Oregon Public Broadcasting

Measure 97 Opposition Reports Raising $17.5M In Contributions

Opponents of the Measure 97 corporate tax proposal report raising $17.5 million in campaign contributions. Supporters, meanwhile, now say they have raised more than $7 million.

In both cases, the totals took a big jump up as the Nov. 8 elections nears. That's because of a tighter deadline for reporting contributions that took effect at the end of Tuesday.  Campaigns now have to report their contributions and expenditures within seven days instead of having a month to do so.

The opposition campaign revealed another $6 million in contributions from a long list of business interests.  Major retailers like Costco, Albertson's/Safeway and Fred Meyer's parent company, Kroger, have each given $900,000. Other major contributors include Chevron, Comcast, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup.

The Yes on 97 campaign is financed almost exclusively by unions, particularly those representing public employees. The biggest contributor is the country's largest teacher's union. The Oregon Education Association and its national parent have together given about $3.8 million.  The totals include another committee, Defend Oregon, which has also helped finance the measure.

The stakes are high for the ballot measure.  It would impose a 2.5 percent tax on sales for corporations doing more than $25 million a year of business in Oregon. 

Supporters say the $3 billion-a-year tax would force large corporations to pay a larger share of the tax burden in Oregon while providing needed revenue for schools, healthcare and senior services.  Critics say the measure will hurt the economy and that much of the tax will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

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Oregon Poll: Clinton Gains Big Lead Over Trump; Measure 97 Opposition Grows

A new poll by a Portland research firm suggests that voter sentiment in Oregon is moving strongly in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton and turning toward opposition to the Measure 97 corporate tax initiative.

The Sept. 29-Oct. 1 telephone survey of 605 likely voters was conducted by Hoffman Research. The firm's chief executive officer, Tim Nashif, is also a Republican activist. But he says the poll was conducted independently and was not influenced by his own political views.

The poll found that Clinton is supported by 45 percent of voters, to 33 percent for Republican Donald Trump.  Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is backed by 8 percent and Jill Stein is supported by 3 percent. 

Another 11 percent of voters are undecided.  More than half of those undecided voters said they couldn't choose one of those candidates even if they absolutely had to vote for one.

Clinton's lead in Oregon is driven by stronger levels of support among Democrats than Trump receives from Republicans and by higher support among those who aren't registered with either major party.

Support for Johnson and Stein is strongest among voters between age 18 and 34.  Of voters in that age group, 17 percent back Johnson and 15 percent support Stein.

Nashif said he thought Clinton's strong debate performance on Sept. 26 helped to cement her lead in Oregon.  "Since that debate, the numbers around the nation have improved for Hillary," he said.

Democrats have won every presidential election in Oregon since 1988, so it's no surprise that Clinton is leading, he added.

Previous polls taken for Measure 97 have shown a lead among Oregon voters.  It would hike taxes on corporations in the state with annual sales of more than $25 million. Nashif says forcing large corporations to pay more is an appealing concept, particularly since money is supposed to be directed toward schools, health care and senior services.

But the Hoffman Research poll finds that 47 percent of voters are opposed to the tax measure and 41 percent are in favor. 

The poll comes days after the corporate-funded opposition to Measure 97 launched an expensive TV ad campaign portraying it as a hidden sales tax that would affect average Oregonians.

"It almost comes across as a sales tax," said Nashif, "and as you know, Oregonians don't like sales taxes."

Opposition is particularly high among Republicans and a plurality of independent voters are also opposed.  Older voters are also much more likely to be opposed.

The margin of error for the survey is 4 percentage points, plus or minus.

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Oregon Lawmakers Unveil New Way To Dispose Of Unwanted Drugs

Oregon lawmakers announced a new initiative Monday to make it easier to dispose of unused prescriptions.

Almost two people overdose on prescription pain medications every day in Oregon.  For the nation as a whole, it’s 76 people each day.

Experts say most of those drugs come straight out of medicine cabinets, where they’ve either been left because the patient got better or because a prescription was changed.

Law enforcement offices have long accepted old medications, but Oregon State Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson, said this is different.

“The police stations are not necessarily convenient and people don’t know about it," she said.

"But with Walgreens, this is where they get their prescriptions and it’ll be so much easier for them to drop it off," said Monnes Anderson.

Walgreens is putting drug disposal kiosks in six of its 80 Oregon stores.

Congress passed a bill earlier this summer aimed at reducing overdoses. But no money was included. Ranking finance committee member, Senator Ron Wyden said he hopes to find money for the program this fall.

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Oregon Unveils Plan To Help Mentally Ill, Under Pressure From Feds

For the last few years, the U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating Oregon’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At least in part because of confrontations between law enforcement and people with mental illnesses.

Now Lynne Saxton with the Oregon Health Authority said her agency has come up with an extensive plan. “We have a great team put together," she said. 

"We’ll be using some national experts in behavioral health in this work and I think we have a real opportunity to make solid progress every year.”

The plan will roll out over three-years and health care providers will be required to meet specific performance goals.  They include: treating physical and mental health together; expanding community-based mental health services; and reducing commitments to the state hospital.

If the state backs off the effort, the DOJ said it will then restart its investigation.

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Researchers Spend $21M To Study Opioid Alternatives

To cut down on opioid abuse, patients are being told to try acupuncture, massage and other treatments for pain. But the science behind some of these alternatives is lacking.

A group of scientists is about to spend $21 million dollars to change that.

‘The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’ is conducting two main studies.

One compares counseling and meditation to alleviate back pain.

The second will split injured veterans into two groups. Institute spokeswoman Christine Stencel said both groups will receive medications for pain, but the second group will also be encouraged to use non-drug alternatives.

“The patients and the people who’re caring for them need to have information about all the different available options, so that they can really weigh those options and they can decide what really does work best,” she said.

The institute gets its funding largely from a small fee on health plans, as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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Can Changing How You Think About Pain Lessen What You Feel?

Oregon has the fourth-highest rate of prescription pain killer abuse in the nation, so the state is implementing new guidelines that will require doctors to give lower doses and shorter prescriptions.

That's a challenge for patients who've relied on opioids to deal with their pain. Alternative treatments such as massage and acupuncture don't always work. So Providence Health is also offering to re-educate patients about pain to help them deal with pain by learning to think about it differently.

Nora Stern, a physical therapist and manager of the "Persistent Pain Project," spoke to about a dozen patients about the re-education. "This class was designed to help us all start to talk about pain differently. There’s a lot of new information about pain that leads us now to understand what pain is differently and what the options are for treatment.”

We think of pain as pretty simple, she told them. Johnny rides his bike, falls off, scratches his knee and feels pain. But scientists say how we perceive pain is much more complex.  If Johnny’s mother isn’t around, for example, he might not burst into tears. Stern says soldiers in battle, who’ve suffered massive injuries, sometimes don’t register the pain from their wounds until much later. They're too busy trying to stay alive or complete their mission.

“It’s possible because the threat value of what’s going on around them is much greater than the threat value of what happened even in that injury," she said. "They can’t afford to assign pain to that part at that time, because there’s something much greater going on ”

 So, Stern said, pain isn’t just a result of tissue damage. Pain is what the brain says it is.

“The brain produces a pain response as a result of putting together information from the body and information from all these other parts of the system in general," she said. "To decide how threatening that information is and based on the threat value it assigns more pain or less pain.”  The threat doesn’t have to be physical. A painter who falls off a ladder and injures himself may suffer worse pain because he’s worried his injury means he won’t be able to work any longer, to pay his bills and support his family.

“You’re likely to feel more pain if you’re having a hard time in your life and people have that happen all the time,” Stern said.

After Stern’s class, people filed out quietly. People in pain don’t tend to be very chatty.

But Sherry Swafford, who has suffered from neck pain for 30 years, says the class was illuminating. She especially liked Stern's suggestion to think more deeply about daily activities and less about pain.

“I thought about the walking and noticing all the different colors of greens," she said. "I’ve noticed the different colors of things and the smells, just the visual feast there is. But I never really thought about how many different differences there are.”

As a nation, we're used to taking pills for our pain. So patients can turn skeptical when someone suggests they should think differently about their pain as an alternative to painkillers. 

But Oregon Health & Science University neurologist Dr. Eve Klein said there's research behind the suggestion.

“You know there’s as much science behind behavioral therapy and physical therapy as there is behind opioids," she said. "The efficacy actually looks better when we look at what data there is available.”

Back at the pain class, Stern tells her students that sometimes they need to understand that, as she puts it, "motion is lotion." 

“Sometimes, (pain is a) warning us that we just injured ourselves. Sometimes it’s warning us about something else, like we haven’t been up and moving our bodies enough to have a healthy resilient nervous system," she said.

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