Chris Lehman

Salem Correspondent

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR affiliate WNIJ-FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.

Chris is a native of rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He was born in the upstairs bedroom of his grandmother's house, and grew up in a 230-year-old log cabin in the woods. Chris traces his interest in journalism to his childhood, when his parents threatened to take away his newspaper if he didn’t do his chores.

In addition to working full time in public radio for the past decade, Chris has also reported from overseas on a freelance basis. He's filed stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda. He lives in Salem with his wife and children.

Ways to Connect

Centers for Disease Control

Some Northwest lawmakers want to make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.

Oregon lawmakers are set to consider a measure that would raise the wage to $15 per hour.

A panel of Oregon lawmakers will take a first look Wednesday at changes to Measure 91 -- the voter-approved legalization of recreational marijuana.

Democrats in the Oregon Senate say they'll take advantage of their bigger majorities right out of the gate this session.

One of the big draws at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week is the rapidly advancing technology surrounding driverless cars.

Colin Fogarty / Northwest News Network

 

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has until January 12 to put the finishing touches on his inaugural address. But writing the speech should be old hat to the governor.

He's done it three times already.

Andreas Solberg / Flickr

People under age of 21 in Oregon will have legal immunity if they report alcohol-related medical emergencies. It's one of several new laws taking effect with the New Year.

Washington Department of Labor and Industries

The new year will mean higher pay for low-wage workers in Oregon and Washington. The minimum wage in both states is set for an increase.

The minimum wage in both Washington and Oregon is tied to inflation. It's going up by 15 cents an hour in both states: to $9.47 in Washington and $9.25 in Oregon.

Get ready to shell out more money for eggs. Some Northwest stores are warning of higher egg prices as new regulations on hen houses take effect in California next month.

Kantor.JH / Wikimedia Commons

 

A perennial bill in the Oregon legislature is banning studded tires. Or taxing them because they chew up the roads.

Clyde Robinson / Flickr

Northwest farmers and orchardists are among the potential beneficiaries if the U.S. and Cuba normalize their relationship and the trade embargo ends. They're better among many still trying to sort out what President Obama's announcement Wednesday of changes in Cuba policy mean for them.

Oregon has failed in its attempt to recover millions from a bad investment in a for-profit university.

Katherine Hitt Flickr

 

    

Oregon is gearing up for a year-long process of crafting regulations for recreational marijuana.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission Tuesday hired Tom Burns to lead the agency's implementation of Measure 91, which allows adults in Oregon to grow, possess, and sell marijuana under state regulation.

Chris Phan / Flickr

  The Independent Party is on the cusp of becoming Oregon’s third major political party.

Under state law a major party must have at least 5 percent of the number of voters who were registered at the last general election. The Independent Party is less than 300 voters away from reaching that threshold.

If they reach that status by next summer, it would mean that taxpayers would fund Independent Party primaries in 2016, just like they already do for Democrats and Republicans.

The Independent Party was founded just eight years ago.

Stephen D. Melkisethian / Flickr

Supporters of a food labeling measure in Oregon have conceded defeat, more than one month after the election. Measure 92 would have required food manufacturers and retailers to label genetically engineered foods. It produced the most expensive initiative campaign in Oregon history. The difference between the "no" and "yes" votes was so close, it triggered the first statewide recount in more than six years. That recount is largely confirming the initial totals.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Political protest mixed with holiday festivities in Salem Wednesday. A group demonstrating against recent police shootings brought their message to the state capitol building.

Their shouts of "hands up, don't shoot" echoed through the marble corridors and in the rotunda.

"Hands up, don't shoot," they chanted. 

The group tried to meet with the governor but heard from spokeswoman Amy Wojcicki instead.

"All parents, regardless of race, class, culture or origin should feel," Wojcicki said. 

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

A large state owned forest in Oregon might end up in new hands.

The State Land Board endorsed a proposal Tuesday to transfer ownership of the Elliott State Forest. But it's not clear who the new owners would be.

The Elliott State Forest in southwest Oregon is supposed to be managed to bring in as much money as possible. And that money is supposed to go to public schools. But the forest is actually losing money in the wake of restrictions on logging.

KATU

Supporters of a food labeling measure in Oregon sought a court order to block the certification of the election results. The group filed a request for a temporary injunction Monday.

Measure 92 would require food manufacturers and retailers to label genetically engineered foods. It fell just 800 votes short in the November election.

Oregon Legislature

Oregon's state capitol building could soon undergo a massive renovation. It's a project so big, lawmakers would have to use a temporary capitol for more than three years.
 
Senior project manager Tary Carlson says the idea is to help the Depression-era capitol building withstand a major earthquake.

"When this was built 76 years ago, they did not design for lateral forces of a seismic event such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone," Carlson says.

And so what would be left if the Big One hits?

"A pile of rubble," Carlson says.

Cannabis Training University / Wikimedia

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission could get a more than $500,000 injection of emergency funds to help oversee the legalization of recreational marijuana.

That’s because starting next year, the OLCC won't be controlling just liquor anymore. Voters gave it the job of regulating pot, too.

Legal marijuana sales likely won't begin until early 2016. But the OLCC is about to embark on a lengthy rulemaking process for how marijuana can be grown and sold in the state. The agency wants to hire four new people right off the bat with more to come next year.

Rocio Lara / Flickr

Businesses in Oregon could soon take advantage of the crowdfunding phenomenon. State regulators Wednesday heard from the public on proposed rules to let smaller companies raise cash from Oregon investors.

Think Kickstarter except instead of making a donation you'd be making an actual investment in a small business. It’s a workaround of federal rules--with a quarter-million dollar limit per company. Small business advocate Jarvez Hall says he thinks the new policy could open doors to people of color who can have a harder time accessing traditional sources of capital.

Chris Lehman

The first statewide recount in more than six years is underway in Oregon. Elections workers Tuesday started hand-counting the more than 1.5 million votes cast for and against Measure 92.

The initiative would require food manufacturers and retailers to label genetically engineered foods. It failed in the initial tally by just 812 votes. That triggered a state-funded recount. In Salem, Marion County clerk Bill Burgess has a team of about 50 temporary workers combing through ballots. He says the counters found just one correction to make during the first three hours on the job.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has unveiled an $18.6 billion spending plan for the next two years. The Democrat outlined his proposal at the state capitol Monday. Roughly half of the money is marked for education.

Kitzhaber mentioned his budget also includes tax relief for low-income workers.

"To ensure that hard work is actually rewarded with a better life…to ensure that when you get more wages, when your income goes up, you actually have more money, not less money in your pocket," Kitzhaber said.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Dozens of Oregon cities rushed to approve taxes on recreational marijuana before Oregon voters legalized it this fall. But it's not clear whether those revenues will ever materialize since Measure 91 seemingly rules out local taxes on pot.

People in several Northwest cities raised their voices in protest Tuesday over a grand jury's decision not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown an unarmed black 18-year-old.

dmmd303 / Flickr

The most expensive initiative in Oregon history appears headed for a recount.

A federal court judge in Portland said Friday that for now, Oracle can’t have its way and keep its suit against the state of Oregon.

The case and a counter suit are about the failed health insurance exchange website called “Cover Oregon". Oracle was the chief technology firm that put it together. The website never really worked as it intended to, so the state wanted to get some compensation for all the money it sent to the site. 

It appears Oregon is headed for its first statewide ballot measure recount in more than six years.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

A new law to legalize recreational marijuana in Oregon doesn't begin to take effect until next year. That means state lawmakers have the chance to tweak the measure before it kicks in. A legislative panel discussed some options Wednesday at the state capitol.

Measure 91 allows adults in Oregon to grow, possess, and sell marijuana under state regulation. Just what that state regulation looks like is still being determined. Democratic Senator Lee Beyer reminded his colleagues that there's nothing to stop them from putting their own stamp on the voter-approved measure.

AP Images

Northwest lawmakers voted along party lines as the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to reject a plan to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Fourteen Democrats voted with all 45 Republicans in the Senate to approve it. But it was one vote shy of the amount needed to send the measure to the President. Washington Democrat Patty Murray told her colleagues she was against the pipeline.

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