Mental health tax? — A key Oregon lawmaker is calling for a new tax to pay for what he calls a “game-changing" investment in mental health treatment. Senate President Peter Courtney said Wednesday that mental health consistently loses out in the fight for budget dollars, leaving thousands of people untreated. He’s proposing a dedicated tax or fee to raise $331 million in each two-year budget period. Courtney says he was spurred to action by the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. He says he’s tired of hearing politicians, activists and the media talk about improving mental health without any serious effort to do it. Courtney says the details, including the funding source, still need to be worked out, but he says a tax on beer and wine could be a component.
Funding Lane County jail — The Lane County Board of Commissioners indicated it will be ready Feb. 12 to send a property tax levy to voters that would slow down the so-called revolving door at the county jail. The revenue would allow the jail to hold 120 more inmates. The jail has a capacity of more than 500 inmates, but because of staffing cuts it holds only 135 county offenders. Many are released early because of lack of space. The Register-Guard reports the board heard from people at Tuesday night’s meeting who said early release contributed to burglaries. If approved at the May 21 election, the levy would cost the owner of a typical home in the county about $85 a year.
Likely tsunami debris — Scientists say a 30-foot boat that washed ashore on Gleneden Beach on the central Oregon Coast appears to be debris from the March 2011 Japan tsunami. Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department spokesman Rick Boatner says it is believed to have been a support vessel for a commercial fishing boat. The boat was found Tuesday — hull up — embedded in the sand with most of the hull exposed. The Fish and Wildlife department says two of its biologists who looked at the boat feel it poses very little risk in terms of possible invasive species. Boatner told The Oregonian that 99 percent of the vessel is covered in gooseneck barnacles, which climb aboard in the open ocean. Several other marine organisms are also present. Boatner says Oregon Parks and Recreation will deal with removing the boat.
— From wire reports