Legislative Report, Volume 27, Number 20 – June 2017

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In This Issue

Important Dates

Revenue and Tax Reform

Governance

Natural Resources

Social Policy

Education Policy


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Important Dates and Resources

Here are some key dates in the Oregon Legislature for 2017

June 23: 
Target adjournment of 2017 Legislative Session.
July 10: 
Constitutional deadline for adjournment of 2017 Legislative Session.

For a list of our Action Committee members and brief position descriptions, please see Taking Action Through Advocacy.

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Revenue and Tax Reform

By Alice Bartelt, Rebecca Gladstone, Claudia Keith, Peggy Lynch and Chris Vogel

TAX REFORM

The LWVOR filed testimony calling for direct Legislative passage of a Tax Reform bill this session, after assertions that there is not enough time left in this session, despite a -12 simulation in Joint Tax Reform. The Statesman Journal cited: Business tax proposals get specific rates, an official bill and support from [sic] women voters.

On 6-8-17 the Tax Reform Committee saw HB 2830 -1, with the understanding that the -2 would be out 6-12, Monday, offering “bridge” legislation (summary) from the current corporate tax to the privilege tax or a Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) for businesses with nexus in Oregon with more than $3M in gross receipts. The bill summary was outdated at release, showing a “temporary” increase in existing corporate tax rates to close the current budget hole.

COST CONTAINMENT

On 6-9-17 Joint Ways and Means Capital Construction unrolled Cost Containment measures in SB 1067, geared primarily toward state employees, collective bargaining rollup costs, and addition of steps in ranges, creating a mechanism to establish employer side accounts to help offset future PERS costs. Unions are unhappy, believing that balancing the budget should include more substantial business tax measures. They are also unhappy about SB 1068, directing the PERS Board to establish risk sharing accounts for members of the Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan individual account program.

EDUCATION

Democrats continue to tout the Oregon Education Investment Initiative (OEII) to “allow our state to invest in the education system our kids deserve”. The proposal in its current state would raise over $2 billion – with 75% dedicated to education – using a broad base and a low rate to reform the state’s business tax structure. The -2 may be released before Tuesday’s Tax Reform meeting.

HEALTH CARE PROVIDER TAX

HB 2391 passed out of the Human Services Subcommittee to Joint W&Ms last Thursday, after hearing the -9 amendment (video). We are in revenue coalitions, actively negotiating with this package. Oregon hospitals reluctantly go along with tax hike to help shore up Medicaid.

TRANSPORTATION

HB 2017 -1 (298 page Text) calls for a study to improve Oregon’s transportation system. Multiple informational and public hearings have 245 items in filed testimony. Amendments, analysis, and future hearings have not been posted. Massive Oregon Transportation Package Tackles Traffic Congestion, Wintry Weather Issues.

PRESS

There is lots of posturing in committee meetings, media interviews, and individual press releases shows the tension. Compromise, horse trading, threats and other dynamics abound. See excerpts highlighting differing opinions:

Unclear Democrats’ tax plan has the votes to pass The proposal would temporarily increase corporate income taxes in 2017 and 2018, which would raise $900 million. The corporate income tax would be repealed in 2019 and replaced with a corporate activity tax on businesses with annual sales of at least $3 million. Businesses with sales less than $3 million would pay a flat fee of $250….

Rep. Bentz: “heavy on new taxes and light on structural spending reform. House Republicans are not willing to hand out more of their money to bail out a broken system, which is what this latest plan would do.”

Sandra McDonough, President and CEO, Portland Business Alliance (part of Brighter Oregon), also said there wasn’t enough time to make major changes: “With four weeks left, we just don’t see how you can move this to get the bipartisan support and to make sure it doesn’t get referred.” McDonough reiterated the coalition’s position that they’d prefer the legislature lead with cost containment. A proposal to bend the state’s cost curve drew criticism from some Republicans, who called proposed measures insufficient.

With weeks left in the legislative session, Oregon Democrats pitch ‘game-changing’ tax plan. Oregon House and Senate say they’ve reached agreement on a corporate tax plan to raise nearly $900 million in the next two years to patch the state’s budget hole and increase education funding. “We’ve got to sell this to our committee and we’ll see,” Hass said. Kotek and Hass’ plan would temporarily increase Oregon’s corporate income tax rate from 6.6% to 8% on the first $1 million, and from 7.6% to 9% on additional income. The increases would remain through 2018. Starting in 2019, the proposal would ditch Oregon’s corporate income tax altogether in favor of a so-called gross receipts tax, which would be assessed based on businesses’ sales of goods and services above $3 million a year……At full implementation, only 8% of businesses operating in Oregon would pay corporate taxes because most would fall below the annual sales threshold, Hass said.

Kate Brown says lawmakers must pass three key bills before going home (tax reform wasn’t on the list):

  • close a shortfall in the state’s Medicaid budget
  • trim government costs
  • pass a multibillion-dollar transportation budget.

Brown said the effort to overhaul Oregon’s corporate tax system “needs to continue,” but it should not interfere with her priorities in the remaining four weeks of the legislative session. The governor made the statement less than 24 hours after House Speaker Kotek, and Sen. Hass introduced a plan to raise nearly $900 million in the next two years by temporarily increasing corporate income taxes and, beginning in 2019, dramatically changing how the state taxes businesses. “I honestly do not know whether the votes are there at this point in time,” Brown said of corporate tax changes. However, she added that conversations should continue because “I am not interested in kicking this can down the road.”

Two weeks ago House Speaker Tina Kotek insisted lawmakers prioritize a game-changing corporate tax increase to stabilize future budgets and boost education spending. Brown says she would be satisfied if lawmakers can just close the shortfall in the next two-year budget. Republican leaders said they can support raising taxes for transportation and Medicaid, but pushing a corporate tax vote ahead of those priorities is a non-starter. Kotek had said early last week “My priority right now is budget and boosting corporate taxes to fund services. Our goal is to get a long-term solution to our budget problems, and tax reform. So any other bill will just have to wait until we get that done.”

Union may use ballot as bargaining chip to force vote on corporate tax increase Melissa Unger, political director, SEIU 503: “Our stance is that we shouldn’t tax people for roads before we tax corporations for services and schools. If that’s where we end up, we would be forced to look at all the options, which includes referral” to the ballot. Lawmakers have been triangulating to secure votes for budget trimming, pension reforms and tax and fee increases while trying to line up Republican support needed for tax hikes and also to satisfy outside groups. Sen. Betsy Johnson: “In all of my time in the Legislature I have never seen as many linkages between big issues.”

Tension over revenue, transportation erupts into confrontation at Capitol Tension over a state transportation funding bill erupted into a confrontation between union leaders and lawmakers during a Wednesday hearing. Steven Demarest, President SEIU 503, indicated at the hearing that they would oppose the package if legislators fail to pass corporate tax reform this session. “The transportation package would tax workers, drivers and car owners. At the same time, the current budget would cut the hours for homecare workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities, meaning many would face decreases in their pay.” His testimony prompted Sen. Betsy Johnson to ask: “Is SEIU really willing to sacrifice the transportation package…if revenue doesn’t materialize?”….. “We believe they have to go together, yes,” Demarest replied. “We don’t believe the transportation package goes through without revenue reform.”….. Sen. Boquist, who sits on both the transportation and tax reform joint committees accused Demarest of playing “political blackmail.” “If you want to play political blackmail games, let’s make sure it’s all over every newspaper in the entire state. I am one of the individuals that have to put this thing together on both sides, and your union isn’t helping; your union is hurting, … and no, I’m not interested in listening to you anymore.”

Gov. Brown criticizes union threats aimed to force corporate tax increase Gov. Kate Brown said Thursday she does not approve of “threats” by Oregon’s largest public employee union to oppose lawmakers’ transportation plan if they don’t also approve a corporate tax increase. “The priorities that I outlined need to move forward without regard to connections to other issues,” Brown said, referencing bills that trim state government costs, raise health-related tax revenue and fix roads and bridges…… “If you want to generate ‘no’ votes across the board you can continue this crap, do you understand me?” Boquist said. He told Demarest to inform union leaders that they can negotiate on both bills “or they can get out.”….Demarest responded, “We’re not here to blackmail or play games. We’re here to protect and advocate for working Oregonians and in particular middle- and low-income Oregonians.”

Gov. Kate Brown describes how she thinks the Legislature will get to a balanced budget Gov. Kate Brown, with four weeks left in the session, said it’s time to stop bare-knuckle politicking and move major bills including a hospital tax, a transportation package and a cost containment initiative.

“There’s a lot of hostage taking or at least threats of hostage taking happening in the legislative process on a number of issues. That is not abnormal for the end of a legislative session. I do not support those tactics,”…..Kotek predicted some Republicans will step forward. “Support will keep growing for one main reason: the need and desire for statesmanship on both sides of the aisle. We’re so close to a real, comprehensive solution this session – one that has been influenced by years of advocacy from all sides of Oregon’s political spectrum, including business and labor leaders, Republicans and Democrats. It’s time to get the work done. This is a moment that requires statesmanship, and I believe we have leaders in every caucus – that’s why I’m still hopeful that despite the rhetoric, some of my Republican colleagues will come forward and help us seize this opportunity.”

And, if tax reform isn’t accomplished this session the Oregon Education Association filed a multi-billion dollar corporate tax initiative that may be before voters. SEIU may consider launching or supporting a ballot measure campaign to overturn the multibillion-dollar transportation plan, should it become law without an accompanying corporate tax increase by the end of this legislative session.

Thanks to our Revenue Subcommittee:

  • Alice Bartelt, Revenue Subcommittee Chair, attending Revenue Coalition
  • Jody Wiser, League member, revenue review, Tax Fairness Oregon
  • Chris Vogel, attending HSCO Coalition
  • Peggy Lynch, advisor

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buildingsymbolGovernance

By Rebecca Gladstone, Governance Coordinator

With less than a month to adjournment, we see a “dance” between Tax Reform, Transportation, Health Care Provider Taxes, and Cost Containment. An unprecedented number of policy bills remain in Ways and Means. Legislators call for continued lobbying, “it’s not over till it’s over!”

Elections

League was invited to join a “voter choice” colaboration to work on Motor Voter next steps – stay tuned.

HB 2873 A Includes city measures in state Voters’ Pamphlet, work session delayed.

HB 3408 -1 allows a completed voter registration form to be delivered for a voter, passed House Rules.

HB 3422 -1, hearing postponed, relates to ballot measure signature verification observation.

National Popular Vote (Marge Easley)

HB 2927: After passing the House for the fourth time, National Popular Vote Interstate Compact bill has been sent to the Senate Rules Committee. Last week letters were sent to the Senate President, Majority Leader, and Senate Rules Committee members urging direct legislative passage of the National Popular Vote.

Campaign Finance (Norman Turrill)

Two bills that clamp down on independent expenditures (dark money) seem 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. Both these bills have overwhelmingly passed the House and had hearings in Senate Rules. HB 2505 A would require disclosure of independent expenditures for communications that even refer to a candidate or political party near an election. Senate Rules passed it out of committee last Wednesday. HB 2584 A would tighten the rules for when third-party expenditures are coordination with candidates or are independent expenditures. It then increases the penalties and other regulations relating to independent expenditures. HB 2484 A is still waiting for a work session in Senate Rules.

HB 2578 A would establish a Small Donor Funded Elections program to enable candidates for state office to receive 6-to-1 match on small dollar donations. It has passed out of House Rules and is waiting for funding in Ways and Means. It is like the ordinance adopted by the Portland City Council. HB 2578 A will probably require some additional amendments. If the legislature solves its revenue problems, then it seems hopeful that this bill will also receive funding.

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.

Redistricting (Norman Turrill)

We are still waiting for a new draft of a constitutional amendment from the advisory “Fair Redistricting Task Force” that would institute an independent redistricting commission to do the next remapping of legislative districts in 2021.

General Governance & Accountability

HB 3464 calls for not providing personal information for ICE detention and deportation when there is no criminal link, complying with state and federal laws. This was legislative ground zero for immigrant/anti-immigrant fear, with lots of security. The Governor & Attorney General spoke in favor, many others in support and dead set against. Read League testimony, citing LWVUS President Chris Carson’s January 31st League Immigration statement. See the hearing video, starting about 15 minutes in for this bill, about 90 to League testimony.

Thanks to our Governance volunteers!

  • Helen Beardsworth, testimony drafts, new member in Eugene
  • Rick Bennett, OLIS search, Medford
  • Marge Easley, National Popular Vote, past LWVOR President, also Gun Safety
  • Anne Potter, League position analysis,
    new member in Portland
  • Norman Turrill, CFR, Redistricting,
    current LWVOR President

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

As we work on measures to support Climate Change, we are disappointed at the lack of movement on many important bills.  A minor budget “ask” is for $300,000 to support the Oregon Global Warming Commission.  Share your disappointment in movement on Climate Change policies with your legislators.

Support Oregon’s Clean Fuels Standard.  It is already a big success: reducing air pollution and bringing business investment into our state. In the first year, Clean Fuels slashed 775,000 tons of climate pollution, the same as taking 164,000 gas cars off the road for a year.  Please tell your legislator to vote NO on any bill to roll back clean air protection.

It’s time to contact Leadership and members of the Capital Construction Subcommittee to support $100 million in bonding for the Elliott State Forest to begin to decouple it from the Common School Fund, provide money for our school kids and keep the Elliott in public hands.  This investment will encourage federal agencies to support a Habitat Conservation Plan, protecting endangered species and allowing for some harvest in our second growth forests.

AGENCY BUDGETS (PEGGY LYNCH)

HB 5040 and HB 5041, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board budget will be heard in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee on June 14.  The budget contains Measure 76 lottery dollars.  The money is disbursed as grants that are then awarded for projects to restore habitat for our iconic salmon.

SB 5542, the Water Resources Department budget, and their fee bill, HB 2295, was sent to Full Ways and Means.  No additional monies were allocated for groundwater studies and place-based planning.  Again, we can only hope for more revenue to add into this budget at the end of session.  Update:  A possible reconsideration of SB 5542 is set for June 13 in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee.

We are still awaiting hearings on the Depts. of Forestry and Environmental Quality budgets and dozens of policy bills with budget costs.  HB 2725 A, a bill that funds a grant program to address wood smoke pollution, has been scheduled for a public hearing in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee on June 15.

CLIMATE CHANGE (CLAUDIA KEITH)

President Trump announced June 1 that he will withdraw the United States from participation in the Paris climate accord.  But he will stick to the withdrawal process laid out in the Paris agreement, which President Barack Obama joined and most of the world has already ratified. That could take nearly four years to complete, meaning a final decision would be up to the American voters in the next presidential election.

The League of Women Voters president Chris Carson said withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement is a “giant step in the wrong direction” for the health of the planet and all living beings.  “Trump’s decision today will undermine global cooperation and have a harmful impact on US relations with our most trusted world allies.  The long-term effects of this decision will make more people sick, especially children and the elderly,” Carson said.  (LWVUS’ Carson’s statement was quoted in the India Tribune!)
Governor Kate Brown responded:  “Climate change poses the greatest threat to Oregon’s environment, economy, and way of life.”  (link: http://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=2089

On June 8, the Governor announced that Oregon pledges support of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification  (link http://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=2100)
Clean Energy Jobs (Cap & Trade):  HB 2135 A is still alive in House Rules.  Amendments are being drafted, but it’s unclear if the bill will move.  The Senate and House Environment Committees have scheduled an informational meeting on June 12, this time on California Cap and Trade Program and Rural Communities.

Oil Rail Safety: HB 2131 A, the Community Protection and Preparedness Act, now sits in Ways and Means.  The League continues to support action on this public safety issue.  Recent amendments have reduced the effectiveness of the bill and we hope for reinstatement before final passage.

Dept. of Energy and Oregon Global Warming Commission merger, with funding request and a new Energy and Climate Policy Board, HB 2020 A, sits in House Rules. The League is in the process of initiating a letter addressed to Ways and Means leadership requesting this climate policy topic be accomplished this session. (HB 3269 is specific to Oregon Global Warming Commission and is also in House Rules. SB 908 and SB 952 A sit in Senate Rules.)

On June 2, the Joint Committee on Tax Credits heard HB 2681 A and SB 177 A, both related to the Residential Energy Tax Credit.  The Dept. of Energy, at the Governor’s request, testified against the bill, in part because they acknowledge they do not have the business skills to administer the program.  The Committee could consider assigning the program to Business Oregon or another appropriate agency.  No work sessions have been scheduled.

LWVUS and LWVOR have Amici standing in this historical case. More info at: LWVUS Climate Tool Kit- Climate Lawsuit. Recent Our Children’s Trust May 31 Press Release.

June 8: Judge Aiken denies Trump Administration’s request for rare appeal in youth-brought climate lawsuit . Why the Fossil Fuel Companies Won’t Defend the Government in Court on Climate  All the Fossil Fuel industry defendants as of May 25, have now asked to be removed from the lawsuit.  More info at: Fossil Fuel Industry Groups try to withdraw from Lawsuit

June 9: Today the Trump Administration filed a writ of mandamus petition with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking an extraordinarily rare review of a November 10, 2016 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken to deny its motion to dismiss Juliana v. United States. Further, the Trump Administration is seeking “a stay of proceedings in the district court” while the Ninth Circuit considers its petition.

June 14:  Please consider attending the next scheduled case conference in Eugene at 10am. Federal Courthouse, 405 E. 8th, Eugene. Our Children’s Trust Federal Lawsuit Case Management Conference. Come show support for the 21 youth plaintiffs! more info

AIR QUALITY (MARILYN KOENITZER)

We continue to follow the Cleaner Air Oregon process (see www.cleanerair.oregon.gov).  Our League member has been attending their meetings (next set for June 20) as the committee works toward recommending rules for Environmental Quality Commission adoption.  HB 2236, enabling legislation for Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO), is in Ways and Means.  Contact all members of the Full Ways and Means Committee in support of HB 2269 AThese critical one-time fees would assure a robust public outreach on a program grounded in science, informed by data and health-based.  Your voice in support of CAO is needed.

SB 1008 A, Clean Diesel, is still sitting in Senate Rules.  Unfortunately, new amendments being considered continue to weaken the bill.

ELLIOTT FOREST and FORESTRY (Jennifer Haynes and Peggy Lynch)

Now that the State Land Board has terminated the “Protocol” that would have sold the Elliott State Forest to a private buyer, we need to convince the Legislature to provide funding to begin to “buy out” the Common School Fund and move forward with a new management plan.  The Dept. of State Lands has sent a letter to President Courtney outlining the staffing needs for managing the forest and completing that land.

SB 847, the Trust Lands Transfer bill, had a public hearing in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee on June 5.  The League submitted testimony in support.

HB 2270, the biennial harvest tax bill, was moved without any amendment nor recommendation from House Revenue to Ways and Means.  The bill provides funding for a number of forestry issues and was also considered as a vehicle to create a new firefighting fund.

The new public electronic notification system for forestry activities is set to be up and running by the end of June.  Trainings are being held around the state to learn how to access this important public system.

LAND USE (Peggy Lynch, Marge Easley-aggregate/mining) 

SB 432 would allow some rural counties in Eastern Oregon to opt out of our statewide land use system.  It sits in Senate Rules where amendments are being considered—new ones weekly.  At this point we continue to be adamantly opposed along with our partners: 1,000 Friends of Oregon, Central Oregon Land Watch, Oregon Land and Water Alliance, Oregon Coast Alliance, Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the Oregon Conservation Network.

SB 644 includes provisions around reorganization of the Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries and suction dredge mining, as well as removing local land processes for mining projects.  The bill was not amended, but moved to Senate Rules.  The League continues to be opposed.  We have shared our support for the multi-agency consolidated application process now being used by the Calico Gold mine proposal near Vale, but do not support a provision stating “a right to mine”.

HB 2023 would change the definition of high value farmland and is in House Rules.  HB 2893 is a bill that would require a city to evaluate for inclusion in their urban growth boundary certain agricultural land consisting predominantly of soil classifications VI, VII and VIII with other first priority lands.  The bill is in House Rules.  The League opposes this carve-out legislation, which would eliminate a local discussion on where Bend should expand its urban growth boundary in the future.

HB 2007 A, a bill meant to address policies around affordable housing, sits in Ways and Means. The proposals would change how local governments process applications inside cities and urban growth boundaries, and would require that accessory dwelling units and duplexes be allowed in all single-family zones.  The League has concerns around the lack of public process. The current -4 amendments are being considered.

TRANSPORTATION (Peggy Lynch)

HB 2017 is the 298-page transportation bill being considered this session.  The Joint Transportation Preservation and Modernization Committee held public hearings last week.  Rumor has it that there are up to 300 amendments to be considered!  No new meeting has been scheduled as of the writing of this report.  The League supports a robust transit element to the plan but we were dismayed by the addition of a requirement to use salt on roads during snow events, and requiring some cities to provide snowplows for these few annual events.  We also support policies that reduce greenhouse gasses, since transportation is a large factor in Oregon.  We understand that, although many local governments were supportive, individual industries affected by proposed funding mechanisms had concerns.  The package is paid for by a multitude of taxes and fees.  This is an index of the bill:  https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/132300

As in 2015, some lawmakers insist on modifying the Clean Fuels program before passing this bill.  Supporters of the program believe that any modification would in reality kill the program. The Senate seems interested in a modification while the House Leadership is against any change.   

The League suggests that members submit individual testimony on the bill to jtpm.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov

OREGON PARKS AND RECREATION (PEGGY LYNCH)

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission is meeting June 13-14, 2017 in Keizer.  The agenda with location details and packet materials have been posted online.

OREGON DEPT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE (PEGGY LYNCH)

HB 2213 A is in Ways and Means.  It creates a new Outdoor Conservation and Recreation Fund, managed by a new Outdoor Conservation and Recreation Advisory Committee to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.  The bill requests $11 million in General Funds in the hope that this money will be a match for pending federal legislation.  The League opposes the use of General Funds at this time and has concerns about the establishment of yet another advisory committee.  However, we have advocated for funding the Oregon Conservation Strategy each biennium.

WATER (PEGGY LYNCH)

SB 383, funding for the onsite septic loan program, sits in Ways and Means.  The League would support $250,000 to $500,000 but not the $1.5 million ask for the program, since this program has brought in additional private dollars to help clean up Oregon’s lands and waters.

HB 2706 A, requiring a water rights management fee, is in Ways and Means.  HB 2705, requiring additional measurement of water rights, was moved to House Rules.  The League supports both bills.  HB 2707 A, asks for an additional $8.2 million for groundwater studies, was sent to Ways and Means. Although we support the additional money requested in the Water Resources Dept. budget, we believe this “ask” is a bit too far this session.

HB 3427 A, a bill that would require high hazard dams to have emergency plans, is in Ways and Means.  The League also supports a new permanent staffer at the Water Resources Dept. to help with dam inspections, needed for this work.

The 2017 public review draft of Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy is available for public comment.  You can view the “Note to Reader” section to help orient you to what elements are new to this version, where to locate new sections or recommended actions, and what to expect for the remainder of 2017.  To view or download the draft as a PDF, click here. The Water Resources Department will accept comments through July 19 (new date!).  Comments can be sent electronically to waterstrategy@wrd.state.or.us.  The League supports this effort and encourages members to read and comment. 

DEQ proposes rule amendments increasing water quality fees by 3 percent above the fiscal year 2016 fees for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, Water Pollution Control Facility permits, including Water Pollution Control Facility permits specific to Onsite septic systems, and non-permit related fees for the Onsite septic system program.  To learn about this rulemaking and how to submit comments until 4 pm on June 30, go to Water Quality Permit Fee 2017.

The Water Resources Department is inviting public comment on applications for Water Project Grants and Loans, which provide funding to evaluate, plan, and develop water projects that help address an instream or out-of-stream water need, and result in economic, environmental, and social/cultural benefits.  These projects may be of interest to local Leagues.  Public comments submitted will be considered by the Technical Review Team (TRT) who will make a funding recommendation to the Commission. The Department will post the TRT funding recommendation for an additional public comment period.  The tentative date for the Commission to make its funding decision is November 2017.  To access all applications, please click here.  Written comments on the applications will be accepted until 5:00pm, June 29 to Grant Program Coordinator, 725 Summer Street NE, Suite A, Salem, Oregon 97301, 503.986.0869, waterprojects@wrd.state.or.us.

OWEB seeks public comment on proposed rules for Stakeholder Engagement Grants (formerly Education and Outreach Grants).  Ballot Measure 76 requires that outreach grants be “necessary for carrying out” eligible restoration or acquisition projects. The rules are provided in the link below for your review and public comment.  Proposed Rules for Stakeholder Engagement Grants (PDF).  Public comment period for the proposed rules will close at 5:00 p.m. on June 30.  Send comments by email to Eric Hartstein with the phrase “Comments on OWEB Education and Outreach” in the subject line, or send written comments to Eric Hartstein at OWEB, 775 Summer Street NE, Suite 360, Salem, OR 97301-1290.  Public Hearings will also be held to receive both oral and written comments regarding the proposed rules: June 15 at 10:30 a.m. at Sisters City Hall Council Chambers, 520 East Cascade Ave., Sisters, OR and June 30 at 9:00 a.m. at City of Eugene, Community Conference Rm., 125 E. 8th Ave.

REGIONAL SOLUTIONS (PEGGY LYNCH)

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!  If any of these areas 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

HEALTH CARE FUNDING FOR HEALTH SERVICES AND MENTAL HEALTH DIVISIONS

Provider Taxes in HB 2391 A and the Oregon Health Authority Budget HB 5026 A passed out of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on June 8.  The OHA Budget had been reviewed over three days, along with related bills.  There were two fee bills, SB 59 A for home care and hospice rates and HB 5027 for approval of fees set during the interim.

HB 3465 was filed late in the session in order to transfer funds from the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool Account to the OHA fund for medical assistance.  OHA had reported a savings of $50 million in OMIP and advocates wanted to divert those funds for other budget needs.  This led to discussions on the provider taxes and amendments to the agency budget bill.  HB 3398 -1 removed a sunset on the OMIP funds, which allowed them to be deposited in OHA for future reinsurance needs in the next biennium.

There were three amendments proposed for HB 2391, -7 proposed by two committee members that added tobacco and inhalant taxes, and -8 proposed by the Speaker of the House that included the request to raise provider tax rates and continue the reinsurance program with the remainder of the OMIP funds.  Provider taxes will be assessed at 6% for large hospitals, 4% for small hospitals, 1.5 % for insurers, PEBB and OEBB.  The committee recessed and came back with a -9 amendment, which covered the role of the Department of Consumer and Business Services in collecting insurer payments and operating the reinsurance program.  HB 5026 A, HB 2391 A and HB 3398 A passed on June 8.  The agency budget increased, but the General Fund decreased and other funds increased.

The OHA Budget bill includes all divisions, such as administrative, analytics, public health and the Oregon State Hospital.  It also supports the Hunger Task Force.  The administrative and analytics divisions are lower overall, but general fund for analytics increased to make up for decrease in federal funds.  The Oregon State Hospital budget is higher, but it has increased federal funds for medical services.  Both OSH and Junction City remain open, which was one of our concerns.  Public Health funding had increased last session for Public Health Modernization.  Medical marijuana revenues had supported public health programs, but recreational marijuana has decreased those revenues.  The tobacco tax has supported public health work, but increased general fund was necessary to make up for decreased funds this biennium.

SB 49 A allows juveniles to be placed in community programs, rather than residential facilities for restorative services when they have mental health needs.  This would result in savings to the Oregon Youth Authority Budget.  This bill also passed the Human Services Subcommittee on June 8.

Mental Health Parity was the issue in SB 860 B, which was initiated by the Oregon Independent Mental Health Professionals.  The bill passed out of Senate Human Services and was sent to Ways and Means, where it was assigned to the Transportation and Economic Development Subcommittee.  The bill was passed by the members of the TED Subcommittee on June 7.  The Department of Consumer and Business Services will take responsibility for the examination of fee schedules to determine if parity exists.  The Insurance Division has the task of collecting information and enforcing regulation for insurers.  DCBS already has studies in process on autism services, etc., so this work will fit with their current tasks.

Next week the Human Services Subcommittee will turn to the Department of Human Services and Long Term Care.  The Public Safety Subcommittee will consider the Department of Corrections Budget and the Reentry bills

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

The Education Department budget, SB 5517, moved through the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.  The video of that hearing showed the heightened frustration of committee members who walked a gauntlet of educators and other demonstrators quietly stating “$8.2 will not do,” even though this stretch of $8.2M was a real effort for the W&M Education Sub.  The 25-minute hearing is enlightening.  About 16 minutes into the hearing, protestors unfurled a sign expressing frustration at the proposed budget.  Senator Devlin finished the hearing noting that the Ways and Means Committee has had to make many tough decisions this year, and that getting to $8.2M for education was a tremendous stretch given that tax and revenue proposals have been unable to move forward yet this session.  The Education Budget represents about an 11% increase over the last biennium.  Senator Monroe, who co-chairs the W&M Education Sub stated that those in the hall (demonstrators) needed to understand the stretch it took to get here and noted that the committee should be applauded not jeered.

Many Education policy bills remain “stuck” in Ways and Means, along with bills covering others aspects of the legislature’s work, awaiting some agreement on revenue and what may be funded in the next biennium.  Though we shall report more on these bills as they either move or die for the session, you may wish to scroll through the Joint Committee on Ways and Means Assigned Measures to see the unprecedented number of bills waylaid here with less than a month left in the session.

Media this week regarding Education in the legislature.

Protestors line Capitol halls to jeer lawmakers’ education budget:  Members of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means had to walk through crowds of jeering protestors Tuesday to vote on a state education budget.  The Ways and Means Committee voted to approve the $8.2 billion, two-year budget Tuesday.  Educators say it won’t be enough money.  Several hundred demonstrators gathered at the Capitol to say the amount was not enough.  Before the meeting, they formed a human tunnel leading into the committee’s hearing room and chanted, “$8.2 just won’t do.” ….  “Members of the Senate came down here before members of the House, and they walked through the entire conflict, not just the short gauntlet, to get here,” said Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  “I respect the people’s right to actually protest what action we’re taking, but I was disheartened by this, because I don’t think the people out there understood all of the difficult decisions each of you who serves on one of our subcommittees has made … to get to $8.2.”….. “The budget … does not really address the cost drivers, so it’s not going to help us to get more teachers and reduce class sizes,” Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, said, referring to increasing costs in pension and health insurance costs……Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland, later chastised the demonstrators.  “This budget is sound.  It is over a $150 million more than current service level.  More than current service level,” Monroe repeated with emphasis. “It is certainly hundreds of millions of dollars more than the governor recommended. We ought to be applauded, not jeered,” he added…. “I am going to add my voice to those who are expressing the point that this isn’t enough.  This is the best we can do as of this week, as of this day,” said Rep. Nancy Nathanson, co-chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee.  “I remain committed to looking for additional resources.   It’s not over ‘til it’s over.”

Education budget still needs lots of work:  The committee is recommending allocating at least $8.2 billion in general fund and lottery dollars for the coming biennium to Oregon’s school districts – an 11 percent increase over the current biennium’s allocation…. That enviable increase, fueled by a booming economy that’s pouring record amounts of money into state coffers, still won’t be big enough to stave off teacher layoffs and cuts across school districts due to rising employee health-care costs and pension obligations…. Smith Warner provided her own spin. The Portland Democrat decried that her own children will receive a year’s less instruction than students in Washington by the time they graduate. She shared her frustration of “having to patch together budgets year after year.”  And giving a nod to the strong economy that is expected to deliver $1.3 billion more revenue in the 2017-2019 than in the current biennium, she then leaps to this conclusion: “Here, in a year where our economy continues to go great guns, I think what this all demonstrates is we have a broken revenue structure.”….. National Education Association says Oregon’s education spending per student exceeds the national average, yet our graduation rates are third worst.  The state spends about $2,000 more per student than Washington does on its students. So the question should be:  How do we use that money differently so that students get the education Oregonians are paying for?

Rural Oregon School District Copes With Shrinking Budget:  Oregon is consistently ranked among the worst states for school funding.  It has shorter school years, more students per class, and lower graduation rates than most places in the country. Experts trace the beginning of the trend to the passage of Measure 5 in 1990.  It largely separated school funding from local property taxes, giving the job to the state.  Today, schools must be creative and resourceful.  Here’s how one district copes with persistent tightening.  “Funding’s a huge issue, especially for a small rural school.  Where a shortfall of five or 10 or 20 thousand dollars can be made up rather quickly in a larger district, it means something to us.  It means a class.  It means supplies.  It could mean a staff person.” 

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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