Walden Outlines 2006 Agenda
Oregon's Second District Representative Announces Priorities, Goals During Early Morning Speech in The Dalles Friday
In a speech this morning to members of The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) outlined his legislative priorities for this year. The list ranges from forest and salmon issues to improving access to rural health care, cracking down on methamphetamine abuse and securing our nation's borders. Walden, a Republican from Hood River, is working closely with his mostly Democrat colleagues from the Northwest on many of the efforts he discussed.
"Finding solutions to the problems we face in the Northwest is my top priority. We have a host of issues that are often complicated and nearly always controversial. We have to put aside partisan politics if we want to make progress. That's hard for some to do, especially in an election year. But I think people will see that those of us in the Northwest delegation can and do work together," said Walden.
The 2nd District Representative outlined the following issues as his top priorities for this year:
Reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools & Community Self-Determination Act (HR 517): The legislation provided nearly $271-million to Oregon counties and schools this year as replacement for the reduction in timber harvest revenues. Its six-year authorization expires in September 2006. Walden, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) are lead sponsors of HR 517, which would reauthorize the "county payments" law. The bill has bipartisan and bicoastal support in both the House and Senate. "I'm seeking a seven-year reauthorization of the law, which currently provides more than $270 million annually to rural counties and schools throughout Oregon for education and transportation. The federal government must keep its 100 year-long commitment to local forested communities," he said.
Caring for America's Forests After Catastrophic Events: Last November, Walden and Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) introduced the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act, HR 4200, which would give federal land managers the tools and resources necessary to complete a swift and thorough evaluation of forest conditions and needs after a catastrophic event, such as wildfire, without waiving environmental laws and while encouraging public participation and additional research. HR 4200 currently has more than 140 Democrat and Republican cosponsors. "It shouldn't take the federal government three years to cut a burned dead tree and plant a new one. No land agency, private or public, is as bogged down as the Forest Service. After years of congressional hearings and investigations, we finally have a proposal to help our forests and forest communities," said Walden.
Preparing Mt. Hood for the Next 100 Years: Walden and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) have spent the last three years listening and learning about the complex issues affecting Mt. Hood and its surrounding communities; the pair even backpacked around the mountain last summer. They plan to introduce legislation next month. "We've developed a comprehensive proposal that addresses the recreation, water, transportation, forest health and wilderness needs of Mt. Hood. Our plan results from years of work and will reflect what we learned and heard form local residents along the way," said Walden. The outline of their proposal has won praise from various organizations and editorial writers from around the state.
Advancing the National Fight Against Methamphetamine: Last spring, Walden organized seven town hall summits on the issue of methamphetamine abuse in our communities and then followed up with work on legislation to addresses the problems that were identified, including provisions addressing precursor ingredients, law enforcement needs, treatment, environmental hazards and education. "We came close to enacting much-needed changes in law, but we have more work to do. There's probably no greater threat to the fabric of our communities than the damage inflicted by methamphetamine abuse," said Walden.
Getting to the Heart of Columbia Basin Salmon Issues: Walden will continue working with Washington State Democrat Congressmen Brian Baird and Norm Dicks on Northwest salmon issues. The trio has held two public meetings on the subject, mainly focusing on impediments facing adult salmon returning to spawn. They plan to hold a third hearing in Umatilla County later this year. "Given the cost and importance to our region of salmon recovery efforts, we feel a deep responsibility to look at all aspects of this issue and take action to solve the problems we discover," said Walden.
Helping Seniors Understand & Benefit from the New Medicare Rx Drug Program: There's no doubt that signing up for the new Medicare Part D drug benefit is complicated and confusing for seniors and those assisting them given the sheer volume of prescription drug plans available. Walden plans to host a series of education forums to help seniors and their families better understand the costs and benefits of the new program. "Choosing the right plan is very important, but there are so many good options for Medicare recipients that it's become a confusing and overwhelming process. I plan to bring folks together with Medicare experts in a series of regional workshops to give people the information they need to make informed choices," said Walden.
Enhancing Health Care in Rural Communities: As co-chair of the bipartisan Rural Health Care Coalition, Walden will continue to focus on the unique needs of rural areas when it comes to health care access, quality, affordability and delivery. He will work to ensure that home health care remains a viable option for residents throughout central, southern and eastern Oregon, and to keep quality care affordable for health care recipients and providers in rural areas. "Our rural health care system is under stress from many fronts. It's essential that we continue efforts to improve access," said Walden.
Protecting Family Farms and Ranches: Agriculture is a critical component to the quality of life and economic activity within the Second District. Walden said he will continue to work closely with farmers and ranchers on a long list of issues. "With the reauthorization of the multi-year farm bill coming up next year, I want to especially hear what's worked and what needs reform," said Walden, who grew up on a cherry orchard in The Dalles.
Controlling America's Borders: As a member of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, Walden has been active in efforts to not only gain control of our borders, but to curb spiraling law enforcement and health care costs associated with illegal immigration. In addition to examining ways to limit benefits to illegal immigrants, which encourage some to disregard our immigration policies, Walden will work with colleagues to establish a mechanism through which individuals can lawfully enter the United States to help meet our nation's workforce needs. "The farming industry is especially reliant upon an immigrant workforce. We need to develop a workable program to meet their needs or we will wreak havoc on our farm communities," said Walden.
Keeping Telecommunications up to Speed in the Second District: As a member of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Walden will continue his work to reauthorize the Telecommunications Act, specifically focusing on the Universal Service Fund, which helps rural communities maintain affordable telecommunications services. The regulatory framework for Internet Protocol and Broadband Services will also be addressed as this act is reauthorized and plays an important role in ensuring access to internet and telecommunications in rural areas.
To stay current on Walden's congressional activities, individuals can sign up for his e-newsletter at www.walden.house.gov.
In addition to serving in the Congress, Walden and his wife, Mylene, are small business owners in Hood River where their son is a sophomore at Hood River Valley High School.