Portland Tribune

Protesters interfere in man's mental health crisis, police claim
Author: KOIN 6 News
Portland police claim the man's mom begged the two crowds to stop protesting, but they refused.

Specially-trained officers were trying to calm an armed man who was threatening to kill himself and hurt others when two crowds of protesters showed up Friday, Jan. 15.

Portland officers ...

Saturday, Jan. 16: Blazers 112, Hawks 106
Author: Jason Vondersmith
Damian Lillard draws a key defensive charge and ices game with free throws; McCollum injured

The skinny: Damian Lillard wasn't about to let the Trail Blazers lose Saturday at the Moda Center.

Lillard had another strong offensive game, but it was his defensive charge with 15.5 seconds ...

Author: Pamplin Media Group
Saturday college hoops: Oregon State men, Portland State women pull out tight conference wins.

College men's basketball — Warith Alatishe scored a dunk with 4.1 seconds left to provide the winning points as Oregon State edged Arizona State 80-79 on Saturday at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.

The ...

Conservative leader slams Mark Shull: 'disturbing, dangerous'
Author: Corey Buchanan
Councilors also will be able to add their names individually to the letter; West abstains from vote

During a special Wilsonville City Council meeting Thursday, Jan. 14, the council agreed to allow Mayor Julie Fitzgerald to sign a letter calling for the resignation of Clackamas County ...

Oregon to accept campsite reservations 6 months in advance
Author: Pamplin Media Group
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is now accepting new reservations from one day to six months prior.

Earning reservations at Oregon's state parks, including Champoeg State Heritage Area became a little easier after a change in direction initiated Jan. 14.

According to a release from ...

Oregon Gov. Brown blames feds for COVID vaccination delay
Author: Gary A. Walker/Oregon Capital Bureau
The Oregon governor accuses the Trump administration of 'deception on a national scale'

Oregon is once against scrambling its priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations, with some seniors pushed from next weekend to March.

Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority blamed the whipsawing schedule on unreliable ...

NYT Politics

U.S. Executes Dustin Higgs for Role in 3 1996 Murders
Author: Hailey Fuchs
It was the 13th and final scheduled federal execution under President Trump. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said he opposes the death penalty.

Columbian Newspaper

Courtney laments that Oregon Capitol has become ‘fortress’
Author: SARA CLINE, Associated Press/ Report for America

While Oregon Capitol leadership have agreed to mostly delay the upcoming legislative session by two days due to threats that followed the siege of the nation’s Capitol building in Washington, D.C, lawmakers remain split on dealing with another threat: the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an online preview of the 2021 legislative session hosted by The Associated Press, leaders on Friday disagreed about whether or not the public should be allowed back into the Capitol while lawmakers are at work or if public input should remain virtual.

“I think that we should do everything humanely possible to open the building, as best we can given the situation,” Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod said.

Girod, who is from Stayton, said while he is aware of the possibility” of COVID-19 spreading in the Capitol, “it is worth the risk.”

“You can put restrictions on it, but you do what you can to make it so that the public has a right to come in and testify,” Girod said. There are billions of dollars that are going to be spent, there are huge bills that are going to be argued.”

Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem, strongly disagreed.

“I am not willing to play God with this stuff,” Courtney said who added that he has an obligation to keep people in the building safe. “You may be willing to take a risk, but I am not.”

Currently, all committee hearings are virtual for at least the first couple months of the session due to restrictions put into place to limit potential transmission of COVID-19. But voting on bills will still need to be occur in person.

Democrats have strong majorities in the House and Senate.

House Speaker Tina Kotek said lawmakers have been working to expand the opportunity for public input, both by holding additional hearings and lengthening deadlines.

The Capitol has been closed to the public since March. Only authorized personnel, which includes lawmakers, staff, police and reporters have access to the building.

However no one will be allowed in the Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday.

State lawmakers in Oregon announced they have delayed, by at least two days much of the substantive work of next week’s beginning of the Legislature on Tuesday because of warnings from law enforcement about the possibility of violent protests.

On Friday, the first floor windows of the Capitol were noticeably boarded up with plywood ahead of possible protests.

In addition, Oregon National Guard members have been activated to help at the Capitol ahead of possible violence leading up to Inauguration Day.

‘The state Capitol has become a fortress,” Courtney said. “I never thought I’d see that, it breaks my heart.”

IDs stolen from 59 state employment agency employees
Author: Associated Press

OLYMPIA (AP) — A news station in Washington has obtained records that show fraudulent unemployment claims were filed last year in the stolen identities of 59 state Employment Security Department employees.

The department spotted fraud after it had paid the claim to the fraudster’s bank account in 10 of those cases, KING-TV reported.

KING-TV submitted a public records request seven months ago for the documents, which do not show how much money was paid out.

The department disabled security and verification processes to speed up payments to tens of thousands of Washington workers who lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. However, the process left the agency vulnerable to fraud.

Chris Monroe, an unemployed professional drummer in Seattle who had been trying to obtain his unemployment benefits, discovered in June that he had a fraudulent claim in his name early last year. The department has yet to clear his account so he can file his claim.

“What can I say? It’s extremely frustrating, and yes it makes me angry,” he said. “I’ve been a legit employee and paid into the system.”

The state Employment Security Department said it could not comment on Monroe’s case because of federal privacy laws.

Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine has previously attributed fraud to the pandemic, a desire to process claims quickly and a small workforce. The department has reported about 120,000 fraudulent claims were filed in Washington with more than $600 million in payouts. More than half of the money has been recovered.

Anne Paxton, the policy director for the Unemployment Law Project, said the department has been relying too much on technology to process claims and not enough on people. She suspects an automated computer system processed fraudulent payments in the stolen names of employees that live employees would have caught.

‘A horrible surprise for any business’ – Washington lawmakers weigh bill exempting businesses from taxes on COVID-19 aid
Author: Joseph O’Sullivan, The Seattle Times (TNS)

Many Washington businesses have had to survive a slew of crises during the COVID-19 pandemic, from government shutdown orders to customers staying away from some stores, to drop-offs in entire industry sectors.

But businesses surviving on government aid have had another vexing headache: the possibility of paying taxes on the relief dollars they received.

“That’s a horrible surprise for any business,” said Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland.

Now, Walen and others are sponsoring a bill to fix that with a proposal that could provide a measure of relief for as many as 100,000 taxpayers across the state.

House Bill 1095 is one of several proposals by lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee intended to help businesses amid the governor’s emergency restrictions on commerce to slow the spread of the virus.

The bill provides exemptions for the Business & Occupation tax, as well as taxes on public utilities and retail sales that would apply to qualifying grants received since Feb. 29, the day Inslee declared an emergency for the pandemic. The bill would be retroactive to that date — and would also apply to government grants given under future emergency proclamations, said Walen.

The bill — which is co-sponsored by 16 other lawmakers, including several Republicans — got a public hearing Tuesday in the House Finance Committee.

During Tuesday’s public hearing, Walen called the legislation “a symbolic message to our business community that we support and love them.”

The legislation would apply to government aid, such as the federal money distributed by Inslee’s office as small-business grants, as well as loans through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which can be ultimately forgiven.

“Because government grant funds are generally considered gross income, they would be subjected to taxation under current law,” Michael Bailey of the state Department of Revenue told lawmakers in the hearing.

Public utility taxes are also calculated by gross income, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.

That analysis estimated that as many as 100,000 taxpayers could get relief if the bill passes.

Clarifying existing law

It’s hard to know how much revenue that might cost the state. But if all loans and grants were forgiven, the number could be as high as $209 million, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill.

Walen, however, said she considers the legislation a clarification of existing law, rather, rather than a new exemption.

Rep. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick and co-sponsor of the bill, called the effort to help businesses a way “to get them back going.”

But Boehnke, like other Republicans, is frustrated that the governor’s strict public-health restrictions continue to take a toll on small businesses.

“The businesses want to stay open, they’re doing all they can to protect customers,” he said. “Because they want to stay in business.”

In the meantime, to start attracting new businesses, Boehnke is sponsoring House Bill 1170, an effort intended to create manufacturing jobs in Washington.

Among other things, that bill would explore whether it’s feasible to create both a state manufacturing office and a state office on research and development to help boost those types of jobs. The bill has drawn several Democratic co-sponsors.

Meanwhile on Thursday, a special Senate committee released a report spelling out broad guidelines for the state’s recovery from the pandemic.

The 12-page report from the bipartisan Special Committee on Economic Recovery — which was formed as the COVID-19 outbreak took hold — includes a number of suggestions on business recovery.

As of Sept. 15, close to 5,000 businesses closed at some point during the pandemic, according to the report, with almost 60 percent indicating they had closed for good.

That report recommends easing the burden of unemployment-insurance taxes, boosting funding from programs that encourage entrepreneurship and expanding business recruitment and retention.

“There was a lot of sense that we don’t have a strong economic development strategy, because we haven’t had to in this state,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, who pointed to the state’s powerhouse industries like technology and aviation.

“We need to be more aggressive in business recruitment,” added Frockt, one of the special committee members. “When was the last time we heard about a company being recruited to move here?”

There are other ideas to help kick-start economic recovery amid the pandemic.

Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, has drafted bills to help businesses by creating a temporary suspension of some Business & Occupation taxes, giving a pandemic-related tax credit for businesses assessed those taxes, and delaying payments on permits for liquor licenses.