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Malheur occupation occupies Brown's 2016 agenda


Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday she plans to scour the state budget for funds to respond to the crisis and urged federal authorities to end the occupation.

PARIS ACHEN - Gov. Kate Brown announces her 2016 agenda and priorities Jan. 20, 2016, in the governor's ceremonial office at the Oregon Capitol in Salem.SALEM — Besides occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, the Bundys now occupy a place on Gov. Kate Brown’s list of 2016 policy priorities.

During Brown’s unveiling of her agenda Wednesday, the governor said that one of her priorities is to pass a funding package to offset expenses associated with responding to the occupation. The governor said her administration would “scour the budget to make sure that we have the resources at the state level to subsidize the cost for Harney County.”

The cost of responding to the occupation is running about $100,000 per week, Brown said.

The state would later ask the federal government to reimburse the state for those costs, she said.

Ammon Bundy and his armed followers seized the remote refuge Jan. 2 in a protest against federal public lands policies.

“The situation is absolutely intolerable,” Brown said. “The very fabric of this community is being ripped apart. The residents of Harney County have been overlooked and underserved by federal officials’ response thus far.”

Brown said she has expressed her concerns to federal officials “at the highest levels of our government, the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House.”

“Federal authorities must act quickly to end the occupation and hold all of the wrongdoers accountable,” she said. “The spectacle of lawlessness must end. Until Harney County is free of it I will not stop insisting federal officials enforce the law.”

Some of Brown’s other 2016 priorities were no surprise. She wants the Legislature to enact her plan to boost minimum wage to $15.52 in the Portland area and $13.50 in the rest of the state by 2022. The plan is intended to thwart two ballot measures that would raise minimum wage in three years instead of six.

She is championing House Speaker Tina Kotek’s omnibus housing bill to increase affordable housing options around the state.

Brown said she plans to use her executive power to create a Council on Educator Advancement. The council will be responsible for coordinating and promoting leadership development, mentorship and best practices.

The governor gave no timeline for establishing the council and did not address what relationship that council would have to the Department of Education and the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, which licenses teachers.

The governor also repeated her plan to hire an education innovation officer to improve the state’s high school graduation rate and a public records ombudsman to help agencies respond more efficiently and consistently to requests.

House Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, said Brown's plan ignores Oregon's most pressing troubles, including the state's public employees pension shortfall, transportation infrastructure, struggling rural communities and an education system that "ranks as one of the worst in the nation."

"New bureaucratic appointments and executive orders won't solve these problems," McLane said in a statement. "One-party rule has left our state with yesterday's ideas and status quo policies. House Republicans look forward to presenting meaningful alternatives to Democrats' stale agenda in the 2016 session."

Brown's other priorities include:

• Expanding the Office of Small Business Advocate to help small businesses through the labyrinth of government red tape.

• Creating a small business advisory group to develop recommendations to support small businesses in accessing capital and streamlining agency processes.

• Issuing an executive order to force agencies to adopt a public records policy.

• Supporting legislation to tighten deadlines for lobbyists to disclose their clients to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and to require that information be posted online within two days.

• Launching a college campus safety working group.

• Approving a request from Umqua Community College for funding to enhance safety on campus in the wake of the deadly shooting there Oct. 1.

• Securing funding to respond to drought and the 2015 wildfire season.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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