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In brief: One dead, others ill after attending committee meeting

PORTLAND – Oregon health officials are investigating after one man died and more than a dozen other people fell ill after attending the same meeting.

The Oregonian says 43-year-old Kevin Weeks of McMinnville was among 40 people at a daylong State Forests Advisory Committee meeting last Friday in Forest Grove. It featured a catered breakfast and lunch.

Last weekend, 15 attendees developed severe gastrointestinal symptoms typical of a norovirus infection. No one sought medical treatment. Colleagues say Weeks stayed home sick Monday. He was dead by late Tuesday morning.

The newspaper said health officials suspect that fruit salad carrying norovirus caused the illnesses. It’s not clear how the salad at that meeting could have been contaminated.

The medical examiner’s office is preparing an autopsy report.

Inslee: Transportation package must be at top of list in session

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee said that passing a transportation funding package this year must be a priority for the Legislature.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Inslee said he is concerned that momentum for passing such a plan has been dissipating.

House Democrats last month unveiled a $9.8 billionr transportation funding package that included a 10-cent bump in the gas tax and more than $3 billion in new bonds.

House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn said Thursday that she is optimistic that a scaled-back plan that excludes a new car registration fee and hazardous substance tax will gain traction among lawmakers.

Timber industry challenges spotted owl habitat

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – A timber industry group has filed a lawsuit challenging the latest habitat protections for the northern spotted owl, a threatened species.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday against the secretary of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which had no immediate comment.

American Forest Resource Council President Tom Partin said wildfire and barred owls pose a bigger threat to spotted owls than the loss of old growth forests to logging.

He added that while the plan calls for some logging in owl habitat, the cost of extra consideration required by the Endangered Species Act makes the prospect unlikely.