News From Around the Northwest

Measure 97 has shattered the state’s record for the most money contributed to a battle over a ballot measure.

The campaign to defeat the corporate sales tax measure has reached $22.5 million in contributions, more than double what proponents of the corporate sale tax have raised, according to campaign finance records. The Yes on 97 campaign has raised $10.9 million.

The record previously resided with the fight over GMO labeling in 2014, when opponents and proponents raised a combined $29 million.

It's early September, and Bud Pierce is touring a Clackamas County non-profit that helps down-on-their-luck veterans. It's a cause near and dear to Pierce's heart. He's a former Marine Reservist himself. But as campaign stops go, this one won over relatively few voters. Just a handful of people were there, and there's not a single TV or newspaper camera around.

A study of end-of-life medical directives shows nurse practitioners — rather than doctors — are helping people make plans for dying.

Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, or POLST forms, tell doctors what treatment a patient wants as they die.

Do they want to be resuscitated if they stop breathing? Patients can ask for comfort measures only — like pain relief. Or they can ask for full treatment, like breathing tubes and trip to the emergency room.

When POLST forms were first developed in Oregon, it was mainly doctors who had the delicate conversation.

As of the end of September, Oregon has collected more than $40 million in taxes on recreational marijuana, according to the latest figures from the state Department of Revenue.

Pot retailers began collecting a 25 percent tax on recreational marijuana sales starting in January.

After administrative costs, the money will be divided among schools, law enforcement and drug treatment programs.

The state tax on recreational pot will soon drop to 17 percent in many places.

Oregonians face a major reckoning this fall about the services and programs they’d like to have — and the taxes they’re willing to pay to have them.

Measure 97, on the Nov. 8 ballot, would raise some $3 billion a year in new revenue by raising taxes on large corporations’ gross receipts. That’s enough money to swell the state’s budget by roughly a third.

But the measure has also sparked one of the most expensive election fights Oregon has ever seen.

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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.

Local pot tax, retail sales ban appear on many Nov. 8 ballots

Although legalizing marijuana is not on Oregon’s statewide ballot for the first time in four election cycles, many metro area voters will decide the fate of 29 marijuana-related measures in the Nov. 8 general election.

Some voters, particularly in Portland and Clackamas County, will decide whether to impose a 3 percent local tax on top of the statewide tax on retail sales of marijuana for recreational use.

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.

Experts identify declines in uninsurance under the ACA, but coverage gaps remain

Health insurance experts estimate that more than 600,000 veterans will be uninsured in 2017, if more states do not expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The finding comes from a new report, prepared by researchers at the Urban Institute with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that looks at the insurance status of veterans and their family members and the impact of the ACA on people who served in the military.

Two sides of a proposed corporate sales tax on the November ballot are clashing over a fundamental tenet of the measure — how the revenue can be spent.

Initiative Petition 28 — which is on track to be called Measure 97 on the ballot — would levy a 2.5 percent tax on certain corporations’ Oregon sales exceeding $25 million.

Washington County commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, will formally oppose Measure 97.

The Nov. 8 ballot initiative would raise a projected $3 billion annually by raising the corporate minimum tax by 2.5 percent on a business’s Oregon sales of more than $25 million.

Voting for an opposition resolution Tuesday (Aug. 23) were Chairman Andy Duyck and Commissioners Bob Terry and Roy Rogers. Voting against the resolution were Commissioners Dick Schouten and Greg Malinowski.

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.

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.”

State agencies submitting budget requests for the next biennium are facing the challenge of planning for both growth and cutbacks, according to George Naughton, Oregon's chief financial officer and acting chief operating officer.

He said the state may face a $1.4 billion discretionary spending deficit in the next biennium — give or take $500 million. Officials have said that whether cuts occur depends in part on if voters approve a new corporate tax.

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.

John is a carpenter, OPB is only using his first name for reasons that’ll become clear in this story.

John grew up in southern Oregon and for 20 years had a successful business installing kitchens. Then, in 2005, he was in a car crash. “I mean, fractured my neck, fractured my back. I had to have my right shoulder replaced," he said.

John was prescribed opioids to deal with the pain.

“After about four years I was on 160 milligrams of oxycontin … and then it was 56 milligrams of oxycodone and that went on for maybe four years.”

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.

About a quarter of Oregonians on Medicaid get a dental visit each year. That compares to almost three-quarters of the general population.

Cavities and gingivitis might not sound like a big deal. But over time, poor dental health can lead to inflamed gums. And the bacteria from inflamed gums travel through the bloodstream causing everything from heart disease to cancer.

Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, especially wants women who are pregnant to be seen.

Oregon’s public health system is “minimal” in a third of communities, according to a new report commissioned by the Oregon Health Authority.

Public health deals with everything from immunizations to ending tobacco use. It also covers tests for lead and monitors factory emissions, which have been relevant issues in Portland and elsewhere statewide lately.

The state estimates it can conduct about five health assessments a year, but five times as many are needed to address environmental risks.

Oregonians could have saved 28 percent on their health procedures last year if they’d shopped for the best price, according to a new study from the Portland cost transparency company HealthSparq.

People with health insurance don’t usually shop the best cost on procedures like an MRI or hip replacement.

But over the last five years, insurance deductions have increased from around $300 a year to $3,000 a year. HealthSparq CEO Scott Decker said that increase is pushing people to shop more.