young people who were brought to the country illegally as children. It promised that as long as they lived by the rules, including passing a criminal background check, they could live, study and work in the U.S.

Nearly 800,000 young people - about 11,000 of them in Oregon - accepted the government’s offer in good faith, voluntarily giving their personal information to the authorities.

And this is a deal that has benefited the country, contrary to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ remarks on Tuesday, which played on the themes of xenophobia and scapegoating.

Can’t find a job, or your kid can’t find a job? It’s the fault of DACA: “DACA denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens,” Sessions said.

Never mind that he and Trump provided zero evidence of this; that many employers are struggling to find workers, even for well-paid jobs; that all DACA visa holders are equal to 0.5 percent of the U.S. workforce, and that about 45 percent are attending school, according to a 2017 study.

Sessions also invoked the twin specters of public safety and national security, although the DACA program bars anyone who has been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or more than three misdemeanors of any kind, or who poses a threat to national security or public safety.

It also requires that applicants be in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces.

The truth is that many DACA participants, dubbed “dreamers,” know no country but the United States - this is their home. Some are now young adults, raising children of their own.

The country has an investment in all of them, including in their education. The return on that investment comes when the recipients become part of the workforce, as many are now doing, providing and buying goods and services and paying taxes. With the rapid growth in the number of Social Security recipients, the U.S. needs young workers to pay into the system and help keep it solvent.

Underlying all of this is the fact that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, each generation of whom has made the country stronger. Now is not the time to turn our backs on this rich history and tradition, losing people who can help keep the country strong for future generations.

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East Oregonian, Sept. 5, on getting fireworks out of national forests

The Columbia Gorge is aflame, and the smoke from Eagle Creek has mixed its way (along with smoke from other fires burning in the region) into Eastern Oregon.

Although the view is hazy and the air quality abysmal, it’s quite clear that the massive blaze was started with fireworks illegally set on the Mt. Hood National Forest. According to witnesses, a group of teenagers casually tossed smoke bombs and fireworks into the steep valley beneath beautiful Punch Bowl Falls. A surprise to no one with a brain, the dry September brush caught fire. That fire soon got bigger, and by the time of this writing had grown to more than 10,000 acres. Thousands of people have evacuated, many homes are in danger, and so are historic buildings like the Multnomah Falls Lodge. That’s not to mention the environmental damage in a place like Eagle Creek, which is a haven for salmon and steelhead and other wildlife. Oh, and there is the recreational damage done to one of the most beautiful and most-used hikes in the Gorge.

Damage, damage, and more damage.

Even though most of our readers are well aware, this is a critical time to remind Oregonians of the dangers of fireworks. And a drive or hike through the Gorge for the next decade should be a reminder each and every time we pass: Don’t use fireworks in Oregon’s forests. Bad things will happen. You may be held criminally and financially responsible.

We must make it perfectly clear to those who have long lived in and loved this state, and those who are new arrivals, that it is never OK to use fireworks on public land. Parents must instill that in their children. Lighting fireworks in Oregon forests must be culturally verboten - it cannot be something that crosses the mind of even the most rebellious teenager. We have too much at stake, spend too much money, time and energy trying to keep Oregon as beautiful and environmentally pure as possible to have it all go up in smoke by one careless hand.

Oregon could consider banning fireworks. Sale, possession and use. If an outright ban is a bridge too far, then perhaps consider hiking taxes high enough that we can continue hiking in a green Oregon. Shouldn’t fireworks be taxed immensely to pay for the cost of fighting the fires that result from them?

We’re as red-blooded, Fourth of July-firework loving Americans as you’ll find from sea to shining sea. But if you love this country, and you love this state, wouldn’t you show it by not setting it on fire?

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The Bend Bulletin, Sept. 5, on Richardson’s audit alert being a bull’s-eye

The Oregon Health Authority has had its share of problems this year, not the least of which was an “audit alert” from Secretary of State Dennis Richardson’s office in May. The alert came as state auditors discovered OHA had fallen behind in checking eligibility for Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) clients. The governor stepped in and gave OHA until the end of August to get the job done, and, on the last day of the month, it did so.

It was no easy task. The federal government requires that Medicaid eligibility be redetermined each year. In Oregon, with just shy of 1 million Oregon Health Plan recipients, that’s a task that requires either a fleet of people or a computer system that’s up to snuff. OHA had neither.

To make matters worse, beginning in 2013 the federal government allowed the state to skip annual continuing eligibility evaluations for several years. The last waiver expired in June 2016, and the state began doing the required checking, though slowly.

The problem came to a head in May with Richardson’s audit alert. At the time, nearly 12 months after the waiver expired, more than 80,000 Oregon Health Plan clients remained to be checked. The job was completed Aug. 31, right on time.

The state removed more than 54,000 people from the program. The costs add up.

Oregon pays some $430 per Oregon Health Plan client per month, and finding the money to do that has become problematic.

The health plan is expensive, and its cost will only grow in the years ahead as federal payments for Medicaid decline. Assuring that everyone who is on the Oregon Health Plan is entitled to be there is critical. And had it not been for Secretary of State Richardson and his audit alert, Oregonians might never have become aware of how far away from being able to make that assurance the OHA really was.

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Albany Democrat-Herald, Sept. 4, on partnerships helping to drive schools

And so, just like that, another school year is underway in the mid-valley. It does seem as if every summer goes by faster and faster, and yet: How is it possible that students have apparently forgotten so much over such a short time? (We’ll get back to this topic of the so-called “summer slide” in another editorial.)

In any event, given skillful teachers (of which we have an abundance), those students will be back up to speed in a bit. But with students flocking back to school, teachers and administrators and staff members offering extravagant welcomes, and parents and guardians breathing sighs of relief, this is a good time to reflect on all the many things we ask of our schools and what we can offer them in return.

It’s not really much of an exaggeration to say that education has been a source of deep controversy in the United States for as long as we’ve had public schools. The good news there is that we fight so hard over our schools because we understand how much is at stake. The bad news is that the continuing battles tend to be wearisome if you’re caught in the middle - after all, it’s unlikely that most of the people working in our schools didn’t start their careers because they wanted to be on the front lines of the battles over national educational policy.

No, the people working in our schools started their careers because they thought they could make a difference in the lives of students. And, of course, they still do that on a daily basis. You can doubtless recall teachers who shaped your life. The very same connection between students and teachers is being forged every day in mid-valley schools.

And there’s a lot more than that going on these days in every school, and that’s part of the challenge educators face. Today, we ask our schools to help us solve behavioral issues with our children. We ask our schools to educate students in areas that used to be, for better or for worse, the province of parents. They are where students who grew up speaking other languages learn to speak English. Schools have become places where our children can go if they need to be fed - and, unfortunately, the number of students who fall into that category continues to rise. Schools have become essential resources, places of respite, for children who are homeless. Those numbers continue to rise as well.

Of course, that’s just a partial list. And then add to that the fundamental mission of schools - to give students the skills they need to function as adults in our society - and you can see why our debates over education are so volatile. To add an extra layer of challenge to that, it’s not exactly clear what sort of skills students will need to prosper in 10, 20 or 50 years.

So this business of educating students, never an easy task, isn’t getting any easier. But you can help.

For one thing, parents and guardians can set the tone for their children: School is important. Regular attendance is important. That message needs to be loud and clear to students, and it starts with parents. And research makes it clear: Involved parents are a vital ingredient for successful schools. If you have the time, consider volunteering at a school near you. If you don’t have the time to volunteer, be sure that you’re attending parent-teacher conferences and other school events. Make sure you at least meet the people who are teaching your children. Schools already are carrying a heavy load, but they can’t do it alone: This business of educating our children is a partnership.

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The Oregonian/OregonLive, Sept. 3, on a need for balance in Oregon

Last week, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek doubled down on Democrats’ dubious strategy to protect a $604 million package of health care taxes and fees.

The Democratic leader abandoned House rules by failing to check in with her counterpart, Minority Leader Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, to discuss her choices for a committee that would write the all-important ballot description if the tax package is referred to voters this fall.

Taken alone, Kotek’s mistake could be written off as a procedural error. And, considering what’s unfolding across the nation and the world, political bickering over committee appointments seems small potatoes.

But what’s getting lost in the political posturing and tit-for-tatting is that this debate centers on health coverage for Oregon’s poorest families. An Oregonian diagnosed with a major health issue today is likely to be confused and rightly concerned about what access to medical care they can expect in the years to come.

Of course this isn’t just an Oregon issue. It’s frighteningly unclear at the federal level if Congress will attempt another health care revamp or will opt to let the Affordable Care Act waste away without needed fixes or funding - as President Trump has threatened.

Both are scary propositions that could hurt Oregon’s most vulnerable populations. That’s why Oregonians must be able to trust that their state leaders are working openly and in good faith to address health care funding.

Yet that’s been a problem throughout the creation of this tax package.

First, there was the double-cross. House Democrats needed one Republican to support the package. They found it in Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, who traded his vote for several million to pay for three projects back home. Yet after the tax package passed, Esquivel joined the controversial effort to undermine it. Gov. Kate Brown helped unveil the horse-trading when she announced plans to veto Esquivel’s projects.

Then came the sneakeroo. When it was clear Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, would follow through on her threat to fight the package, Democrats turned to the stinky strategy that both parties have used for years. They required the referendum go before voters in January, not May - a change that nearly guarantees a low-turnout election and will cost an extra $3 million.

At the last minute, Democrats also ditched the usual process that allows citizens to write ballot descriptions. They decided lawmakers should do it. And because of the political make-up of the Oregon house, it’s barely bipartisan: four Democrats and two Republicans — all chosen by Democratic leaders.

That brings us back to the flawed committee selection process and how it feels a bit like a house of cards built on a house of cards.

Kotek rightly apologized to McLane this week for her error. She maintains she chose the best House Republican for the job: Rep. Greg Smith, a senior lawmaker with deep budget knowledge who’ll be able to help fill the gap if the tax package is tanked.

She also told The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board that the committee will hold more public meetings than the usual process allows, providing more opportunities for citizens to submit comments for the committee to consider. Hopefully, that’s the case.

McLane maintains his biggest beef is Kotek’s choice for the committee’s leader: Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, whose comments about Parrish’s work on the referendum led her to file a formal complaint against him.

“If she’s going to have Rep. Rayfield as the chair of this committee and he’s such a strident opponent of the referendum, she should have a proponent on this committee,” McLane told The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board. “If there was a different chair, someone who was not such a strident opponent, maybe there wouldn’t be such a need for balance.

“But why is balance wrong?”

It’s not, and McLane’s questions about Rayfield at the helm seem appropriate considering how this process has played out. Balance is something that’s been sorely lacking.


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