Our man in Congress

| Print |  Email
Articles - April 2014
Thursday, March 27, 2014

0414 wyden carl-kiilsgaard obm ron-wyden-0159Spreading the wealth in the international commerce arena is one goal. Aligning trade policy with an increasingly tech-driven economy is another. Back in 1996, Wyden observes, he successfully introduced an amendment preventing Internet providers from being held liable for content posted on their sites. “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act,” he says. “It created the legal foundation for 21st-century social media. Twitter, social media — I wrote the law that made it possible for them to invest.”

Taking credit for the rise of social networking companies may sound a bit like Al Gore taking credit for the Internet. But 18 years post-CDA, Wyden is considered something of a digital-commerce policy expert; when he talks about tech issues, tech leaders listen — and applaud. In 2012 he led the successful crusade to block the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), considered by many a threat to the basic structure of the Internet. Likewise, the Digital Trade Act, a bill he introduced in December with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) — “I’m very pleased with the bipartisan bill” — is intended to preserve a free flow of data across borders. “We need to bring trade policy in line with the times,” Wyden says.

Trade done right is very significant to the Oregon economy. But we need to expand the winner's circle on these agreements.

Health care is another area where Wyden’s chairmanship will likely have a big impact — with Medicare reform in particular. “Any discussion of budget challenges has to take on Medicare; it has critical implications for the next generation,” says Wyden, whose wife, Nancy Bass, gave birth to their third child last year: Scarlett Willa Wyden. What’s it like parenting a 1-year-old at age 64? “Just the best!” says the exuberant father, who, with Bass, also has  6-year-old twins. 

In January Wyden introduced the Better Care, Lower Cost Act of 2014, a measure cosponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) and two House members. Resembling Oregon’s pioneering coordinated care model for Medicaid, the proposal would shift senior care from a fee-per-service payment system toward a single payment based on doctors and nurses working to integrate care for people with chronic illness. 

The new structure may also benefit Oregon health care providers, who have long complained about the state’s low Medicare reimbursement rates; under the BCLC, that disadvantage would be mitigated.

 Along with trade legislation, tax extenders and Medicare, Wyden has plenty of other unfinished business on his plate, including a Highway Trust Fund projected to run out of money this year and a controversial plan to boost timber harvests on Oregon’s federal forests, the lands once owned by the former O&C Railroad.

If the state’s history is a predictor of future success, Wyden’s chances of moving the needle on major policy issues may be better than it seems — contentious political environment notwithstanding. The last Oregonian to be Senate Finance Chair was Bob Packwood, the man Wyden replaced when Packwood resigned over sexual harassment and ethics charges. Packwood helped write a sweeping 1986 tax-reform package — the last major overhaul of federal tax law in the United States.

“We’ve been able to show on the big stuff that it’s possible to block things,” says Wyden. “Now the question is can you turn that around and get stuff passed. I’m very optimistic that we can.” And how does it feel to hold one of the  most coveted committee chairmanships in the Senate? Wyden responds in character: “It’s an enormous thrill.”



 

More Articles

Grain Food

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

A Power Lunch at Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Store and Restaurant.


Read more...

Aim High

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

We get the education we deserve.


Read more...

Getting What You Pay For

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Chris Maples, president of the Oregon Institute of Technology.


Read more...

Up on the Roof

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction. 


Read more...

Preserving the Legacy

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A New York floral and gift business takes on the iconic Harry & David brand.


Read more...

5 questions for ImpactFlow CEO Tyler Foreman

The Latest
Thursday, August 13, 2015
impactflowthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Portland-based startup ImpactFlow recently announced a $5.7 million funding round. CEO and co-founder Tyler Foreman talks about matching businesses with nonprofits, his time at Intel and the changing face of philanthropy.


Read more...

Reader Input: Energy Overload

June 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers to weigh in on the fossil fuel-green energy equation.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS