The Oregon Legislative Assembly is half way into our month-long 2014 session (minus a snow day or two). The most hectic phase has just ended. Bills which had not received a committee vote by Thursday are “dead” except for a few holding in one of the special committees (Rules, Revenue, or Ways & Means) which are only “mostly dead.” These bills include measures that were too large, too complicated, or too controversial to be carefully debated and considered on such a short timeline.
The best news of the week was the Revenue Forecast. The economy continues to improve which means more people working and earning more. Tax revenue for schools and critical programs will increase but the taxes you pay will not. And more people feeling financially secure means many of them will visit us on the coast and spend some of those earnings!
As far as my own legislation goes, I feel good.
The Senior Property Tax Deferral allows qualifying seniors to delay property tax payments until they sell their home. This program is crucial, but it is also the only program in Oregon that charges compound interest. Our bill to change that to simple interest and save money for low-income seniors moved through the House this week and looks good in the Senate. I’m committed to helping older Oregonians stay in their homes as long as they choose to.
A bill the Sheriff’s Association asked me for is on track to pass in the House. This bill would clarify the law and allow sheriffs to treat everyone equally. Currently, people with one minor marijuana conviction in Oregon can already get a concealed handgun license. However, if the same person was convicted of the same crime in another state, they would not be eligible. This bill harmonizes the regulations to allow those with only one out-of-state infraction to apply for a CHL as well. I support the bill because I think it’s important to treat people with similar infractions the same.
Unfortunately, my bill to broaden and strengthen the recent Small Business Tax Break is not moving forward. This bill would have cut taxes on 7,800 more Oregon small businesses by $900 on average. These are seasonal businesses with part-time employees like working parents and working seniors trying to make ends meet. To cover costs, my proposal would have limited the 250 companies making more than $1 million in taxable income to a mere $35,500 tax break. Basically I was increasing companies qualifying for the break by 10% while limiting less than 0.4%. These changes would have significantly strengthened the middle class and coastal economy. At the very least, this bill has started a conversation, and I plan to keep talking about small business tax reform when the Legislature returns in 2015.
The Capitol is a thrilling and challenging place full of smart, committed people who want the best for Oregon even though we sometimes disagree on just exactly what that means. There are 89 other senators and representatives and I haven’t met one I don’t respect. The next two weeks will be dedicated to further considering and refining policy and budget. Through careful deliberation I’m confident we will put Oregon on a clearer path to vibrant communities and economic prosperity. It is an honor to be your advocate in Salem. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org