Budget crunch forces Gorge hearing change

All eyes in the Oregon legislature are turned toward finding a cure for the state’s ailing budget — forcing the postponement of today’s hearing on the role and operations of the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

The decision to reschedule the hearing was made late on Friday by Sen. Ted Ferrioli, chair of the oversight panel, when it became clear that the third special session to overcome an $860 million shortfall was unlikely to wind up in time.

He said the Subcommittee on Columbia River Gorge Commission review will convene later this summer in Hood River for the second of three hearings scheduled to take place during 2002.

Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, co-chair of the subcommittee, said the 18 guests on the invited testimony list were personally contacted about the postponement. She said once the date has been reset the new hearing will be well advertised to ensure maximum opportunity for public comment.

Ferrioli scheduled the three joint subcommittee hearings in response to an “outpouring” of complaints by citizens and local governments over actions taken by the Gorge Commission. The findings from the eight House and Senate members will be drafted into a formal report that will be submitted to state and federal elected officials in both Oregon and Washington. Ferrioli said those findings could lead to a possible revision of the bi-state compact which governs the Gorge Commission to ensure “equity and fairness” in administration of the Scenic Act passed by Congress in 1986.

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