Oregon officials warn of fourth COVID-19 surge
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As vaccine administration continues to ramp up in Oregon, health officials say they are concerned about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the state and variants of the virus. During the past two weeks, Oregon’s COVID-19 case count rates have been rising. Based on the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 report that was released Wednesday, during the week of March 22 coronavirus cases increased by 28% from the previous week. Health officials say that if more contagious variants take hold in Oregon, the COVID-19 transmission rate in the state could increase by 20% during April.
HATE CRIME CHARGE
Man accused of racist slur, trying to hit person with SUV
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Portland man has been charged with a hate crime after authorities say he yelled a racist slur and tried to hit a person with his SUV in Gresham. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Trevor Hertz was charged with a bias crime, attempted assault, reckless driving and unlawful use of a weapon in a Monday night incident. A woman and man told investigators they were driving to their Gresham hotel when Hertz began following them closely. When the man pulled over to let him pass, authorities say Hertz yelled a racist slur and later drove at the man. Court document say Hertz told officers he was “unsure” if he’d been driving in the area of the incident.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINE ALLOCATION
Oregon health officials decry uneven COVID-19 vaccine supply
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s top public health official says the governor needs to “start raising a ruckus” over what he sees as an unfair supply of the COVID-19 vaccine sent to Oregon by the federal government compared to other states. Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said in a letter to Gov. Kate Brown that if Oregon received the same amount of vaccine doses per capita as California, Oregon could have vaccinated an additional 150,000 residents by now. He says if Oregon got as much vaccine as Kansas, that number rises to 227,000 additional Oregonians vaccinated. Oregon ranks 39th in doses administered.
GOVERNORS-STATE AND LOCAL TAXES
7 governors call on Biden to lift $10K cap on tax deductions
Seven Democratic governors are calling on President Joe Biden to lift the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions that was a part of former President Donald Trump’s massive 2017 tax law. In a letter sent the Democratic president Friday, they argued that Democratic-run states and their taxpayers were disproportionately targeted. The letter comes a little more than a week after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen agreed to work with Congress on a way to remedy the “inequities” the cap has caused. The governors of Connecticut, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Illinois, New York and Oregon sent the letter.
Oregon State Parks announces plan for greater accessibility
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has announced an ambitious effort to make Oregon’s parks more accessible to visitors with disabilities. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the department outlined a finalized plan to make state parks more accessible by removing barriers that have made enjoying a park difficult or impossible for many visitors. Officials found barriers to access at nearly every part of the park experience. The department says doors, parking lots and restrooms make up 52% of all barriers. The process to eliminate the barriers will begin in July and will continue for years to come.
Coroner in southwest Washington being investigated for fraud
LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — A coroner in southwest Washington is under investigation for fraud after the State Auditor’s Office says it found he accepted more than $12,000 in personal reimbursements for travel expenses that had been paid by the county. The Daily News reports according to a report from the Auditor’s Office, between February, 2016, and May, 2019 Cowlitz County coroner Tim Davidson was reimbursed for travel expenses from two organizations, even though the county had paid for his travel. In December the report says the auditor’s office interviewed Davidson, who acknowledged personally receiving the reimbursement funds and offered to repay the county. Davidson had no comment, according to the newspaper.
Pacific Northwest officials consider hydrogen fuel
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — More folks from Pacific Northwest are looking at hydrogen fuel to see if it could be a viable replacement for diesel and gasoline. The potential converts include transit agencies from Everett to Eugene and Boeing’s drone subsidiary in the Columbia River Gorge. A week-long demonstration tour with a hydrogen fuel cell electric bus started at Kitsap Transit last week and is continuing down the Interstate 5 corridor with eight more stops. A hydrogen fuel cell uses a chemical reaction between the hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electricity. However, it’s more expensive than battery and diesel bus technology.
BUDGET BILL READING
Republican lawmakers to waive full reading of budget bills
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — This week’s House floor sessions in Oregon have been spent listening to a computer program read hundreds of pages of proposed bills aloud after Republican lawmakers refused to accelerate the process. But, on Thursday, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan announced that GOP lawmakers will vote to waive the full reading requirement, specifically, for budget bills. Republicans have not said if they will suspend reading other, non-budget, bills in full. During Tuesday and Wednesday about nine hours were spent reading one proposed bill. In years past, both political parties have agreed to skip bill-reading — but the action requires two-thirds approval, which has been denied by Republicans this session.