A bill that would flatten administrative overhead in state government departments is running into a rock wall that doesn’t want to crumble easily. It seems to work in some areas, but not others. It’s a one-size fits all employee reduction plan can’t pass a reality test of “who can stay and who can’t go” based on work loads. The story is in the Statesman-Journal. Click here.Share on Facebook
A letter to Oregon Coast residents from Rep. Jean Cowan
I hope that you and your family had an enjoyable Fourth of July.
The 76th Legislative Session adjourned Thursday, June 30th on time and on budget.
While Oregon continued to recover from the global recession, the Oregon Legislature was faced with difficult budget and policy decisions during the session. I’m proud that we were able to craft a budget that maintains basic, essential services while facing a $3.5 billion revenue shortfall. However, despite our best efforts, many valuable programs will face dramatic reductions in the 2011-13 biennial budget.
For the first time in state history the Oregon House of Representatives started the session evenly divided by political party (30 Democrats and 30 Republicans). This resulted in a shared governance model, with Co-Speakers and Co-Chairs of each committee. While there were many historic accomplishments under this model, such as implementing the first Legislatively-approved redistricting plans, there were also more opportunities for partisanship to get in the way of sensible legislation.
I remain committed to working across party lines to move Oregon forward on issues that matter to Oregonians and to protecting essential services like public safety, education, and human services. We need to continue creating jobs and supporting small businesses in order to help the economy recover. The Legislature will return to Salem in February 2012 for a short session since voters approved annual sessions in the November 2010 election. I look forward to continuing our efforts on these issues.
As we transition into the interim, I’m pleased to announce changes to staff in my office. My long-time Chief of Staff, Patrick Sieng, has accepted a new position with the state’s Business Development Department (Business Oregon) as Ports Coordinator and will begin that position on July 18th. He will continue to work with public ports along the coast and throughout the state to encourage economic development. Zack Reeves, who served as the Coastal Caucus Administrator under an Oregon Sea Grant Fellowship during the 2011 legislative session, will begin serving as my Legislative Assistant in mid-July. Ruthanne Lidman continues as my Office Manager. Please feel free to contact our office regarding state issues by phone at 503-986-1410, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some highlights and challenges of the session:
BILLS THAT I AUTHORED OR CO-SPONSORED
House Bill 3037 – Seniors & People with Disabilities: Since I was first elected State Representative I have been the Legislature’s strongest advocate for seniors, especially working to improve our long-term care system. This Session I authored HB 3037 to update our policies which assist Oregon’s growing number of seniors to remain in their own homes or other community-based settings. The bill focuses on five primary areas: in-home care, options counseling (helping individuals and families make cost-effective choices), caregiver supports, evidence-based healthy living (including chronic disease management and fall prevention), and elderly/disabled transportation support. HB 3037 passed the Senate and House unanimously. It is an important step, but it will also require additional financial commitment before all of our goals are realized.
House Joint Resolution 7 – Emergency Preparedness: As large-scale disasters continue to happen around the world, we are reminded that we need to be better prepared if such an event should hit Oregon. Not only do we need to be prepared for emergencies in our households and businesses, but the Governor must have proper Constitutional authority to expend otherwise-budgeted funds appropriately. Additionally, the Oregon Legislature must be prepared to respond after a disaster in order to work with the Governor to facilitate that recovery. That is why I authored HJR 7, which modifies how funds may be spent and specifies how and where the Legislature can convene in response to a catastrophic disaster. HJR 7 passed both Houses. Because it requires changes to the Oregon Constitution, HJR 7 will now go to Oregon voters in the form of a ballot measure on the next general election ballot.
House Bill 2009 – Marine Reserves Compromise Bill: As chair of the Oregon Coastal Caucus (a bicameral, bipartisan group of legislators representing the Oregon Coast), I led efforts to develop and fund a limited number of marine reserves in Oregon. The work honors a long public process with input from a variety of stakeholders on the coast including the fishing community. Socioeconomic effects of any marine reserves continue to be a huge concern for our communities on the coast. We were successful in securing funding for the next steps, but not the necessary statutory changes detailed in HB 2009. I will work closely with Governor Kitzhaber to continue our forward momentum to assure that implementing marine reserves maintains a balanced approach, including continued input from all interested parties.
House Bill 3153 – Reserve Police Officers: Prior to HB 3153, reserve police officers were not included in definitions of various crimes against peace officers – including assaulting a peace officer, resisting arrest, and providing false information to a peace officer. HB 3153, which I co-sponsored, passed both chambers unanimously; it adds “reserves” to the definition of peace officer in Oregon statute. This will help protect the many volunteers who serve our communities.
House Bill 3596 – Port of Coos Bay Rail Line: HB 3596 will allow the Port of Coos Bay to increase imports and exports between domestic and international markets, strengthening economic development on the coast in and Oregon. This bill empowers the International Port of Coos Bay to own and operate the rail line connecting the station of Danebo in Lane County to the station of Coquille in Coos County. It passed both chambers unanimously.
House Bill 3686 – Regulatory Streamlining: HB 3686 itself did not receive a vote in this legislative session, but there was considerable attention focused on how to streamline regulatory requirements for individuals and small businesses in Oregon. All of our state agencies have been directed to reduce duplicative processes, while still protecting the citizens we serve. We will continue to make sure that our state government serves individuals and businesses in Oregon as effectively and efficiently as possible.
House Joint Resolution 40 – Initiative Reform: It is clear that Oregon needs to restructure its revenue and tax system in order to be better prepared for economic downturns. Certain ballot measures have crippled local governments’ and school districts’ ability to provide essential services. HJR 40 would have required ballot initiatives that have a fiscal impact to also provide the means to secure revenues necessary cover the immediate costs of a new law. Unfortunately this bill died in committee. I believe we need to continue our efforts in initiative reform in Oregon.
Senate Bill 444 – Homebrewed Beer and Wine: SB 444, which passed both chambers unanimously, preserves the ability to hold amateur beer and wine competitions at festivals across Oregon, including the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival. SB 444 expands the exemption of homemade beer and wine from the Liquor Control Act.
CREATING JOBS ACROSS OREGON
House Bill 2960 – Cool Schools Bill: With leadership from Gov. Kitzhaber, we passed HB 2960 to streamline the financing available to retrofit aging schools with energy efficient components, creating construction jobs across Oregon.
House Bill 2800: Expands the Farm-to-School program, supporting our local family farms and providing healthy, nutritious lunches to our kids at school.
House Bill 3000: Allows state agencies to give preference to goods and services produced in Oregon when bidding out contracts.
House Bill 2166 – Connect Oregon IV: Continues making road and multi-modal improvements, as well as strategic investments in our rural airports, rail lines, marine facilities and roads, so that Oregon products can get to domestic and international markets.
House Bill 3363 – Career & Technical Education: Encourages public and private partnerships to provide career technical education services.
House Bill 2919 – Loans & Grants for Small Businesses: Authorizes the Oregon Business Development Department to make grants to small businesses from the Building Opportunities for Oregon Small Business Today (BOOST) account if the business hires a veteran as a new full-time employee.
INVESTING IN EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE
Senate Bill 909: Establishes the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) to oversee a unified public education system, streamlining our focus on children from birth through age 20.
House Bill 5055: We increased the overall education funding proposed by the Governor for K-12 education from $5.56 billion to $5.725 billion. This bill also increased the number of children served in the Oregon Pre-Kindergarten programs and provided additional funding for rural schools.
Senate Bill 99/House Bill 3650 – Health Transformation/Exchange: SB 99 andHB 3650 will improve access to health care for all Oregonians. We protected gains made in covering 80,000 uninsured Oregon children with health care, improving their abilities to learn and grow. Transforming the delivery of health care in Oregon will reduce overall costs associated with uninsured care, create more high-paying jobs in the health care industry, and continue efforts to reduce overall health care costs.
Every 10 years the Legislature must modify Oregon’s legislative and congressional districts based on population changes as determined by the U. S. census. Democrats and Republicans reached bipartisan agreement on both the legislative and the congressional redistricting maps. The proposed plans were based on months of public testimony, including hearings all over the state. Starting in 2013, House District 10 will include a greater portion of southern Tillamook and western Yamhill Counties and extend as far east as Falls City in Polk County, but it will no longer include any portion of Lane County.
Thank you for the continued opportunity to serve you in the Oregon House of Representatives.
A brewing battle over, of all things, baby bottles has erupted into rather hot rhetoric on the floor of the state legislature. Health and environmental protection groups claim that despite a strong trend of bottle manufacturers no longer using the chemical BPA in baby bottles, a legal ban is still necessary. But a number of lawmakers could not disagree more. The story is in the Oregonian. Click hereShare on Facebook
Ways and Means Road Hearings
Provided by Ways and Means Committee
The Oregon Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee will hold four public budget hearings around the state over the next three weeks, including a stop in Newport May 6th, 4-6 pm at Hatfield Marine Science Center at South Beach.
“Two years ago, input from people across the state helped to guide our decisions on the programs we should protect,” said Peter Buckley (D-Ashland). This year, in even tougher budget conditions, I am counting on the citizens of Oregon to shine a light on the path they want us to take to help Oregon emerge from this economic recession.”
“The Legislature faces very difficult decisions as we work to pass a balanced state budget. I encourage citizens to attend these very important hearings to share their ideas, priorities and concerns,” said Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point).
“The public process is crucial to our decisions on how to balance this budget and protect critical services that Oregonians rely on,” said Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin). “The Legislature is the people’s branch of government and I am committed to making sure this budget isn’t written behind closed doors.”
The Ways and Means Committee will take public comment in Newport May 6th at the Hatfield Marine Science Center at South Beach, 4-6pm in the Hennings Auditorium.
The co-chairs released their budget outline in late March. It can be found at http://www.leg.state.or.us/comm/lfo/2011_13CoChairBudget.pdf.Share on Facebook
As the headline says it’ll be a very busy week in the legislature. Local school officials, trying to put their budgets together for next school year are especially anxious to see how the legislature’s proposal stacks up against Governor Kitzhaber’s version. The Oregonian is following it all in Salem. Click hereShare on Facebook
A legislative package released this week shows proposed spending on K-12 education down slightly from the current biennium, but above what is being proposed by Governor Kitzhaber. Either way, the stress on Oregon school districts could be aggravated depending on how funding is channeled to the districts. The strain will be less if they “front load” schools, say 52% the first year, and 48% the second year. The advantage of the “more up front” approach is that state finances have a chance to improve while other programs, including health care, can be tinkered with to determine any savings not anticipated or created. The legislative proposal and an initial reaction from Governor Kitzhaber, who is still working on his version, is in today’s Salem Statesman Journal. Click hereShare on Facebook
Provided by State House co-speakers
SALEM— Home brew competitions at the Oregon State Fair and local county fairs across the state will be back this summer following passage of SB 444, according to Oregon House Co-Speakers Arnie Roblan and Bruce Hanna.
The bill changes a prohibition-era law that was recently reinterpreted by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission that caused the Oregon State Fair to cancel home beer and wine events, including the 23rd annual Amateur Beer Competition, last year.
The Department of Justice claimed that while Oregonians could brew beer and craft wine at home, they couldn’t share it beyond that. SB 444 also clarifies that those who brew craft beer or wine at home can share it with friends and neighbors.
“This bill is a great example of legislators coming together to fix an unintended consequence of state liquor law. Local events should be able to feature local home brewers and this bill puts us back on the right track.” Co-Speaker Hanna said.
“This bill stops in its tracks a misguided legal opinion that shut down competitions at fairs all over Oregon,” Rep. Schaufler said. “This legislation ensures that home brewers can share their products and that the growing craft beer industry gets a boost. The return of these competitions at local county fairs is welcome news for home brewers and their fans.”
Roblan said the bill made clear that a prohibition-era law used to shut down the competitions last year was not necessary in today’s regulatory environment.Share on Facebook
The Oregon Legislature this week will take on some high profile issues this week including a proposal that would allow children from foreign countries pay in-state tuition if they’ve lived in Oregon long enough. Opponents contend that although the children may have lived in the U.S. all their lives, it still doesn’t give them the right to pay college tuition at the lower in-state residency rate, if they are, in fact, illegal aliens. Supporters says they and their parents have paid Oregon taxes since the day they walked across the border and on principle they’ve performed their civic duties as any other legal Oregon resident, therefore they should be allowed to pay the lower rate.
State lawmakers will also be debating unemployment benefits, higher cigarette taxes and determining what is THE minimum wage for teens.
More from the Oregonian: Click hereShare on Facebook
Although revenue forecasts continue to look bleak for local and state government, bills continue to move through the legislature that are giving further tax breaks. But at least one of them helps families with sons and daughters away at college.
The story is in the Portland Oregonian. Click hereShare on Facebook
There will be very little “business as usual” at the Oregon Legislature starting Monday. After the swearing in of newly elected Governor John Kitzhaber, lawmakers will begin organizing themselves, especially in the House which is evening split half ‘n half, Democrats and Republicans. Once done, they’ll adjourn probably on Wednesday and then convene in regular session February 1st. Then they’ll get down to the business of trying to run the state with depleted revenues while needs for social services keep rising with no sign of another federal government helping hand. Over a thousand bills have already been written on taxes, fees, pop bottle deposits, plastic shopping bags and a lot more. It’s all in this article in the Oregonian. Click hereShare on Facebook