Legislative Report February 2016
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In This Issue

Natural Resources

Climate Change

Children At Risk and Education

Social Policy

Gun Safety and Violence Prevention

Governance

Public Access


 

dropletNatural Resources

By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator

From Land Use and Transportation to Water, we have provided a voice for members this session. Of course, we are also following Natural Resource agency budget adjustments. Local Leagues have helped.  Inclusionary Zoning, an obscure land use policy, has been a focus to find more affordable housing in our communities.  We continue to work with coalitions to pass good bills and defeat the bad.  Join us!

Land Use

HB 4126, with LWV Lane County’s support, has already passed the House! It confirms that the new Urban Growth Boundary rules passed in December of 2015 will not stop Bend, Eugene, Springfield and other cities, which are already well into their expansion plans under former rules to complete their work.

SB 1548, which would have allowed urban growth boundary expansions with few controls, has not been scheduled for a work session and is presumed dead. However, HB 4079, a bill that would allow 2 pilot projects for 50 acres each, even if the city still has its 20-year land supply, is set for a hearing on Feb. 8. The League will oppose as unnecessary and, instead, provide a list of development code changes that could help provide affordable housing INSIDE cities.

The League has not testified on HB 4039 related to development near rural airports.  But it would be good to hear from members if the bill is a concern.

Transportation

The Marion-Polk League has done a study of transit needs in their community. As a result, when HB 4078 was filed to create a new transit grant fund, members Sandra Gangle and Janet Adkins wrote testimony for LWVOR and appeared in committee to provide same. It has not been scheduled for a work session so is presumed dead. But the testimony from communities around Oregon has started a conversation that may continue in 2017.

Water

HB 4012 is a vehicle for more lottery bonds for water projects. We expect major amendments before this bill moves forward, if at all.  HB 4113 establishes a short term Task Force on Drought. A priority of the Governor, the group is to report in time for budget requests in 2017 on how to help small communities deal with water shortages and recommend other short term tools to address future droughts. For more information on Oregon’s drought situation, see https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/84357 .  The Integrated Water Resources Strategy will be updated this year and will focus on both longer term solutions to future droughts, climate change and assuring abundant clean water for all.

The League joined with a broad group of local governments and other non-profits to oppose SB 1517, a bill that would weaken the ability to regulate and restore wetlands.  The Governor’s Office is involved in trying to find a compromise between wetlands proponents and the agricultural community.  Tillamook County dairy farmers came out in force to support the original bill. A work session is scheduled.

SB 1530 has had one public hearing and a work session is scheduled related to suction dredge mining and finding a way forward after SB 830 was passed in 2015 and created a moratorium and other restrictions on that activity.  Although the League has not weighed in, we are supportive of the effort.

Two bills to regulate lawn watering for those in homeowners associations, SB 1529 and HB 4090, are both alive.  Water use doubles during the summer in Oregon, mostly due to watering.  These bills are just two efforts to address the need to better use water, especially during future droughts.

We are supporting the Safe Well Water bill, HB 4125, requiring additional testing of residential wells.  And SB 1563, another attempt to adopt a loan program for low income Oregonians with failing septic systems, is getting a hearing on Feb. 9 and possible work session on Feb. 11. The League has worked on this concept since 2007.

Inclusionary Zoning

Still unknown is whether the statewide ban on local governments’ use of a policy that would require developments to include a certain number of affordable units will be lifted this session.  The homebuilders and realtors associations are continuing to object unless they receive significant concessions to expand urban growth boundaries or other kinds of perks.  Section 7 of HB 4001 is one vehicle, but we think that SB 1533 is the most likely bill for lifting the ban.  (We are members of the Housing Alliance and Debbie Aiona of the Portland League provided LWVOR testimony.)

We are watching SB 1575, which contains many of those perks. (Also see the Land Use link.) Negotiations are still in flux, so watch news articles for the latest compromise. Your voice in support of having complete communities would be helpful. 

Budgets

There will be a few budget adjustments in the Natural Resource agencies during this session.  And reports are being received related to “budget notes”—directions to agencies to address issues that the Legislature felt should be examined during the interim.  The Department of Geology and Mineral Industries’ business practices are being reviewed (https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/84421) .  Grant applications are reviewed and approved or rejected. We are hopeful that the Water Resources Department will receive additional funds for groundwater studies in the Greater Harney Basin.  To follow budget discussions, tune in to the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources (https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Committees/JWMNR/Overview). Many of the policy bills listed above will show up in Ways and Means for funding.

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earthClimate Change

By Claudia Keith and Cathy Frischmann, Climate Change Portfolio

Oregon Legislators move on Putting a Price on Green House Gas Emissions – Share your support with your legislators!

Healthy Climate Bill SB 1574 evolved from HB 3470 2015 and is the cornerstone of a comprehensive climate policy framework based on a Cap and Invest program that could move to Ways & Means next week. Several League members participated in the Feb 3 Clean Energy /Healthy Climate Lobby and Rally promoted by the Oregon Climate coalition Renew Oregon which the LWV Oregon joined and endorsed. Renew Oregon’s supporters are statewide and local climate organizations, over 50 businesses from throughout Oregon, the Coalition of Communities of Color, numerous local elected officials, people of faith, young people and hundreds of Oregonians. The bill ensures justice by investing in disadvantaged and rural communities. The proposed amendments will be reviewed.

SB 1574 Bill Text on OLIS at https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/SB1574/Introduced

League Testimony at https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/83728

Bill Fact Summary at Sightline Institute: http://socan.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Summary-OR-Healthy-Climate-Bill_Sightline-Institute_Dec-2015.pdf and at Renew Oregon http://www.reneworegon.org/healthy_climate_bill

Clean Energy / Coal Transition Bill HB 4036 Renew Oregon Climate Coalition Leadership and Oregon’s two major utilities negotiated a way to phase out coal power by 2030 and to expand our state’s the renewable energy commitment to 50% by 2040. No doubt the threat of a possible Ballot measure brought these folks to the table. This Bill could be on its way to Ways & Means next week. It is clear that the only comprehensive bill this session is the Healthy Climate Bill SB 1574.

HB 4036 Bill Text on OLIS at: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB4036/Introduced

League Testimony link: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/83601

Bill Facts & News at Portland General Electric: http://media.oregonlive.com/business_impact/other/OPUC%20OCEP%20Meeting%5B1%5D.pdf and at Statesman Journal: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/tech/science/environment/2016/01/06/oregons-largest-utilities-agree-clean-energy-plan/78361644/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

Energy Bills:  We need more folks to follow this category – at least 20 bills this session related to energy.

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gradcapChildren at Risk and Education

By Chris Vogel, Children at Risk/Education Portfolio

Department of Human Services policies to assure the safety of children and youth in foster care were amended in key bills this session. Numerous other bills on Children at risk, vulnerable youth, and family stability are addressed in this fast-paced short session. Read on for bill information on identification and intervention for younger kids, targeted school programs for those in poverty with high absenteeism, and transition to community college for at risk high school graduates.  Also included is the NEW LWVOR Children at Risk Position Statement published previously in the LWVOR newsletter that may be used for advocacy by the LWVOR Action Team.

Foster Care

SB 1515 establishes standards and criteria for mandatory licensing, certification or authorization of child-caring agencies by Department of Human Services. SB 1516 convenes a work group to develop and recommend licensing fees and criminal and civil penalty structure for child-caring agencies, certain foster homes. HB 4080 establishes Governor’s Foster Care Advisory Commission to advise Governor and Director of Human Services regarding foster care system in this state.

School

HB 4002 directs Department of Education to develop and implement statewide education plan to address chronic absences of students in public schools. HB 4031 appropriates moneys from General Fund to office for purpose of pilot program to reduce chronic absenteeism.

HB 4057 directs Department of Education to prepare report related to educational performance of students from families in poverty.

SB 1564 transfers reporting requirements related to English language learner programs from school districts to Department of Education.

HB 4050
creates Policy Advisory Council on Summer Learning.

SB 1537 establishes criteria by which school district may establish “fifth year” programs for students with high “risk” factors and low GPA’s to support success in a local community college for students not eligible for Oregon Promise. HB 4076 directs Office of Student Access and Completion to provide support services to enable students to be successful in the Oregon Promise program.

SB 1545 authorizes formation of children’s special districts to levy property taxes to fund programs that offer children’s services provided outside of school hours to students in kindergarten through grade 12.

Funding considerations (not bills) include: providing $5.4 million to ensure young Oregon children with developmental delays get the help and services they need; release of $17.5 million allocated in the 2015 Legislature for a preschool program for children from low-income Oregon families; and remedying a budgeting mistake where Head Start in Oregon received several million dollars less this year than the 2015 Legislature intended.

If you have a passion for working with me on any of these specific bills in this short session or in preparing for the longer 2017 session, your help is welcome: Chris Vogel – chrisvogelvolunteerlwvor@gmail.com. You may follow the progress of these bills from your computer. OLIS links provide you with the draft bill, any proposed amendments and meeting materials submitted to the committee. You’ll also be able to watch prior meetings and see future dates each bill will be addressed. As the session evolves and amendments flesh out the intent of these proposed bills, we shall determine which to support/oppose with written or verbal testimony. All bills have to be out of the committee of origin by the 11th day of session. The shape of a bill may alter dramatically as amendments are proposed so our support/opposition may change—after the 15th day of this short session bills/amendments may be passed with only an hour’s notice.

Children at Risk

Thanks to Local League Consensus input we enter this legislative session with “tools” for advocacy: LWVOR Children at Risk Position Statement. Last spring (2015) League members throughout Oregon studied early childhood education http://lwvor.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Children-at-Risk-CAR-Study-Final-1.pdf  and discussed consensus questions posed by the LWVOR study committee, and submitted their views to the state League. Those views were combined to formulate the following position, which can now be used for advocacy by local Leagues as well as the LWVOR Action Team.

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houseSocial Policy

 By Karen Nibler, Social Policy Coordinator

Social Policy action covers Health Care, Human Services and Housing, and Public Safety issues. Details on the progress of Basic Health Care, poverty programs, housing proposals, courts, and corrections management are described here.

Health Care

Health care expansion is moving ahead with HB 4017 to develop a blueprint for Basic Health to cover the low income population in the 138 – 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.  Oregon needs to develop this plan in order to apply for waivers under the Affordable Care Act.  See letter of support.

Since last session, the Oregon Health Authority issued rules which allowed changes in the Coordinated Care Organizations’ areas. CCO representatives objected to the lack of stability for the organizations and their patients.  The bill was carried over until Feb. 8.  See bill HB 4141.

Other bills of interest are HB 4062 to impose a tax on nicotine delivery systems, and HB 4124, which pertains to prescription monitoring programs, both are scheduled for a work session on Feb. 8.

Human Services

Human Services include child, family, day care, financial, and housing programs. House representatives have proposed General Assistance for adults applying for disability in HB 4042.  See letter of support.  Earned Income Tax Credits in HB 4144 were discussed in Human Services and HB 4110 and 4120 in Revenue Committees. HB 4144 with a -1 amendment sets up a Task Force to determine the rates of utilization of the EITC and to direct parents to federal tax filing resources in order to claim the tax credits. HB 4110 and 4120 are proposals on the percent of the tax credit, in 4110 originally 14% and 16% but reduced in a -2 amendment, and 9% in 12 equal installments in HB 4120.  Negotiations continue.

Housing

Housing bills HB 4001 and 4143 on tenant protections are being amended and are set for a work session  in the house committee.   HB 4064 proposed a loan fund in OHCS for non-profits, specifically for Habitat for Humanity. SB 1582 on Local Innovation and Fast Track housing is being considered in the Senate Committee. This bill is a carryover from 2015 when a bill to set guidelines on $40 million in housing funds did not pass.  The Oregon Housing and Community Services agency will work with local governments and private contractors to build affordable housing. Q bonds will provide the $40 million in funds for this program.  This is a program we can support and did support in the OHCS Budget in the last session.

Public Safety

Public Safety will consider an increase in judges’ salaries in HB 4145 as part of the Oregon Judicial Department Budget. HB 4093 was a request from county officials to raise court fees to pay for courthouse construction.  House Judiciary will consider bills on Juvenile Justice HB 4074, and Health Care in jail facilities HB 4116. The Department of Corrections has requested additional funds for an increasing population in the prisons and for Behavioral Health treatment in the prisons.

HB 4074 was the result of a work group to consider sex offender registration for juveniles charged in the adult system.  Psychological evaluations will advise the parole requirements. This bill is scheduled for Feb 9.  LWVOR will submit a letter in support with comments that juveniles should be evaluated earlier in the process and released earlier if they do not present the threat of violence.

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magnifyingglassGun Safety and Violence Prevention

By Marge Easley, Gun Safety Portfolio

Recent events, including the Umpqua Community College shooting and the Malheur Refuge occupation, have prompted renewed interest in gun safety and violence prevention measures. The League, using our gun safety and violence prevention positions, supports the closing of a gaping loophole in the background check law and the establishment of a statewide school tip line.

If you’d like to find out more about Oregon’s gun laws from a League perspective, please take a look at this four-page report, “LWVOR Gun Safety Summary.

Removing a Loophole in the Background Check Law

Elimination of the three-day “default proceed” gun sale loophole is the goal of HB 4147, which drew a large crowd to its first hearing on February 4 in House Judiciary. The League testified in support along with many other gun safety advocates. A special guest, introduced by bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Williamson, was Rev. Sharon Risher, who lost three relatives in the June mass killing of nine parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Thus, the loophole in current law is also referred to as the “Charleston Loophole,” because a clerical error allowed the Charleston shooter to legally obtain a firearm despite a drug conviction. Federal law allows a buyer to automatically take possession of a firearm after three days, even though the background check may be incomplete. A few states have chosen to eliminate that provision or lengthen the time period, and it is hoped that the passage of HB 4147 will allow Oregon to be the next state to do so.

Mental Health Emergency Reporting Bill is Dead this Session

SB 1551, which sets up a mental health emergency reporting system to temporarily delay gun purchases for 30 days, was abruptly pulled from the Senate Judiciary agenda, suggesting that more work is needed on the bill. Sponsored by Chair Floyd Prozanski, it may appear in revised form next session.

Statewide School Tip Line

The League testified in support of HB 4075, one of four recommendations of the Oregon School Safety Task Force. On the heels of school shootings across the country, including Oregon shootings at Reynolds High School and Umpqua Community College, the bill establishes an anonymous statewide voice and text tip line to be used by students or family members to alert law enforcement to a possible impending violent act.

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buildingsymbolGovernance

By Kappy Eaton, Governance Coordinator

Governance includes the areas of elections, ethics, fiscal policy, public records, redistricting, and campaign finance reform. Details on legislation regarding tax inequity, government transparency and the latest on campaign finance reform are described in this report.

Property Tax Inequity Discussed

SJR 201 received considerable support at the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue February 4 (including LWVOR’s) but will not move this session. It would have amended the Oregon Constitution to repeal Measure 50 (1997), which has caused compression and inequitable property tax problems across Oregon’s cities, school districts and counties. Paul Warner, Director of the Legislative Revenue Office (LRO), indicates that more research and deliberation is needed before further action is taken.

Key components of the bill would not change the permanent tax rates of counties that are frozen at 1995 rates, and Measure 5 (1990) limitations would continue. They would be applied to real market value of properties, not assessed value. Local option levies would continue, and homestead exemptions would be equal across all counties and not weighted in any way. The growth in assessed valuation of property is capped at 3% a year.

SJR 201 is an important step in the continuing discussion of property tax reform, and the return to a real market assessment is fair. The inequities of neighborhood assessments are critical, and the permanent tax rates no longer reflect the realities of today. The discussion is expected to continue in the 2017 session of the Legislature, especially if proposed Initiative 28 should reach the ballot and be passed.

Government Transparency: Public Records and Bill Amendments

The Oregon House of Representatives has made changes in its Rules to make it easier to see who is influencing legislation and how state government operates. Both the House and Senate will require all proposed amendments to include information about the requester, which has been anonymous before. This will include all proposals from legislators, committees, individuals, organizations, local governments, or state agencies.

HB 4130 proposes to update public records requests rules. Records would be retained for two years rather than just one. A request for records from a public body would be completed within 30 days or an estimate of time must be given. There are many other details in this bill, including a requirement that the Secretary of State make website postings of all county and local initiatives and other ballot measures. These updates are in partial response to the audit done by the Secretary of State in 2015 regarding the problems with access to public records.

Campaign Finance Reform: Proposal and Initiative

HJR 205, a constitutional amendment to allow limits on campaign contributions, was assigned to Senate Rules with a hearing scheduled for Feb. 10. Another similar constitutional amendment requested by the Task Force on Campaign Finance may also be considered. Since the Rules committees can hear and refer anytime during the session, there is a possibility one of these bills will be seriously considered. Initiative petition #77, regarding campaign contributions, has not yet been approved for circulation.

Other Legislation of League Interest: Monitoring Only

Minimum wage proposals have been introduced to counteract the several initiative measures being circulated (#s 57, 58, 59). The Governor’s bill, SB 1532, passed out of the Senate Workforce committee with amendment 13 with a vote of 3-2 on party lines. The minimum wage would increase over seven years, starting July 1, 2016 and ending June 30, 2022. There are three separate wage schedules phasing up: Portland ending with $14.75; non-urban areas with $12.50; remainder of state at $13.50. After 2022-23, the wage increases would be indexed to the Portland CPI.

Laws against human trafficking by prostitution were strengthened by House passage of HB 4082, 54-0, on February 4. It expands the crime to include receiving goods, services or other things of value derived from prostitution beyond just money or property exchange. Passage is expected in the Senate.

Higher Education bills include HB 1586 requiring additional increases by public institutions for student access and information to voter registration, augmenting 2013 legislation. There is a fiscal impact. SB 1558 in Senate Education committee is expected to pass after a work session February 8. It deals with who has access to a student’s physical and mental health records. An amendment allows access to all institutional members rather than a ban as originally proposed.

Initiatives certified for circulation include #28 which would raise the corporate minimum income tax beyond $25 million in sales; #41 would raise minimum wage to $15 by 2019;  #49 would ban “emergency” clauses attached to most legislative bills; #50 would ban giving out voter information such as age and address; #57 would allow local governments to raise minimum wage; #58 would raise minimum wage to $13.50 by 2018; #59 would raise it to $13.50 by 2019.

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publicPublic Access

By Paula Krane, Public Access Coordinator

Intimidation tactics or better access?

During this short session there have been two maneuvers that seem to be making it harder for legislation to pass and the public to testify.

In the House a little used ruled is now being imposed that on third reading of a bill, the bill must be read in its entirety.  This is taking time away from the reason everyone is at the capital and not allowing our elected Legislators to do the job we sent them to Salem to do. It also looks a little like filibustering.

On Monday during a hearing, rules were read that said that either the Chair or Vice Chair could request that a witness be SWORN IN.  The witness can choose not to testify, can have an attorney present and may be liable for federal charges.  This maneuver has been used at least twice the first week.  This was a first for me and I will try and find out the effect of this maneuver on the public when they want to testify.

On the positive side the House and Senate adopted rules requiring that all amendments include information about the requester of the amendment. The amendments now must have the name of the legislator or the source of the amendment.  And amendments must be posted at least one hour before being considered during a committee hearing.

Lastly it has come to our attention that many of our emails being sent to our Legislators are going to spam.  Make sure you have identified yourself and in the subject line that you have stated the bill or topic you are contacting them about.  And DO NOT send form messages or follow throughs, but make sure it is in your words.

 

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