Legislative Report, Volume 27, Number 8 – March 2017

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In This Issue

Important Dates

Natural Resources

Social Policy

Education Policy

Governance


news iconImportant Dates

Here are some key dates in the Oregon Legislature for 2017:

April 7:
Deadline for committee chairs to schedule work sessions in the bills’ house of origin.
April 18:
Deadline for committee chairs to hold work sessions in the bills’ house of origin.
April 21: LWVOR’s Day at the LegislatureRegister today!
May 19:
Deadline for committees to schedule work sessions on measures that originated in the opposite chamber.
June 2:
Deadline for committees to hold work sessions on measures that originated in the opposite chamber.
June 23:
Target adjournment of 2017 Legislative Session.
July 10:
Constitutional deadline for adjournment of 2017 Legislative Session.


dropletNatural Resources

By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator

AGENCY BUDGETS (Peggy Lynch)

This week the Dept. of Energy budget, HB 5009, will be heard.  An Interim Committee had extensive meetings on a possible restructuring or dissolution of this agency.  The budget has no General Funds and Lottery Funds, only money to pay for debt service, so the League usually is silent on this budget.  You can listen to testimony on the agency restructuring proposals in the House Energy and Environment Committee March 15.

CLIMATE CHANGE (Claudia Keith)

Our partner, the Oregon Conservation Network‘s lobby day – the Clean Green Lobby Machine is Thursday, March 23, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. @ the State Capitol. RSVP form: https://act.myngp.com/Forms/4702603535416557568?midqs=6773132364588515328

The League submitted testimony on HB 2131, a rail hazard material bill letter and HB 2711, a 10-year moratorium on fracking and coal bed methane drilling letter. Of interest is an update from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), New Report Details How Cap-and-Trade Proceeds Help Improve California. The Climate Policy started Tues March 7 and will continue weekly through the first week of April. See also the League Cap & Trade Clean Jobs SB 557 League Letter and our coalition partner Our Children’s Trust SB 557 & HB 2468 Letter of Support.

Climate Test bills, HB 3343 and SB 1007 (Oregon Climate Test FB page and national campaign at ClimateTest.org) have been introduced in both the House and the Senate.

These Price on GHGE Bills are still “alive”. The League actively supports SB 557 and HB 2468. Others include SB 748, HB 2135, and a Carbon Price Place Holder HB 3023.

The League may submit letters for a March 20 House Energy and Environment hearing on HB 2020, which establishes an Oregon Energy and Climate Board as an oversight and advisory body for the Oregon Department of Energy and Climate and in support of HB 2710, which sets a schedule for the Director of Department of Consumer and Business Services to perform certain duties regarding energy efficiency standards requirements for newly constructed buildings.

AIR QUALITY & TOXICS (Marilyn Koenitzer)

We continue to follow the Cleaner Air Oregon (www.cleanerair.oregon.gov) process.

We are now following HB 2669, the Toxics Reporting and Community Right to Know bill, which gets its first hearing March 20 in the House Environment and Energy Committee.  This bill provides a direct benefit to any city or county wishing to implement a toxics reporting and community pollution emissions database. It involves air, water and ground pollutants. Businesses using these toxics would be required to report at no cost to the local government.  It will allow a city or county to collect toxics emission data in air and water for over 1500 toxic chemicals down to the pound, rather than the ton.  HB 2669 gives everyone in their local community the opportunity to get data about air toxics pollution anytime from a publicly accessible website run by the local Fire Marshall.  It is a voluntary opt-in program. Based on community support, cities or counties can choose to, but are not required to, implement the program.  SB 995, to be heard on March 27 in Senate Environment and Natural Resources, would require employers to submit an annual toxics report.

ELLIOTT FOREST and FORESTRY (Jennifer Haynes and Peggy Lynch)

Write or call the Land Board members, Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and Treasurer Tobias Read and your legislators to share your belief that the Elliott should stay in public hands.  Governor Brown is working with others to present a plan to the State Land Board on May 9 (new date!).  The League is supporting this effort.  SB 847, the Trust Land Transfer bill was heard on March 20 in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.  The League provided testimony in support.

HB 3226 would require the State Dept. of Forestry to review the Forest Practices Act. SB 1017 would establish guidelines for wildfire buffer zones to provide defensible space on lands in forestland-urban interface.  Unfortunately, that bill also asks for tax credits, an issue the League tends to oppose as reducing overall state revenue. SB 892 would require notice to the Dept. of Forestry of proposed aerial spraying.

LAND USE and TRANSPORTATION (Peggy Lynch and Sandra Gangle)

On March 14, the League provided testimony in opposition to HB 2983 and HB 2984 to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.  We provided both oral and written testimony in opposition to HB 2937 to the House Human Services and Housing Committee.  We will continue following HB 2938, HB 2007 and HB 2012, among others. We are actively working on behalf of affordable housing, but it’s important to be sure the housing is in areas where infrastructure exists, where jobs, transportation and services are close by.  HB 2002 and 2316 are good bills up for a Work Session on March 21.

On transportation, the full Joint Committee on Transportation will be meeting this week to consider recommendations from the work groups.

OREGON MARINE BOARD:

The Oregon Marine Board invites recreational boaters to complete an online survey and provide feedback on how to improve the area where you boat. Boaters can access an online survey at http://www.oregon.gov/OSMB/forms-library/Pages/Six-Year-Plan.aspx. The survey will be available online through March 31. To view the existing plan and completed facilities projects, visit http://www.oregon.gov/OSMB/forms-library/Documents/Boating%20Facilities/SixYearPlanNeed_Completion.pdf.

WATER (Peggy Lynch)

The League continues to support bills to assure “abundant clean water for all” as is the goal of the Integrated Water Resources Strategy.  On March 22, the House Energy and Environment Committee will hear HB 2705, 2706 and 2007 dealing with water measurement, charging a fee to help pay for water services and focusing on groundwater studies.  The concepts in these bills are ones the League has supported in the past.  Our concern will be our ability to pay for these services, although HB 2706 would provide some income.

An update on the State Scenic Waterway program (http://bit.ly/scenicwaterways):  The State Parks and Recreation Department staff has chosen three candidates for more study for possible recommendation: The Nehalem River (Spruce Run Campground to Nehalem Falls, approximately 15 miles), the North Santiam River (wilderness boundary to Bruno Mountain Road, approximately 20 miles) and the South Umpqua River (Castle Rock Fork to Tiller, approximately 27 miles).  Each segment is approximate and will be refined as study progresses.  The League urges local League members to in engage in this process. 

Our water watch list includes HB 2106, relating to mining and HB 2786, both related to our removal-fill laws for which the League provided oral testimony in opposition. SB 3, related to suction dredge mining, is another important bill.

SB 812, the onsite septic loan program “fixes”, will be on the Senate floor this week.  The League joined others in submitting a “floor letter”—a letter signed by a legislator (in this case Senator Roblan), that is then distributed to all the members in the chamber on the date of the vote on the bill. The latest statistics on participation in this program, which we supported in 2016:  16 loans approved, closed or funded worth about $370,406 in a total of 15 cities and 12 counties.  General Funds allocated in 2016 were only $250,000; private or foundation monies provided the additional funds.

The 2017 Clean Water State Revolving Fund rulemaking will revise rules to allow for fiscal and programmatic flexibility to ensure perpetuity. To learn more about this rulemaking and the advisory committee you can view the rulemaking web page at: CWSRF 2017 Rulemaking.

The public has an opportunity to comment on new applications for Feasibility Study Grants (please click here.) from the Water Conservation, Reuse, and Storage Grant Program.  Deadline to comment is March 27.

OWEB has identified refinements to their Grant Program and Restoration Grant administrative rules.  Proposed Rules for OWEB Grant Program and Restoration Grants (PDF) are being considered.  Public comment period for the amended rules will close at 5:00 p.m. on March 30, 2017. Send comments by email to Eric Hartstein with the phrase “Comments on OWEB Grant Program and Restoration Grants” in the subject line, or send written comments to Eric Hartstein at OWEB, 775 Summer Street NE, Suite 360, Salem, OR 97301-1290.

REGIONAL SOLUTIONS (Peggy Lynch)

We 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

PUBLIC SAFETY

The Oregon Judicial Department Budget HB 5013 was on the docket for review in the Ways and Means Subcommittee this week.  Major budget issues were judicial salaries, additional judges for court districts with growing populations and district courthouse projects.  Judicial salaries were increased in the last biennium so they are no longer the lowest in the country, but they are still in the lowest third in the country.  This is a high priority for the Chief Justice so he can attract and maintain well qualified judges.

Additional district court judges seem to be an even higher priority since many current district judges are working overtime to manage the caseload.  OJD has identified a need for 9 new judicial positions, as well as hearing officers and support staff.  See letter for support of HB 5013.

The transition to e-court filings has been completed in all district courts.  It was a technology project that was done on time and within the budget, while other state technology projects were in trouble. The e-court system has modernized the record keeping system in courthouses.  However, many of the district courthouses have been in need of repairs and upgrades.

Currently, the Multnomah County District is working on a courthouse replacement and Lane County is in the planning stages for a replacement.  Hood River and Clackamas Counties are next in line on a 12 year plan to provide seismic upgrades throughout the state. Some smaller counties have had courthouse improvements funded under the Criminal Fines and Assessment Account.

The House Judiciary Committee will be hearing HB 2561 on Monday.  This bill brought by Rep. Jennifer Williamson requests that Public Defender salaries be increased to be comparable to Deputy District Attorneys.  Salaries for defense attorneys have lagged while district attorneys have increased with steps and colas.  The discrepancy has grown and causes defense attorneys to leave for other jobs.  Those who support this request state that the jobs are equivalent and should get the same pay.  (See letter of support.) The Public Defense Services Commission will be appearing in the Ways and Means Public Safety Committee for a discussion of salaries and budget adjustments at a later time.

This week in the Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee legislators will discuss HB 5004, the Department of Corrections Budget. The  Justice Reinvestment Project and Family Sentencing Alternatives will be discussed in this committee to continue the work on decreasing the prison costs in the system. HB 3078 has been filed to extend these efforts.

HOUSING (Debbie Aiona)

Oregon’s housing crisis is one of the many issues under consideration by the Oregon Legislature this session.  With the large revenue shortfall, proposals that would reallocate existing resources to address the overwhelming need are of particular interest to the public, elected officials, and the League.  HB 2006, mortgage interest deduction reform, had its first hearing on March 9 in the House Human Services and Housing Committee.  The League, along with a number of other advocates, submitted written and oral testimony in support of the bill.

As currently structured, Oregon’s mortgage interest deduction is an over $1 billion per biennium housing subsidy that primarily benefits high-income urban households, with 61 percent of the savings going to the top 20 percent of households. (www.ocpp.org/mid-remedy/)

HB 2006 would rebalance the deduction by capping the interest that can be deducted on state taxes at $15,000, and eliminating the deduction for second homes and for high-income households with adjusted gross incomes over $200,000.

The subsidy would be redirected towards households most in need of help.  Fifty percent of the savings would be devoted to affordable homeownership assistance, 25 percent to low-income housing development, and 25 percent to the emergency housing fund.

You can help by contacting representatives on the House Human Services and Housing Committee and the House Revenue Committee.  Tell them you support reforming the mortgage interest deduction so the benefits go to households with the greatest need.

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

LWVOR neither supports nor opposes either SB 746 or SB 649. We testified that both would result in complex changes with intended and unintended consequences that should be further explored before becoming law. LWVOR urged the Senate Committee on Education and the House Committee on Education to jointly facilitate a workgroup of stakeholders to consider the concepts proposed in each of these bills, while also comparing/contrasting these two proposals with the current Education system, where the Governor serves as the top elected education official in Oregon. Our current system has both positive and negative aspects, as do both of these bills. Further study, beyond the scope of a legislative public hearing, is needed. It seems likely that SB 746, SB 649 and SJR 37 will not move this session, but will be the subject of an interim workgroup of stakeholders to determine the best structure.

This session the NEW House Committee On Early Childhood and Family Supports has held numerous informational hearings about how staff from Early Learning, Education, Social Services and Health work across departmental silos to assist children-at-risk and vulnerable families.  Trauma Informed Care for students with Adverse Childhood Experiences and Pathways for the Early Learning Workforce (qualifications and salaries) were discussed last week. Looking ahead to March 28, HB 2956 Directing Early Learning Council to conduct evaluation of Early Learning Hubs and submit report on evaluation each odd-numbered year will have a public hearing and The Early Learning Success Alliance (ELSA) will be discussed.   Neuroplasticity and the Family: an Evidence-Based Approach to Strengthening Preschool will explore current brain science on March 30. April 4, HB 3068 directing the Department of Human Services to conduct statewide study regarding family supports has a public hearing.

On March 20 the committee will hear HB 2845, which would direct the Department of Education to convene an advisory group to develop statewide ethnic studies standards for adoption into existing statewide social studies standards for public kindergarten through grade 12.  March 22, the House Committee on Education will consider HB 2587, which modifies state educational goals to take into consideration students’ aspirations, to provide students with a  well-rounded education and to provide students with sufficient instructional time to meet students’ educational goals.  This bill would modify/eliminate the 40-40-20 goals and add humanities/arts and other curriculum back into high school curriculum priorities.

On March 21, the Senate Committee on Education considers SB 803 directing the Department of Education to award grants to school districts for support service programs, education innovation programs and education intervention programs. SB 395 Requires Higher Education Coordinating Commission to, on annual basis, work with Oregon Health and Science University, each public university and each community college to determine number and graduation rates of former foster children and current foster children at each college or university.

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.

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buildingsymbolGovernance

By Rebecca Gladstone, Governance Coordinator

REVENUE

We hope the bipartisan “informal revenue groups” consider the entire state budget as they make allocations. We have seen various lists they are prioritizing, like tax expenditures, with sunset dates and relative sizes. Thinking of (perhaps becoming official) Marionberry state pies, smaller state budget slices will go to many worthy programs. We already know the budget pie is too small. The shortfall number is complicated by adjustment disagreements; next revenue forecast is due May 15th. We don’t want to see sequential slices cut from the state budget pie, until all the pie is gone, with priority needs unaddressed. Pressure is mounting to be informed and weigh these decisions. The legislative calendar here.

We also call for collaborative program decisions. If we buy the pie crust and the marionberries, we have to pay power bills to bake it. From Peggy Lynch this week: The League asks that budgets be viewed in total and not in isolation. It does no good to invest in one place while taking away from another when the issue being addressed requires ALL HANDS ON DECK!

It will be imperative to understand factors and justifications for difficult decisions. The League must help. Please read and share our LRs. Our Revenue Coalition is of two minds, both correct. Contact Your Legislators with concerns. Also, we want to allow sensitive negotiations to proceed without “pulling on their elbows too much”. You can also ask us. We may know answers and can direct you to relevant committee members. You could have a fresh perspective that would break an impasse, so please chime in on the Oregon version of They Represent You (bottom right of the page), under construction.

See earlier Legislative Reports, still relevant.

Housing revenue: Two progressive housing tax subsidy phase-out bills, are getting more attention. Legislators report getting calls from “constituents” with invalid in-district addresses. There is ongoing concern that these bills are confusing and being interchangeably confused with each other. The League supported both as progressive phase out bills; property taxes in House Revenue and mortgage interest deduction (MID) in Human Services and Housing. Several who spoke for and against these two bills referred to them together in testimony.

HB 2771, Property tax deduction phase outs: Basically, households with gross incomes 5 times higher than Oregon’s average, above $125,000 or $250,000 filing jointly, would lose this housing subsidy. This bill’s revenue impact is forecast at $190 million.

HB 2006, Mortgage interest deduction limits. The larger federal tax mortgage deductions would not be affected, only the smaller Oregon tax portion. This removes the subsidy for interest paid over $15,000 a year and eliminates the deduction entirely for joint filers with $200,000 in taxable income or $100,000 for single filers. Revenue would benefit the Oregon Housing Fund. State budget cost this biennium will be $1.1 billion.

ELECTIONS

Three election bills we spoke to were heard in one session (video here).

HB 2948 would pre-register 16-year-olds to vote, and not change their actual voting age. This relates to SB 802 which we supported last week.

HB 2871 & HB 2872. We support a study (HB 2871) to determine the most effective way for voters to request non-English voting materials. This could implement the 2015 report of the Minority Language Voting Materials Task Force that League participated in. We commented on HB 2872 with numerous concerns and partisan follow up questions. We hope to continue participation in this complex process. We understand the Elections Division will probably be directed to begin development.

HB 2349: Amendment discussion is almost complete between the Secretary of State policy advising staff, LWVOR, and Independent Party of Oregon leadership, after a 2016 primary imitation state “Voters’ Pamphlet Guide” prompted a Secretary of State action.

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE (Marge Easley)

HB 2927 The League supports the Interstate Compact to establish a National Popular Vote. This hearing was well-attended, including testimony from sponsors, national advocate Dr. John Koza, the League, lobbyists, partner groups, many citizens, and the press (video here).

Upcoming Election bills:

SB 888 “Requires major political party candidate for President or Vice President of United States, in order to appear on primary or general election ballot and voters’ pamphlet, either to provide the Secretary of State with copy of candidate’s federal income tax return for most recent year and with written consent for public disclosure of tax return or to complete and submit statement of economic interest.” (March 27th)

CAMPAIGN FINANCE (Norman Turrill)

The LWVOR will testify this week on HB 2505 and HB 2584. Both bills try to deal with independent expenditures, sometimes known as “Dark Money”. It is important to discourage independent expenditures since they can be used to attack candidates without disclosing the real source of the money used. Candidates can also lose control of their campaign messaging. If Oregon had campaign contributions limits as proposed by the Task Force on Campaign Finance Reform in HJR 5, then control of independent expenditure Dark Money would be even more important to discourage circumvention of the limits.

REDISTRICTING (Norman Turrill)

The Secretary of State’s ad hoc Redistricting Task Force is still waiting for an LC draft of a constitutional amendment that would create an independent redistricting commission.

General Governance & Accountability

SB 43 Expands definition of lobbying. In conversation afterward, Ethics Commission officials made clear they think League members should register if they spend significant time in the Capitol, for example, are present more than 20 days during a session. This bill will be refined.

HB 2906, establishing a Geographic Information Council, may be heard next week, and League testimony is requested.

Public Records access bills will be heard this week and we will continue support, relating to SB 9 (2015). These address lack of clear policy for: disorganized and inconsistent exemptions, processing fees, records retention, and unreasonable response delays to information requests.

SB 106 Establishes a Public Records Advocate and Advisory Council.

SB 481 Establishes Public Records Policy, including a publicly accessible, regularly reviewed and maintained comprehensive catalog of exemptions.

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

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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