Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional Connection
Your Direct Link to the News and Events in the Nation's Capital
February 21, 2005
Dear Fellow Oregonian:
The 109th Congress is in full swing and I am busy working on a variety of issues directly affecting residents of the Second District and all Oregonians. I am maintaining my schedule of commuting to Washington, D.C. each week from Oregon so that I can spend my weekends and days when we are not in session traveling to communities throughout my district. That remains the single best way for me to generate to 'to do' list for my work in the Congress and I enjoy meeting with constituents and seeing firsthand the issues that we face.
I am fortunate to have kept the same committee assignments as I held last year as they cover issues of great importance to the District. My committees cover a range of issues including energy, forestry, healthcare, water, commerce and telecommunications. Additionally, I have been reappointed as a Deputy Whip for the House leadership and will remain co-chair of the Rural Health Care Coalition and vice chair of the Renewable Energy Caucus and have been selected as co-chair of the Northwest Energy Caucus, all bipartisan organizations. Serving in these leadership roles and on two full committees and five subcommittees, I keep busy, but they are all issues of importance and provide me a great opportunity to make the voice of our district heard. You can read more about these leadership and committee assignments below.
On February 11, I kicked off a series of seven town halls throughout the District on the insidious problem of methamphetamine. Not only is this drug being used in all parts of our state, most counties in Oregon have seized clandestine labs manufacturing the toxic substance. It has become a problem that plagues our communities, costing taxpayers money, destructing the lives of those who use it, and puts our children in an exceptionally vulnerable place. The first three summits were in Medford, Grants Pass and Hood River. Over the next two weeks I will hold the remaining four in Redmond, Klamath Falls, Baker City and Pendleton. I have written more about the fight against meth and about my upcoming town halls below, or you can view my web page on the fight against methamphetamine.
As you may know by now, the President released his proposed budget for 2006 two weeks ago. While it contained a number of provisions that are outstanding for our communities, including increased funding for efforts to prevent catastrophic fire and increased funding for conservation projects in the Klamath Basin, it contained two proposals that my colleagues from the Northwest and I are bound and determined to fight. These proposals would drastically increase the cost of power for people in the Northwest - by as much as 50% over the next three years - and impede Bonneville's ability to take the necessary steps to build out the power grid so that we can get power where it is needed. As a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, co-chair of the Northwest Energy Caucus and vice chair of the Renewable Energy Caucus, I am determined to use every tool at my disposal to put an end to these proposals. More information is below.
At the beginning of the month, I introduced legislation that would reauthorize the Secure Rural School and Community Self-Determination Act, legislation that is critical to the well being, and sometimes survival, of rural communities throughout eastern, southern and central Oregon. There are many counties throughout the country, 18 in my district, that contain federal forestland. The counties cannot generate property tax revenue on these lands and so the income to local communities is drastically lowered. To offset this lost revenue for so many years, counties have received a portion of federal timber sales. However, during the 90's, these sales dropped drastically and communities were left to absorb the lost - for example, counties in which the Ochoco National Forest lies saw a 97% reduction in their funds, from $10 million to only $300,000. Those kinds of numbers are devastating to small, rural communities. This Act, originally enacted in 2001, provides a stable source of revenue from the federal government to these counties, allowing them to use the funds for education and infrastructure improvements such as transportation. This is government fairness - these are America's forests, and America has a responsibility to the counties and towns that are home to them.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was originally enacted in 1973 with the primary function being recovery of endangered and threatened species. Since its inception, nearly 1,300 domestic species have been listed and only 10 have been recovered. In my opinion, that is not a very good track record. A week and a half ago I held a press conference with colleagues from Idaho, California and Rhode Island to discuss a new approach we are taking to strengthen and update the Endangered Species Act so that it can lead to better results of recovery. Some will say that the Act has seen great success because of all the species we have protected from extinction; and while saving a species from eradication is very important, we have a responsibility to improve the mechanisms used for recovery.
There is certainly a lot going on in the 109th Congress already this year; as developments occur and issues unfold as we move forward, I will certainly keep you updated through these e-newsletters. And as always, you can find additional information about goings-on in the District and in Washington, D.C. by visiting my website, www.walden.house.gov.
If you have any questions or comments about this e-newsletter or anything else taking place in Congress and our nation's capital, please visit my web site and click on "Contact Me" to send me an email. You can also call my Medford office toll free from any phone in the 541 area code at 1-800-533-3303 or my Bend office at 541-389-4408. My staff and I look forward to hearing from you.
I hope you find this edition of the Oregon Congressional Connection helpful and informative. Best regards,
Congressman Greg Walden
Committee and Leadership Assignments Beneficial to Oregonians
I have been honored to receive both committee and leadership posts that allow me to ensure that issues important to Oregonians will be heard.
House Majority Whip Roy Blunt renewed my appointment as a Deputy Whip. As part of this 18-member team, I would participate in weekly leadership meetings, assist in the establishment of legislative strategy and work with my colleagues to ensure passage of important agenda items in the House.
I will remain a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for the 109th Congress. This committee oversees legislation relating to energy, technology, telecommunications, health care, consumer protection, air quality, environmental health and other issues of great importance to Oregonians.
Additionally, Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) has renewed my appointment as vice chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. In this role, I will assist Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) in executing the oversight functions of the full Committee. Recent investigations conducted by the subcommittee include health concerns regarding the use of ephedra, corporate malfeasance like that seen at Enron and Health South Corporation, fraud in the national E-rate program, and anti-depressant use in children.
I will also serve on the Energy and Commerce subcommittees on Telecommunications and the Internet, and Energy and Air Quality.
I will also remain a member of the House Committee on Resources during this Congress. I am proud that Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) has reappointed me to serve as chairman of the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, a subcommittee that addresses all matters of forestry on our public lands.
Regional Summits on the Fight Against Meth
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, the fight against meth is one critical to the safety and health of our communities. This incredibly toxic drug is devastating, both to users, and to the communities in which meth is produced, sold and trafficked.
The damage done to an individual's central nervous system rivals that of Alzheimer's, stroke or epilepsy, and use can often lead to psychotic and violent behavior in users. This violence is not merely self-inflicted, but is taken out on children and other innocent victims.
The cost of methamphetamine is high. In addition to the estimated $2,000 per lab to clean up the toxic chemicals left behind, taxpayers fund the criminal justice and health care costs associated with increased theft, violence and emergency room admittances.
In our district, the scourge of meth has hit especially hard. While the Second District has only 20% of Oregon's population, we had 35% of all meth lab seizures in the district. Our law enforcement officials are talented and doing a tremendous job rooting out these clandestine labs. But one must ask: for every lab found in these rural communities, how many more are still hiding, and manufacturing meth?
While meth has been around since the 70's, many of us are still just learning about its horrific reality. Education is paramount as we come together to wage this war.
The first three town hall summits I have hosted (in Medford, Grants Pass and Hood River) have been a great success. The information provided by local, state and federal experts has been tremendously valuable. I appreciate the community support for these town halls, and hope that everyone takes the time to learn more about this insidious drug. Below are the details of the four remaining town hall summits I will be hosting in the coming weeks throughout the District. At these events, I will bring together representatives from law enforcement, local anti-drug coalitions and local, state and federal government to educate the public and provide tools that will help us attack this problem at all levels.
Please feel free to visit my web page on methamphetamine to keep current on legislation I am sponsoring, information we are providing and links to valuable resources on the issue.
Informational summits on the fight against meth (doors open 45 minutes prior to the start of the event):
Thursday, February 24; 10:00 AM-12:00 PM
Deschutes County Fairgrounds, Middle Sisters Room
Friday, February 25; 12:30 PM-2:30 PM
OIT-Mount Mazama Room, 3201 Campus Drive
Friday, March 4; 1:30 PM-3:30 PM
Geiser Grand Hotel, 1996 Main Street
Friday, March 4; 6:00 PM-8:00 PM
City Council Chambers, 500 SW Dorion Avenue
Certain Budget Proposals Would Dramatically, Negatively Impact Northwest Power Users
Two proposals in the recently released 2006 budget proposal from the Administration's Office of Management and Budget are wholly unacceptable to me and to my colleagues from the Northwest. On several occasions thus far, and in an ongoing basis, I have expressed my resound opposition to these proposals, as I believe they would unfairly wreak economic havoc on our region.
One of these proposals would lead to drastic and devastating rate hikes for northwest power users by forcing the Bonneville Power Administration to charge market-rate prices for its power. This would lead to a 50% rate hike over the next three years to Bonneville customers; that equates to $2.5 billion straight out of the pockets of northwest residents. There is no justification for Bonneville to charge market rates to its customers. As ratepayers, we cover all costs associated with the production of power. Just as gasoline is cheaper in some parts of the country because they are located near oil refineries, power is less expensive in our region because we are blessed with the ability to generate low-cost, renewable hydropower. This exorbitant proposed increase in costs is simply unfair.
The second proposal also includes provisions affecting the current bonding authority given to the BPA, reducing the funds necessary to build out the power grid in order to have the ability to supply power to customers throughout the region. As many of you know, a number of years ago we ran into constraints and bottlenecks in trying to get power where it is needed. As a result, the northwest delegation has worked with the President to expand the bonding authority to build out the grid so we don't have a bottleneck for power delivery - so that the hundreds of megawatts of wind and gas-fired energy can be used. The proposal in the budget would basically diminish Bonneville's ability to build out this grid, the last thing we need in a region already faced with too much economic hardship.
I was able to register my strong opposition to these proposals directly to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman when he testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It was important to me, and to my colleagues from the Northwest serving on the Committee, that we voice our opposition firmly and directly.
As a newly appointed co-chair of the House Northwest Energy Caucus, taking the lead on this issue is an important part of my responsibilities, and one I take very seriously. All 17 members of this bipartisan caucus joined together in submitting a letter to the director of the Office of Management and Budget.