Chris Lehman

Salem Correspondent

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage.  Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

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.

The Oregon Supreme Court Thursday upheld the death sentences of a father and son convicted in the bombing deaths of two Oregon police officers in 2008. But with a moratorium on the death penalty still in place, it's unlikely the executions will be carried out any time soon.

"He lived a hardscrabble life in a rusty steel town. John Kasich never gives up."

An hour after that campaign ad aired on Portland radio Wednesday afternoon, Ohio Gov. John Kasich did give up, pulling the plug on his presidential campaign. 

Ron Wyden, D-Ore., became the first U.S. senator to be elected entirely by mail when he was voted into office in 1996. Tuesday he told reporters he wants the vote-by-mail system to be expanded nationally, at least for federal races.

Wyden has tried unsuccessfully to get similar bills through Congress before, but he’s bringing it up again now because of long lines at polling places during this year's presidential primary season.

Leaders of the Oregon Department of Human Services are assuring the public that the agency is committed to its mission despite recent turnover in management. That message came during a pair of public meetings Friday.

The candidates for governor in Oregon have spent nearly $1.7 million dollars so far this year in their quest for office. So what has all that money bought them as the May 17 primary approaches?

Ballots are going out in the mail this week to Oregon voters in advance of next month's primary. And it appears that independent voters are signing up in droves to vote in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.

The grocery industry is calling it quits on a potential ballot measure that would have privatized liquor sales in Oregon. Currently, hard liquor like whiskey, vodka and gin can only be sold in state-chartered stores.

Grocers want to be able to sell it along with their current selections of beer and wine, but the industry group behind the effort said Wednesday they won't collect any more signatures for the initiative.

Oregon's Republican presidential primary is taking on a new look. The Ted Cruz campaign said the Texas senator will stand down in Oregon to clear a path for Ohio Governor John Kasich. The Cruz campaign will also pull back its efforts in New Mexico.

In return, the Kasich camp will back off in Indiana.

Oregon is falling short of many of its own goals when it comes to caring for children in its foster care system. That's according to a review released this week.

Taxes from marijuana sales continue to outpace expectations in Oregon. The state Department of Revenue Wednesday said the state has collected nearly $7 million in pot taxes so far this year.

Voters in two Oregon counties will decide in the May primary whether to allow marijuana-related businesses. County commissioners banned marijuana retailers and growers in unincorporated parts of Klamath and Grant counties last year.

When Tim McClure was 42 years old, he was convicted of illegally growing marijuana on his ranch near The Dalles, Oregon. And at this time last year, McClure was living with the shame of being a felon.

"I don't think it's the measure of me as a man,” McClure said 2015.

Keep your kicker or donate it?

Oregon taxpayers have the chance to donate their kicker rebate to fund state schools as they fill out their tax forms this year. But hardly anyone is choosing to do that. So far this tax season, less than one-half of one percent of Oregonians are choosing to donate their kicker.

More Oregon taxpayers than normal are facing a longer wait for their refund this year. But as a later-than-usual April 18 filing deadline approaches, the Oregon Department of Revenue said it's clearing out the backlog.

During her second State of the State address Friday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown renewed her call for the legislature to approve a massive transportation funding package.

National Weather Service

The Northwest is basking in an early taste of summer late this week. Highs are topping 80 degrees in parts of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. That could set records for the date in a lot of places.

Forecaster Colby Neuman with the National Weather Service in Portland said it's thanks to winds from the east that are blocking cooler air that typically spreads into the region from the ocean at this time of year. But Neuman added that the unseasonably warm weather isn't necessarily a sign of things to come.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown will deliver the 2016 State of the State address this Friday in Portland. It's her second one since taking office last year in the wake of John Kitzhaber's resignation.

So far Brown's office has released few details about what the governor will talk about.

The Northwest is in for an early taste of summer Thursday and Friday. Highs could top 80 degrees in parts of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. That would set records for the date in a lot of places.

Gavin Seim, a prominent supporter of the group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is kicking off a nationwide speaking tour in Oregon. He's asking fellow activists to pressure the government to release the occupiers who are awaiting trial in Oregon and Nevada.

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, some activists and entrepreneurs are taking the next step: They're running for office themselves.

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