Merkley: Ryan Budget Would be a Deadly Blow to the American Dream

WASHINGTON – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following statement after Congressman Paul Ryan released his 2015 budget blueprint:

“The budget put forth by Congressman Paul Ryan is another attempt to balance the budget on the backs of hardworking middle class families, students and seniors. The Ryan budget would end Medicare as we know it while raising the retirement age, make college less affordable for thousands of students, and would kick millions of people off of their health insurance. It does all this in order to fund tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and big business.

“Budgets are about setting priorities. What you fund and at what level says a lot about your core beliefs. Unfortunately the values shown by the Ryan budget are the wrong ones for America. It puts cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires ahead of students, seniors and middle class families. If this budget were to become law it would be a deadly blow to the American dream.”

Washington State Liquor Control Board approves marijuana retailer license lottery

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) today approved staff’s recommendation for a lottery that will select the apparent successful applicants for marijuana retail licenses. The independent, double-blind process will take place April 21-25, 2014, and will produce an ordered list of applicants that the agency will use to continue its retail licensing process. The agency expects to begin issuing retail licenses no later than the first week of July.

Initiative 502 directed the WSLCB to limit the number of marijuana retail stores by county. In its rules, the WSLCB limited the number of stores statewide to 334. The most populated cities within each county are allotted a maximum number of stores with the remainder at large within the county. The rules further state that if the WSLCB receives more applications for a jurisdiction than there are stores allocated the state would use a lottery process for producing a ranked order of applicants. The allocated list of stores and locations are available on the I-502 implementation section of the WSLCB website.

The agency contracted with the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center of Washington State University and the accounting firm for Washington’s Lottery, Kraght-Snell of Seattle, to independently produce rank-ordered lists of applicants in each jurisdiction where a lottery is necessary. Being identified as the apparent successful applicant is not a guarantee that the selected applicant will receive a license. There are multiple requirements for licensure such as the applicant must pass a criminal history and financial investigation as well as have a location that is not within 1,000 feet of a school, park or other area specified by Initiative 502 as places where children congregate.
The WSLCB began pre-qualifying applicants for the lottery the weekend of Feb. 21-23, 2014. Applicants had 30 days to return the basic documents necessary to be eligible for the lottery including verification of: their personal criminal history, their age being 21 or older, that they are Washington State residents, that their business was formed in Washington State, and that they have a location address with a right to real property. A letter of intent to lease was acceptable to be eligible for the lottery. WSLCB licensing staff is currently reviewing pre-qualifying packets. Initial estimates of returned packets show that despite repeated notices and reminders to applicants, roughly 25 percent did not return the required documents at all. Of the returned packets, anywhere between 20-50 percent are incomplete, thus disqualifying them from the retail lottery.

The WSLCB is expected to post the ordered list of applicants for each jurisdiction in the public records section of the agency website on May 2, 2014.

Video: Rep. Walden leads hearing on global internet freedom, administration’s proposal to transfer domain name oversight

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), yesterday held a hearing on ensuring the security, stability, and freedom of the global internet. Walden and other members of the panel sought answers regarding the Obama administration’s proposal instructing the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to explore ways to remove the United States from its oversight role of the Domain Name System.

Walden and other members expressed concern about any change that could leave the Internet vulnerable to power grabs from international governments and sought commitments that the administration would not permit any outcome that fails to protect the ideals of Internet freedom and openness.

“I cannot overstate the importance of freedom of the Internet from government control. Nor can I overstate the threat from foreign governments who seek to control, tax, censor, and otherwise impose their own agendas on the Internet,” Walden said in his opening statement.

“We cannot allow institutions such as the United Nations or the International Telecommunication Union to insert themselves into the functioning of the Domain Name System. Make no mistake: threats to the openness and freedom of the Internet are real. Leaders such as Vladimir Putin have explicitly announced their desire to gain control of the Internet,” Walden continued.

Last year, the U.S. House unanimously passed H.R. 1580, legislation written by Walden that affirms the policy of the United States regarding Internet governance and preserves Internet freedom. H.R. 1580 is currently pending in the Senate.

Video: Sen. Maria Cantwell applauds passage of legislation to help those with mental illness

The U.S. Senate passed a demonstration project of the Excellence in Mental Health Act, originally introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) in the House of Representatives.  Cantwell cosponsored the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which creates a pilot program to strengthen community mental health systems by establishing higher standards of care and better coordination between providers.

 The bill was included as a demonstration project in the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, which the Senate approved today by a vote of 64-35. The House of Representatives passed the legislation last week, and it now heads to President Obama for his signature.

“Today, we took an important step towards improving the lives of millions of Americans who deal with mental illness,” Cantwell said in a speech on the Senate floor. “This legislation improves access to community health centers and leads to better quality of care. And most importantly, it will help save lives.”

“In Washington state, 55 percent of those with mental illness are not getting treatment.  And when they reach a crisis point, it’s not just a burden on them and their families, but on our communities, our hospitals and our criminal justice system,” Cantwell continued.  “This important legislation will allow us to be smarter about community-based care that will keep people out of our emergency rooms and jails, and stop them from becoming the mental health clinics of last resort.”

There is currently no national standard for mental health services in community health facilities.

The Excellence in Mental Health Act’s demonstration creates an eight-state, two-year pilot program.  Participating states will certify that community behavioral health clinics meet a higher standard and deliver a wider range of services.  Some of these services are:

  • 24 hour crisis management.
  • Screening assessments and diagnosis services.
  • Outpatient mental health and substance-abuse services.
  • Outpatient primary care screenings to monitor the indicators of health conditions.
  • Peer support and counseling.

 In exchange, participating states will receive enhanced Medicaid reimbursements that are equal to what Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) currently receive for primary care services.

 Community mental health treatment centers are struggling to meet demand as states continue to work to balance their budgets.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, states have cut more than $1.6 billion in their general mental health funds since fiscal year 2009.

Nationally, more than half of all those with serious mental disorders don’t get the treatment they need to lead productive, healthy lives. In Washington state, more than 500,000 people are not getting the help they need, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Unfortunately, individuals with serious mental disorders who can’t get help are increasingly being treated in emergency rooms or jails. This leads to higher costs for local governments and local health systems.  Washington state, which has one of the nation’s lowest per capita rates of in-patient psychiatric beds, has seen a dramatic rise in psychiatric “boarding” or “warehousing.”  Boarding happens when involuntarily committed patients must wait for hours or days in hospital emergency rooms because psychiatric facilities have no open beds.

Recent investigations by The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma found that boarding has become routine in Washington state. Boarding costs the Washington state health system $10.5 million per year, according to the state.

More than 50 mental health, medical, and law enforcement groups support the legislation. They include: the National Sheriffs Association; the National Association of Police Organization; the American Psychological Association; the American Medical Association; and the American Federation for Suicide Prevention.



Hermiston Police looking for man missing under suspicious circumstances

PATTERSONHermiston Police Department and Oregon State Police are asking for the public’s help to find a 59-year old Hermiston-area man reported missing under suspicious circumstances after his car was found Monday morning in a parking lot to the foot bridge on the westbound side of the Interstate 82 over the Columbia River.

On Monday morning, March 31, 2014, Hermiston Police Department was contacted by a family member of ALVIN LEE PATTERSON, age 59, from Hermiston. Hermiston police subsequently took a missing person report after his vehicle was found parked at the bottom of the path to the foot bridge on the westbound side of the Interstate 82 bridge. The car contained his personal property, identification and cellphone.

PATTERSON is described as a white male, 5’5″, 160 lbs, short black hair, and was last known to be wearing a navy blue shirt and tan pants. (Oregon DMV photo is provided with this release)

Hermiston Police Department and Oregon State Police are asking to speak with anyone who saw a man matching PATTERSON’s description in the parking lot or walking on the footbridge Monday morning between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., or anyone with related information regarding this missing person investigation to Hermiston Police Department Officer Robert Guerrero or OSP Trooper Jerrad Little through OSP Southern Command Center dispatch at (541) 664-4660.

Update: Monday 7 p.m. Yakima motorcycle rider injured in attempt to elude on I-84 near Rowena

03 31 14 motorcycle accident scene I-84Oregon State Police (OSP) cited a Yakima, Washington man following Sunday afternoon’s motorcycle crash along the eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 near Rowena that occurred when the motorcyclist was attempting to elude an OSP trooper. The seriously injured man’s name and other information is being released in this update.

On March 30, 2014 at approximately 3:50 p.m., an OSP trooper attempted to stop a recklessly operated motorcycle eastbound on Interstate 84 near milepost 68 west of Mosier after initially confirming it was traveling 110 mph in a 65 speed zone approaching the trooper from behind. The motorcyclist attempted to elude eastbound at a high rate of speed and the trooper lost sight of the motorcycle east of Mosier as troopers also began to set up in The Dalles area to assist if needed.

About ten minutes later, Klickitat County, Washington 9-1-1 received a call from an unidentified man saying he was hurt in a motorcycle crash while attempting to elude police in Oregon. The man wasn’t able to provide an exact location before his cellphone call was dropped and ended.

OSP and Wasco County Sheriff’s Office started checking the area between The Dalles and Mosier. An OSP sergeant traveling westbound spotted the motorcycle crash scene and injured man across the freeway about 4:03 p.m. near milepost 76 west of the Rowena interchange. The sergeant stopped, ran across the freeway and requested medical respond as he started initial emergency care. The motorcycle had left the freeway coming out of a sharp left curve and collided head-on with a tree.

The motorcyclist, KENNETH S. MARAVELIAS, age 27, from Yakima, Washington, was transported by LifeFlight to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland with serious, non-life threatening injuries. He was wearing a protective helmet. On Monday, March 31, OSP cited MARAVELIAS to appear in Wasco County Circuit Court for Felony Attempt to Elude on a Vehicle, Reckless Driving, No Valid Operator License and other traffic violations.

OSP was assisted at the scene by Wasco County Sheriff’s Office, Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue and ODOT. One eastbound lane was closed during the scene investigation.

Photograph – Oregon State Police

I-84 / Hwy 97 Biggs Junction Update

Work continues to progress in multiple areas on the project. Bridge construction continues on both structures. The girders have been installed and the bridge decks are scheduled to be poured in late April.

Work on the I-84 ramps west of US 97 and the new southbound US 97 lanes will pick up in the next few weeks. Traffic will be shifted back and forth on the ramps while alternate sides are reconstructed. Flagging will be required on an intermittent basis over the next month while work adjacent to live traffic occurs and traffic shifts are required. Paving of portions of the ramp should begin by mid to late April.

In addition to the work listed above; excavation will continue on the large slope adjacent to US 97, electrical conduit will begin to be installed, drainage pipe installation will occur, and permanent sign installation will begin. If everything goes as planned Stage I Bridge Construction, western ramp construction, and the southbound section of US 97 will be completed concurrently and traffic will be switched to Stage II sometime in early June.

Source: Oregon Department of Transportation