Legislative Report, Volume 27, Number 9 – March 2017

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In This Issue

Important Dates

Natural Resources

Social Policy

Education Policy

Governance


news iconImportant Dates and Resources

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 16:  Revenue Forecast
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.

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


dropletNatural Resources

By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator

AGENCY BUDGETS (Peggy Lynch)

This week the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife budget (HB 5010) will be heard, with public testimony on March 29.  We are particularly supportive of their continuation of biologists and other staff to help implement the Integrated Water Resources Strategy.  We also hold out hope for a beginning of implementation of the Oregon Conservation Strategy.

CLIMATE CHANGE (Claudia Keith)

The League submitted two testimonies at the March 20 House Energy and Environment hearing: 1)  HB 2020, which establishes an Oregon Energy and Climate Board as an oversight and advisory body for the Oregon Department of Energy and Climate (link to testimony) and 2) 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 (link to testimony).  The League’s verbal testimony for these two bills included the following phrase, “….and the League’s amici standing supporting Our Children’s Trust state and federal lawsuits relating to the public trust doctrine and a new  fundamental right to a safe climate…”.  We plan to use this phrase in future written and verbal League testimony for Climate Change Portfolio bills.

Of special interest is the excellent invited testimony provided at last Tuesday’s evening meeting of the  House and Senate Environment Committees .  Fast forward to The Mechanics of the North American Carbon Market with Minister Glen Murray, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and Michael Gibbs, Assistant Executive Officer, California Air Resources Board.  The two Environment Committees continue to meet weekly to learn more about the effect of a carbon pricing program on a variety of Oregon industries, communities and individuals.

We continue to watch for a hearing on the Climate Test bills, HB 3343 and SB 1007 (Oregon Climate Test FB page and national campaign at ClimateTest.org).

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.

AIR QUALITY & TOXICS (Marilyn Koenitzer)

We continue to follow the Cleaner Air Oregon process (see www.cleanerair.oregon.gov). We will provide testimony on March 27 in support of HB 2236, a bill that directs the Dept. of Environmental Quality to implement the Cleaner Air Oregon plan to be adopted this summer.  We will also provide testimony on HB 2269, which will set up a fee system to pay for the program, address the monies from the Volkswagon diesel settlement and set fees to provide for a Community Response program for air quality complaints.

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.  The League is supporting this effort.

SB 1017, to be heard on March 29, 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.

HB 3226 would require the State Dept. of Forestry to review the Forest Practices Act and will be heard on March 30.

The Oregon Dept. of Forestry invites public comment from March 20-May 4 on their Annual Operations Plans (AOPs), outlining state forest activities for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TFHH8TK.  The draft AOPs are available for review on ODF’s State Forests Management page.  To comment on the Forest Land Management Classification changes within the AOPs for Tillamook and/or Forest Grove go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TNDVZDN

LAND USE and TRANSPORTATION (Peggy Lynch and Sandra Gangle-transit)

Last week the League provided both oral and written testimony in opposition to HB 2937 to the House Human Services and Housing Committee. We are supportive of affordable housing, but such housing should be near services and transit.  HB 2937, HB 2938, HB 3012 & HB 2456 have now been moved to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in order that they more fully address land use and the issues of domestic wells and septic systems needed in these rural areas.  The League will continue to oppose these bills because of those concerns.

On March 30, SB 644 will be heard related to mining and mineral resources.  This bill encourages and expands mining in Oregon and is of great concern to the League.

On Transportation, the Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization will continue meeting to consider recommendations from the subgroups. On March 29 they will receive information on Transportation Revenue Options.  For more information on this important issue please read this great story about Oregon’s deteriorating roads and aging bridges:  http://www.ktvz.com/news/odot-oregon-roads-bridges-falling-apart-more-funding-key/399624273 Last week, a subgroup recommended an increase of $255.6 million to $312.4 million in annual spending to upgrade roads and bridges.  That would require raising revenues equivalent to a 9 to 11 cent increase in the state’s 30-cent gas tax. The money would likely come from a combination of sources, which could include a hike in the gas tax, registration fees, tolling or other options.

As gas prices have decreased and population has risen, we are seeing an increase in total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by about 10% in recent years.  This increase followed a decade where total traffic volumes were flat or declining.  On an individual basis, we were and are driving considerably less than we were historically. VMT per adult remains considerably lower today than last decade, even with the rebound in recent years.  After years when our teens were not in a hurry to get their licenses (maybe due to social media & gaming—neither of which requires driving to get to a destination), we’re seeing the number of teenagers getting a license increase again.  Even with less individual driving, our population growth will require addressing these traffic issues.

Connect Oregon, a fixture these last years at the legislature to address transportation needs other than roads and bridges, HB 2288 will have a work session on March 29 to move it to Ways and Means to determine the amount of money to be spent in this area for the 2017-19 biennium.   

WATER (Peggy Lynch)

The League provided testimony in support of HB 2706, a bill that would charge a fee to help pay for water rights management services at the Water Resources Dept.  We also supported HB 2705 requiring water measurement.  We voiced general support for HB 2707 that would require more groundwater studies, but shared that we support the Governor’s budget this session that includes monies for one additional study.

Maps of the three candidate river segments selected for further study under the State Scenic Waterway program (http://bit.ly/scenicwaterways) are now available.  The three candidates are 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 the study progresses.  The League urges local League members to 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, will have a work session on March 27.

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (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.

The OWEB will hold a three-day Board meeting, April 24-26 at the Chemeketa Eola NW Viticulture Center, 215 Doaks Ferry Rd. NW, Salem, OR 97304.  View the full agenda here.

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

HEALTH CARE UPDATE

The Coordinated Care Organization Reform bill HB 2122 had a public hearing on March 17. It was scheduled for a work session, but no vote was taken at the hearing. Metrics on the transformation of the Medicaid Health System have been impressive.  400,000 people were added to the expanded Medicaid population, but the drill down to operational detail has developed some concerns.

The Speaker of the House addressed the Health Care Committee and pinpointed that governance, reserves, and transparency were the concerns.  The CCOs should have a strong connection to community advisory councils, and should be accountable to the state and members.  CCOs receive tax payer dollars for health care services and those funds, especially reserves, should be protected.  Alternative payment methodologies were another expectation for future management.

The Oregon Health Policy Board was asked to provide guidance at the end of the first five years in operations.  Oregon has a waiver to continue the Medicaid expansion program for the next 5 years, but additional federal funds can’t be expected.  The CCO model has reduced the cost curve from 5.4% to 3.4% with better health outcomes.  The intent is to continue the transformation process.

The Oregon Nurses Association specified CCO boards be required to comply with open meeting laws, convert to nonprofit organizations to keep costs down, and to invest reserves in the local community and upstream public health. Look for future hearings on HB 2122.

Looking ahead, HB 2388 requires the Department of Consumer and Business Services to deny, revoke or suspend the authority of pharmacy benefit managers to conduct business in Oregon if they fail to comply with laws, rules or orders. Pharmaceutical drug price increases were the subject of discussion for the entire meeting on March 22, in Room 50, with a round table format.  HB 2387 was a House Health Care Committee bill.  The leader of the discussion wanted to get more information on drug pricing and to understand the factors that go into setting the original price and the yearly increases.

HB 2408 requests additional funding for new school-based health centers, which can serve both physical and mental health needs of children in the school setting.  Currently 79 school based health clinics are operating on school property.  School nurse salaries are paid by the Department of Education, but services are reimbursable by medical insurances.  Future funding streams are a concern.  Community benefit dollars from nonprofit hospitals are a prime source of future community funding. HB 2726 and SB 558 on outreach for health care for all Oregon Children passed out of committees.

Senate Health Care has been reviewing SB 419 on hospital rates, which may result in a task force. SB 816 and 861 review OHA requests for information from hospital emergency rooms and financial records, which has not been resolved.  SB 754 on no sales of tobacco or inhalants to person under 21 also passed. Senate bills on drug prices SB 792 and 793 were heard on 3-9 but are still pending. Clearly cost control on drug pricing has been an elusive goal.

We have also been watching legislation on the Oregon Women’s Health and Wellness Alliance priority list. We submitted testimony in support of HB 3391, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, and HB 3087, the Paid Family Leave bill.  We testified in favor of HB 3060, Nondiscrimination in Public Contracting. We have also been discussing with legislators several sex trafficking bills, which are scheduled to move through the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES

This week the DHS Budget, SB 5526, has been presented to the Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee. The Director emphasized the goal of safety for all vulnerable people receiving services.  Child Welfare cases have been highly publicized, but elderly and disabled people are also at risk.  The Long Term Care Ombudsman Budget, HB 5021, was the first up because he checks elderly citizens who are in care. An electronic tracking system proposed in 2015 was funded with Q bonds and funds remain to complete the implementation.

Aging and People with Disabilities (APD) has been an expanding program because of the growth of the aging population.  The agency continues to place eligible elders in community based living or nursing home care, but the most sought after option is services to elderly and disabled in their own homes.  In order to stay within the budget, hours of care and live-in aides are restricted.

The largest proposed cut in the Governor’s Budget for APD was in Oregon Project Independence (OPI), because it is largely supported by general funds. The proposed reduction to $5 million would be sufficient to draw federal funds for the Older American Act. The Governor’s Budget also eliminates OPI for People with Disabilities, as well as General Assistance (GA) for those applying for Social Security Disability. HB 2959 asks that GA be continued and the request be sent to the Ways and Means Committee.

Intellectual Developmental Disabilities is required to provide services to financially eligible children in their own homes, as well as adults in families or in group homes.  The workforce providing services is currently negotiating for higher wages because the current wage of $10 to $11 an hour keeps them in poverty.  Wage increases will add to the department budget shortfall.  Sheltered workshops still operate with fewer clients since job training and work placements are available to youth after completing school requirements. Vocational Rehabilitation serves students and youth with disabilities in workforce training and supported employment.  The Governor proposed continued funding levels. The first Public Testimony opportunity will be on March 28.

PUBLIC SAFETY

The Department of Corrections Budget, HB 5004, was heard this week by members of the Ways and Means Public Safety Committee.  Earned time and transitional leave contributed to shortening prison time.  The prison space available for males has been within existing facilities, but prison space for females has been at capacity.  The opening of the Oregon State Penitentiary Annex for women is within the 2017-19 budget.  The Family Sentencing Alternative has allowed parents to be supervised in their own communities in order to keep families together.  Family events in the prison facilities and family visiting by phone or Skype has also been expanded.

The Justice Reinvestment Projects in Community Corrections are succeeding in supervising offenders in the county programs and reducing commitments to prisons.  Public testimony on this budget included county officials and correction partners who encouraged financial support to continue these programs within County Correctional Programs for Parole and Probation.  A letter of support was submitted to the committee.

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

We supported HB 2587 that would modify the 40-40-20 aspirational goals to meet student educational goals stating that, “This bill strengthens the opportunity for high school students to pursue technical, academic, artistic or other pursuits so that all students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, a modified diploma, an extended diploma or any other credential equivalent to a high school diploma. It also recognizes that CTE, rather than a college degree, is an appropriate achievement for many Oregon high school graduates who have completed apprenticeship programs registered with the State Apprenticeship and Training Council.  The bill’s language modifies the 40-40-20 goals to recognize the strengths and aspirations of students to pursue livable wage jobs and will help address the concern that: The percentages of students not graduating on time disproportionally comprise students with disabilities, students of color, students navigating poverty, and male students.

LWVOR supported HB 3087, a family leave insurance program, noting that the “League has testified on similar legislation since 2007. The ability of employees and employers to equitably respond to the health care needs of employees’ families is an essential piece to the economic well-being of Oregon’s workforce…HB 3087 creates a self-funding insurance program requiring payroll contributions not to exceed 0.5 percent of employee wages to be paid by employers and employees. It permits up to twelve weeks of benefits per year and an additional six weeks of benefits for parental leave; requiring 30 days’ notice to the employer before commencing leave. The creation of the Family Leave Benefits Insurance Program would assist workers who need to care for themselves or family members.”

We testified in support of three companion bills assisting foster youth in transitions from high school to community colleges and universities:  SB 395 requires HECC to determine number/graduation rates of foster youth at college/university; SB 396 directs HECC to establish foster youth success centers in each public university; SB 551 directs HECC to implement pilot program to assist foster youth transitioning from community college to public university.

Looking ahead on March 27, SB 5524 the Higher Education Coordinating Commission budget will begin hearings in the Education Subcommittee of Ways and Means, continuing into early April. April 1, HB 2985 will have a public hearing; this bill would expand recipients eligible for subsidized employment-related child care and types of activities that may be eligible for subsidies.

LWVOR is a member of the coalition United 4 Kids.  We work together with many partners to introduce, follow and advocate for bills to Make Oregon the best place to be a kid.  Here is their latest update of the session.

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

Elections

DISCLOSURE OF TAX RETURNS FOR PRESIDENT/VICE PRESIDENT (Marge Easley)

SB 888 On March 27, the League will testify in the Senate Rules Committee in support of SB 888, which requires the filing of a statement of economic interest or most recent tax returns for candidates for President and Vice President in order to appear on the Primary or General Election ballot and Voters’ Pamphlet. This economic information will also be accessible to voters on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website prior to the presidential election.

We base our support on the LWVUS Money in Politics position, which includes: “Provide voters with sufficient information about candidates and campaign issues to make informed choices” and “Combat corruption and undue influence in government.”

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE (Marge Easley)

HB 2927, the National Popular Vote (NPV) bill, continues to receive a lot of attention, although no work session has yet been scheduled in the House Rules Committee. Legislators claim they have received more mail on NPV than any other issue this session. Well-attended NPV forums have already taken place in Portland, Salem, and Eugene, and others are happening soon in these areas:

Wilsonville, April 10, 7:00 pm, Wilsonville Library
The Dalles, April 12, 7:00 pm, The Dalles-Wahtonka High School Auditorium
Medford, TBA

Up-to-date information on NPV events can be found on the NPV Oregon Facebook page. Please keep up the pressure on legislators to support this important legislation.

Many election-related bills flew by this week.

HB 2505 League commented on this bill which added identifying political parties as campaign literature sources, speaking to transparency and campaign finance reform. (video here).

SB 5536 On Thursday, cutting printed state Voters’ Pamphlet funding (hearing video, 620 page budget), warranted a Secretary of State “Setting the record straight” newsletter on Friday. With respect to Elections’ staff cuts, the Voter Engagement Advocate, Elections Division, was cut, replaced by the Citizen Engagement & Inclusion Coordinator, on the Secretary’s Executive Staff. The Deputy Director of Voting Services position in Elections was cut. We will comment in this extended hearing.

SB 888 The League will support this candidate transparency bill, which calls for release of US Presidential and VP tax records. A related bill, HB 2298, requiring that all candidates file statements of economic interest, only changes ORS filing time to 40 days before elections, from 30 days.

SB 1013 We like this concept to study updating voter registration addresses using Department of Revenue (DOR) income tax data. We discussed this with DOR Tech officials in the General Governance budget proposal hearing. It seems unlikely that this could fit into their timeline or budget before 2020.

Revenue

Agency budget presentations share concern for aging staff with high retirement rates and replacement expenses looming within five years. Anticipated federal income tax changes, possibly eliminating most deductions, could raise taxable income for Oregon revenue purposes, possibly as much as $400-$500 million, probably to be applied retroactively. How this may affect the kicker remains to be seen, could drive a new hole in our budget. As proposed agency and program cuts are announced in hearings, urgency rises to find revenue sources. Revenue bills to watch:

HB 3102 Establishes a Task Force to develop state medical assistance program funding.

REVENUE COALITIONS (Chris Vogel)

The League participates in three revenue coalitions.

Oregon Revenue Coalition is currently distributing to House and Senate members, starting with Revenue and Ways and Means Committees, this statement, in part:

“In times of scarce resources, whether due to economic fluctuations or structural deficits, the members of the Oregon Revenue Coalition have traditionally urged the Legislature to proceed with caution in consideration of hundreds of proposals that would create or expand new programs and services….This year is no exception. Because the state cannot sustain its current programs and services unless a pathway can be found to close the $1.8 billion funding gap, we hope that the deliberations you make in various committees of the capitol will keep this reality in mind…. Painful cuts, as identified in the Co-chairs’ framework of targeted reductions, will move Oregon backward, not forward. For this reason, we ask that the revenue and budget policy leaders coordinate a plan before bills with fiscal and revenue impacts move out of committees. If expansions on the tax expenditure or program sides are to move forward, we ask that new revenues be sufficient to fund the base state budget at the current service level (CSL) first and the new initiatives second – not just for the coming biennium, but also for future years. Conversely, if a revenue plan is not sufficient to fully fund to CSL, we would ask that all fiscal-impact bills and revenue-loss proposals be revisited in a future year when our resource challenges no longer exist.”

Human Services Coalition of Oregon (HSCO) has noted:

“We do NOT pit programs, services, and populations against each other. We recognize that we must advocate to increase revenue to meet the critical needs of low income and vulnerable Oregonians.”

A Better Oregon released A Better Oregon budget report, before session began. Alice Bartelt, LWVOR Action Chair, and LWVOR Revenue Sub-Committee Coordinator, is our liaison this session.

Behind the scenes, meetings are taking place with various business groups to reach some agreement that may result in adopting stable and fair revenue policies and tax reforms to adequately fund services and functions critical to the well-being of Oregonians. Meanwhile, both the House and Senate Revenue Committees look at ways to modernize tax codes to stabilize revenue. As the session continues, we anticipate (hopefully) that some “Grand Bargain” might emerge. If not, there may be a rework of the Measure 97 ballot measure again placed before the people of Oregon.

General Governance & Accountability

A flurry of bills is posted requiring agency cost disclosure, identifying inappropriate costs, and requiring “least costly manner” execution of duties. Stay tuned. We can raise revenue and/or avoid spending.

HB 2577 This bill requires lobbyists’ quarterly reports filed to the Oregon Ethics Commission to list each bill, measure, or legislative topic lobbied on, who hired them for each one and how much money was paid. This is an improvement for transparency. In the context of recent conversations to amend definitions of lobbyists, more League Action advocates have registered with the Oregon Ethics Commission. League members do not have financial transactions related to lobbying and will comment on this bill.

SB 123 We don’t have fiscals for this bill to form Special Districts for children services and authorize property tax levies to fund them. This General Governance issue defers to Social Policy coverage.

Public Records

Public records access bills were discussed as a cluster, including HB 2101that sunsets some public records disclosure exemptions. Since records are cross-referenced, we can address multiple bills in testimony. Serious concerns clash: privacy versus transparency, timeliness in turning records over versus high cost of ill-defined and “overly-broad” requests stymying limited staff. We have over 550 disclosure exemptions to check before sharing records, at great expense, since legal judgment is involved.
We supported with many comments to: proposed policy, formation of a Council, and public records disclosure exemption cataloging. This hearing reflected collaboration between the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Department of Administrative Services, Task Force members, including local governments and the Oregon Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Committee.

SB 106 Creates a Public Records Advocate and Advisory Council. (video here).

SB 481 Establishes state policy for public records access.

Information Technology

Agency budget reports are on schedule with a common thread of cybersecurity, aging workforce, and proposed savings from centralizing and standardizing tech functions. Given audit reports and security breach updates, we support this trending action. Dept. of Justice and State Police present this week.

SB 872 This Governor’s bill proposing formation of an IT (information technology) Department passed with two amendments, to JLCIMT and W&Ms, with the intention of forming a work group to prepare for a well-prepared proposal for the 2019 session.

SB 90 A proceeds, to centralize IT security and establish “Cybersecurity Center of Excellence”.

Thanks to our Governance volunteers!

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

Thanks to our Revenue Subcommittee:

  • Alice Bartelt, Chair, liaison to A Better Oregon Coalition
  • Rebecca Gladstone, member
  • Claudia Keith, member
  • Peggy Lynch, advisor
  • Chris Vogel, liaison: Oregon Revenue Coalition & HSCO Revenue Coalition
  • Jody Wiser, League member, liaison: Tax Fairness Oregon

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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