Oregon lawmakers consider raising gas tax for transportation fund

Oregon lawmakers consider raising gas tax for transportation fund

Both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate said Tuesday that they hope to pass a bill to fund statewide improvements to Oregon’s roadways and bridges. This funding would come from a combination of higher gas taxes and vehicle registration fees.

Democrats also plan to push a bill that limits how much carbon can be in fuel sold in Oregon. Legislators argue the two bills are unrelated.

However, Republican Mike McLane argued that because both bills will raise gasoline prices, voters will be unlikely to support either.

Democrats hold the majority in both the House and Senate, and are able to pass the carbon bill alone, however Republicans have significant leverage on the transportation bill. Any vote that raises taxes needs a “super majority” vote, which means Democrats are one vote shy of a three-fifths majority.

At least one Republican will need to vote “yes” on the transportation bill in order for it to pass.

Republican Senate Leader Ted Ferrioli said than if the Democrats pass the carbon bill, the GOP will not pass the transportation to raise the gas tax even more.

“Oregonians are going to be asked to pay real money,” said Ferrioli. “We could do just as much with a strongly worded letter and not bother Oregonians with a new tax.”

Gov. John Kitzhaber argued that the carbon bill likely will not raise gas prices, and condemned the Republican legislators for creating a stalemate.

“I think there’s a political game going on here. . . This is the epitome of a false choice,” said Kitzhaber.

The transportation package is cast as one of top priority for the session, especially for Democrats.

Legislators will convene on Monday, Feb. 5 to begin the session.

Oregon law to raise vaccination rates in schoolchildren

Oregon law to raise vaccination rates in schoolchildren

A report published Thursday by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention announced that Oregon has the highest rate in the nation of kindergarten-age children who have not been vaccinated—approximately 7 percent.

The number of children not receiving vaccinations for non-medical reasons in Oregon is approximately three times greater than the national average, which is 1.8 percent.

Some counties in Oregon have exemption rates as high as 15 percent. Schools have seen rates as high as 70 percent. These communities are much more prone to diseases such as measles and whooping cough.

Public health officials are concerned that these rates have grown dramatically, from the state average 1 percent in 2000.

A relatively low 0.01 percent of exemptions are due to medical reasons. Most commonly cited reasons for exemption are religious, philosophical, or personal.

In March of 2014, Gov. Kitzhaber approved a law which requires all parents seeking exemption to either engage in an educational discussion with  healthcare provider or read an online informational module before signing a document stating they understand the risks and benefits.

A similar law passed in the state of Washington and from 2008 to 2009, non-medical exemptions decreased by nearly 26 percent.

“We want to make sure parents and guardians receive science-based information about the benefits and risks of vaccine,” said Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator for the state Public Health Division. “There is a lot of misinformation out there on the Internet.”

Studies have shown a causal relationship between low vaccination rates and outbreaks of preventable diseases.

“I’ve seen babies die from whooping cough. I’ve seen children go deaf from measles, all because people had inaccurate beliefs about immunizations. Our children deserve better than that,” said state Sen. Elizabeth Hayward (D), a physician and primary sponsor of the bill.