Legislative Report, Volume 27, Number 22 – June 2017

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In This Issue

Revenue and Tax Reform

Governance

Natural Resources

Social Policy

Education Policy


Revenue and Tax Reform

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

Readers last week, Monday, June 19, may remember this cliff hanger as we stated, “As we go to press, the League is continuing to sort which of the HB2830 nuances of the amendments -4, -5, -6 or – 8  put forth due to varying lobbying influences could be in play.” The Joint Committee on Tax Reform adjourned abruptly with no action.   Governor Kate Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney, and Speaker Tina Kotek issued a joint press release on Thursday June 22, 2017: “While we are moving forward on several major cost containment measures, it has become clear that the Legislature will not have the necessary support to achieve structural revenue reforms this session. Still, we have laid the groundwork for long-term reform to bring balance to our budget and tax system. As the Legislature closes out its business, we will also start planning the next steps to lead to success in the 2019 session. We appreciate the leaders who have come forward to provide meaningful input so far, and look forward to continuing that work. To achieve resolution for our state, all parties will need to stay at the table, focus on structural reform, rather than short-term patches that merely shore up the next two-year budget, and be ready to compromise for the good of the state.” So, although the legislature considered significant reforms, ultimately the votes were not available for passage. The LWVOR does not take positions on ballot measures until they are qualified for the ballot by the Secretary of State’s office, but we anticipate that the education lobby will not wait until the 2019 session.

HB 2060-1 had a very long and heated three hour floor session (recorded here) in the House on Friday.  The vote on HB 2060 was 31-28. All Republicans voted no, along with three democrats. Ultimately the courts will determine if a simple majority or a 3/5 vote is required for bills such as this one and exactly what a “revenue raising” and a “broadening” measure. Democrats said the bill was a repair for flawed tax exemptions pushed into a tax bill during the 2013 special session, which would require only a majority vote. Republicans called Friday’s bill a tax hike that needed three-fifths majority, which would require the defection of at least one Republican. The bill may now go to the Senate for a vote. It may then go to the courts to determine how a recent Seattle City Light ruling will impact Oregon’s three-fifths vote requirements for tax increases versus a simple majority vote for other measures.

Media coverage on Tax Reform highlights the diversity of perspectives on this bill. We’ve offered extensive quotes from articles to show how significant Tax Reform is now “dead” for the session, with hope for 2019.  Read the articles in their entirety to see diverse perspectives:

A budget for Oregon creating great schools grows business (Guest opinion), Kerry McClenahan, The Oregonian/OregonLive, June 19, 2017: Oregonians have been squabbling over Oregon’s state budget and corporate taxes. This squabbling has left our state in jeopardy: underfunded schools, high school graduation rates among the lowest in the country, critical services for seniors and children in danger of vanishing. Right now, our legislators are finalizing a budget bill that reforms our state revenue system in ways that lower personal income taxes and eliminates the current corporate income tax structure. In turn, it creates a stable and fair corporate tax system that will create jobs and boost our economy, all the while building the budget reserves needed to have a sustainable budget.

Democrats eying smaller Oregon corporate tax hike, Republicans upset by strategy, Hillary Borrud, The Oregonian/OregonLive, June 21, 2017: The amount of new corporate taxes that Oregon House Democrats plan to raise appears to be dwindling by the day, with the latest proposal clocking in at roughly $200 million instead of the $900 million they’d hoped for two weeks ago. The move could cause a turbulent end to the session and imperil important legislation, such as a transportation funding bill.

Health care tax passes Oregon Legislature, Kristena Hansen, Associated Press, June 21, 2017:  A $670 million health care tax package has passed the Oregon Legislature and now heads to Gov. Kate Brown, providing enough funds over the next two years to prevent Medicaid recipients from losing health care and avoid closing a newly built psychiatric hospital with hundreds of patients and workers. House Bill 2391 received final approval Wednesday in a 20-10 vote by the Oregon Senate, securing the three-fifths supermajority that’s required for tax hikes. The bill is now essentially an oxygen supply to the 2017 legislative session that, in its final three weeks, has been hampered by a gridlock between Democrats and Republicans over the state’s financial woes.

Reason to hope for a commercial activities tax (CAT) accompanied by a CAT Fairness Credit, Chuck Sheketoff, Oregon Center for Public Policy, June 21, 2017: We hope lawmakers enact a commercial activities tax that raises game-changing revenue, so Oregon can finally upgrade our schools and essential services. If they take that bold move, the Center hopes they will include an aptly named “CAT Fairness Credit.”

Pressure on Oregon lawmakers to act in final weeks, Kristena Hansen, Associated Press, June 21, 2017:  Continued gridlock over the corporate tax plan has affected other matters as well, delaying a $8.2 billion K-12 education package from final approval until next week, just days before schools enter the new fiscal year, and stalling overall progress on the state’s 2017-19 budget that must be balanced by July 10. As new developments this week continue shrouding the 2017 legislative session in uncertainty, local leaders and special interest groups are trying to pressure Oregon lawmakers to pass a transportation measure and changes to the corporate tax structure in the final weeks. The transportation package is separate from the state’s budget, but the two have become linked in recent weeks. Some labor unions have threatened to try thwarting the transit plan at the ballot if lawmakers don’t raise more revenue from businesses. On Tuesday, Salem’s influential public employee labor unions — Oregon Education Association, SEIU Local 503, Oregon AFSCME — said they can’t wait any longer for a more stable revenue stream for education and other public services. They say they’ve filed initial signatures to proceed on three ballot measures, one of them a scaled-back redo of last year’s failed Measure 97 tax proposal, they have in the works for November 2018.

Speaker’s $196 million small biz tax heist, Senate Republican Office, June 22, 2017: “Yesterday, House Democrats rammed through House Bill 2060 A in the House Revenue Committee. The Speaker’s proposal undermines the small business tax cut included in the “Grand Bargain.” The Speaker’s repeal of the Grand Bargain targets small businesses with less than ten employees for up to 40 percent of tax increases but preserves lower rates for S-corps, LLCs and LLPs. The House Democrats’ lawless tax hike was passed to rake in at least $196 million dollars.”

Democrats give up on new biz taxes this session, Claire Withycombe, Capital Bureau, June 22, 2017: Major changes to the way Oregon taxes businesses won’t materialize before the Legislature adjourns, the governor and top legislative leadership said Thursday. The decision effectively tables reforms to the state’s public pension system and “clears a path forward” for a major transportation funding package, said Gov. Kate Brown. It also means that a state hiring freeze will continue and that legislation attempting to curb the costs of state government from education to forestry will likely advance. Brown said she wanted to “set the table” for a tax overhaul in 2019. “It is really clear to me, as I mentioned, that it takes a full legislative session to vet structural changes to Oregon’s revenue situation,” Brown told reporters Thursday. “I think I would have liked to (have had) a process leading up to that. Ballot Measure 97 and the battle over that prohibited that table or that level of collaboration.” A rematch over business taxes is already shaping up for the November 2018 ballot. The state’s largest teachers’ union, the Oregon Education Association, is backing a ballot measure that would create a gross receipts tax on businesses with annual sales of more than $3 million. Jim Green, head of the Oregon School Boards Association, called Thursday’s announcement “disappointing. Now there will be a lot of finger-pointing on both sides, but ultimately this is a failure by our elected state leaders to put aside their differences and do what is needed. Instead of a solution, what we are left with is a short-term patch.”

No new corporate tax this year, Democratic leaders concede, Saul Hubbard, The Register-Guard, June 22, 2017: Oregon’s Democratic leaders have thrown in the towel on their effort to pass a major new tax on businesses this session. Despite months of negotiations and maneuvering and a mountain of different proposals, the defeat came down to simple arithmetic. Majority Democrats couldn’t get the 18 votes they needed in the 30-member state Senate to pass a gross receipts tax. The leading Democrats said that they will now focus instead on closing the state’s $1.4 billion budget hole in the last days of the session, with the help of a $550 million package of new taxes on health care providers and a “cost containment” bill that will save an estimated $205 million. Democrats are also pressing ahead with another revenue-raising measure, to roll back a 2013 tax break for so-called “pass-through” businesses in HB 2060.

Oregon House Democrats move to slash controversial 2013 tax break for some businesses, Saul Hubbard, The Register-Guard, June 22, 2017:  In an action sure to stoke partisan tensions, House Democrats moved Wednesday to sharply cut a tax break for so-called “pass through” businesses. But House Democrats’ proposal is controversial for two key reasons. The tax cut had been crucial to getting Republican votes for a 2013 package of tax increases and cost-cutting public pension reforms, known as the “grand bargain.” Many GOP lawmakers view big changes to the tax break now as Democrats going back on their word — even though the Oregon Supreme Court ultimately threw out the bulk of the associated pension reforms. Also, House Democrats plan to pass the tax break on a simple majority vote, if necessary, rather than the three-fifths majority usually required to increase taxes under Oregon’s Constitution. If that action withstands objections, it would mean Democrats could approve the change this session in both the House and Senate without any GOP votes. Democrats are relying on a 2015 Oregon Supreme Court decision that has been interpreted by the Legislature’s attorneys to mean that reductions to any tax credit or deduction do not constitute tax increases and therefore don’t require three-fifths votes. The legal analysis on which Democrats are relying has not yet been tested in court, but it likely will be after the session because of its potential wide-reaching implications for the large variety of tax breaks available in Oregon.

Oregon needs leaders now – not in 2019: Editorial Agenda 2017  Editors, The Oregonian/OregonLive, June 23, 2017: Rather than spend the remaining weeks in the session pursuing necessary reforms to public employees’ pension benefits and hammering out a corporate tax deal, the three are patching together a makeshift budget and letting schools and state agencies limp through the next biennium. Again….. Legislators can blame businesses for resisting their favored method of tax reform. They can blame voters for approving initiatives that restrict their options. They can blame Republicans for not blindly supporting new taxes without controls on the state’s relentless spending.

Lawmakers jostle to assign blame as revenue, PERS reform stumble in Oregon session’s closing weeks, Andy Giegerich, Portland Business Journal, June 22, 2017: The finger-pointing over the failure to pass a revenue reform package began almost immediately.

Gov. Brown: No Deal on Tax Reform This Year, Kristena Hansen, Associated Press, June 22, 2017: Brown’s joint statement with Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek rattled the hallways of the Oregon Legislature Thursday, prompting a change of course for the remaining weeks of the 2017 session that still has key issues to address: K-12 education, long-term transportation package and balancing the 2017-19 budget. Lawmakers have less than three weeks left in the 2017 session, and gridlock between Democrats and Republicans over the business tax overhaul has been stalling progress on other issues. Wednesday’s passage of several health care-related bills, including a large “provider” tax for Medicaid, alleviated some tension by helping whittle down the upcoming budget deficit from $1.4 billion to roughly $500 million.

House Vote to Repeal Oregon Business Tax Credit Angers GOP, Kristena Hansen, Associated Press, June 23, 2017: After a fiery three-hour debate that capped a contentious week in Salem, the Oregon House approved a partial repeal of a 2013 “Grand Bargain” business tax credit in a 31-28 vote Friday with three Democrats joining Republicans’ opposition. The bill partially repeals a tax credit for so-called “pass-through” entities, meaning LLCs, S-corporations and partnerships commonly formed by small businesses. Republicans and businesses throughout the state are vehemently opposed House Bill 2060, which Democrats advanced out of a House committee by surprise two days earlier. It may also face a legal challenge, opponents say, if it passes its final hurdle in the Senate.

Oregon House narrowly OKs business tax credit repeal, KTVZ.COM, June 23, 2017: House Bill 2060 may face a legal challenge, opponents say, if it passes its final hurdle in the Senate. The measure passed by the House Friday would raise an extra $200 million for the 2017-19 biennium—an amount some lawmakers have been trying to cobble together for the record $8.2 billion K-12 education budget that’s up for a final vote Tuesday in the House. That’s less than half the extra revenue they could’ve raised, about $500 million, by boosting the existing corporate income tax.

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

We’re holding to veteran lobbyist advice: “The session isn’t over till it’s over”, with perhaps two weeks left. Revenue and tax reform, usually covered here, lead above. Read below for a public records bills review, NPV progress, immigration privacy, cybersecurity and open data standards, and others.

National Popular Vote (Marge Easley)

Wednesday’s NPV bills’ hearing went well with a great crowd and good testimony for HB 2927, which we support, and for SB 825, which calls for a referral. Senator Devlin spoke to SB 825, but said he wasn’t pushing it, hadn’t asked for a hearing on it, and supports the concept of NPV.  The big push now is to get legislators to hold a work session early this week!

General Governance & Accountability

We support these three bills:

SB 90 Enrolled: This cybersecurity bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.

HB 3361 A: This open data standards bill awaits a work session.

HB 3464: This privacy bill, which adheres to state and federal laws, authorizes privacy from reporting citizenship or immigration status, except as required by state or federal law, or in certain other circumstances. It has progressed to Senate Rules.

Public Records

This session’s triad of public records bills continues to attract much attention. Policy, management of request exemptions, and establishing a Mediation Advocate, Council and training support reflect a struggle between the need for transparency and for protection of privacy. This work reflects over 18 months of processing by the Attorney General’s Public Records Law Reform Task Force. These three bills have undergone considerable revision with various proposals reported as partisan, shifting attention between the Governor, the AG, response delays, the Secretary of State proposing Archivist management, and offices with the SoS or in DAS. We support each of these:

SB 106 A: This bill is scheduled for a Monday June 26th work session. It would provide mediation, training for District Attorneys, and establish a Public Records Advocate and Council. It has passed General Government and Accountability. The LFO expense forecast, posted after last week’s public hearing, anticipates a cost of $633,187, to cover a couple of staff, not only salaries, also assuming benefits and Council administrative expenses. LFO recommends passage of the -17 amendment. In a public hearing, it elicited a nay from Sen. DeBoer, wary of supporting any additional costs. We are concerned about fiscal vulnerability and support averting potential large costs by focusing records requests to actual needs as a redeeming mediation feature. Read the October 2016 NYTs feature “Should We See Everything a Cop Sees?” on public records lawsuits, cybersecurity, and runaway expenses for public records requests in Seattle.

SB 2101 A: The -21 version would manage oversight of Oregon’s 550+ public records request exemptions. A work session is expected shortly. Exemptions are not currently organized. Requests need to be reviewed to protect sensitive information, so attorneys sift through possibly relevant exemptions, incurring recorded costs at a rate below their actual agency cost. Review of exemptions has led to extremely expensive legal processing.

  • Open government impact statements” to proposed legislation would come from a new Legislative Counsel Public Records Subcommittee, which would prepare, in the way we now look for fiscal and revenue impact statements.
  • An “Oregon Sunshine Committee” would review exemptions and sunsetting, reporting to the LC Public Records Subcommittee. They would work with the AG, Governor, SoS (or their representatives) and any group appointed to review statute. The AG’s task force would be ex officio, non-voting members. Voting members would be: the AG, the Governor, and the State Archivist (or their representatives). The AG would appoint an IT expert, representatives from 3 local governments for counties, cities, and school or special districts, also broadcasters, professional journalists, newspaper publishers, a nonprofit open government or public interest group, and the Oregon Sunshine Committee, part of the Oregon Territory Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). They would accept public comments. The SPJs feel HB 2101 is the most important of the three public records bills.
  • Exemptions protect sensitive materials, including the privacy of minors in police records, records of cases in active litigation, trade secrets, security records, public safety plans, and federal exemptions, for example. In public hearing, Rep. Nearman asked why we don’t simply open up public records online, as we have with the OLIS legislative site and the ORESTAR campaign websites. This information could be explained in the new state transparency website: Oregon Transparency: Opening State Government to Everyone.

SB 481 Enrolled was signed by the Governor on June 22nd, addressing public records policy, including a statute for reasonable response time.

Audits

The Joint Legislative Audits Committee will meet this week to discuss Interim process and workplan.

Elections

HB 2873: This housekeeping bill would allow city bonding ballot measures to be reported through ORESTAR and published in state Voters’ Pamphlets, reflecting a growing coordination and efficiency that we support. A Senate floor vote is expected.

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

ACTION ALERT:  Call your Senator and Representative to stop SB 432, a bad land use bill that will remove our statewide planning system from much of Eastern Oregon. SB 644, related to mining in Eastern Oregon, a bill the League also opposes, had a public hearing on June 26. The -6 amendments were adopted and the bill was sent “without recommendation” to Ways and Means. Your voice is needed.

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.

Your help is also needed to provide funding for Climate Change bills and Cleaner Air Oregon.  If you’ve been waiting to participate, now is the time! 

AGENCY BUDGETS (PEGGY LYNCH)

HB 5009, the Oregon Dept. of Energy budget, passed both chambers on a Senate vote of 16-12, with 2 excused, after an attempt to return the measure to Ways and Means.  There are discussions and bills around the restructuring of this agency still alive. (See Climate Change below.)

HB 5028, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. budget, passed both chambers. HB 3350, a bill establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation and a new Deputy Director position was approved in the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources on June 22.  It provides $218,894 General Funds and creates a new Outdoor Recreation Fund that can accept donations for specific projects related to outdoor recreation.  It was supported by Oregon’s Outdoor Industry Assn. as well as others.

SB 5502 & 5503 Dept. of Agriculture budget and fee bills passed the Senate,

SB 5527, the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development budget, passed the Senate.

SB 5542 and HB 2295 Water Resources Dept. budget and fee bills passed the Senate.

HB 5040 and HB 5041, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board budget and 6-year spending authorization, moved out of full Ways and Means on June 21.

SB 5519, the Dept. of Forestry budget, will have a work session on June 27.  The budget includes funding to continue the federal forest restoration program, the addition of an aviation coordinator position, expansion of the rangeland protection program, and additional funding for the treatment of sudden oak death. A companion bill, HB 2270, establishes the privilege tax rates on merchantable forest products harvested on forestland. The bill is commonly referred to as the “harvest tax bill”. Revenues generated support the Forest Research Laboratory; contribute monies to the Oregon Forest Land Protection Fund for fire suppression activities; fund up to 40% of the administration of the Oregon Forest Practices Act; and support investments in profession forestry education at the Oregon State University College of Forestry. The bill is critical to the Forestry agency’s budget.

SB 5518, the Dept. of Environmental Quality budget, and HB 2268 A, related to underground storage fees, are scheduled for a work session June 29 in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee. HB 2268 A will first have a work session on June 26. HB 2236, enabling legislation for Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO), is in Ways and Means.  We are still awaiting a work session on HB 2269, Air Quality fees. Contact all members of the Full Ways and Means Committee in support of HB 2269 A.  These 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.

HB 2725 A, a bill that funds a grant program to address wood smoke pollution, had a public hearing in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee on June 15. The budget request is $1 million General Funds.

There are still dozens of policy bills with budget costs awaiting a decision by the full Ways and Means Co-Chairs. We are hopeful that there will be “add-backs” to these budgets in the “Christmas Tree” final appropriations bill.  We are disappointed that a revenue package has been postponed for yet another biennium.  Additional revenue is critical to these small, but important, agencies, which are funded in great part by fees, but public dollars are also needed.

CLIMATE CHANGE (CLAUDIA KEITH)

Clean Energy Jobs (Cap & Trade):  HB 2135 A is still alive in House Rules, but is unlikely to move this session.  However, momentum is building and much work will be done during the interim.  Some Oregon businesses are joining together to support a price on carbon. This year, our legislators had a chance to take significant action on climate pollution while also boosting our local economies. We support legislation that would help reduce the pollution that is the primary cause of climate change. We can only hope that, should a transportation package pass, it will provide moneys for transit, which will assist in reducing greenhouse gasses.

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. (HB 3269 is specific to the Oregon Global Warming Commission and is also in House Rules. SB 908 and SB 952 A both had public hearings and work sessions and passed to Ways and Means on June 22. We expect some restructuring of the Dept. of Energy this session.

Oil Rail Safety: HB 2131 A, the Community Protection and Preparedness Act, has been assigned to the Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee.  We expect a work session this week.  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.

SB 1039, meant to address ocean acidification and hypoxia, will have a public hearing and work session in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee on June 29. The preliminary fiscal impact is $162,286 General Funds.

LWVUS and LWVOR have Amici standing in this historical case. More info at: LWVUS Climate Tool Kit- Climate Lawsuit .  Latest update: https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/press-releases/

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. A meeting was held June 20.  Presentation:  CAO RAC all presentations 6-20-2017.pdf.  Additional meetings are set for July 28 and August 29 in Portland.

SB 1008 A, Clean Diesel, had a Work Session on June 20 in Senate Rules where the A-8 amendments were adopted and the bill was sent to Ways and Means. Our school buses will continue to be upgraded using the Volkswagon settlement funds, but Oregon will continue to be a dumping ground for older diesel trucks.

MATERIALS MANAGEMENT (PEGGY LYNCH)

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality intends to award approximately $500,000 in Materials Management grants in 2017 that promote the prevention, reuse or recovery of solid wastes. In addition to funding local governments and non-profit organizations, DEQ is expanding the eligible applicant pool to include federally-recognized tribal nations and ORS 190.010 organizations. Public universities, colleges and public schools will also be eligible to apply for projects that prevent the wasting of food.  To view the full release, please click here: http://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=2120

ELLIOTT FOREST and FORESTRY (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 $100 million in bonding to begin to “buy out” the Common School Fund and move forward with a new management plan.

SB 847, the Trust Lands Transfer bill, is scheduled for a work session in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee on June 28. The League provided testimony in support on June 5.

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. https://ferns.odf.oregon.gov/e-notification

LAND USE (PEGGY LYNCH, MARGE EASLEY)

See the Action Alert on SB 432, which would allow some rural counties in Eastern Oregon to opt out of our statewide land use system.

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.

HB 2007 A, a bill meant to address policies around affordable housing, had a public hearing in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee on June 22. 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 supports addressing affordable housing, but does NOT SUPPORT this bill that would usurp local implementation of our land use system.

HB 2012 will have a public hearing on June 26 in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee.  It creates the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region, the Eastern Oregon Border Development Board, and the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Fund. It allows the Board to identify laws, rules, or regulations that place the Region at an economic competitive disadvantage and request an exception or waiver to the law.  It currently authorizes the issuance of $10 million in lottery bonds to support the Fund and allows the Board to award grants and loans from the Fund to enhance workforce development or economic development in Region.

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 eliminating a local discussion on where Bend should expand its urban growth boundary in the future.

TRANSPORTATION (PEGGY LYNCH)

HB 2017 is the 298-page transportation bill being considered this session.  The Joint Transportation Preservation and Modernization Committee has been reviewing many suggested changes.  We expect to see one or more amendments and movement on this bill.  Since everything is happening behind closed doors, we must rely on press coverage for updates: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/06/oregon_highway_funding_bill_th.html#incart_push

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.

OREGON PARKS AND RECREATION (PEGGY LYNCH)

Update on Scenic Waterways Candidates:  Nehalem River (Spruce Run Campground to Nehalem Falls, approximately 15 miles, Clatsop and Tillamook counties) • 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: http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/Documents/Commission/2017.6_Keizer/7.pdf

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 since this program has brought in additional private dollars to help clean up Oregon’s lands and waters.

HB 3427 A, a bill that would require high hazard dams to have emergency plans, had a public hearing and work session in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee on June 18. The League provided oral testimony during its House hearing on April 6.  The Water Resources Dept. budget included the permanent staffer needed to help address the requirements in this bill.

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, asking 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.

The Department of Environmental Quality invites the public to provide input on a list of priority water quality standards review and revision projects that the agency should initiate over the next three years. DEQ’s public comment period will end at 5:00 pm on Friday July 14, 2017.  View information about this review process, a list of water quality standard revision priorities, and public meeting information online at: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/wq/Pages/WQ-Standards.aspx.

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 rulemaking public comment page.

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 for your review and public comments here.  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 30 at 9:00 a.m. at City of Eugene, Community Conference Rm., 125 E. 8th Ave.

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board will be holding a three-day board meeting, July 24 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., July 25 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and July 26 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Port of Morrow, Riverfront Center, 2 Marine Drive, Boardman, OR 97818.  View the full agenda.

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

The Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee has been cranking out budget approvals regularly this month.  On June 22, the Committee made decisions on HB 5013 A for the Oregon Judicial Department budget, HB 2605 A on new Circuit Court Positions, and HB 5033 A on the Public Defense Services Commission budget. Earlier in the week, they approved HB 5031 A, the Oregon State Police budget.

The Oregon Judicial Department has been a long term advocacy project for LWVOR for a least the past 10 years.  LWVOR has advocated and monitored the budget process in order to support a strong judiciary within the state.  OJD presented its budget request early in the session including new circuit court judges, new e-court technology user fees, and new county courthouse building and improvement projects.  So how did these requests fare in a limited-budget year?

The Chief Justice requested 9 new circuit court judges, but only 2 new positions were approved to cover the increased workload in Josephine and Washington County Courts.  The Technology fees were heard earlier in the session since the income did not cover the expenses, especially the vendor costs.  This was considered in budget adjustments.  The courthouse projects had been submitted by counties and prioritized by the OJD administration.  However, the final budget included no funds for courthouse improvements or new construction, unless they show up in Capital Construction bills.  In addition, the funds to counties for security services were cut almost in half.   Ouch!

The total funds for OJD were $504 million with $450 million in General Funds. The budget had a 4% general fund increase over the last biennium, and the judicial compensation was up 6% over the last biennium. However, there were budget reductions in operations of the administration, appellate courts and trial courts. Trial courts lost $10.1 million in staff, but they retained $4 million for specialty courts.  In addition, significant cuts were made to county law libraries and the Oregon Law Commission.

HB 2605 A was approved for $617,468 for the two new judges and support staff.  Judges will start January 1, 2019 and the support staff will start November 1, 2018. LWVOR did not support the bill, but the need for new judges was included in our letter in support of OJD.  See letter on HB 5013.

The Public Defense Services Commission budget was approved at $304 million with the majority from general funds of $298 million.  The major cost is the purchase of defense attorney time, so there were fewer reductions in the professional contracts amounts. During the biennium PDSC came to the E-board for an additional $4.7 million so the budget includes that amount up front in the 2017-19 budget. Overall there was a 2% increase after reductions.  Committee members commented on the parity issue with other attorneys in the system.  See letter on HB 5033.

The Oregon State Police Budget, HB 5031 A, was approved at $427.9 million total funds, with a large contribution from marijuana revenues of $136 million and federal funds of $12 million along with general fund of $271 million for the 2017-19 biennium.  The recommended budget is a 5.4% increase. The League does not testify on this budget, because we do not have positions on crimes or policing.  We have positions on courts, crime victims, treatment programs, juvenile and corrections programs and correctional facilities.

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

SB 5516, the budget for the Oregon’s Department of Education, remains in Ways and Means along with many other Education bills. SB 5517, the State School Fund budget bill, has passed the Senate, but the scheduled passage in the House, June 20, was postponed to encourage more work on meaningful Tax Reform and potentially more money for schools; but on June 22nd the Governor, Senate President and House Speaker jointly announced that the CAT Tax bills were not moving this session (see the Revenue and Tax Reform section).

With very little funding available, the policy committee chairs addressing Education have been working with the Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education to move priority bills to the full Ways and Means including these that passed the W&M Ed-Sub the week of June 19:

  • SB 314 relating to Relief Nursery programs
  • HB 2998 relating to transfer of credits to public post-secondary institutions of education
  • HB 2720 relating to study of virtual public charter schools
  • HB 3412 relating to assessments for children with difficulties hearing
  • SB 231 relating to mental health issues in higher education
  • HB 2998 relating to transfer of credits to public post-secondary institutions of education

On deck for the W&M Ed-Sub the week of June 26 (with more likely to be added) are:

  • SB 20 relating to federal education law
  • HB 2260 relating to child care information maintained by the Office of Child Care
  • HB 2259 relating to enrollment in the Central Background Registry
  • SB 867 relating to maritime sector workforce development
  • SB 111 relating to school nursing services
  • SB 187 relating to vision screenings
  • SB 5524 Higher Education Coordinating Commission
  • SB 5525 Higher Education Coordinating Commission – fee bill

The session end is near.  Soon we will sort out what fails and what flies.

Media this week regarding Education in the legislature.

Education Budget Put On Hold While Oregon Debates Corporate Tax, Chris Lehman, Oregon Public Broadcasting, OPB, June 20, 2017: Majority Democrats said delaying the vote for a week on the State School Fund budget would allow more time for lawmakers to negotiate a possible tax reform or new tax revenue. The decision to delay the school budget came the same day that a union-backed group announced it had submitted an initial batch of signatures on a trio of ballot measures aimed at increasing corporate taxes.

‘Hail Mary pass’: Oregon House Democrats hope to leverage tax deal from schools budget delay, Hillary Borrud, The Oregonian/OregonLive, June 21, 2017: House Democrats’ move to delay the K-12 schools budget vote until June 27 means they’ll subsequently have just two weeks left before they must adjourn under the state Constitution.

The End is Near as Budgets Begin to Pass, Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, MD, June 22, 2017: This education budget, while considered a “cuts budget” (as in, lower than the current service level, so possibly requiring some cuts), and thus, controversial, is still the largest education budget the Legislature has ever passed. If we fully funded education, we’d be forced to unreasonably cut funding for important programs like SNAP, TANF, and Child Welfare. If we don’t have enough money to fully fund everything, then we need to make sure that the safety net programs that hold up low-income families, including many children, are robust enough to even allow them to succeed in school.

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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