Legislative Report, Sine Die – Number 24 – September 2017


In This Issue

Governance

Natural Resources

Social Policy

Education Policy


buildingsymbolGovernance

By Rebecca Gladstone, Governance Coordinator

LWVOR’s Governance Portfolio represents work from a team of contributors, credited in their sections.  LWVOR Action made Revenue our top priority for Oregon’s 79th Legislative Assembly.  An unprecedented number of bills lagged in policy committees, with unresolved issues forwarded to Joint Ways and Means Committees late in the session. We covered:

  • Revenue and Tax Reform, opening the session with a $1.8 billion shortfall
  • Public Records Law, with bills passed this session for the most reform in over 44 years.
  • Elections (including National Popular Vote, Redistricting and Campaign Finance Reform, an ongoing elections omnibus bill debate, and voter registration)
  • General Governance (including civil liberties)
  • Technology management, including open data standards and cybersecurity

Revenue & Taxation (Chris Vogel)

Our last LWVOR Legislative Report #23 – July 16, 2017 contained a summary of League testimony on proposed tax reform that was unable to exit a joint committee.  Additionally, you may wish to review the Legislative Revenue Office Report on the 2017 Session.  Below, we briefly highlight the 2017-19 revenue forecast issued August 23, 2017, Economic and Revenue Outlook.

  • A personal income tax “kicker” of $463.5 million is projected.
  • $110.5 million corporate tax revenue “kicker” is projected to be dedicated to K-12 education spending.
  • Projected Net General Fund resources are up $78.9 million (0.4%) from the June 2017 forecast.
  • Projected Lottery resources are up $105 million (8.1%) from the June 2017 forecast.
  • Projected combined net General Fund and Lottery resources are up $336.3 million (1.6%) from the June 2017 forecast.

ELECTIONS

National Popular Vote (Marge Easley)

It was another disappointing session for Oregon supporters of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.  For the fourth time, the bill stalled in the Senate following passage in the House.  Despite a very vocal and at times contentious show of grassroots support and forums around the state, Senate leaders refused to waver from their preference for a referral version (SB 825), even though the U.S. Constitution clearly states that selection of electors is a legislative decision.  A work session never materialized following a Senate Rules hearing on both bills.  The League will continue to provide strong support for the passage of NPV in Oregon, using the 2010 LWVUS position promoting NPV as an acceptable way to achieve the direct popular vote of the President.

Redistricting (Norman Turrill)

The Secretary of State organized near the beginning of the legislative session an advisory Fair Redistricting Task Force that was composed of members from all Oregon political parties and the League.  It was working by consensus to draft a proposed Oregon constitutional amendment that would institute an independent redistricting commission to do the next remapping of congressional and legislative districts in 2021.  The Task Force did not finish the draft, but will likely issue a report soon about its status.  It will then decide what to do next.

Campaign Finance Reform (Norman Turrill)

Two bills that would clamp down on independent expenditures (dark money) seemed likely to pass the legislature. These bills are important because independent expenditures are often used for negative advertising and to hide the true source of campaign monies. Because negative ads often come late in a campaign, candidates can lose control of their messaging.

HB 2505 A was adopted by the legislature and will require disclosure of independent expenditures for communications that even refer to a candidate or political party near an election.

HB 2584 A remained in Senate Rules and would have tightened the rules for when third-party expenditures are coordinated with candidates or are independent expenditures.  It would also have increased the penalties and other regulations relating to independent expenditures.

HB 2578 A would have established a Small Donor Funded Elections program to enable candidates for state office to receive a 6-to-1 match on small dollar donations.  It passed out of House Rules and waited for funding in Ways and Means.  It was similar to an ordinance adopted by the Portland City Council.

The Secretary of State rejected a draft initiative, IP 12, enabling campaign contribution and expenditure limits (after supporters filed 1,616 signatures to get a ballot title), because it supposedly contains more than one subject.  However, because IP 12 is just one sentence long, and because this question was already litigated for Measure 46 (2006), the League disagrees with this determination. The sponsors will either file a lawsuit or submit a new initiative petition.

An Elections Bill, a Health Care Bill, a referendum, and possible special election

SB 229, the elections omnibus bill, is now related to HB 2391, a health care bill, and Referendum #301, with a possible special election. Late in the session, SB 229 was amended, requiring a January 2018 special election if the Referendum #301 petition is successful, with changes in the ballot measure processes.  The ballot measure titling process is usually administered through the Attorney General. However, as was done with Measures 66 & 67 decided in a January 2010 special election, an appointed legislative committee would write ballot title and explanatory statement for this referendum petition.  Referendum #301, “Stop Healthcare Taxes”, would repeal only the tax parts of HB 2391, the health care budget bill.  LWVOR has updated our “Think Before You Ink” brochure to include referendum considerations.

Furthermore, the SoS announced after Sine Die a proposed administrative rule change that would allow signature gathering while a ballot measure title is still being disputed.  The SoS’s proposed rule change removes possible delays to petition signature gathering, while waiting for a ballot measure title that could take several months to be appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court.  On one hand, signature collection might be “less vulnerable to manipulation” and on the other hand, might be impervious to complaints of misleading ballot measure titling.

These pit partisan concerns against each other.  Republicans are pushing for public reconsideration of the health care bill at a standard election cycle in November 2018.  There is general Republican resentment for two health care issues in HB 2391, the inclusion of abortion funding and coverage for health care of the estimated 5% of Oregon’s children whose parents are not documented citizens. Democrats are hoping that Referendum #301 will not collect adequate signatures (58,789 required) and that the Legislature’s health care budget compromise will remain in place.  Otherwise, they have required in SB 229 a January 2018 special election, to allow the February 2018 short legislative session to respond to a possibly newly unbalanced health care budget, to make further large budget cuts, including provision for covering the loss of federal matching health care funds.  If delayed till November 2018, the budget gap would be much larger and matching federal funding may be forfeit (press Op-Ed).

The other content of SB 229 was forwarded through three SoS terms of office, finally passed during this session.  The League had a sponsor to gut and stuff an amendment into SB 906, with an “opt-in” (not mandatory) centralized (state-wide) candidate filing process through ORESTAR.  We researched and convened discussions with the Secretary of State Elections Division, the Oregon Association of County Clerks, Special District Association of Oregon, the League of Oregon Cities, and the Oregon School Boards Association.  This was tabled for lack of adequate support from smaller Special Districts.  We will continue this effort.  We supported related bills HB 2696, to place Community College bond measures in state Voters’ Pamphlets if not covered locally, and HB 2873, to report city bonding ballot measures through ORESTAR and publish in state Voters’ Pamphlets.  The Association of Oregon Counties would like expanded use of ORESTAR for special campaign accounts, with expanded transparency defined in statute.  This relates to an ongoing ethics investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice, the Oregon Secretary of State and the Oregon Ethics Commission in Deschutes County.  These reflect a growing coordination and efficiency that we support.

HB 2349 relates to “imitation voters’ pamphlets”.  The Secretary of State’s staff consulted with us on the bill’s language development to ensure that it be clearly not seen as a prohibition against League voting materials. A -2 amendment passed out of House Rules with no further action.

Voter Registration

SB 802 passed with League support, allowing voter pre-registration for those at least 16 years old. Note, the age to vote is unchanged, still set at 18 years.

HB 3408 passed to codify current practice for voter registration card processing.

SJR 2, allowing Voter Registration up to the day before election, failed with extensive League comments.  So did HJR 6, calling for redistricting to one Senator per county, which we opposed.

SB 225 passed with League support, to hold treasurers of petition and political action committees (PACs) accountable as a default, yet provide the option to designate liability to another elector for any civil penalty imposed.

HB 2871 failed, despite League support, to expand services for minority language voting materials.

GENERAL GOVERNANCE

Civil Liberties

After the 2016 election, civil liberties, including “Sanctuary Cities” and privacy issues became national and local news.  The League supported HB 3464, for privacy rights.  It passed strictly on partisan lines, but required additional security for its public hearings.  This bill directly clarified adherence to state and federal laws, authorizing privacy from reporting citizenship or immigration status, except as required by state or federal law, or in certain other circumstances.  Testimony was polarized, both sides fearful, immigrants describing detentions and others fearful of immigrants and concerned for conflicts with federal law.  It is contested by the Initiative Petition #22, “Stop Oregon Sanctuaries”, filed in April 2017.

Public Records Laws

Public records bills passed with extensive preparation from the AG Public Records Task Force.  We supported HB 2101, SB 106, SB 481, and HB 3361 intermittently through various amendments, citing futile efforts in 1993, when exemptions requests were estimated at over 3,450.  See the July 23, 2017 Governance Legislative Report.  These bills were negotiated at great length, reflecting the struggle between privacy and transparency and preferences for presiding authority between the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Department of Administrative Services.  The bills establish a group of committees, with curiosity about why all were needed. HB 3274 passed with League support, codifying confidentiality of information shared by small businesses seeking help from the Small Business Assistance Office in the Corporations Division. HB 2874 failed. This public records privacy bill focused on ownership of email lists

Audits

The 2015 Legislature created a Joint Audits Committee, convening this session.  Their workplan was to set audit request criteria, covering 14 proposed audits, send a biennial audit list letter to the Secretary of State, and follow up on audit compliance.  The Department of Revenue (DoR) was set as a General Governance priority, after shortcomings in six consecutive audits, with more time committee spent on DoR than all others combined, with confidence expressed for Nia Ray, the new DoR Director.

In late May the Secretary of State issued an “audit alert” over annual health care benefit eligibility review, perhaps needing to be conducted more frequently.  The Governor’s reply added that accuracy and “eligibility override monitoring” needs improvement, too.  This raises the question of how we more broadly assess services and fund assessments, how review cycles should be optimized to ensure needed services are provided and goals accomplished.  For example, this is a concern with equitable and frequent property assessments, the basis for a principal revenue source.

Technology Management

A newly formed joint committee convened this session: Information Management and Technology. SB 2906 passed with League support, establishing an “Oregon Geographic Information Council”. This bill reflects work we supported from earlier sessions and the Data Sharing Work Group we attended and lobbied.  It should improve Special District geographic definition, which will directly aid our Voter Services, both for personalized ballot representation and for They Represent You.

HB 3361, State Data Officer, State Website Portal:  The State Chief Information Officer will appoint a Chief Data Officer to maintain a state agency data web portal.  This Data Officer will establish open data standards and publish a technical standards manual for posting website data.  A standards compliance target date is set for May 1, 2019.  The SoS and Treasurer negotiated exemptions and the bill calls for them to adopt the same or similar data management “rule requirements.”  This bill may cover the webpages already designed and filled with League “They Represent You” information from the 2015 election.  We shared information for over 7,100 Oregon officials, with office titles and contact information, websites, etc.  We will continue efforts to establish statutory responsibility for updating and maintaining this information and hope to make progress by working with the Oregon Transparency Task Force now that the legislative session has ended.

SB 90 passed with League support, establishing an “Oregon Cybersecurity Advisory Council”, centralizing state agency services, for rapid response, with improved efficiency.

HB 3213: passed, adding Broadband Advisory Council’s reporting on the role of broadband technology in local, state and regional economies and economic development.

HCR 24 failed, calling for videoconferencing support, despite League support.  It would have enabled greater participation, saving travel time and expense.  It was one of many worthy bills that may have passed in a healthier budget session.

We supported the failed HB 3422, with reservations, addressing petition signature observation but adding pressure to the already tight elections’ calendar.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you, please contact: Governance Coordinator: Becky Gladstone, 541.510.9387, rebecca.gladstone@gmail.com.

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dropletNatural Resources

By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator

We had wins and losses in the 2017 session.  Rather than list the more than 75 natural resource area bills we addressed this session, we are available to answer questions.  Contact us.  Here are some highlights:

The Elliott State Forest will stay in public hands.  Our natural resource agencies will continue to function, but not at the level we would like.  In particular, we are most disappointed about the lack of additional funding for Cleaner Air Oregon.  Again, the Legislature did not address Climate Change, except for funding transit and other alternative transportation in the major Transportation PackageClean Energy Jobs ended the session as SB 1070 with 33 co-sponsors.  The worst land use bills, such as SB 432 died, but there were erosions to our award-winning program.

After each session, agencies develop rules to implement legislation.  YOU can participate in these efforts.  Check the agency assigned to the legislation for more information.  The end of one session simply means it’s time to work on 2018.  Begin by attending Legislative Town Halls in your area.  Share what you learn with your Action Team. 

AGENCY BUDGETS (PEGGY LYNCH)  

The League provided written or oral testimony on almost all of the 14 natural resource agency budgets that comprise only about 2% of the state budget’s General Funds.  That did not change in 2017.  In fact, each agency needs to address the cost containment provisions by the legislature and the Governor.  Many positions that had been unfilled for a long time were eliminated.  Each agency will need to find 5% reductions from their approved budgets—most likely by holding vacancies open longer than usual.  Again, the agencies that are charged with protecting our air and water, our environment at all levels, will be struggling to meet their missions.  Each agency budget is posted on their individual website.

CLIMATE CHANGE (CLAUDIA KEITH)

Clean Energy Jobs (Cap & Invest): On July 6, a new carbon pricing Bill was introducedSB 1070 with 33 sponsors.  The Governor has since expressed support.  It is expected much work will be done during the interim to lay the groundwork to passage of a new bill.  Over 650 Oregon businesses are joining together to support a price on carbon.  (Additional info is available at the Renew Oregon campaign.)  In addition, the Governor will be hiring a new carbon policy advisor. Just now, California Cap and Trade program update.

LWVUS, jointly with LWVOR, have Amici standing in the historical Our Children’s Trust, ‘Juliana vs Federal Government’ climate lawsuit.  Thomas Coffin, a federal judge in Oregon, set a trial date of Feb. 5, 2018.  It will take place in Eugene, Ore., before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken.  The Leagues are currently planning on submitting an amicus brief in late August.  This is in response to the latest White House mandamus challenge, 9th Circuit will hear arguments and news.  More info at: LWVUS Climate Tool Kit- Climate Lawsuit.  Latest update: https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/press-releases/.  Additionally, we plan to continue referring to this legal standing in the majority of future Climate related Legislative testimonies.

Other Highlights:  The Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC) met July 28 to discuss: 1) Findings from the OGWC Forest Carbon Task Force, 2) Review of the 2017 State Legislative Session and 3) Ideas for a new communications project (e.g., blog series).  See OGWC July meeting handouts and link to podcast. Other: Climate Solutions July 2017 Oregon Leg Update, Latest on Fracked Natural Gas Oregon challenges, Oregon House sends HB 2131 Oil Rail Safety bill back to committee and Climate Test legislation (SB 1007 and HB 3343) will be pushed out to Oregon 2019 session.

AIR QUALITY & TOXICS (MARILYN KOENITZER) 

We continue to follow the Cleaner Air Oregon process (see www.cleanerair.oregon.gov).  Our League member has been attending their meetings as the committee works toward recommending rules for Environmental Quality Commission adoption. The Cleaner Air Oregon Rules Advisory Committee met again in Portland on Aug. 29 & 30.

DEQ has made available the facility air toxics emissions estimates from the first round of reporting in a searchable format in order to streamline public records requests for this information. This data was submitted to DEQ as part of the Cleaner Air Oregon regulatory reform effort. DEQ required simple and standard air contaminant discharge permit and Title V permit holders to submit emissions inventory data on 187 EPA Hazardous Air Pollutants, as well as other air toxics.

The data is preliminary and represents estimates only. The database does not estimate health risk estimates and does not represent estimates of the potential risk posed from a facility’s emissions, and will go through many steps of refinement and is subject to change.

To search and view the data, please click here.

DEQ is proposing revisions to 23 standing Ambient Benchmark Concentrations and adding new benchmarks for phosgene, n-propyl bromide and styrene.  The public comment period has been extended to 4 p.m. on Oct. 2nd.  You can view the rulemaking web page at: Air Toxics Benchmarks Review 2017.  League voices are needed.  We continue to support a program grounded in science, informed by data and health-based.

ELLIOTT FOREST and FORESTRY (PEGGY LYNCH) 

The legislature passed SB 5505 that included $100 million in bonding to begin to “buy out” a portion of the Elliott State Forest from the Common School Fund.  The bonds are not expected to be sold until the spring of 2019.  HB 5006 provides monies to move forward with a new management plan, including funds to begin work on a new Habitat Conservation Plan that will protect endangered species and allow some timber harvest in the future.  You can follow this issue on the Dept. of State Lands website: http://www.oregon.gov/dsl/Land/Pages/Elliott.aspx

The new public electronic notification system (FERNS) for forestry activities is up and running. Trainings are being held around the state to learn how to access this important public system, although the fire season has slowed that effort.

LAND USE (PEGGY LYNCH, MARGE EASLEY) 

The Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) has highlighted land use bills in their Legislative Summary for Land Use (July 2017), located under Current Topics on DLCD’s home page.  The report also includes a list of all enrolled bills related to land use and effective dates.  Local governments will need to update their comprehensive plans and/or development codes as appropriate.  Local league members should be engaged in these local decisions.  The League was successful in extending the timeline for local governments to implement SB 1051, the “Housing Supply bill”, but we are seeing a number of new housing development proposals as the economy and loan access has increased.

The League will work with others to educate the large number of Oregonians who were not here in 1973 for the passage of SB 100 on the value of our statewide land use planning program.  Let us know if you would like to be involved in this effort.  We recently provided testimony to the Land Conservation and Development Commission on their 2017-19 Policy Agenda.

As amended, we will need to wait to see if SB 644, a bill related to mining in Eastern Oregon, meets the promise of an open and transparent process with reasonable permit streamlining AND protection of our important agricultural lands, as well as our iconic sage grouse.  A gold mine being considered outside of Vale is using a process in some ways similar to that adopted by SB 644.

The League did not testify on HB 3249, which establishes the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Commission and the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Fund.  The bill directs the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) to staff the commission.  OWEB is to establish grant programs to benefit owners of working land for succession planning, conservation management planning, covenants and easements.  The measure includes a $190,000 General Fund appropriation to OWEB to staff the commission and set up the grants program.  There is no money for making grants included in the bill this session, but we expect to see a request in 2018.

TRANSPORTATION (PEGGY LYNCH) 

A slimmed-down state transportation package, HB 2017, passed.  Here is an executive summary section-by-section description of the bill and a shorter “info graphic”.  It is a balanced package that supports not only road maintenance and seismic upgrades, but looks to the future in support of public transit statewide, safe routes to schools, additional bike and pedestrian infrastructure, electric vehicle purchase encouragement and provides monies to cities and counties to improve their systems.

Separate from HB 2017, transportation planning continues.  Below are opportunities to comment on future planning at the state level.  These same opportunities will be happening at the local level.  It’s your money—help decide how to spend it! 

The Oregon Department of Transportation has proposed adding 123 projects funded by HB 2017 to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (also known as the 2018-2021 STIP).  These projects include those specifically named in the bill and those funded by the additional resources that will come to ODOT.  The Oregon Transportation Commission invited the public to provide input on these proposed projects through September 15th.  Anyone interested can review the project descriptions online under “STIP Amendments for Public Review” and provide input via email, oregondotstip@odot.state.or.us.  After incorporating public input, ODOT will present these projects to the commission for approval at its meeting in Salem on Friday, September 22.

Additionally, the 2021-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program cycle begins.  The process for distributing money to transportation projects in the 2021-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program begins now.  Check it out at oregon.gov/ODOT/STIP.  You can take a survey to provide input on funding priorities, sign up for the STIP email list to get regular updates and watch a new video to learn STIP fundamentals.

The draft Oregon Freight Plan amendment materials are available for public review at www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Planning/Pages/Plans.aspx.  The Oregon Transportation Commission plans to hold a public hearing on the plan at its Sept. 22nd meeting, and are expected to consider approving the final amended Oregon Freight Plan in November.  Submit comments on the draft amendment materials to scott.turnoy@odot.state.or.us by Sept. 22nd.

Worried about distracted drivers:  ODOT and its partners, AAA of Oregon/Idaho and the Oregon State Police, invite those who drive in Oregon to join the movement towards healthy driving at DriveHealthy.org.  Organizations can register at www.DriveHealthy.org, then download the free app and the competition begins.  Each month is a new opportunity to compete.  Will it be effective?  A recent similar campaign in Boston reduced distracted driving by 47%.  The campaign also encourages local advocates to help reduce distracted driving in their communities.  https://www.drivehealthy.org/resources/ includes links to toolkits where advocates can do their own observational studies of distracted driving in their community and petition local jurisdictions to pass proclamations and policies to encourage healthy driving.

WATER (PEGGY LYNCH)

As of Aug. 1, over 45% of Oregon is now “abnormally dry”.  Although not as bad as the previous few years, one year of good snow doesn’t repair the years of drought we’ve experienced.

The 2017 public review draft of Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy received over 285 public comments!  These comments have been shared with the Water Resources Commission and will be considered as the staff amends the draft for final Commission consideration.  To view the current public review draft click here.  The Commission will be asked to adopt the 2017 Strategy in November.

OREGON PARKS AND RECREATION (PEGGY LYNCH)

HB 3149 passed to continue planning to complete the Oregon Beach Trail all along the Oregon coast.  The bill came with no funding and an unlimited timeline for project completion.  HB 3350 created the Office of Outdoor Recreation within OPRD and provided $281,894 in General Funds to pay for an Associate Director position to coordinate outdoor recreation policy, not only within the agency, but among state agencies, federal agencies and others.  Outdoor businesses have committed to provide funds for specific projects to support outdoor recreation programs.

Update on Scenic Waterways Candidates:

Nehalem River (This study area starts at Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground and ends at the boundary of Cougar Valley State Park, near Cook Creek Road.  A public meeting and hearing was held on Sept. 12.

North Santiam River (Wilderness boundary to Bruno Mt. Road, approximately 20 miles, Marion and Linn Counties)

South Umpqua River (Castle Rock Fork to Tiller, approximately 27 miles, Douglas County) (Each segment is approximate and will be refined as study progresses).  You can read more in this report, as well as the Upper Deschutes State Scenic Waterway project and Sherar’s Falls Scenic Bikeway Plan.

REGIONAL SOLUTIONS (PEGGY LYNCH)

The League encourages members to continue to follow the Regional Solutions (RS) program to assure that there is a public element to any funding decisions and that local citizens know what projects are being “helped” by the RS process.  Please sign up to get the notices of meetings in your region: www.regionalsolutions.oregon.gov

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!  Although the 2017 session has ended, our work continues. There are opportunities to participate with agencies and with legislators on rulemaking and task forces.  If any of these areas above interest you, please contact Natural Resources Coordinator Peggy Lynch at peggylynchor@gmail.com or 541-745-1025

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houseSocial Policy

 By Karen Nibler, Social Policy Coordinator

This session started with a deficit for the 2017-19 Budget, so the League held back on supporting bills that required general funds.  The Governor’s Budget had cuts in agency budgets, so we looked more closely at programs within agencies to learn which programs might be unfunded.

Ways and Means Human Services opened with The Oregon Health Authority Budget, HB 5026, which was a major concern due to threatened Medicaid cuts.  Oregon had expanded subsidized insurance coverage and Medicaid eligibility to cover more families and disabled adults, but general funds were needed to make up for decreased federal support.  The provider tax increases were proposed to maintain present service levels.  This bill passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor.  Unfortunately, it may be referred to the voters.  League members should revive the Think Before You Ink campaign for this petition to keep it off the ballot.

Mental Health Hospitals have a separate budget.  The Governor had proposed that the Junction City Hospital be closed as a cost savings measure.  The League was opposed to this option since hospital level treatment is needed and closing a facility has budget costs and reopening has even greater costs.  Fortunately, this budget cut was discarded early in the session.  The Oregon State Hospital in Salem continues to operate for both civilly committed patients and forensic patients.  Last session bills were passed to limit forensic commitments to felony offenses and/or seriously emotionally ill offenders. Community-based care for mentally ill patients has increased, but not sufficiently to meet the need yet.

Mental Health Services for adults and children have been integrated into physical health services, so private insurance or coordinated care organizations have covered out-patient and in-patient care. Recent bills have asked private insurance to cover children’s developmental conditions, as well as child abuse assessments done in local clinics.  County Health Departments continue to provide well baby and home visiting services, and women and children food programs.  However, funds for Public Health Services have been limited and priorities have been set for communicable disease control across county lines.  HB 3100 last session reorganized public health governance and services, but failed to provide funds for all the services within a modern public health system.  HB 2310 on governance for county public health did pass with an acknowledgement that funds were not available for all services recommended in local public health agencies.  SB 235 increased rules on tobacco licenses, and SB 754 increased to 21 the age to purchase tobacco.  HB 2114 revised opiate prescription regulations.

Health Care bills that passed this session were SB 588 for outreach to cover all eligible children, SB 419 on a Task Force on Hospital Rate Setting, SB 231 for Mental Health Services for college students, but no on HB 2305 for health care for all children between 200% and 300% of the poverty level.  HB 2408 asking for support for School Based Health Centers did not pass out of Ways and Means.  HB 2122 on reforms for Coordinated Care Organizations did not get to a consensus as well as HB 2155 on community benefits.  However, HB 2388 on rules for Pharmacy Benefit Managers did pass with reporting to the Insurance Division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services.  The League supported SB 588 and HB 2388 and made comments on the Oregon Health Authority Budget.

Additional health care bills of high potential impact were HB 2527 on pharmacist prescription of contraceptive shots and pills and HB 3391 on state coverage for contraceptive services plus abortion, which passed close to the end of session.  HB 3355 empowered psychologists to prescribe medicines for psychiatric conditions, which was vetoed by the Governor.  Psychiatrists and nurses had objected.  The Health Care for All and Rand Study initiatives were not moved forward this session.

The Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee reviewed the Department of Human Services budget, SB 5526, with proposed cuts in anti-poverty programs, such as General Assistance, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Child Care for College students.  Aging and People with Physical Disabilities were scheduled for reduced benefits, and Oregon Project Independence was in danger.

The decisions on this DHS budget were among the last decided near the end of session.  General Assistance for applicants for disability was discontinued, as well as child care for college students, but the TANF program survived along with child care supports for parents in job training.  The Oregon Project Independence to support elderly in their own homes also survived as a less expensive program than placements in residential care.  Live-in care was discontinued and hours of care are being reviewed. The League submitted comments on priorities in this budget bill.

Child Welfare bills that passed early in the session were SB 241 on rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents and HB 2216 on sibling rights for children in foster care.  Both of these bills were supported by LWVOR.  HB 2401 required trauma informed care from child welfare services, and HB 3372 required health screenings within 60 days of placement.  SB 101 stipulated rules on child abuse investigations, and HB 2903 set rules for providers to prevent any incidents of mistreatment in foster care or residential placements.  HB 2500 provided juvenile dependency training for child welfare workers who appear in court proceedings.  Court Appointed Special Advocates home office was moved from Housing Services to the Department of Administrative Services in HB 2600, with funds transfer for 1 staff and support for district court programs.

Other DHS related bills were HB 3405, which allowed recipients of child care tax credits to qualify without claiming food benefits.  HB 2684 increased the hourly wage of direct support workers in adult and disability care, which increased the salary budget for DHS.  HB 5021 was the budget bill for the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which added the oversight of adult residential programs.

WOMEN’S HEALTH AND WELLNESS (DEBBIE RUNCIMAN)

The legislative session finished with several big successes on the Women’s Health and Wellness Alliance Agenda.  In health care, HB 3391, comprehensive women’s reproductive health coverage protects the full range of reproductive health services and specifically calls out postpartum care for undocumented women; SB 558, Cover All Kids, extends health coverage for ALL children, including undocumented kids.  We also had big successes for working women, including Pay Equity, HB 2005, and the Predictive Scheduling Bill, SB 828.

Bucking the national trend, our anti-discrimination bills fared well.  HB 3060 requires all contractors who do business with the state to have a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy; HB 2673 makes it easier for transgendered people to change their name on their birth certificates; and Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles will offer a third gender marker to recognize non-binary identities.

Victims of sex trafficking will see significant improvements in their encounters with the judicial system.  SB 250 creates an affirmative defense to prosecution of prostitution; SB 249 allows sex trafficked victims to vacate a prior conviction under certain circumstances.  Also, HB 2740 raises the age from 15 to 18 for certain increased penalties for traffickers, so that it’s clear that all minors are off limits.

Successful legislation to better combat sexual assault and domestic violence includes:  HB 2972, addressing college campus responses to sexual assault incidences; SB 261, assuring that a victim’s past sexual history cannot be used as evidence in a civil case, just as it is already disallowed in criminal cases; and HB 3060, which spells out that companies who wish to do business with the State of Oregon must have written policies and procedures for preventing and dealing with sexual assault, discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Oregon Housing and Community Services: Many Housing proposals were heard in response to the housing shortages around the state.  Because there was a budget deficit, the League was hesitant to support new housing projects.  Many of the housing bills passed out of House Human Services to Ways and Means.  The League submitted a letter regarding the disconnect between the policy committee and the funds available in Ways and Means Committees this session.  The committee chairs invited the director of Housing and Community Services to present the housing budget to the committee, which helped describe where the bills fit within the budget.  However, the number of asks were overwhelming. Many bills sent to Ways and Means died there, mainly due to lack of funds, not lack of merit or support.

The League supported HB 2002 for housing preservation, a program within the Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) Department.  The rent stabilization bill drew crowds of renters and landlords, but HB 2004 did not pass after several amendments.  HB 2724 provided funds to OHCS for a rent guarantee program, and HB 2912 provided land acquisition funds to the agency.  HB 3175 redefined low income eligibility, and HB 3063 continued work on a previously allotted $20 million for housing for mentally ill clients.  The League supported this project in the last session when the funds were allocated.  The League attends the Housing Alliance meetings, but decides separately on support for bills.  HB 2006 on Mortgage Interest Deductions and HB 3357 on the Document Recording Fee increase failed.

Among the last Ways and Means bills, the legislature funded $80 million for low income housing from bonds and $25 million for affordable housing preservation from lottery funds.  The Budget Reconciliation bill added $21 million for Emergency Housing Assistance and State Homeless Assistance programs in community action agencies for a total of $41 million for homeless programs.  The League has supported the OHCS agency budgets in prior sessions, and the majority of funds this session went to the agency.

The Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) Budget in HB 5042 covers the operation of the state courts including the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Tax Court at the state level and the 27 District Courts throughout Oregon.  The budget covers salaries of state administrative staff, judges, support staff and Trial Court Administrators in the Districts.  District Attorneys and staff salaries are separate.  In this biennium 2 new district judges will be appointed for Washington and Jefferson Counties.  The Capital Construction bill will pay for two courthouse projects on the State Supreme Court building in Salem and the Multnomah County courthouse renovation, equipment and furnishings.

Requests for additional judges, raises and courthouse projects throughout the state were not funded, but a priority list for statewide courthouse projects was established.  The courthouse security costs will be shared with counties, as well as regular maintenance costs.  The League has supported the OJD Budget in order to maintain a strong third branch of government.  The League also supported the Public Defense Services Commission Budget and its request for higher salaries for defense attorneys, which failed.

GUN SAFETY (MARGE EASLEY)

LWVOR supported five gun safety bills, but the only one to pass was SB 719, Extreme Risk Protection Order. This bill creates a judicial process that allows the temporary removal of deadly weapons from those who present imminent risk of suicide or injury to others. Unfortunately, gun rights supporters have announced a possible referral of this law to voters for the November 2018 Election.

SB 1065, the Firearms Safety Package, championed by Governor Brown, did not move out of Senate Rules, but parts of it will undoubtedly reappear in future sessions.  The bill ultimately became a catchall bill that would have closed the Charleston Loophole, expanded the definition of domestic abusers, and made several minor changes and exceptions to existing gun laws.  Also unsuccessful were two Child Access Prevention bills, SB 1026 and HB 2130, both of which make it a crime to endanger a minor by allowing access to a firearm, and HB 3460 (Firearm Safety and Suicide Prevention Information), which makes suicide educational materials available to gun dealers and customers.

The Adult Corrections Budget in HB 5004 reflected anticipated reductions in population due to HB 3078, which proposed lower sentences for drug offenses and identity theft and greater earned time relief.  The League worked with the Oregon Coalition on Safety and Savings to pass this bill.  The Criminal Justice Commission distributes funds for Community Corrections services for Parole and Probation offices in the counties.  The recidivism rate has dropped, which has been a savings for corrections.

The Oregon Youth Authority in HB 5042 operates correctional facilities for committed juvenile offenders or adult offenders under 25.  The agency will close two facilities and expand the MacLaren facility to house more offenders in that facility.  The budget was decreased and staff were moved within the department.  Community foster or group home facilities were also reduced at the state level with the expectation that some offenders will be supervised on the county level. The League supported the reduction of facility populations and expansion of community corrections services at the local level.

The League also supported services for Runaway and Homeless Youth in local shelter facilities and local mental health treatment agencies.  The Department of Human Services administers funds for local programs.  The Department of Education administers Youth Development training funds for local youth agencies.  Both agencies have had reduced funds from federal and state sources in recent years.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you, please contact Social Policy Coordinator: Karen Nibler 541.752.8567 niblerk@comcast.net

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Education Policygradcap

By Chris Vogel, Education Policy Coordinator

Our last LWVOR Legislative Report #23 – July 16, 2017 contained a summary of League testimony throughout the session and provided links to budget details in early learning, K-12 and higher education.

Below, we briefly summarize budget highlights—so called winners and losers in education funding.

EARLY LEARNING:

  • Oregon Pre-Kindergarten/Early Head Start: funded at Current Service Level (CSL), $152.3 million
  • Healthy Families Oregon: funded at CSL, $24.8 million
  • Relief Nurseries: funded at CSL, $8.9 million
  • Preschool Promise: funded at CSL, $35.7 million
  • Kindergarten Partnership Innovation Fund: Funded at $9 million, representing a 4.1% reduction from CSL
  • Focused Child Care Networks: funded at $2 million, representing a 12% reduction from CSL
  • Early Learning Hubs: funded at $14.9 million, representing an 11% reduction
  • Employment Related Day Care: Reduced by $11.7 million. This represents the loss of approximately 650 slots for low-income day care.
  • Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education: $175 million, representing a 3.51% increase from CSL

K-12 EDUCATION:

  • At $8.2 billion, the State School Fund (distributed to school districts) is 11.2 percent more than the 2015-17 budget, the largest State School Fund ever distributed, but it represents a reduction to CSL of $1.4 billion. Growing retirement and health care costs to school districts erodes funding
  • $170 million for Measure 98 programs, about 60% of the funding that M98 required: The legislature also added flexibility for small districts and allowed up to 15 percent of the funds to go to eighth-grade programs.
  • $24 million to Outdoor School programs created under Measure 99, paid through Lottery Funds
  • $6.2 million to help address chronic absenteeism
  • $1.8 million to develop Native American curriculum for districts
  • $6 million to fund the African American Education Plan
  • $101 million in state bonds to fund the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program
  • $101 Million for the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program

HIGHER EDUCATION, COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:

  • The Public University Support Fund increased by $43.6 million to $736.9 million or almost 6.3% over CSL
  • The Community College Support Fund increased by $6.4 million to $570.3 million or almost 1.1% over CSL
  • Funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant was maintained at the CSL level of $146.1 million
  • The Oregon Promise program was funded at $40 million, but a new means-test for family income was added

During the session, we worked with many others, when our LWV Positions agreed: here are some session summaries:

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!  If you have an interest in following early learning, K-12 or higher education, please contact Education Policy Coordinator: Chris Vogel, 503.586.8314, chrisvogelvolunteerlwvor@gmail.com we always appreciate further inquiries on bills of interest.

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