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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Keep an eye out for trick-or-treaters as you head out on the roads this evening Despite the down economy, retailers expect Halloween spending will rise this year.

The National Retail Federation's annual Halloween spending survey found that the average person plans to spend about $72 on costumes, candy and decorations. That's a jump of more than $15 over the past two years.

Chris Lehman / KPLU

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Land Board gave the go-ahead Tuesday to a plan that will dramatically ramp up logging in a state forest in the Oregon Coast Range. The action came amid protests.

Environmental groups bused in protesters from Portland and Eugene. Long-time activist Tre Arrow led the group in a sing-along outside the Land Board headquarters.

Tre Arrow: "The time is now for the people to rise up."

Soon, trains will once again roll down the rail line to the Oregon coast port of Coos Bay. A key rail link that was abandoned four years ago is set to re-open this month.

The previous private owners of the 110-mile rail link abruptly shut it down in September of 2007 citing deteriorating tunnels and track conditions. The Port of Coos Bay bought the tracks and used about $25 million in state and federal money to rehab the line. The Port's Martin Callery says it means sawmills and other shippers in the region won't be dependant on trucks alone to get their products to market.

EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber assured a gathering of blue-collar union workers Wednesday that he is still on their side, despite anti-union sentiment in states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

The Democrat spoke at the annual convention of the AFL-CIO in Eugene. He told the crowd unions helped him get elected to an unprecedented third term. The labor coalition endorsed Kitzhaber in last year’s elections.

The governor pledged to work with unions to create so-called “family-wage jobs.”

SALEM, Ore. – When you renew a professional license or pay a government fee, you’re more likely these days to do it online. Now, the state of Oregon is banking on your willingness to pay extra for that convenience.

The state is getting ready to shift to a new model of funding many of its online services. But it's not clear yet who will pay the new fees, or how much they'll cost.

Oregon pays a high-tech company more than $2.5 million a year to run the state's website. But Oregon is switching to a different company, and the state won't pay it one dime.

SALEM, Ore. - A car wreck that involves an electric vehicle or a hybrid can pose grave risks to emergency personnel. A group of first responders in Oregon got a training session Thursday on how to handle a high wattage accident.

It's no surprise that an electric car might have more electricity pulsating through it than a regular car. So, how much power does it take?

Matt Paiss of the National Fire Protection Association says an electric car can pack quite the punch.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

The effort to remove four dams along the Klamath River has come one step closer to reality.

The U.S. Department of the Interior released a series of long-awaited environmental impact studies today which conclude that removing the dams would boost salmon runs and improve water quality.

SALEM, Ore. - Customers of one of Oregon's largest health insurance companies may see a large rate increase soon. State insurance regulators held a rare public hearing Wednesday on the request by ODS Health Plan to hike its rates an average of 10 percent. A decision on the requested rate hike could come next month.

MONMOUTH, Ore. - Public university employees in Oregon say they're glad they won't be going on strike. But that doesn't mean they're all happy with the tentative contract deal. Negotiators reached that settlement early Thursday morning after an all-night bargaining session.

SALEM, Ore. – Negotiators have averted a potential strike at Oregon's seven public universities, at least for now. The Oregon University System and the union representing nearly 4,000 front-line employees agreed on a tentative two-year settlement early Thursday morning.

As the clock ticked past midnight, SEIU lead negotiator Marc Nisenfeld says it was clear the momentum was there for an agreement. So the bargaining team did everything they could to stay awake.

SALEM, Ore. - Workers at Oregon’s seven state universities are nearing a possible strike authorization vote on Thursday. The union representing nearly four thousand higher ed workers issued a report Monday blasting the state's university system.

The SEIU accuses the Oregon University System of being top-heavy with administrators. The union also says the schools have gone on a building spree that means money that could fund services is now going to pay off construction debt.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. - An old proverb goes like this: "Each one, teach one." It means that everyone is responsible for passing along knowledge to the next generation. That's true in many professions. A senior surgeon will demonstrate a high-stakes operation to a young medical student. A veteran fire-fighter will show the ropes to a fresh-faced rookie.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Reflections of a Muslim leader in Portland:

"As-Salamu Alaykum. That's 'Peace be unto you.' I'm Imam Mikal Shabazz, the director of the Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization.

JEFFERSON, Ore. - Two Oregon police officers killed along Interstate 5 by a drowsy driver ten years ago were honored with a memorial sign along the highway where they died. But in an ironic twist, people attending the ceremony got a vivid demonstration of the dangers of distracted driving.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – Members of Congress are getting an earful from their constituents during their summer recess. This week, a coalition of left-leaning groups is holding a series of rallies across Oregon.

The demonstrations are targeting members of Congress from both parties.

In Salem, a group marched toward the office of Democrat Kurt Schrader. The march was sponsored by an alliance of public employee unions and liberal activist groups.

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