Writings and observations

Anybody considering their votes on the latest lock-em-up proposals on the Oregon ballot really owes it to read the just-released (released today) report on prison populations from the Pew Center on the States. The headline finding is that one out of every 99 adult Americans is now behind bars – an incredible thing in itself.

There’s a chart on page 14 showing, by state, how much of the state general funds corrections eats. Turns out the highest in the nation is Oregon, at 10.9% – and that was a 4.6% increase in portion of the general fund over the last 20 years.

All three Northwest states have something to learn and grimace at here, though. In Idaho, the percentage of general fund is 6.9% (up 3.8%), and in Washington 5.9% (up 2.4%). The national average is 6.8%. Nationally, over the last two decades, spending on prisons and corrections has risen 127%, while spending on higher education has risen 21%.

And Idaho has some of the most spendy trends: it incarcerates 784 of every 100,000 people in the states – 11th highest in the nation – to Oregon’s 531 and Washington’s 465.

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Agood description of world views in conflict, in a legislative setting . . . something that happens daily at a legislature, but only occasionally perceived well.

Idaho Representative Nicole LeFavour makes clear her view of the legislation in this case, but gets to the view from within the opposition as well in this from her blog . . .

The committee was hearing two bills from the prosecutor’s association. Both allowed for a felony charge if a person is found guilty of breaking a domestic violence protection order or a no contact protective order for a third time.
In debate, Phil Hart was concerned that his ex wife’s own past behavior and accusations would land him a felony charge even if he did nothing wrong. Raul Labrador thought that it was too easy for people to get a protection order just to try to get custody of the kids in divorce proceedings. Lynn Luker moved to kill both bills because he says that judges can put people in jail enough already under the existing law.
None of these legislators I suspect has ever experienced domestic violence or stalking. None has spent long months with every day feeling like a dreaded test of your will to live. Every day a question of whether you can survive psychologically long enough until you are no longer followed, no longer haunted by phone calls, impersonated, no longer tired of having the police on auto-dial, filing report after report, no longer exhausted waiting for your stalker to maybe snap and kill you with a gun, a car or fist.

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You’ve been reading no doubt about the heavy gas prices increases around the country. (And we’ve been grimacing on our recent road excursions around the region.) And the headlines about – uh – $4/gallon gas.

Sounds like a less than ideal moment for a gas tax increase.

As they’re finding out in Eugene. There, the city has had a three-cent local gas tax recently upped to five cents. Except that on Wednesday the Oregon Petroleum Association showed up with petitions bearing, it said, 11,084 signatures. Enough presumably to send the issue to the primary election ballot May 20, and halt the increase in the meantime. And costing city road repair funds an estimated $1.3 million a year.

Transportation is a tough one.

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