Oregon Eyeing Tax Hikes on Beer and Smokes: A draft budget submitted by the Oregon Health Authority contains two big tax increases: a $2-a-pack hike in the cigarette tax, which now stands at $1.33. That would raise nearly $300 million in the 2019-21 budget cycle. The other proposal—a 10 percent hike in the retail price of beer, wine and cider—would raise even more, nearly $500 million. Historically, both the tobacco and alcohol lobbies have been extremely effective in blocking tax increases, but the OHA wants to accomplish two important goals. First, the agency faces an $830 million funding shortfall for the Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid program. Second, the agency wants Oregonians to smoke and drink less, which higher prices would achieve. Gov. Kate Brown, who oversees the OHA and is running for re-election, has been vague about her plans for new taxes if she defeats GOP challenger Knute Buehler. OHA spokesman Robb Cowie says the proposed tax hikes are "conceptual" and have not been vetted by Brown's team.
Records Reveal Why Officers Fired Flash-Bangs: Dispatch records from dueling protests on Aug. 4, newly released by the Portland Police Bureau, lay out a rough timeline of officers dispersing the antifascist crowd with riot-control agents. The calls show police sought authorization to fire "flash-bang" devices at the protesters because a few of them were damaging patrol vehicles that had been left in the midst of the crowd. An officer reported at the time that no one was in the vehicles, but a bureau spokesman says the situation was confusing and "there was a belief there were possibly unaccounted-for officers associated with the vehicles." Immediately after police used flash-bangs to disperse the crowd, officers reported being hit with glass bottles, rocks and cans. The dispatch record also shows an officer spotted an antifascist protester "openly carrying a handgun." Multiple people called throughout the afternoon to report Proud Boys assaulting people on the street.
Wine-for-Selfies Deal May Violate Law: Contested judicial races are rare in Oregon, but the one in Multnomah County is generating some heat. Longtime Portland lawyer Bob Callahan is challenging incumbent Circuit Judge Ben Souede, whose former boss, Gov. Kate Brown, appointed him last year. Souede has out-raised Callahan $89,000 to $13,400 so far, and in his efforts to compensate, Callahan may have violated an elections law that prohibits candidates from offering "inducements" worth more than $1 in exchange for voters' support. Callahan has offered potential supporters concert tickets and gift cards for showing up at campaign events and, more recently, a bottle of Carlton Hill pinot noir for the supporter who took the best selfie with a Callahan bumper sticker. Callahan says he did nothing wrong, but after consulting the Secretary of State's Office, he decided to cancel the contest to "avoid even the appearance of impropriety."
DOJ Files Election Complaint Against Grocers: The Oregon Department of Justice has filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's Elections Division about improper campaigning by the backers of a constitutional amendment to ban grocery taxes. It's an unusual move by a state agency, but the Yes on Measure 103 campaign improperly used the agency's seal in an ad "to advance their position on the measure," writes Deputy Attorney General Fred Boss in a Oct. 22 letter to the Elections Division. (Disclosure: Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is married to the co-owner of WW's parent company.) "The advertisement also incorrectly states that the opponents of the measure have made 'claims proven false by the Oregon Department of Justice,'" Boss writes. The DOJ says it wants voters to understand it is "neutral" on the measure. A spokesman for the Yes on 103 campaign says he's looking into the matter, but declined to comment.