DEFAZIO: CURRY AID TOP PRIORITY

August 23, 2000 12:00 am

Pushing through a bill that will continue the federal timber revenue guarantee to Southwestern Oregon counties is Congressman Peter DeFazios top priority for the last weeks of this session.

For Curry County, DeFazio said, House Bill 2389 will mean a boost of $7,121,894, he told Brookings audiences Tuesday.

Its my No. 1 priority, he reported, but its hung up in the Senate over Oregons assisted suicide law.

DeFazio blitzed Brookings early Tuesday, giving interviews, meeting with community leaders, cutting a ribbon, holding a town hall and speaking to Rotarians.

And that was just the morning schedule of a day-long trip through his Fourth Congressional District, ending in the Eugene area late Tuesday night.

DeFazio opened the town hall with only one topic: the timber revenue sharing guarantee passed by the House last fall but caught in the Senate battle over Oregons assisted suicide law.

It looks like the dispute will come to an end with two votes, DeFazio said, allowing the Senate to vote on both the timber revenue guarantee and changes in federal prescription drug rules effectively stopping the assisted suicide law.

The drug rules will pass in the Senate, he predicted, and possibly in the House.

In the House, weve got enough votes against it to uphold a presidential veto if we can get one, DeFazio said.

DeFazio did not know where President Clinton stands on the issue. He accused the American Medical Association, a doctors organization, of selling out on the issue. In a comment to The Pilot later, he predicted that if the federal law passes, it will be overturned by the Supreme Court in legal actions that could take several years.

Voters have twice approved assisted suicide. The proposed drug rules, DeFazio predicted, will make physicians fearful of being aggressive on pain management.

The question about the federal attack on the assisted suicide law was one of three that drew applause at a town hall meeting of about 60 mostly senior constituents. Another applauded question was aimed at a proposal that the president use the Antiquities Act to designate a national monument in Curry County.

Not going to happen, DeFazio said. Its not been proposed by the administration. I have heard no discussion in Washington or by the White House that its even being considered.

Curry County Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Thorp, who made the proposal, was seated in the front row as DeFazio answered the question.

The third applause was trouble with Medicare reimbursements posed by Cal-Or Life Flight spokesman Dan Brattain.

There are a whole lot of ways in which Medicare penalizes small towns and rural areas, DeFazio said. He hopes to find agreement on rural increases when Congress reconvenes this fall.

Other topics raised by the town hall audience included:

Gas prices: I think there is collusion, DeFazio said, We have a bipartisan problem of Big Oil having too much clout in Washington, D.C.

Threats from China: If (China) wants special trade recognition, well talk about it after we see some performance. In the meantime, theyre building up their military and stealing our technology.

Growing immigration: Theres a big push to extend a whole bunch of new visas for new jobs, which I oppose, DeFazio said.

Gun controls: I dont see any purpose to national gun control or meaningless waiting periods, DeFazio said, but I do believe in background checks.

Campaign finance reform: The single biggest threat to representative democracy, said the congressman.

Protecting livability against growth in population and immigration: While Oregon has tried to protect its livability with planning, DeFazio agreed there is need for a discussion on the national level.

Federal permit problems for watershed enhancement projects: DeFazio reported a federal and state agency agreement on the problem is supposed to be imminent.

Permits for routine road maintenance: DeFazio said he heard a similar complaint in Coos County Monday and will investigate.

A tax on e-mail or Internet use: Thats the most popular myth in history, DeFazio said, reporting the House has even passed legislation preventing the idea if it ever should be seriously considered.

School vouchers: Im not personally a big fan, he said.

Social Security cost of living increases vs. Medicare insurance cost increases: DeFazio suggested finding a way to tie increases together.

Tax credits for college: Very supportive, the congressman said.

Help for fishermen facing problems from catch limits: Were fighting; were trying to get more money, he said. Were working on a (federal permit) buy-back program or other relief.

Non-gasoline engine designs: Energy independence would be one of the greatest forms of independence we could have, DeFazio said.

In remarks to the Rotary Club of Brookings-Harbor, the topics continued:

Budget surpluses: Calling a truly balanced budget good news DeFazio said, it would be really wise during these really good times to pay down the debt in case we get into a crisis in 15 years as Baby Boomers start collecting Social Security and Medicare.

Energy deregulation: We have the most efficient (electric distribution) in the world and now we want to mess it up? Im adamantly opposed. He vowed to fight using Pacific Northwest power to help solve deregulation problems in California.

Military spending: Sixteen thousand families in the military are on Food Stamps; it aint getting down to the troops. Now they want a massive build-up against adversaries that dont exist.

Telecommunications: DeFazio said he wants a federal agency like that which brought electricity to rural areas to make sure high-speed access spreads to the same rural areas.

Prescription drug prices: We are the only industrial nation that does not regulate prescription drug prices, DeFazio said.

At a breakfast meeting organized by Brookings Mayor Bob Hagbom, DeFazio heard about community issues, including economic development, health care, transportation, telecommunication links, dredging, commercial fishing cutbacks, and school and college facilities.

DeFazio, a Democrat from Springfield, is seeking his eighth two-year term in the House of Representatives.