Police say red light cameras enhance safety

administrator, 10/27/2013 5:38 pm

…starting in January, the red light cameras also might help police catch other culprits.

A new law was passed this summer that allows images from the camera to be used as evidence in felony and class A misdemeanor cases.

Rep. Andy Olson (R-Albany) helped push the bill through the Oregon Legislature and said it could be useful in investigating a robbery where a suspect flees the scene and runs a red light.

“You’re able at that point to get a description of the vehicle, the driver,” said Olson, a former Oregon State Police trooper.

Albany Detective Sgt. Steve Dorn said the cameras could yield evidence in a variety of scenarios, such as hit and run wrecks, driving under the influence of intoxicants, and other cases.

“It could also clear people,” Dorn said.

Until next year, however, the red light cameras are restricted to evidence of speeding or traffic light-related misbehavior…

Read more from the Albany Democrat-Herald…

Medical marijuana retail outlet bill passes Oregon House; now heads to Senate

administrator, 06/24/2013 4:54 pm

From the Oregonian:

…Speaking forcefully against the bill was Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, a retired Oregon State Police lieutenant. Olson pressed the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, on how it would stop black market trafficking of marijuana grown under the auspices of the state medical marijuana program.

Olson said the bill doesn’t address what he sees as problems with the state program: a handful of doctors writing the vast number of medical marijuana recommendations and the lack of oversight of minors in the program. Olson said he is also concerned about the production of hash oil, a popular concentrated form of marijuana.
Olson disapproves of what he sees as light penalties for medical marijuana retailers who fail to comply with the proposed registry law: revocation of their licenses.

“I’m just a little frustrated with this whole bill right now,” Olson said.

Olson urged his fellow lawmakers to wait until 2014 for more comprehensive medical marijuana legislation…

Legislative win ‘one for the little guy’

administrator, 06/10/2013 6:21 pm

Arthur Meeker says he struck a blow for the little guy.

Meeker is an Albany businessman who owns Xtreme Graphics. His efforts during a three-year crusade to change a specific detail in an Oregon law were not wasted when Gov. John Kitzhaber signed HB2406 into law on May 22.

“It was satisfying but mostly interesting,” Meeker said of the process that led to it being legal to have items placed directly on the rear window of vehicles.

“I believe it’s one for the little guy. It really helps small business people in the state.”

Meeker knows about that. His business supplies the advertising wraps that more and more cars, vans and pickups are using as another means to promote their business.

What drove him to pursue the change in the Oregon law was his own experience, however.

“I got pulled over in Marion County about three years ago and the officer ticketed me for the wrap advertising on my back window,” Meeker said. “It was an equipment ticket and I was fined $140.”

Meeker believes the problem lies with the fact that visibility from the outside in is blocked, even though you have perfect visibility through the tinting.

Before his court appearance Meeker did some research about obstruction and back windows.

When he got his day in court he had examples of pickups with loads of wood that had rear window visibility completely blocked and delivery trucks with cube boxes that block the view.

It didn’t sway the judge, who stuck with the letter of the law, so Meeker set about correcting the rule.

“It was really about one word. The law stated you cannot ‘place’ anything on your back window,” Meeker said.

He contacted state Rep. Andy Olson with his concerns. Olson, a former law enforcement officer with the Oregon State Police, became an ally.

“He was fantastic. He told me he would never have ticketed a driver for that,” Meeker said. “He went about putting together a change that would allow the wraps or stickers to be on the window.”

Meeker said nothing else changes. As long as a driver has visibility from his side mirrors he’s fine. Of course, nothing can be on the front or front side windows…

Read more at the Albany Democrat-Herald…

Oregon investigations uncover food stamp fraud

administrator, 05/21/2013 6:30 pm

SALEM – Roughly one in five Oregonians are on state food assistance.

Oregon s 2012 budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, was $1.25 billion.

Most people use them honestly and correctly, but people cheat the system by doing things like selling their food stamps for cash.

John works with Portland s homeless population and agreed to speak with KGW if we agreed not to identify him. He estimates a large percentage of the city s homeless sells their ‘Oregon Trail’ food stamp cards to third parties or businesses for cash.

I would say more than 50 percent, he said. It s really easy to abuse.

The problem goes beyond Portland.

And, the people we interviewed said they primarily used the cash to buy cigarettes, liquor and drugs, said Salem Police Lieutenant Steve Birr.

Birr said he saw the abuses first-hand in March when investigators went after a produce store for food stamp fraud.

Birr said the owner, Holver Paniague-Millan, was bilking the system for about $10,000 a month by buying people s food stamps for fifty cents on the dollar and then using the cards to buy inventory for his business.

There s no names on the (Oregon Trail) cards, no photos, Birr said. So they are highly transferable.

Police initially arrested nine people, but Unit 8 has learned they ve since arrested four more and they re not done yet.

Police are still looking for two men seen in surveillance photos released to KGW. The investigation into food stamp fraud was the first of its kind for Salem Police, Birr said.

I think it clearly indicates the need to do more of these investigations.

The Oregon Department of Human Services has its own team tasked with tracking down all kinds of fraud within the state s welfare system.

Head investigator John Carter said the agency has 21 full-time investigators working throughout the state to detect fraud.

I think we do a very good job with the resources that we do have, Carter said. If you were to ask me if we could use additional resources, certainly we could.

Numbers provided by DHS show in 2012 the agency received roughly 4,000 reports of food stamp fraud. Of those, roughly 1,700 claims were substantiated, and resulted in 10 convictions.

Despite recent high-profile cases, DHS reports its fraud rate is at one-half of one percent.

Not everyone s convinced the rate is that low.

There s got to be more fraud out there, said State Representative Andy Olson.

The Albany Republican thinks lawmakers need to act in order to cut down on fraud.

One idea he has is to put people s pictures on Oregon Trail cards, to make them harder to pass or sell.

Olson also supports limiting the number of times someone can report their Oregon Trail card lost or stolen and still receive a new one.

I just want to stop the abuse, or at least try to gain more control of what we re seeing right now, Olson said. I think it’s bigger than what s being reported.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Birr said he expects to encounter more cases of food stamp fraud…

Read more at KGW…

Guest Editorial: Increase jobs, not taxes

administrator, 05/01/2013 5:49 pm

I don’t have a formal business background, but after 29 years with the Oregon State police, and five terms in the Oregon legislature, (serving on the House Revenue Committee during two of those terms), I do understand Business 101.

I have observed there is a general (and false) perception that a government, by taxing corporations, is not taxing individuals. Certainly, it is far easier for a politician to tax the nebulous “corporation” under the “they must pay their fair share” assertion, than it is to tax individuals. Add in the further false perception that corporations are owned by the “wealthy” and the politician has created the perfect political justification for a tax vote.

This is the argument supporters used to pass Measures 66 and 67, the substantial and Oregon-changing tax increases of three years ago. It is the same argument, still false, that Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) employed after her $275 million tax increase package was abruptly stopped by the House Republicans a week ago. She said she wanted the “wealthiest Oregonians and large Oregon corporations to pay their fair share.”

Recently, I read a study by R. Alison Felix, an economist working for the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City. Felix notes that it is labor — the workers at the corporation — that bear the largest part of the corporate tax burden. Her research shows that the state corporate taxes reduce employee wages and that this impact has grown over the past 30 years.

Felix estimates that for every 1 percentage point increase in the marginal tax rate of a corporation, yearly wages in that corporation are reduced by 0.7 percent. This impact is shared equally by all employees across all jobs in the corporation, regardless of salary level.

If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle were to take a more objective look at who really bears the cost of corporate taxes, they would reduce rather than increase them. The Democratic tax proposal recently stopped cold by the Oregon Republicans would have both increased the corporate tax rate and lowered the tax threshold, meaning more Oregon companies would be forced to pay more in taxes. Based on Felix’s work, more Oregon workers would see their salaries reduced or stagnate.

Democratic leadership is married to the assertion that large corporations don’t “pay their fair share,” and hiding behind that premise will continue attempts to raise corporate taxes, and if successful will have actually placed the real cost of the tax on the very folks they say they are protecting.

Historically, Oregon is the last state to enter a recession and it is the last one to recover. We are still in the infant stages of recovery. There are still many families that are hurting and in need of jobs. With that being said, our focus should be increasing jobs, not increasing taxes.

From the Albany Democrat-Herald…

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