Editorials from Oregon newspapers
The (Bend) Bulletin, Jan. 12: Protect privacy and lives
Should the police be able to look at your cellphone's location, your Web browsing history, your email and your Facebook account without a warrant?
State Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood, wants to require a warrant. He is developing a bill that would require a warrant for Oregon law enforcement except in cases of consent or urgent circumstances.
The bill's language is still being developed. George did not return a call Thursday or Friday before our deadline for more information. A state law would not control what federal agencies can do.
But George's intent is clear. He is trying to strike a balance between protecting privacy and the ability of law enforcement to browse through electronic records.
There have been congressional proposals to do something similar. A handful of states have already implemented laws to block such warrantless searches.
Police generally need a search warrant to search a person's home. It's hard to argue that a similar standard should not be applied to emails, social media and other electronic records. They are a goldmine of personal information.
States within the jurisdiction of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, including Oregon, have operated under the Theofel decision for obtaining email records. Email content could only be obtained with a warrant. Other records, such as subscriber name, address, telephone number, connection records and payment information, could be obtained through a subpoena.
Some, including Oregon's branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that Oregon's constitution is already as restrictive as George's proposed bill. The advantage perhaps would be that his bill would clarify Oregon law in an area ruled by a lack of clarity.
But what's worrying about the bill is that there may be an attempt to hustle it through the Legislature's short session this year. Will legislators really have sufficient time to vet it thoroughly?
Nobody wants Oregon to become a surveillance state in which every move and every email is logged and scrutinized by the police. Privacy must be respected, but we also need law enforcement to be able to protect lives.
The (Coos Bay) World, Jan. 9: Pass a timber bill
Congress went back to work this week. As the new year begins, we feel a cautious optimism.
We'd like to believe that last year's dismal performance, earning the 113th Congress distinction as the least productive in history, will have had a humbling effect. None of our elected representatives want a repeat of that clown show.
And the South Coast eked out successes amid that awful fray. In October, Congress passed a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act that kept at last some monies coming to O&C counties, buying at least a little more time for those hurting counties to craft long-term revenue solutions.
Later that same month, the House voted 417-3 to pass the $8.2 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013. The bill would fund maintenance projects for waterways across the country for the next decade, including projects at the ports of Umpqua, Siuslaw and Coos Bay.
So, from that brief glint of light amid last session's heat, we suggest for Congress a modest New Year's resolution: pass timber legislation.
Look how far we've already come. In September, the House passed the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act, authored by Oregon Representatives Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader. In November, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden introduced his own O&C timber bill in the Senate.
There are differences between the bills that need resolution. Wyden's plan would increase timber production an average of between 300 million and 350 million board feet a year. The House bill yields much more — between 400 million to 500 million board feet a year.
But it seems to us that we've got some momentum now toward discussion, compromise and, most of all, getting things done. We encourage Congress, and especially our representatives, to ride that momentum and open some timberland for responsible harvest.
The (Eugene) Register-Guard, Jan. 9: CRC needs two partners
Proponents of an Oregon-only approach to building a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River are encouraged by a new study that says the span would generate enough money to finance the $2.8-billion project.
It's a safe bet that the investment-grade analysis by the consulting firm CDM Smith will be Exhibit A in a major push by supporters, including Gov. John Kitzhaber, to persuade Oregon lawmakers to reauthorize the state's contribution of $450 million when the Legislature meets next month in its even-year session.
"Look, the study shows the tolls would more than cover the full cost of the project," supporters will say. "Even though the state of Washington has backed out of the project, Oregon needs to build this bridge now before rising construction costs make it too expensive."
It's a tempting argument. But lawmakers should not proceed without a two-state partnership to design and finance a replacement bridge.
Setting aside for a moment the question of toll revenues, the new study fails to address the fundamental flaws of an Oregon-only strategy. Nor does it answer the question of why Oregon should take on all the risk of such a huge project while receiving half the transportation benefit.
Washington has the same need as Oregon to replace the existing bridge, which is heavily congested six hours a day and is expected to be jammed 15 hours a day by 2030. It's the only bridge on the entire length of I-5 that has to be raised to allow ships to pass beneath, and that daily occurrence results in lengthy delays. The bridge has no emergency lane and was not built to withstand damage from a major earthquake. The list goes on.
The investment analysis says a new bridge would carry enough toll-paying traffic to support construction, but questions remain about the feasibility of tolling under an Oregon-only approach. The Oregon Department of Transportation has determined the state has legal authority to collect and enforce tolls in Washington, but opponents question that conclusion — and also ask whether Oregon can legally spend highway money to build Washington portions of the bridge.
Critics, including Portland economist Joe Cortright, doubt CDM Smith's tolling figures. Cortright says he has reviewed the firm's projections on other tolling projects and found that some proved "wildly optimistic." The projections used for the Columbia River Crossing study may be reasonable — supporters even insist they're conservative — but lawmakers should not proceed without a sober, thorough review of those numbers.
The investment analysis raises other issues, including a projected significant diversion of traffic away from the new I-5 crossing to the toll-free Interstate 205 bridge. That, in turn, raises questions about the CRC's potential impact on an already-overcrowded I-205 corridor.
Lawmakers should also keep in mind the risks involved in a massive transportation project such as the CRC. Those risks include revenue shortfalls, increased vulnerability to lawsuits and cost overruns. An Oregon-only project would mean the burden of those risks would fall not on the two states that would benefit from the project, but on Oregon alone.
Sooner or later — and it's possible that pressure from federal officials who want to replace a functionally obsolete bottleneck on the West Coast's main north-south artery will make it sooner — Washington will join Oregon in an equal partnership on the Columbia River Crossing. Until then, lawmakers should say no to an Oregon-only strategy.
The Baker City Herald, Jan. 8: Wise to look at pot stores
We've not seen evidence that anyone plans to try to open a medical marijuana store in Baker County.
But we agree with Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner that local elected officials should start thinking about the issue, and in particular about whether they want to restrict or outright ban such businesses.
Whether such prohibitions would survive legal challenges is an open question, but that hasn't discouraged other Oregon cities from taking action.
Since Aug. 14, when Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law House Bill 3460, which legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries, several cities, including Medford and Gresham, have enacted ordinances that in effect ban such businesses.
The basis for these bans is that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which does not recognize the Oregon statute, and that cities and counties have the legal right to prohibit businesses that violate federal law.
The League of Oregon Cities, of which Baker City is a member, contends such prohibitions are legal.
Attorneys from the state Office of Legislative Counsel, however, disagree. They argue that the state, not local governments, should regulate the sale of medical marijuana.
The bottom line, then, is that it's possible that Baker City and Baker County could ban medical marijuana stores only to have a court override the decision.
We think that's a risk worth taking, mainly because there's not much at risk.
Neither the city nor the county needs to invest anything other than staff time in researching the issue and writing potential ordinances.
One thing we know for certain: A majority of county residents do not support medical marijuana dispensaries.
In 2010, when Oregon voters decided on Measure 74, which would have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries, Baker County voters answered with a resounding "no" — 69 percent to 31 percent.
(The measure was defeated statewide, as well; the Legislature and governor overrode that decision by passing House Bill 3460 this summer.)
In 1998 Oregon voters did approve a measure allowing personal use of medical marijuana (but not retail sales outlets), but Baker County voters balked at that measure, too, by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.
We don't object to people using marijuana under a doctor's prescription.
But we don't think Baker City would be a better place to live if medical marijuana was treated as a retail commodity.
We agree with Lohner, who said he will recommend the City Council prohibit dispensaries.
And we're confident a majority of the Council's constituents would endorse that decision as well.
Klamath Falls Herald and News, Jan. 12: New medical marijuana law challenges cities
Use of marijuana for medical purposes has been edging forward in Oregon for years. It was already legal under some circumstances, but moved toward greater availability when the 2013 Legislature authorized establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.
All three local legislators — Representatives Gail Whitsett and Mike McLane, and Sen. Doug Whitsett — voted against House Bill 3460. The new law replaces one that required registered medical users of marijuana to either grow their own marijuana, or find someone to grow for them without profit. The change was made, the supporters said, to make it easier for the users to get marijuana for medical purposes and inhibit development of a black market for it.
The issue made it to the front burner of the Klamath Falls City Council at a work session Monday when the council considered how it should respond to a request received for a business license for a medical marijuana dispensary. The state will begin to accept applications for the required state license March 3.
The city has yet to officially respond to the local application.
The issue has come up in several Oregon cities, notably Medford, the county seat of Jackson County, which has the second-highest number of registered medical marijuana users (7,058) in the state though the county has the sixth-largest population. Klamath County, 15th in population in the state, has 947 registered users of medical marijuana, 13th highest.
Affecting public perception, too, is a growing tolerance for marijuana in general. Neighboring Washington State, and Colorado, have approved recreational use under laws similar to alcohol regulation. It's likely Oregonians will vote on an initiative on that issue in November. An effort to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oregon failed in 2010. Twenty states, including most of the West, have approved its use as medicine.
The Klamath Falls city staff and Council appear to be moving with great caution on the issue, which has already created conflict elsewhere over who has the authority to regulate the dispensaries.
The city of Medford tried to ban medical marijuana dispensaries because marijuana use is illegal under federal law, but was told by the state's Office of Legislative Counsel that the state law governed the issue when in conflict with city ordinances. The federal government has said that it was unlikely to take action against the dispensaries.
The state opinion said, "We conclude that while a municipality may not be required to violate federal law to comply with a conflicting state law, a municipality may not act contrary to state law because the municipality believes that the action will better carry out the purposes and objectives of federal law."
The confusing legal picture presents a challenge to the cities, including Klamath Falls. Perhaps it all makes sense to those who spend their hours parsing the law. Most people, we suspect, however, wind up scratching their heads trying to figure out how something that's illegal under federal law can be legal under state law.