Chris Lehman

Oregon Correspondent

Chris stays on top of political developments in Salem, Oregon. But that's not all he does. Breaking news from central Oregon to the Pacific Coast is fair game for this versatile reporter.

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Oregon lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday on the latest version of a plan to fund a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River.

The hearing even drew testimony from lawmakers on the Washington side of the river.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says if the Legislature doesn't act by mid-March, he'll pull the plug on the project for the foreseeable future.

Mike Baird / Flickr

The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve is one of the best times of the year to watch grey whales migrating along the Oregon coast. It's the height of their annual southbound trek from Alaska to Baja, California.

Here are three tips to help better your chances of spotting a grey whale.

The makers of the new action flick "47 Ronin" didn't want to film their movie in Oregon. But that doesn't mean the state won't have a starring role. Oregon has a connection to a big-budget movie that hits theaters this week.

Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Unemployment benefits are about to run out for tens of thousands of Northwesterners. Without a Congressional extension, payments will stop later this month to people who've been without a job for more than six months.

The holiday season will mean an end to unemployment checks for about 1.3 million Americans, including about 45,000 jobless in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. State benefits are still intact, but those last no more than six months. These cuts affect people who, in some cases, have been looking for work for more than a year.

javacolleen / Flickr

The improving employment picture in the Northwest isn't good news if you teach at a community college. Enrollment is dropping as more people head back to work. And that means there are fewer classes to teach.

Frank Goulard has taught math at Portland Community College for more than 30 years, so he knew what would happen when the economy started to tank five years ago.

Bill Wagner / Washington State University

One out of every five cranberries grown in the U.S. is eaten Thanksgiving week, according to industry giant Ocean Spray. Here in the Northwest, some cranberry farmers hope to convince Americans to eat more berries year-round.

You probably aren't a real cranberry farmer unless you eat a fair share yourself.

"We make them into our own sauce. We use them in salads, cranberry bread. We eat a lot of cranberries,” said Scott McKenzie, who has been harvesting the berries for nearly 20 years on his coastal farm near Port Orford, Oregon.

Chris Lehman

Every morning, Jim Larson takes a walk around town. Down to the railroad tracks. Up the hill behind City Hall. There's hardly a sound.

The silence is not unusual for a weekday morning in Larson’s small town of Prescott, Oregon. There’s not even a morning rush hour.  

“No, because there isn't that many people even that work anymore, either,” Larson said. “Everybody up this hill that I live on, from my house up. Nobody works here; they're all retired."

Chris Lehman

Editor's Note: Drug traffickers are doing big business up and down the West Coast. When you go by freeway, you’re driving a Silk Road of sorts for heroin, meth, and cocaine. This export industry is evolving. Drug experts say heroin is back on the rise, fueled in part by prescription drug abuse.

This week, in a series we call Border to Border Drugs, we’re reporting on drug-trafficking rings that rely on every freeway in the West. In part two of the series, correspondent Chris Lehman reports on how the supply side of this business may change, but the demand remains strong.

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Heavy-duty prescription painkillers have something in common with heroin. They're both opiates, and the effect they have on people who get hooked is similar. One difference? Heroin is usually cheaper and easier to get. That was true for Portlander Kevin Lehl. He says he got hooked as a teen when he was prescribed opiates to treat chronic pain.

"I was in love with it from the very beginning,” Lehl said.

Chris Lehman

There’s an unusual sporting event at the Oregon State Fair that involves athletes that could end up on your dinner table.

With just moments left until the “Cow Olympics,” the cattle were clearly restless. Before them was a six-part obstacle course.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

County officials who issue marriage licenses in Washington state are gearing up for a possible influx of new applicants following the Internal Revenue Services’ ruling that states gay marriage will be recognized across state lines for federal tax purposes.

With wildfires still raging across the Northwest, fire managers are turning to private firefighting crews in increasing numbers. One private industry group says contractors are responsible for a surprising 40 percent of firefighters on the ground in the region.

Both the U.S. Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry said that figure sounds about right. But the shift didn't happen overnight; the Oregon Department of Forestry's Rod Nichols says the change started in the 80s.

The state of Oregon will look into whether a bakery discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to make a cake for their wedding ceremony.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor and Industries announced the investigation, which comes in response to a complaint filed by two women who say a Gresham bakery cited religious reasons for turning them down.

The mayor of Silverton, Oregon is one of a kind. Stu Rasmussen is the nation's only transgendered mayor. It’s a distinction that generated international headlines and even a protest by the anti-gay group, Westboro Baptist Church. Now, Rasmussen's saga has a new twist: A musical about his life. It’s hitting the stage in Seattle this summer.

In a small rehearsal room in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood, long-time actor Mark Anders is preparing for a role like none he's had before.

SALEM, Ore. – The top state prosecutors in Oregon and Washington have filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage. The high court is expected to take up the cases later this month.

The first case involves an effort to strike down California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. The second case involves efforts to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon voters could decide next year whether to legally recognize same-sex marriages. Supporters of gay marriage submitted an initiative Monday aimed at putting such a question on the Oregon ballot in November of 2014.

Nine states including Washington issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But Oregon can't, since voters defined marriage as between one man and one woman nearly a decade ago. It would take a statewide vote to reverse that. So the gay rights group Basic Rights Oregon filed an initiative to overturn that Constitutional ban.

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