Legislative Report, Volume 27, Number 23 – July 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

The Joint Committee on Tax Reform did substantial work toward creating a business tax reform bill, as reported in earlier weeks of this report.  Unfortunately, votes were not available to move HB 2830 (with amendments -4, -5, -6 or -8) and the committee adjourned on June 19, not rescheduling for the remainder of the legislative session.  The League will continue to advocate for tax reform.  HB 2830 would have been the most substantial tax reform since 1990 Ballot Measure 5.  If you’ve been following the Tax Reform and Revenue section of this report, you’ll note that the legislature was unsuccessful in making significant changes this session as the needed compromise votes were instead allocated to the Transportation package and a Health Care Provider Tax to maintain Medicaid funding.  The League will continue to advocate for tax reform (as we have for the past 27 years) since Measure 5 in 1990 changed property tax laws, shifting from the prior 2/3 local funding and 1/3 state funding of schools.

League offered two letters of support for tax reform:
HB 2830-2 – Bridge and CAT, Tax Reform – SUPPORT, pass this session
LWVOR Second Testimony HB 2830 – SUPPORT

MEDIA COVERAGE ON TAX REFORM HIGHLIGHTS:

Politics and math: how Oregon lawmakers closed a $1.8 billion budget gap, Hillary Borrund, The Oregonian/OregonLive, July 2, 2017: Five months ago when lawmakers convened at the Capitol, financial predictions were dire. Top budget writers warned that without new taxes to close a $1.8 billion budget gap, hundreds of thousands of people would be kicked off Medicaid, class sizes and child welfare caseloads would spike, and teachers could be laid off. The alarm bells set the stage for what Democrats hoped would be a game-changing overhaul of the way Oregon taxes businesses, yielding a larger and more reliable funding stream for government programs. leaders in the Senate and House abandoned that hunt for new money. Surprisingly, though, with days left before lawmakers go home, they are on track to boost many of the budgets where they’d threatened cuts in January. What changed?

Oregon Department of Revenue will undergo top-to-bottom review, Diane Dietz, Statesman Journal, June 28, 2017:  A status report on the management assessment that lawmakers ordered is due during the 2018 legislative session, and the full report must be completed no later than December 2019, according to recently adopted budget notes. While lawmakers hone in on the agency’s functioning, several bills moving in the Legislature would expand its role and authority over collection of debt owed to the state.

Oregon Senate is serious about cost containment, SB 1067 focuses on solutions to improve government efficiency, Senate Majority Office, July 6, 2016: Cost containment was one of the Legislature’s primary goals coming into the session, coupled with revenue reform that would bring sustainable funding to state services. Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) put forth a phenomenal effort trying to reach consensus between the business community and other advocates on significant tax reform that will adequately and more sustainably fund education, public safety and other programs on which Oregonians rely. “We have to move past this place where the only tax bill people support is the tax that someone else pays – and the only spending cut people support is one that doesn’t hit their program,” Hass said. “In 10 years, no one will remember this vote. But in 10 years the Legislative Fiscal Office estimates this will result in direct savings of a billion dollars – money that can go to schools, community colleges and universities. That’s not optics; that’s savings.” Savings are expected to increase in future budget cycles to approximately $112 million General Fund and $214.2 million in total funds, once the changes are in effect for a full biennium. These and other measures taken by the Legislature are expected to create direct savings and avoid future costs that amount to approximately $1 billion. The bill requires legislative review of state agency reclassification of positions, as well as review of long-term vacancies in government agencies. It requires additional reporting and collective bargaining changes, as well as combining two public employee health insurance plan boards. Senate Bill 1067 also reduces the cap on state government employee numbers from 1.5 percent of the population to 1 percent of the population, and takes several other cost-saving measures.

Oregon lawmakers plan to boost revenue by killing solar, e-commerce and wolf tax breaks, Hillary Borrud, The Oregonian/OregonLive, July 6, 2017: Oregon lawmakers are on track to scale back or eliminate several popular tax breaks this year, a decision that could boost state revenue by more than $100 million in future budgets. Tax credits for solar projects, e-commerce and wolves killing livestock would go away under a plan approved by the Joint Committee on Tax Credits Wednesday, while lawmakers plan to extend support for rural doctors and affordable housing. Legislative economists predict that letting most of the tax breaks expire could cost taxpayers who use them roughly $20 million over the next two years, while the state would have that much more revenue available to spend. The state’s revenue boost from eliminating the breaks will likely surpass $100 million by the 2021 budget cycle, they estimate. Sen. Mark Hass, the Beaverton Democrat who led the Legislature’s efforts to overhaul Oregon’s corporate tax system, said lawmakers are scaling back tax breaks as a result of the failure to advance a corporate tax plan this session.

Oregon Legislature adjourns difficult session with mixed outcomes, Claire Withycombe and Paris Achen, Capital Bureau, July 7, 2017: The more than five-month session yielded a two-year budget, new taxes, transportation funding, expanded health care benefits and staved off the need for second women’s prison. But lawmakers also succumbed to partisan gridlock over corporate tax reform, paring pension costs and tenant protections…. The state faced a $1.4 billion revenue shortfall in the budget for the next two years. Republicans agreed to support moderately increasing taxes on corporations in exchange for reducing the cost of public employee pension costs and spending reductions, but the two parties were unable to reach an agreement. A last-ditch effort to restructure small business taxes, which would have raised nearly $200 million in the next two years, also went by the wayside.

What the game changers can learn from functional government, Tim Nesbitt, guest columnist, The Oregonian/OregonLive, July 8, 2017: We always knew the legislature would balance the state budget one way or another, variously defined by contending interest groups as ways to a better Oregon or a brighter one. And, despite their conflicts, both groups shared common objectives: Get hospitals to pay more to preserve health care for low-income Oregonians; fund what voters approved for schools last November; and find a way to upgrade our transportation system. All of these things have now come together in what Ways and Means Co-Chair Sen. Richard Devlin calls a “relatively functional budget.” But it is not a “game changing” one…. Approving new taxes and expanding government services with bipartisan support might have qualified as an exceptional legislative session in the past. Now, however, it is being dismissed on the left as a failure to step up and on the right as an exercise in kicking the can down the road. I can make a case for either, given my preoccupation with the erosion of business taxes for schools that began with Measure 5 in the 1990s and the cumulative effects of decades-old mistakes that we seem incapable of correcting, PERS and the kicker among them…. So let’s start with a recognition of competence where we find it, beginning with Sen. Devlin, his Co-Chair Rep. Nancy Nathanson and their colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee. They managed to save health care for low-income Oregonians and funded most of what cynics said was an unaffordable commitment to career-technical education in our high schools. Ditto for the Democrats and Republicans in both chambers who brought the transportation package home. These were bipartisan accomplishments which, though still subject to undoing by partisan plays to the ballot, look a lot like what we expect from a functional representative democracy.

Oregon lawmakers hail session of progressive wins, but big budget problems lurk ahead, Hillary Borrud and Gordon R. Friedman, The Oregonian/OregonLive, July 9, 2017: Lawmakers adjourned the 2017 session Friday having averted a budget disaster, but acknowledged as they headed home that relationships have frayed and this year’s wins could be jeopardized by a looming budget gap. Democrats achieved many of their most progressive policy goals, but they failed to find votes to reform Oregon’s tax system and make a serious dent in public pension costs, leaving the toughest decisions to future sessions. Democratic lawmakers and public employee unions had hoped they could achieve a sea change in the way Oregon taxes businesses, to generate up to $2 billion in new revenue to lift education budgets and head off chronic shortfalls. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, upped the ante in May, insisting lawmakers first pass such a tax plan before turning attention to other legislation…. WHY CORPORATE TAX REFORM TANKED Sen. Mark Hass, the Beaverton Democrat who led the effort to pass a so-called gross receipts tax on businesses’ sales, said in the end Democrats simply couldn’t come up with the one Republican vote in the Senate necessary to pass the plan. With the proposal doomed to die in the Senate, any House Republicans who might have voted for it would have taken a risk without any upside. Business groups and Republicans had insisted a corporate tax hike be accompanied by government cost-cutting and reforms to whittle down the state’s public pension deficit. But lawmakers’ proposals on those fronts lacked the diligence poured into the tax plan, Hass said…. Oregon’s teachers union has already filed two initiatives for the November 2018 ballot, one to create a corporate gross receipts tax and a second that would make it easier for the Legislature to raise taxes to fund education. That won’t smooth tensions between Democrats and Republicans, and having the union shape a gross receipts tax is less likely than Hass’ effort to reel in the widespread support needed to get a tax change across the finish line.

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

The last two session weeks were hectic for Governance as all legislation involving revenue converged on these committees, reduced to one-hour notice. Several legislators opted to vote against bills for lack of adequate evaluation time, reserving the right to change floor votes. Public Records bills’ passage was a win. The elections omnibus bill intersected with a health care bill, resulting in a referendum petition that may send this session’s budget back for reworking.

POST WORK SESSION CONTINUES

We are taking another look at Tax Reform with our Revenue Coalition. We are watching voter service news from our Secretary of State, related to the voter information request and to referendum #301 (see Elections, below). This may affect budgets to be amended in the 2018 short session. We are updating our “Think Before You Ink” brochure from 2013. Legislative Committee Days begin Sept 18th.

REVENUE

The 3-page Legislative Revenue Office 2017-2019 adopted budget covers program areas and funds allotted. See our Revenue and Tax Reform subcommittee report.
Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction
For the final days of the session, bills not covered elsewhere were heard in a “Capital Construction” Committee which convened and recessed repeatedly on short notice rather than adjourning.

Large funding packages were approved in this committee. These bills passed:

HB 3203 B: Calls for contracting agency analysis justifying use of their own materials and staff, showing that it will save money over using state resources.

HB 3470: Covers Legislative Counsel and Legislative Fiscal Office review of funding to local and Tribal governments.

SB 1055: General Fund and Revenue Bond authorization, Speaker Kotek requested earlier presentation.

SB 1067: Cost Containment, see our Revenue Subcommittee report for details.

SB 5045: Transportation is covered in this 2-page bill with a concise summary of investment figures in transit, modernization, bridges, local projects, etc.

SB 5006: This 40-page bill, the “Christmas Tree”, covers the “Emergency Board” which forecasts and allocates reserve funding in the interim.

SB 5505: Establishes state general obligation and revenue bond amounts, agreements.

SB 5530: Lottery Bond authorization, increasing Business Development, Housing and Community Services. SB 5529 covered lottery revenue maintenance.

SB 5506: This 8-page bill lists specific state allocations for projects, 6-year expenditures, and fiscal limits. Passed.

PUBLIC RECORDS

Four public records bills passed this session with extensive preparation from the AG Public Records Task Force, for the most reform in over 44 years. We testified repeatedly and reported on their progress regularly here, supporting all four intermittently through various amendments, including reference to futile efforts in 1993, when requests for exemptions were estimated at over 3,450. These bills proved contentious, reflecting the struggle between privacy and transparency and preferences for presiding authority between the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State (SoS), and Department of Administrative Services. The bills establish a group of committees, with curiosity about why all were needed. These bills cover distinct areas of responsibility:

SB 106, Public Records Advocate and Council, will mediate and address grievances, and provide training to local governments to improve service. The Council will include representation from a defined group, many appointed by the Governor. The Advocate oversight moved about in various amendments, prevailing at appointment by the Governor.

SB 481, Public Records Policy. Public records request exemptions will be cataloged and maintained by the Attorney General. The estimated current 550 exemptions, with more added this session, will be publicly available electronically, searchable to facilitate sorting. Response requirements for requests, including timing, are improved. This should help to reduce defensive legal review expenses, by increasing efficiency in this necessary step. One legislator asked why we don’t simply make all public records available online, as we do with the popular and effective OLIS (legislative) and ORESTAR (campaign funding) websites. There are reasonable privacy protections described in ORS 192.501 (192.410 – 192.505) including cases currently in litigation or criminal investigation, trade secrets, licensing exams, location of archeological sites or endangered species habitat, proprietary “computer programs”, public safety threat response plans, personal contact info for legislators, students, agency employees, etc., etc. Sunsetting exemptions and review of what data needs to be retained will be an increasing concern as the volumes of data that we are able to collect may become unwieldy. See the NYT’s October 2016 article on managing and protecting Seattle Police data, “Should We See Everything a Cop Sees?”.

HB 2101, Exemptions management in statute. This “3rd leg of records management”, promoted by chief sponsor Rep. Huffman, addresses establishing, defining, and sunsetting exemptions in statute. It forms a “Sunshine Committee”, with broad membership charged with promoting transparency. A Legislative Counsel Committee will review proposed legislation to provide “open government impact statements,” similar to the fiscal and revenue impact statements that are currently required with proposals. They will alert the newly formed 15-member “Sunshine Committee” of bills with relevant exemption impacts.

HB 3361, State Data Officer, State Website Portal. The State Chief Information Officer will appoint a Chief Data Officer to maintain a web portal for state agency data. This Data Officer will establish open data standards and publish a technical standards manual for data on the website. 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 “rule requirements” in managing data. 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 to work toward efforts establishing 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 completed.

ELECTION 229!

SB 229: This elections omnibus bill passed, with content forwarded through 3 SoS terms of office. This is the same bill that the League wanted to gut and stuff its contents into SB 906, adding an “opt-in” (not mandatory) online candidate filing that we researched and lobbied for, but was tabled for lack of adequate Special Districts’ support.

Late in the session, an amendment was added to SB 229 requiring a January 2018 special election if a referendum petition is successful, with changes in the ballot measure titling process. This is related to HB 2391, the commercial health care insurance premiums budget bill. It also now relates to Referendum #301, “Stop Healthcare Taxes,” and a further ballot titling administrative rule change announced by the SoS after Sine Die. Referendum 301 sponsor Rep. Parrish notes that SB 229 also refers to the transportation package. The ballot measure titling process is usually administered through the AG. However, as was done with Measures 66 & 67, an appointed legislative committee would now write the ballot titles for these referendum petitions. The SoS’s rule change removes a possible delay to petition signature gathering, while waiting for an appeal of a ballot measure title to the Oregon Supreme Court. On one hand, it makes signature collection “less vulnerable to manipulation” and on the other hand, impervious to complaints about possibly misleading titling. LWVOR is updating our “Think Before You Ink” brochure to include referendum considerations.

These contentious developments pit partisan concerns directly 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, the inclusion of abortion funding and coverage for health care of the estimated 5% of Oregon’s children who are not documented citizens. Democrats are hoping that Referendum 301 will not collect adequate signatures (58,789 required) and that the health care budget compromise will remain in place. Otherwise, they are pushing for a January 2018 special election, to allow the February short legislative session to respond to the possible newly unbalanced budget, to make further large cuts, including for the loss of federal matching health care funds. If delayed till November, the gap will be much larger and matching federal funding may be forfeit (press Op-Ed).

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE (Marge Easley)

It has proved to be a disappointing session for National Popular Vote (NPV) supporters. Despite a remarkable level of leadership and grassroots enthusiasm on this issue, HB 2927 was ultimately thwarted by Senate Democratic leadership, who insisted they could only support a legislative referral, regardless of the fact that the U.S. Constitution requires legislatures to decide how presidential electors are chosen.

The NPV bill did move further along in the process than three previous tries, finally gaining a Senate Rules Committee hearing on June 21. However, it was paired with SB 825, the referral version championed by Senator Richard Devlin. At the hearing, the League and many others expressed compelling reasons why SB 825 was an unacceptable alternative.

In the waning days of the session, Senate Rules Chair Ginny Burdick, who had espoused support for NPV in previous sessions and on recent Facebook postings, could not be persuaded to hold a committee work session on SB 2927. Supporters are determined to try again, but the bottom line is that Oregon’s failure to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact this year is a setback for the national NPV movement.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE (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 had passed out of House Rules and was waiting for funding in Ways and Means. It was similar to the 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.

REDISTRICTING (Norman Turrill)

The Secretary of State organized near the beginning of the legislative session an advisory “Fair Redistricting Task Force” that was to be composed of representatives 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.

GENERAL GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY

HCR 40: Sets rules for the 2018 short session, limiting senators to a single bill draft proposal, representatives to two, and interim committees to five, etc.

HB 3464: LWVOR supported this bill (which passed) to protect citizenship and immigration privacy. Note: both the bill and our testimony clearly state compliance with federal law.

SB 43: This lobbying disclosure bill with three adopted amendments did not pass.

Late-breaking bill grab bag – these passed. We wish we could count NPV among them, alas, not:

HCR 13: Recognizes and designates an official tartan of Oregon.

HCR 19 A: Designates marionberry pie as official pie of Oregon.

HCR 38: Declares August 2017 as Oregon Albacore Tuna Month.

HB 2191 B: Relating to business entities, improves transparency from “shell corporations.”

HB 3359 B: Relating to long term care, 28 page multi-faceted health care bill.

Thanks to:

  • Legislators and their staff members who asked for League testimony, took time to discuss issues in committee, in hallways, and by appointment.
  • The Department of Administrative Services (DAS), for assistance offered repeatedly throughout this legislative session.
  • The Secretary of State’s staff in the main office, Elections, Archives, and the Small Business Assistance Office in the Corporate Division.
  • The many members we consulted from the AG’s Public Records Task Force.
  • Assistance from other lobbyists, especially OACC, LOC, SDAO, OSBA, who with State Elections and SoS staff, discussed “opt-in” candidate filing for all Oregon candidates, which we expect to see progress on in the future.

Our Revenue Subcommittee:

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

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

We had wins and losses in the 2017 session.  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 Package.  But the end of one session simply means it’s time to work on 2018.  A new version of HB 2135, Clean Energy Jobs, is already being drafted.

AGENCY BUDGETS (PEGGY LYNCH)

This session, as in others, the League followed individual natural resource agency budgets.  During the interim (before session), we participated in developing those budgets and advocating for League priorities with the agencies and then with the Governor before she presented her budget proposal to the 2017 Legislature.  Because of the need for additional state funding for the Oregon Health Plan, the need to fund the 3 measures passed by voters in 2016, the increased cost of services and PERS costs, natural resource agency budgets saw reductions from the assumed cost to provide these services at current service levels.  Positions that had been vacant for a while were eliminated and hiring was frozen or delayed (and will be into the future).  Passage of SB 1067, the cost containment measure, directs all agencies to reduce their budgeted expenditures by targets that they must meet, although they are provided the flexibility to select exactly how to meet those targets.  We did influence these budgets and the services they provide and received some budget add-backs in HB 5006.  Now that the 2017 session is finished, we will again begin working with the agencies in 2018 to be sure Oregon’s natural resources and the health of Oregonians is protected.

CLIMATE CHANGE (CLAUDIA KEITH)

Clean Energy Jobs (Cap & Trade): On July 6 a new carbon pricing Bill was introducedSB 1070 with 33 sponsors. HB 2135 A ended the session in Ways and Means. 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. This year, our legislators had a chance and failed to take meaningful action on climate policy. The League supports legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions–the major cause of climate change. The political bipartisan compromise bills on climate related policy included the transportation package (see below), including funding for public transit, electric vehicles and bike and pedestrian improvements, plus a bipartisan compromise to the Clean Fuels program. (Additional info available at the Renew Oregon campaign.)

Dept. of Energy and Oregon Global Warming Commission merger, with a funding request and a new Energy and Climate Policy Board, HB 2020 A, moved from House Rules to Full Ways and Means and died. We understand this topic could be addressed during the interim. HB 3269, specific to the Oregon Global Warming Commission, died in House Rules. SB 908 and SB 952 A, other ODOE restructuring bills, also died in committee. The only restructuring of the Dept. of Energy will be via HB 3166 B which moves a loan program to Business Oregon.

Oil Rail Safety: HB 2131 A, the Community Protection and Preparedness Act, was on the House floor for a vote but moved back to committee, primarily caused by issues around the lack of transparency. This bill is expected to be rewritten and introduced next session. The League continues to support meaningful comprehensive action on this critical public safety issue.

SB 1039, addressing ocean acidification and hypoxia, passed and was awarded $162,286 in General Funds.

LWVUS, jointly with LWVOR, have Amici standing in the historical Our Children’s Trust, ’Juliana vs Federal Government’ Climate case. 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. 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. Meetings are set for July 28 and August 29 in Portland.  League member help is needed to follow this rulemaking.  We are working with partners, but 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 provided 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.

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 AND MARGE EASLEY)

Due to the voices of many Oregonians, SB 432, which would have allowed some rural counties in Eastern Oregon to opt out of our statewide land use system, died in committee.  For those of you who responded to the League’s Action Alert, thanks!

SB 644, a bill related to mining in Eastern Oregon, was amended by the -6 amendments in Senate Rules and by the –A8 amendments in the Capital Construction Subcommittee.  As amended, the League was neutral on the bill and will await the first mining project processed under this bill to see if it meets the promise of an open and transparent process with reasonable permit process streamlining AND protection of our important agricultural lands, as well as our iconic sage grouse.

HB 2007 A, a bill meant to address policies around affordable housing, including requiring cities to allow accessory dwelling units died, but many of the provisions in the bill were “stuffed” into SB 1021 on July 3rd. (https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/ProposedAmendment/12500) Some of the concerns shared by the League related to HB 2007 were included in this new bill.  But there are still requirements that usurp local implementation, an important tenant of the League’s support for our statewide land use planning program.  Many cities were also concerned with this bill.

HB 2012 passed. It creates the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region (Malheur County), 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 and it authorizes $5 million in General Funds to allow the Board to award grants and loans from the Fund to enhance workforce development or economic development in the region.

HB 2023 that would have changed the definition of high value farmland died in House Rules.  HB 2893, a bill that would require a city to evaluate certain agricultural lands for inclusion in their urban growth boundary also died in House Rules.

HB 3249 passed.  It 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 this legislation sets up the structure for future funding.

TRANSPORTATION (PEGGY LYNCH)

HB 2017 was amended by the -10 amendments on July 3rd. Here is an executive summary section-by-section description of the bill. (https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/137402) and a shorter “info graphic” (https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/137371).  Although the League did not comment directly on the bill, many of our partners assisted in assuring 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, and electric vehicle purchase encouragement.

OREGON PARKS AND RECREATION (PEGGY LYNCH)

HB 3149 passed.  It directs the Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. (OPRD) 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.

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)

Although SB 383, funding for the onsite septic loan program, did not move forward, $1.5 million was included in HB 5006 because this program has brought in substantial matching 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, passed. Funding for the planning was included in the Water Resources Dept. budget

All three important water bills died: HB 2706 A, requiring a water rights management fee, HB 2705, requiring additional measurement of water rights, and HB 2707 A, asking for an additional $8.2 million for groundwater studies.  The Water Resources Dept. did not even get monies for one additional groundwater study, so they will continue with only addressing the Harney basin for now.  These studies take at least 5 years to complete and, at this funding pace, will take into the next century to complete statewide.

DOGAMI has released a new comprehensive levee database that provides essential information for reducing flood risks, responding to flood events, and planning ecological restoration efforts:  Open-File Report O-17-02, Statewide Levee Database for Oregon, release 1.0: Major Agricultural and Urban Areas in Western Oregon and along the Columbia River, by Fletcher E. O’Brien. The publication includes a geodatabase and report. It’s available for free download in the DOGAMI Publications Center at http://bit.ly/2smKu6E.

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. 

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)

Regional Solutions staffing was reduced by 3 positions in the Governor’s office this session and only $4 million was appropriated in the Regional Solutions Fund for 2017-19.  A new process for allocating this money was recently adopted.

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!  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

Ways and Means Subcommittees held back on major budgets until the last two weeks.  The Human Services Subcommittee did not reveal the Department of Human Services Budget recommendations until late in the session. The expectation for huge cuts did not materialize but major programs will continue with some cuts in services.  The Public Safety Subcommittee considered the Oregon Youth Authority Budget in one of its later meetings. The Capital Construction bill and the Reconciliation bill included funds for public safety agencies and other projects.

The Department of Human Services budget, HB 5526 A, was revealed in detail on June 26 and 27 in the Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee. This agency budget is separated into several divisions; Self Sufficiency, Vocational Rehabilitation, Child Welfare, Aging and People with Disabilities, and Intellectual Developmental Disabilities.

The total agency budget was $11,196 million, including a 5.8% increase over 2015-17 budget. The federal funds for social service programs drawn down for Oregon were $7,594 million with General Fund of $3,107 million with 8,224 agency staff positions.  The Self Sufficiency Division draws down federal funds for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Employment Related Day Care. The Early Learning Division of the Education Department receives Child Care funds for day care and worker training.  This biennium, the Alcohol and Drug Child Care Program was transferred from Education to Self Sufficiency without funds, but these children were often receiving services from DHS already.

Self Sufficiency Division reports decreased TANF recipients and 650 families receiving day care.  The agency could serve 8,900 families in 2017-19 with added funds.  The TANF benefits for non-needy caretaker relatives may be reduced or eliminated due to new income limits.  If parents are hospitalized, in treatment or in prison, relatives often take the children with or without DHS support. The General Assistance Program for disability applicants was eliminated earlier in the session.

Vocational Rehabilitation serves developmentally delayed and physically or mentally disabled clients to gain employment skills and supervised job placements. Special education students are eligible for this service after they complete high school. The agency operates with 259 staff in branch offices.

Administrative Services for DHS and Oregon Health Authority Medicaid Eligibility are combined.  A technology system is in development with $12 million in the DHS budget and a bonding request of $4.5 million. 816 staff work in shared administrative services.

Child Welfare Division funds were increased by 17% for foster care, foster parent support and staff training.  A Budget Note asked for interim reports on child abuse reports and staff training. Staff retention or turnover will be closely monitored.

Aging and People with Disabilities Division reported a caseload increase of 17% plus rate increases in facilities with a resultant need for higher funding.  Staff salary increases were settled at 5% for employees in residential facilities. Adult abuse reporting has been an emphasis in facilities.  The financial reductions are the elimination of live in help and a home care worker registry.  Home care hours are being studied to determine time needed for tasks.  The Oregon Project Independence program has not been eliminated because it saves money by keeping seniors in their own homes.

The Intellectual Developmental Disability Division also has a caseload growth with resultant funding increase. IDD reductions are in family support, closed cases with no services, and K plan assessments with cost containment. Parental income will be considered in eligibility.  The Fairview Trust has been preserved for future needs.

Related bills were heard in the Human Services Subcommittee.  SB 102 allowed youth in DHS custody to open savings accounts for future education and training needs.  SB 243 A required caseworkers to interview a child within 18 days after removal from a foster care placement.  LWVOR commented on the DHS Budget Bill.

Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee passed the Oregon Youth Authority Budget HB 5042 in the last two weeks along with separate bills in HB 2600 A on Court Appointed Special Advocates in a new home, and SB 884 on a study of costs for treatment services throughout the criminal justice system.  Mid-week the committee passed life sentences on repeat sex felony crimes in SB 1050 and prison reduction in SB 3067 A and HB 3078 B. The League supported the prison reduction measures.  Another study on police traffic stop data in HB 2355 A by the Criminal Justice Commission was approved.

The Oregon Youth Authority Budget, HB 5042 A, was approved at 9% lower than the 2015-17 budget and the Current Service Level. The agency had planned to close the Hillcrest correctional facility in South Salem.  In addition, the Warrenton facility will be closed in October 1, 2017. The transfer of youth offenders to MacLaren in Woodburn or other correctional facilities is in progress. Staff positions will be eliminated or moved to other program areas. A Women’s Transition Program at Oak Creek in Albany will continue and Vocational Training positons will be added to other facility staff.  There were no Capital Construction or improvements in facilities in the budget. The League submitted a letter of support.

The OYA Community Corrections Division will take a $20 million reduction by closing a state/county detention facility and reducing residential treatment beds in communities.  The 15-17 budget included 658 community placements which will be reduced to 500 currently filled.  If the agency needs additional beds they will come to the E-Board. There were no changes to Key Performance Measures.

HB 2795 A and HB 2797 A, the fee and fine bills for the Oregon Judicial Dept., passed the Subcommittee. SB 505 B on grand jury recording passed on the last committee day with one No vote. The district attorneys, police and sheriffs testified against the bill, but the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and ACLU had lobbied for the recording to make the evidence available to both sides.  The plan is for OJD to purchase the recording equipment and to conduct a trial in 3 county judicial districts.  Special Purpose Appropriations funds will be reserved for this purpose.  The League had no position to advocate for grand jury recording, but it should assist in the mission of justice for all.

The Capital Construction Bill, SB 5506, contained bond funding approval for projects for the OYA facilities, including maintenance of MacLaren buildings and construction of 6 new living units at MacLaren.  The Rogue Valley facility will get a high school multi-purpose building this year, and all OYA facilities will get digital surveillance cameras, which will contribute to youth and staff safety.

The Oregon Judicial Department will receive $6 million in bond funding for the Oregon Supreme Court Building and $8.9 million for the new Multnomah Courthouse equipment and furnishings.  The Oregon Housing and Community Services agency will receive $80 million in bonds for family affordable housing from SB 5506.

The Budget Reconciliation Bill, HB 5006, contains appropriations from general funds for the E-board emergency fund, special appropriations and projects.  OHCS will also receive $21 million in General Funds for a total of $41 million for Emergency Housing Assistance and State Homeless Assistance Programs.  The Lottery Bond Bill, SB 5530, has authorization of $25 million for Housing Preservation. More detail on the outcomes of other bills will be in the final legislative report.

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; SB 558, Cover All Kids, extends health coverage for ALL children, including undocumented kids.  We’ve also had big successes for working women, including Pay Equity, HB 2005, and the Fair Work Week Bill, SB 828.

We’ve had lots of smaller, but important, pieces of legislation enacted regarding sex trafficking, LGBT protections, and sexual assault/domestic violence.

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.

GUN SAFETY (MARGE EASLEY)

It was a mixed bag for gun safety legislation this session. The big win was SB 719 (formerly SB 868), the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) bill. The House Rules hearing for the bill took place with an hour’s notice on July 3. This bill establishes a judicial process for the removal of deadly weapons from those who are at risk of harming themselves or others. There was impassioned testimony from opponents that the bill violates the rights of gun owners, but it managed to pass out of committee with a do pass recommendation on a strictly party line vote. A minority report proposed by Republican House Leader Rep. McLane did not materialize, and after a spirited House floor debate, the bill passed 31-28 on July 6 and awaits the Governor’s signature.

Unfortunately, SB 1065, which closes several loopholes in gun law, including the Charleston Loophole, never made it out of Senate Rules by the end of the session. It was a disappointing loss, but it is hoped that at least some of the key policy concepts in this bill will reappear in future legislation. The gun safety community is breathing a sigh of relief, however, that none of the harmful gun bills sponsored by gun rights’ organizations were able to gain passage this session.

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

As this legislative session comes to an end, the League is already working with other education advocates on policy bills for the 2018 “short session” and the 2019 legislative session where biennium budgets are finalized. The League has many Positions at a state and national level that address education policy.  We’re looking for a few dedicated LWVOR volunteers passionate about the success of Oregon’s youth and schools.  Please, contact us if you have four hours a week (except when travelling) that you’d dedicate to one or two specific issues in early learning, preK-12, higher education, or youth ages 6-24 with many adverse childhood experiences at-risk in mainstream education.

SB 5517, passed both houses (Senate ayes 25 and nays 5; House ayes 31 and nays 28) with the largest Education budget in state history, yet school districts will be making cuts in teachers, raising classroom sizes and possibly shortening the school year to stretch the funding, which is below what is needed for “current service level” and far below what is needed to meet the “Quality Education Model.” If you follow education closely, take time to listen to this House floor debate. At $8.2 billion, the state contribution is $827.6 million (11.2 percent more than the 2015-17 budget). Critics say that retirement costs and health care costs continue to grow disproportionally, eating funding for students while proponents say they stretched to provide this budget—allocations to individual school districts take more than half of the state’s General Fund plus additional money from Lottery Funds and the Marijuana Fund. Local property taxes supply only about 1/3 of school funding, while the state provides about 2/3 funding.  If you’ve been following the Tax Reform and Revenue section of this report, you’ll note that the legislature was unsuccessful in making significant changes this session.

SB 5516, the ODE agency operating budget, including Grants and Aid for the Oregon’s Department of Education, is summarized in this SB 5516 Work Session Table and detailed in the final SB 5516 LFO Recommendation.

Other finalized budgets are: SB 5524 Higher Education Coordinating Commission budget, SB 5525 Higher Education Coordinating Commission – fee bill, SB 1032 Oregon Promise program budget, HB 2038 relating to school food programs (Farm to School) budget. HB 5006, the session-end “Christmas Tree,” allocated some additional funds to programs.

Following is an update on bills where the League offered written or verbal testimony:

 

Media this week regarding Education in the legislature.

Oregon is Now the Only State to Have Required Ethnic Studies Curriculum for K-12 Students, Sophia June, Willamette Week, July 1, 2017: HB 2845, sponsored by freshman Rep. Diego Hernandez (D- East Portland) and signed this week by Gov. Kate Brown, directs the Oregon Department of Education to convene advisory groups to develop ethnic-studies standards into existing statewide social-studies standards. A coalition of 60 local groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon and the NAACP of Oregon—have made crucial gains this week, ensuring K-12 ethnic-studies curriculum is required for students, not only the whitest large city in the country, but for students in the entire state. The bill would focus on racial and ethnic minorities, as well as Jewish and LGBTQ communities, different genders and people with disabilities.

Politics and math: how Oregon lawmakers closed a $1.8 billion budget gap, Hillary Borrund, The Oregonian/OregonLive, July 2, 2017: Surprisingly, though, with days left before lawmakers go home, they are on track to boost many of the budgets where they’d threatened cuts in January. What changed?

On Saturday, 16 House Democrats wrote a letter to House Speaker Tina Kotek, calling for a renewed effort to raise corporate taxes ¬before the session ends, Saul Hubbard, The Register-Guard, July 2, 2017: The transportation ­package “is not enough,” wrote the group of House Democrats, which includes 10 freshmen lawmakers. “In the final days of the 2017 session, we believe the Legislature must re-focus on the all-important task of identifying additional revenue to support education and other essential state services.” A much smaller backup plan, a cut to a business tax break, passed the House but is languishing in the Senate. The 16 Democrats did not explicitly threaten to vote “no” on the transportation package, so it’s ­unclear how hard they will press the issue.

Legislature approves funding at $8.2 billion for K-12 schools, Oregon School Board Association, June 30, 2017: Districts finally have the official budget number they had been awaiting: $8.2 billion. Senate Bill 5517 passed the House 31-28 on Tuesday, setting the State School Fund for the 2017-19 biennium. Oregon school business officials calculated $8.4 billion was needed for schools to continue with the same programs and services as last year. Districts began planning for major cuts, including reducing staff, programs and school days. Funding at $8.2 billion will allow districts to add back some of the cuts planned in their budgets but is still short of what many need to keep current services and staff. Democrats described the bill as the best they could do with present tax revenue. Republicans who opposed the bill said it wasn’t enough for schools, and they blamed out-of-control spending, particularly on public employee health care and the Public Employees Retirement System.

Legislature pushes for more higher education funding to keep Oregon tuition hikes down, Andrew Theen, The Oregonian/OregonLive, June 29, 2017: It’s unclear whether the proposed budget will lead to lower tuition increases next year, but both University of Oregon and Portland State University officials noted that the cost drivers – rising public pension and medical costs – are not going away.

Oregon Promise will be ‘significantly’ changed 2 years after it started, Andrew Theen, The Oregonian/OregonLive, June 30, 2017: Lawmakers are budgeting $40 million for the program in the next two-years, $8 million less than state officials say is needed to pay for it. So now the state may cut off grants to students from wealthier families to make up the difference. About 20 percent of current promise students come from families with median adjusted gross income of $111,603 or greater, according to state records. The Oregon Promise is a last-dollar scholarship, which means the state chips in only after other scholarships and grants are subtracted from a student’s tuition tab. Students must fill out the FAFSA, then accept any assistance offered, such as the federal Pell Grant for low-income students or the state’s offering, the Oregon Opportunity Grant.

Oregon ranked best in country for educating homeless students, Janaki Chadha, The Oregonian/OregonLive, June 19, 2017: The report by the New York City-based Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness found that Oregon ranked at the top when measuring how effectively school districts identify homeless children and enroll them in school.

‘Cover All Kids’ ensures health coverage for Oregon’s children, SB 558 modifies eligibility guidelines and boosts outreach for OHP services, Senate Majority Office, July 3, 2017: It is no secret that a lack of health coverage for low-income children in Oregon leads to higher rates of school absenteeism. With early intervention and behavioral health screenings, many health issues that affect school performance, attendance, behavior and overall health of our children can be addressed. The Oregon Health Plan provides health coverage to qualifying individuals and families through federal Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program funds. According to the Oregon Health Authority, more than 400,0000 children were enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP coverage as of September of last year. Senate Bill 558 ensures this coverage to all children and adolescents residing in Oregon whose family incomes fall below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. “Lack of access to quality health care affects our children’s abilities to grow into successful, well-functioning adults,” Kruse said. “This bill will help us to offer health care coverage for more children and do outreach to eligible families.” More than 90 organizations came together to support Cover All Kids. The coalition included carriers, providers, coordinated care organizations and community-based organizations. The coalition is a product of people and groups coming together to find a solution that works to benefit all children.

Oregon’s Legislature: Robbing Peter to pay Paul (Guest opinion), Paul Anthony, The Oregonian/OregonLive, July 5, 2017:

Last week, the Oregon Legislature passed an $8.2 billion biennial schools budget. But even though that represents an 11 percent increase over the previous biennium, that $8.2 billion figure will leave our schools and the children they serve desperately short of resources, with devastating consequences. If Oregon wants the informed, empowered, caring and capable citizens needed to ensure a humane and democratic future, we must adequately invest in our children. We cannot do that with the revenue the state is assigning to education and services for children and their families. Without significantly more revenue, this budget is simply a reckless gamble with the future of our children and state.

Measure 98 funds for school dropout prevention cut in half, Kristena Hansen, Associated Press, July 3, 2016: Oregon high school students may get a bit more than half of the roughly $300 million that voters in November mandated be spent on career-technical education, college-prep and other dropout-prevention programs over the next two school years. Measure 98 is among several programs and services being trimmed down this week as lawmakers rush to close the upcoming budget deficit by July 10 without millions of dollars in new tax revenue that Democrats had hoped to raise from businesses. State funding for the K-12 public school system is, conversely, going up 11 percent in the next biennium, $8.2 billion total, largely to cover rising costs in teachers’ health care, retirement and automatic salary and cost-of-living adjustments. The Oregon Education Association, the state’s teachers’ union, made a final attempt last week to convince lawmakers to strip Measure 98’s funding requirement and essentially turn it into an optional grant fund. One of OEA’s complaints is the measure’s strict monitoring of program spending and educators designed to track student improvements.

Legislators disregard voters’ will with insufficient education measure funding: Editorial Agenda 2017, The Oregonian Editorial Board, July 8, 2017: What voters approve isn’t necessarily what lawmakers do. For the coming biennium, legislators have set aside $170 million for Measure 98 programs, a little more than half of the $300 million that the initiative called for in funding of career and technical education, dropout prevention efforts and expanded college-prep courses for high school students across the state. As for Measure 99, the Legislature is allocating only $24 million of the $44 million envisioned by the initiative to pay for the multi-day outdoor education program for middle-schoolers that several districts have struggled to maintain through fundraising or reserving scarce funds. There’s nothing wrong with legislators’ amending what voters hand off to them. Making funding decisions and changing state law, whether it originates from the initiative process or legislative process, are routine functions of the Legislature. Initiatives are blunt instruments as public-policy making goes, rarely including the detail and nuance needed to fairly, legally and effectively administer the programs they create. And an initiative’s focus on a single issue contrasts with the broad array of concerns and needs that legislators must balance in making difficult budget decisions.

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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