Hill to Hall Aug. 7–9

Aug. 7: Lawsuit blames rancher for wildfire that burned Oregon Native American reservation 

The Nena fire, a wildfire that burned for over two weeks and consumed roughly 106 square miles near Douglas County has been blamed on a rancher, workers and John Deere farm equipment in a lawsuit filed by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs on Aug. 5, according to the Associated Press. The tribal group hopes to secure $12.25 million in damages for lost resources on its reservation. According to the lawsuit, John Deere made faulty equipment that sent sparks and fires into natural debris. The rancher stated that while his equipment sparked the fire, the cause was accidental, according to AP.


Aug. 8: Oregon judge rules in favor of conservationist groups looking to protect Oregon seabird

An Oregon judge ruled in favor of conservationist groups who wish to grant the marbled murrelet—a seabird that nests in old-growth forests—endangered species status on Aug. 1 at a ruling in Eugene, according to Associated Press. In 2016, multiple conservationist groups petitioned the wildlife commission to increase protections for the small sea bird, and in 2018, the commission granted those extra protections given that the bird would likely go extinct in the near future. But the commission quickly reversed its decision without explanation later that year after a change in membership. The judge has ruled that the commission needed an explanation for that reversal, according to AP. According to the National Audubon Society, the marbled murrelet is a “strange, mysterious little seabird,” whose population has suffered greatly due to logging of old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. 


Aug. 9: Public employees sue State of Oregon over new pension law

Nine Oregon public employees filed a lawsuit on Aug. 9 contesting Senate Bill 1049, which was signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown this year. SB 1049 seeks to rein in Oregon’s nearly $27 billion in unfunded pension liability tied to the Public Employees Retirement System. The lawsuit claims that SB 1049 is a breach of contract between employers and employees, as it reduces retirement benefits for employees, according to Statesman Journal. According to the lawsuit, every employee’s individual retirement account will be reduced by anywhere from 5% to 14% under the new law. 


Aug. 9: Gov. Brown approves measure to offer paid family and medical leave 

Gov. Brown signed a measure that calls for a 100% wage replacement for minimum-wage workers during a medical- or family-related leave of absence from work, making Oregon the first state in the country to do so. According to OregonLive, advocates are calling it one of the most progressive paid family and medical leave measures in the country. The law—which will offer 12 weeks of paid time off for new parents, those who have become ill or need to take care of an ill family member and victims of domestic violence—will begin paying out benefits in 2023. The measure will also cover workers who are in the country illegally as well as part-time workers who work at least 1,000 hours a year, according to OregonLive.