As the State Turns

stateturnssymbolCover Oregon Suckerpunches Oracle, Misses
In the latest blow to sanity, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is facing some tough music in relation to any hope of suing Oracle, the company hired to build the Cover Oregon website. Thanks to the decision to go with a bunch of purchase orders instead of an actual contract, the changing landscape of the project got out of control over time and the state wound up paying for a 40% customization of the project infrastructure, while the original agreement with Oracle was for 5%.

The state, spending about $132 million on these purchase orders, fundamentally altered the agreement and added up to about 80% of Oracle’s total work. So far $140 million has been paid to Oracle, with another $26 million still owed. Governor Kitzhaber has said that he has no intention of paying for work that has not been delivered. What sounds fair on the surface is a difficult sell when you look further at the agreement and see that the deal with Oracle was for “time and materials” – not a functioning website.

Meanwhile, there’s yet another big shakeup in Cover Oregon’s leadership, with acting Oregon Health Authority director Tina Edlund set to take over for the newly ousted Dr. Bruce Goldberg. But really, we’ve all heard this tune before.

Wyden Goes After the CIA
Oregon’s Ron Wyden now holds a seat on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and much to the pleasure of Oregonians (and Americans) far and wide, he’s taking his job seriously. When committee head Senator Diane Feinstein accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of searching the committee’s files last week, Wyden backed the gesture up by reiterating the “fact” that the CIA had made a number of false or inaccurate statements over the last several months.

When addressing several hundred Oregonians at the World Affairs Council of Oregon, Wyden fired a shot off of the Patriot Act’s port bow, stating “This secret body of law and set of secret surveillance authorities have created a culture, an embedded culture in which senior officials frequently make inaccurate and misleading statements about their authorities and their activities and then fail to correct them publicly, even when they get called out on it.”

While CIA director John Brennan has denied all allegations (who didn’t see that coming?), it seems a losing strategy when politicians such as Wyden are finally standing up straight on the issues.

Tweeters Fly into Calmer Water
Officials from the Salem-Keizer school district where 20 teens were recently suspended for “re-tweeting” a post about a teacher have stated that some or possibly all of the students could see the suspensions removed from their records.

This is the result of an approach the school has adopted that involves sitting down with each set of parents and students individually and working it out on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps this is to determine who tweeted with more malice (read as sarcasm).

The tweet itself, reading roughly as such, “Ms. _______ always flirts with her students,” was first anonymously posted and then repeated by the students in question. Initially suspending everyone, the school changed its methodology when the ACLU got involved and penned them a rather scathing letter.

The school says this is being used as an opportunity to further examine the implications of tweeting and rumor-spreading in relation to school policy.

Hemp Fail 2014
Ongoing complications regarding Oregon’s rules for hemp production have missed the resolution deadline that would have allowed for planting this spring. While most players on both sides of the aisle feel confident that things will be resolved eventually, it’s just too late for this year.

One of the major problems that have yet to be worked out include transportation of seed. While growers could import from Canada or Colorado, for example, the legality of crossing those borders with the materials is still in question. Another problem for some low-production growers is the potential $7,000 three-year growing license.

Hemp produces stalks and seeds that can be used to make everything from clothing to paper and even food, potentially bringing a welcome addition to the Oregon economy. Although slow, progress is being made both locally and nationally, with the federal Farm Bill approved earlier this year allowing for hemp research at state universities and agricultural departments.

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