Legislative Report, Volume 28, Number 7 – June 2018


In This Issue

Revenue and Tax Reform

Governance

Natural Resources

Social Policy

Education Policy


Revenue and Tax Reform

By Chris Vogel, Revenue and Tax Reform

Revenue and Tax Reform

Governor Brown called the 2018 1st Special Session to extend pass-through tax breaks to sole proprietors, a follow-up from the passage of SB 1528 in the 2018 session. On Monday, May 21, 2018, HB 4301 moved through the Joint Committee On Sole Proprietors with limited discussion; despite eight posted amendments, only one was discussed on May 21, and that was withdrawn as being too far afield from the original bill, not within the relating clause.  The House Chamber and the Senate Chamber discussions reflected various rationales of support and opposition from both sides of the aisle.  The previous week, the Joint Committee on Sole Proprietors considered verbal and written testimony , including League of Women Voters testimony.  This Special Session passed HB 4301 and adjourned within eight hours of convening, a whirlwind. OPB’s reporting was insightful. (Chris Vogel)

House Interim Committee on Revenue’s agenda considered meeting materials and testimony on:

  1. Tax Expenditures:  Before each long session, the Department of Department of Revenue (DOR) (DOR) and the Legislative Revenue Office (LRO) each report on tax expenditures, with the DOR report covering all expenditures and the LRO concentrating on those scheduled to sunset the following year. In the 2019 session, the legislature will review nine tax credits due to sunset in 2020. Earned Income Credit is the largest, projected to cost $125 million in 2021-23.
  2. Tax Return Processing: Reviewing the 2018 personal income tax processing season, DOR staff said the number of returns is up this year, likely from taxpayers who know they need to file this year to get a kicker credit on their 2019 returns. Ninety percent of personal income tax returns (PIT) are e-filed. Another 7% arrive on paper but are printed out from computer tax programs and arrive with a large barcode giving DOR all the info they need. Thus only 3% of PIT returns need to be hand keyed.  DOR was also asked if taxpayers could elect to send their refund checks directly to a retirement account.  Alas, federal regulations say refunds can be direct deposited only to savings or checking accounts.
  3. Estate Tax: Estates over a million dollars need to file an Oregon estate tax return. Rates are progressive, ranging from 10 to 16%. In 2016, of the 1640 returns filed, 442 owed no tax due to deductions and exemptions.  Seventeen estates, 1% of the number of returns, paid over a third of the total estate tax.  The $153 million estate tax is a drop in the $10 billion a year General Fund bucket.  (Maud Naroll)

Senate Interim Committee on Finance and Revenue received the June Economic & Revenue Forecast and discussed the income tax starting point, federal taxable income vs  Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).  Revenue forecast is 3% higher than the 2017 close of session forecast.  If the current forecast holds through the end of next fiscal year, a total of $422 million will get split between the Education Stability and Rainy Day Funds, and still leave a billion dollar balance in the General Fund June 30, 2019.  $550 million is likely to be available as kicker credits on tax returns filed in spring 2020.  The League has continually opposed the kicker that will require a vote of Oregonians to discontinue.  This biennium’s revenue growth, over 15%, will drop below 10% next biennium, in part because several effects of the federal tax changes, such as corporate repatriation of overseas funds, and will be one-time and not repeat next biennium.  SB 1528 and SB 1529 of the February session neutralized two revenue holes, $245 million of personal income tax and $240 million of corporate tax, opened by the recent change in federal tax law.

Clouds on the horizon? Recoveries do not die purely of old age. But if the current recovery lasts through the end of this biennium, it will be the longest post WWII expansion. It is not uncommon to have a big revenue year just before the bottom drops out. Robust 2005-7 revenue triggered a large kicker, just before the crash.  Mark McMullen of the Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) pointed out that OEA completely failed to forecast the last crash, as did most economists nationwide.

Housing and in-migration: Oregon housing is still relatively affordable compared to California and New England, both areas from which we draw migrants.  There is still positive net in-migration of households with income under $50,000 to the Portland MSA, though not necessarily to the city or Multnomah County.  The major Portland housing issue is lack of supply. The League also sees an issue in displacement of long-term residents, frequently low-income and diverse populations with historical roots in communities and schools

Income tax starting point, federal taxable income vs adjusted gross income: Oregon uses federal taxable income as a starting point.  Adjusted gross income (AGI) is a larger base, and economists in general recommend broader bases with lower rates over narrower tax bases with higher rates. However, changing to AGI would likely preclude our current rolling reconnect, would need at least dozens of statute changes, and might not stand up to a court challenge.  Frequently discussions in interim sessions come back as legislative concepts and then bills in upcoming legislative sessions, so watch for this issue to re-emerge in 2019.  (Maud Naroll)

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!  If Revenue/Tax Reform interest you, please contact Chris Vogel chrisvogelvolunteerlwvor@gmail.com The 2019 session is likely to consider multiple aspects of substantial tax reform.  Chris and Maud will be meeting with coalition partners, doing research and interviews during the interim—we welcome your involvement.

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Governance

By Rebecca Gladstone, Governance Coordinator

The League may support IP 43 this June, an assault weapons ban, watch for announcements.
See our Think Before You Ink. We consistently recommend: Only sign petitions if you (1) fully understand, and (2) agree with them. Otherwise—Decline to Sign. We advocate not signing “just to get it on the ballot.” Our 2019 Governance agenda looks promising. Our mid-May 3-day triple-header included an Interim session with budget forecast, Governor Brown’s one-day concurrent Special Revenue Session, and an Emergency Board allocating a federal grant for election security and voter registration. We welcome volunteers- please let us know what you’d like to work on!

A reminder...
The League never supports or opposes any candidates or political parties. We sometimes support or oppose ballot measures, in accordance with our established positions, based on our unbiased, comprehensive, reviewed studies.

Ballot Measure Wannabes- Fall 2018 Initiatives

We may take positions in early August after signature certification, when some current initiatives achieve ballot measure status. See the list below for our hot tickets. If you want to research measures, contact Becky Gladstone.

To watch Initiative progress with us: click “summary results” in the IRR Database for the full list. We anticipate supporting a funding request to update the “legacy” software presenting all filings, including those no longer active, like M 101, which failed in the January 2018 special election.

Follow “monthly submission logs” for promising tallies of signatures received from paid (not volunteer) gatherers. These logs were established to help monitor problematic payments in gathering signatures, including payment by signature, not allowed under Oregon statute.

  • IP 22, “Stop Oregon Sanctuaries”: is currently under Dept of Justice investigation for misrepresentation of its intent to signers. If you feel you were misled in signing to support sanctuaries, email elections.sos@oregon.gov. They cannot remove your signature. The League has gotten complaints of ongoing violations. See our Think Before You Ink. The League urges you to read petitions carefully. Only sign if you are sure you understand and agree with them. Otherwise: Decline to Sign! 
  • IP 25, Corporate Accountability and Transparency Petitionwould require all publicly traded corporations filing Oregon excise or income taxes to tell the Secretary of State much of the info on their tax return, plus total Oregon real estate income and interest, total Oregon wages and compensation, and total Oregon sales; plus info on any entity owning more than 50 percent of the corporation’s voting stock.
  • IP 37 “Yes! Keep Our Groceries Tax-Free!” This has already surpassed the required signature threshold, likely to become a certified ballot measure. It would prevent state and local governments from taxing anything in the groceries supply chain. Still liable to taxes, fees and assessments: alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco; net income, and fee or assessment to fund State Agriculture’s food and commodity safety programs.
  • IP 43 Promote Public Safety for All Through the Reduction of Assault Weapons and Large Capacity Magazines This petition would regulate the future sale or transfer of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in Oregon. The LWVOR Board has voted to support IP 43 during the signature gathering process and urges members to participate. We support and may call for your help on IP 43. OAR, Oregon Administrative Rules, mandate that signature collection cannot begin until a petition title has been given, with an ensuing comment period, and opportunity for challenge. We know the opposition pushed proceedings to the Oregon Supreme Court, which is directed to adjudicate expeditiously. These deliberations usually take several months. Should they decide quickly, signature gathering may begin before the July sixth deadline to amass more than the required 88,184 signatures, with extras needed to cover for any failing to pass random inspection.

Joint Information Management and Technology

The committee discussed seriously outdated and possibly vulnerable software and hardware in several agencies, and the state phone system. Sen Riley noted that several months’ project delay to address details, might be forgotten a few years later, while system failures would be remembered.

  • Administration of a 6-7 year technology update to run the Dept of Justice $130 million “Child Support System Project”. This system transacts over $1 million daily and they are working to eliminate system vulnerability. The technology established in the late 1980’s was based on 1970’s technology, and the current system was last certified in 1998. The “Big-Bang, full system (software and hardware) replacement concept” is being replaced with “scalable, layered architecture”, or incremental modernizing. The outdated hardware and software are expensive to maintain and repair. It is harder to find staff trained in these systems.
  • The Human Resources Information System (update) Project in DAS proceeds under budget. It will update the state HR system, another 30+ year old legacy, delayed to enable coordination with a 25+ year old Cobol-based payroll system, characterized as speaking Latin to Millennials. Replacing the payroll system will need to be addressed next biennium.
  • State phones–the MUSIC system: Agency phones range from 10-30 years old, so this project was launched since maintenance costs are high and replacements can’t be found. There was an extended discussion of punitive contract provision for poor service with “choppy voice” (partial outages). Contracts allow those punitive fees to be “earned back” with consistent subsequent service. This contract feature will be reviewed and is likely not be repeated.

Two ongoing themes recur in IT discussions, reiterated here from the Federal Cybersecurity Risk Determination Report and Action Plan May 2018:

Two of the most significant areas of risk that were identified in agency assessments were the abundance of legacy information technology (IT), which is difficult and expensive to protect, as well as shortages of experienced and capable cybersecurity personnel.

Elections

Election Protection. The Legislative Emergency Board met and permitted partial allocation of a $5.3 million FEC (Federal Elections Commission) grant to Oregon for “Elections Security and Voter Registration needs.” It will implement a transition program to update the “legacy” OCVR (Oregon Central Voter Registration), a portion for election cybersecurity, and to add backup for ORESTAR, Oregon Elections System for Tracking and Reporting. A $3.2 million balance will be held in reserve for 2021. The 2017 Federal cybersecurity budget was $5.7B, up from $5.0B in 2016.

Sen. Frederick asked for ballot scanner security reports. Rep. Nathanson asked about report follow up, invoking the 2014 HB 4122 report distribution list intended to assure that problems be addressed. Oregon’s use of paper ballots is a hedge against election hacking. The League continues to work against voter suppression, including possible social media campaigns to discourage voters. Chair Johnson asked about quality assurance, asking who would oversee reports. For IT (Information Technology), the Secretary of State and Treasurer opted out, noted in 2014 HB 4122, opting out again from the Oregon Cybersecurity Council, established by the 2017 SB 90, which we supported. This disconnected cybersecurity work could benefit by collaboration and could retain independent staffing. From the Federal Cybersecurity report above: Security Operations Center consolidation focuses on centralizing information sharing across the enterprise, while conducting the appropriate work (e.g., vulnerability and patch management) at a regional or local level.

The Emergency Board also approved, as required, covering cost of the unanticipated January 2018 special election.

Candidate filing: Our work continues to expand ORESTAR candidate filing to allow comprehensive filing for all candidates in Oregon. A proposal awaits return from Legislative Counsel for review.

Judicial transitions: We have been reviewing the judicial appointment and election process, with an eye to improving availability of voting information. This includes a review of the period between replacing mandatorily retiring 75-year-olds and then electing replacements as functional incumbents. A proposal awaits return from Legislative Counsel for review.

Elections Manual Review: Intermittent regular review of elections rules and manuals continues, with a public hearing slated for this month, and we will submit comments on OAR proposals. We are working on Initiative reform, to include proposed funding sources, as we supported in 2010: These included placing a limit on when twice defeated initiatives can be brought back for voter consideration and mandating up-front cost information and a funding source on any initiative seeking state funding.

Emergency Preparedness

We are still urging for support of an online Who Represents You, listing all Oregon office-holder positions. After the LWVUS cancelled the website that we beta-tested for them, the office of state geospatial information management designed a website and we poured our data into it. We are soliciting site maintenance oversight and support from these committees to provide needed coordinated resilience response incorporating this information. The relevant information included “RAPTOR” a Real-time assessment and Planning Tool for Oregon. They emphasized that information should be presented redundantly, easy to find from multiple sources in an emergency. Our information should be linked in multiple places, including as a layer on this website. Rep, Parrish called for sustaining preparedness with turnover of elected officials. Chair Evans is working on these leadership issues. A proposal awaits return from Legislative Counsel for review.

Joint Legislative Audit Committee

Two audits were reviewed: Office of Emergency Management and Foster Care in Oregon. Emergency preparedness updates for the January 2018 Emergency Preparedness Audit focused on the Big One, how to prepare and respond, with an aside to fires and floods. There was a clear call for finding who is responsible for what, tracking responsibility, i.e., where’s the list, and who reports back with audit action. They are looking at how allocating staff will make us safer, what they would do, and how priorities would be set between facilitating communications, educating the public, stabilizing buildings and bridges, saving lives immediately afterwards, legislatively allocating funding quickly, etc. We look forward to the Governor’s Disaster Cabinet Tabletop Exercise on October 17th.

Thanks to our volunteers!

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

Climate change, agency budgets, land use and water are all on the table for 2019. Did you know you can sign up for Natural Resource agency Boards and Commission agendas and meeting packets? Now Is the time they recommend budgets and legislative concepts to the Governor.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate Test Resolution approved at LWVOR Council:  LWVOR May 2018 Council unanimously approved the following climate test resolution: “The League of Women Voters supports Climate Test, an assessment tool to help ensure that energy policies align with climate science. The Climate Test uses the latest climate science to evaluate proposed energy policies and projects in light of the globally-agreed goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C, informed by the successful spirit of global cooperation as affirmed in the UN Cop 21 Paris Agreement.“ (Claudia Keith)

This approved LWVOR resolution will be proposed at LWVUS June convention and will be used in applicable Oregon Legislative and other public policy testimony. See here for more updates on climate policy.

Our Children’s Trust Update: ‘Juliana vs US Gov’ lawsuit recent news. The case is scheduled to start Oct 29th in the Eugene Federal District Court. Recent TV coverage on MSNBC: Kids Head to Court to Fight Climate Change

Clean Energy Jobs (Cap and Invest) Legislation & new Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction: The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction met May 22 for the first time. The committee, co-chaired by House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney, is charged with developing new policy proposals with the goal of recommending a new carbon pricing policy for 2019 Legislative session. Three distinguished panelists included Oregon Climate Change Research Institute Director Dr. Phillip Mote, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Director Richard Whitman and a senior fellow economist from Resources for the Future, Dalles Burtraw. The committee is scheduled to meet at least six more times throughout the summer and fall.  Meeting materials and dates are posted to OLIS.   Rep. Ken Helm was interviewed for the Dalles Chronicle. With our coalition partners OCN and Renew Oregon, the League is focused on a meaningful price on greenhouse gas emissions that ultimately will be aligned with Oregon’s commitment to the UN cop 21 Paris agreement, 1.5º C aspirational goal and balanced with environmental justice related social policy. Recent insightful California Cap and Invest analysis/news. You may find this link to Nicholas Caleb analysis of CEJ, Carbon Policy and Climate Test Position Paper Folding the Impact of New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure a more comprehensive policy view.

Office of Economic Analysis’s Economic and Revenue Forecast and other topics:  The following statement in the full economic report “…there is a reasonable expectation that migration flows will continue to be strong as the rest of the country becomes less habitable over time.” was missing from the oral report to the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. Oregon needs to prepare for climate refugees.

The Governor has created a new Climate Cabinet which includes a number of agency directors, ensuring coordination across agencies.  The Dept. of Land Conservation and Development has received monies from the federal government and will work with others to update the 2010 Climate Change Adaptation Framework.

Since transportation is a major source of greenhouse gases in Oregon, look for final recommendations from the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Transportation Planning Rulemaking Committee and a public hearing at the July Land Conservation and Development Commission. There are eight Oregon MPOs: • Albany (includes Jefferson, Millersburg, Tangent) • Bend • Corvallis (includes Adair Village, Philomath) • Eugene-Springfield (includes Coburg) • Grants Pass (includes Gold Hill, Rogue River) • Medford (includes Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Talent) • Portland (includes the 24 cities within Metro) • Salem-Keizer (includes Turner).

The 2019 session may include proposed legislation on oil rail safety, fracking and improved energy efficient building codes to complement the Governors executive order, which charts a course for net zero buildings. The topic of Carbon Sequestration in Oregon Forests will be presented to a Board of Forestry meeting on June 6th in La Grande with Angus Duncan and Andrew Yost.

NATURAL RESOURCE AGENCY BUDGETS

Budget proposals being considered by the Dept. of Agriculture include $8.4 million of General Funds (GF) to increase technology, food safety and add a land use coordinator assistant.  The Dept. of Environmental Quality needs additional staff to protect our clean air and water.  Their current Legislative Concepts for 2019-21.   Oregon Fish and Wildlife may recommend keeping the current legislatively adopted fee schedule, but are asking for $14 million GF (including staff in their Water Quality Division), plus $100 million deferred maintenance lottery bonding.  Forestry is struggling to deal with increased wildfires and is asking for more staff to help with that workload and for urban wildland interface staff–$25 million GF. Land Conservation and Development will request funds to continue work on housing, climate change and natural hazards. The Marine Board is considering reducing a needed boat license increase by cutting services. Parks and Recreation, relying on increased lottery funds, will ask the next Emergency Board to expend these funds on maintenance and increase in their property acquisition fund (see below). State Lands will ask for some maintenance funds.  A work group on wetlands may look at how the removal-fill program is funded.  Water Resources is focusing on dam safety, water rights transfers, an additional groundwater study, place-based planning and grants and loans to implement that planning, as well as staff for implementing the Integrated Water Resources Strategy.  Substantial GF and bonding dollars will be needed to address these needs.  WRD did receive instructions on page 5 of the budget report for SB 5702 to study Oregon’s High Hazard Dams and prepare a plan for the 2019 legislature to consider.

AIR QUALITY & TOXICS

Our Air Quality volunteer is moving out of state.  We need a volunteer to cover that issue.   The Cleaner Air Oregon Rules Advisory Committee met on May 8-9 in Portland to continue developing draft rules to reform how Oregon regulates air toxics.  View the full news release here.  Read more on Air Toxics Benchmark Review and  DEQ Smoke Management Plan.

Work is being done by Environment Oregon to support a ban on polystyrene cups and food containers in Oregon. Contact them for more information.

LAND USE

Legislation that would allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in rural residential areas of counties outside of Urban Growth Boundaries is being considered.  A Work Group sponsored by Sen. Dembrow and Rep. Clem has been formed to consider the appropriate sideboards for such action.

The Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) approved the staff request to appeal action by Douglas County to create a new Rural Open Space designation that would allow 22,500 acres of county land currently zoned Exclusive Farm or Forest Use (EFU) to be broken up into smaller acreage and allow a house on these smaller lots.  A number of other counties are watching this case as they too want to review their EFU lands to see if some should be rezoned to some non-resource designation.

On May 31, 1,000 Friends of Oregon won a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals protecting high value farmland from solar energy facility projects. The Court of Appeals decision clarifies that, without additional justification, high-value, regionally-significant farmland is not the appropriate place for large scale solar development. For the original LUBA decision, click here. This decision may cause LCDC to add a relook at current solar siting rules to their current work plan.

Housing, especially affordable housing, will continue to be a conversation in the state.  The League hopes to support policies that address the issue while also supporting our 19 statewide Goals.  Plans are being made to expend the $1,730,000 received in 2018 from HB 4006. Housing and Community Services also received $270,000 to provide help for cities with high numbers of “rent burdened” residents to hold public hearings, develop plans and consider development code changes to help with housing issues.  DLCD also received $300,000 to provide planning assistance to Eastern Oregon counties.  They want to continue these dollars.

TRANSPORTATION

Imagine a convenient and affordable public transportation system that offers efficient connections all over the state…. That’s just part of what stakeholders envision in the draft Oregon Public Transportation Plan, now open for public review and comment. An online open house makes it easy to view sections of the draft plan, and survey responses will help finalize the document. Comments are accepted until July 20. The final plan will be considered for adoption by the Oregon Transportation Commission later this year.  The draft vision is: “In 2045, public transportation is an integral, interconnected component of Oregon’s transportation system that makes Oregon’s diverse cities, towns, and communities work. Because public transportation is convenient, affordable, and efficient, it helps further the state’s quality of life and economic vitality and contributes to the health and safety of all residents, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

WATER

Protection of wetlands looks to be an issue of concern for 2019.  There is a Work Group established by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (members Rep. Susan McLain and David Brock-Smith Co-Chairing) to discuss multiple issues around the designation of wetlands, how the agricultural community deals with their need to clean ditches, what are the roles of the various local, state and federal agencies around wetlands.  Click here for more information.

At the Dept. of State Lands, a Stream Function Assessment Method (SFAM) is being developed for Oregon to provide a standardized and rapid way to describe ecological and societal benefits, called functions and values, provided by streams in Oregon. The goal of the SFAM is to improve federal and state regulatory programs relating to mitigation planning and removal-fill permitting. Visit the Aquatic Resources Mitigation Framework project webpage for more information.

The Governor has now declared a drought in Klamath, Grant, Harney and Lake Counties.  The NOAA summer forecast is for a warmer and dryer Oregon.  Plan to conserve!

The Klamath dam removal plan is under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  If approved, the removal will begin in 2021.  (www.klamathrenewal.org)

The City of Salem’s drinking water alert should concern us all.  Their water source, Detroit Lake, had toxic blue-green algae.  We have worked to address failing septic systems and permits/testing for sewer systems and to address nitrates, aerial spray and other sources of water contamination.  From our partners, the Oregon Environmental CouncilBe an advocate for your drinking water:

We look forward to our new volunteer, Amelia Nestler, helping to guide us as she serves on the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Advisory Committee for the League!

OFFSHORE AND COASTAL ISSUES

On March 7th, the state received notice from the Court of Appeals that the Part Five amendments to the Territorial Sea Plan (OAR 660-036-0005) were held invalid on procedural grounds. The opinion is available to view online at the Court of Appeals website. The League is very concerned because Part Five focused on marine renewable energy development that represents a potential impact to natural resources and human uses protected under Goal 19, while also allowing for development of ocean energy.  The protections under Part Five are now not in place providing for uncertainty for both coastal residents and energy developers.

ELLIOTT FOREST

Work on a Habitat Conservation Plan will begin soon.  Oregon Consensus continues to interview stakeholders before recommending a committee to help with decisions to be made on the future of the forest.

FORESTRY

Federal and state funds totaling $1 million have been set aside to study a new endangered species protection plan in Oregon forests, a decade after a similar effort stalled amid controversy. The money is earmarked to pay for the first step in laying out new rules for protecting endangered species in 630,000 acres of state-owned forest land west of the Cascades, including large tracts on the state’s northern coast.  The plan would consider species, including the spotted owl and marbled murrelet, and set guidelines for timber harvesting and recreational use. Officials hope the study phase will take about a year, followed by a year to craft the rules themselves, and a final year of review, said Cindy Kolomechuk, leader of the project at the Oregon Department of Forestry.

A new online tool, released Wednesday by the Oregon Department of Forestry, allows Oregon residents to track current wildfire risk to their exact location anywhere in the state.  The tool, part of the Oregon Explorer website, uses a variety of data to calculate how high that risk is for any given location, Teresa Alcock, an analyst for the state, said in a statement.

PARKS and SCENIC WATERWAYS

The Nehalem River Scenic Waterway advisory committee met for the first time on May 24th to develop a draft management plan for a 17.5-mile segment of the river. Those interested should contact Scenic Waterway Coordinator Alex Phillips at alex.phillips@oregon.gov.  More information on the State Scenic Waterway program.

Because lottery dollars have increased since the end of the session, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. may ask for the following four increases at the next Emergency Board Meeting.: Increased limitation to spend a donation from the Oregon State Parks Foundation for expansion of Cottonwood Canyon State Park. $455,448 Other Funds; for several Facilities Investment Program projects to be completed in the 2017-19 biennium. $2,630,000 Lottery Funds; for a number of maintenance projects across the park system. $2,000,000 Total Funds ($975,600 Lottery Funds, $1,024,400 Other Funds); and for potential property acquisition. $1,500,000 Lottery Funds.

2019-21 Legislative Concept:  Bicycle/Pedestrian Grant Fix. In HB 2017 from 2017, OPRD was required to reimburse ODOT up to $4 million for bicycle and pedestrian grants from lottery funds. During the 2018 session, the Joint Transportation Committee Chair agreed to bring back to the 2019 session a solution that would clarify the process to ensure it complies with constitutional requirements for the voter-dedicated lottery funding and address local stakeholder concerns.

REGIONAL SOLUTIONS

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. Members can attend or call in to listen to economic activities in each of the 11 regions.

-League volunteer Claudia Keith is our representative with Renew Oregon, a group advocating for Oregon’s cap and invest program.  Claudia and other members are a part of the Healthy Climate Partnership, another climate policy sharing group. Cathy Frischmann, Julie Chapman, and Shirley Walsh are part of our core climate team.

– League volunteer Philip Thor continues to follow the public process in addressing an update of the Columbia River Treaty.  Negotiations are beginningThis treaty is critical to Oregon’s water and energy future. We are engaged with our partner state Leagues, WA, ID and MT, as well as others wishing to see a more comprehensive set of ecosystem issues in an amended or updated treaty.

– League volunteer Theresa Gibney is our representative to the Northwest Energy Coalition.  This group addresses energy conservation and climate issues.

– League volunteer Marylou Schnoes is following activities at Hanford, including the Oregon Hanford Cleanup Board.  Contact her if you want to help.

New:  Amelia Nestler has been appointed to the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Advisory Committee to represent the League!

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas above interest you, please contact Natural Resources Coordinator Peggy Lynch at peggylynchor@gmail.com.

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houseSocial Policy

 By Karen Nibler, Social Policy Coordinator

In addition to the Special Session for the Tax changes, the Legislature scheduled updates in Human Services, Health Care, Judiciary, and Audits to consider social policy issues.

The House Human Service Updates focused on Housing progress.  The Document Recording Fee has provided funds for emergency housing and rent assistance funds in the Community Action Agencies across the state.  Housing funds built a new apartment complex in North Salem.

The Oregon Housing and Community Services agency has been working with Regional Solutions for housing projects in the City of Donald, in Marion County, for new homes in a rural area, in Pacific City on the coast, for new homes to lease, in Jefferson County for school employee housing, and for Lincoln County Proud Ground land trust homes.  OHCS will continue to work with Regional Solutions teams.

The House Health Care Committee heard from the Oregon Health Authority on the current health insurance status on the exchange with 7 carriers for individuals or families and 2 for group plans.  The Coordinated Care Organization contracts will be extended another year through 2019 to January 2020 when the new contracts will start.  The Medicaid Assistance caseload is over one million 80 thousand people with 78% in CCOs and 22% on Open Card. Cover All Kids has only 4,000 patients.

The Senate Health Care Committee heard about Behavioral Health and Prevention Services, including ACES education for teachers, OPAL-K consultation and Relief Nurseries intervention.  A new Telecare model for recovery programs in the home was introduced. School nurses are needed for mental health treatment as well as physical treatment.  SB 111 (2017) allowed Medicaid billing for special education students and early intervention programs.  School districts will be encouraged to bill OHA for these services.

The Director of the Department of Human Services reported on its divisions of Adults and People with Disabilities, Developmental Disabilities and Vocational Rehabilitation, which are operating within the budget.  The Child Welfare Division has been understaffed and underfunded in past years and has been training new staff and new foster parents.

The Secretary of State Audit was very critical of former Child Welfare administrators and published a very detailed report on conditions and reforms.  New staff will be hired, trained and supported in their new roles, but it will take time to bring new staff and foster parents up to speed.  In the meantime, the agency directors will need support while developing a new culture and relationships among staff and providers who will serve our abused and neglected children.

Judiciary and Public Safety Issues

Manufactured Home Parks residents report problems with rentals and sales of mobile homes. The owners and residents have conflicts of interest and homes are difficult to move or sell.  In the interim a workgroup will consider complaints and possible solutions.  63,000 people live in these parks.

The Public Defense Commission requests an evaluation of its case-rate funding model.  Attorneys have too many cases and too little time. A report is due in December to be considered for rate review in the 2019-21 session.

The Criminal Justice Commission will host a Justice Reinvestment Summit in 2019. Oregon has a prison recidivism rate of 26 – 28%.  The Re-entry Program will start planning a step-down program from prison to parole. The Department of Corrections has been considering aspects of the Norway system which has a higher staff ratio, a natural environment, and better outcomes.  Grant funds allow prison staff to visit Norway for a two week exchange program.

The Legislative Committees appoint members to Task Forces to study certain topics during the interims.  Currently there is a Task Force on Universal Access to Health Care and a Task Force on Cost Control, which is considering fair prices for prescription drugs and a solution to the funding gap for HB 2391 in the last session.  Senate Judiciary has appointed members to a gun control or safety task force, which may bring bills to the 2019-21 session.  House Human Services has appointed a Prevention of Sex Abuse Work group. 

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you, please contact Social Policy Coordinator: Karen Nibler 541.752.8567 niblerk@comcast.net

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Education Policygradcap

By Chris Vogel, Education Policy Coordinator

The House Interim Committee On Early Childhood and Family Supports considered these important topics on May 23, 2018:

  1. Update regarding the early learning strategy and planning process—The chair of the Early Learning Council (ELC) and staff members from the Division of Early Learning (ELD) reported on their ongoing work to develop a plan for a comprehensive early learning system to serve children and families, prenatal-age to 5. The Governor has appointed a children’s cabinet (composed of state department heads in Education, Housing, Health Care, DHS and the ELC) whose work will align with that of the ELC. Three themes will inform the comprehensive early learning system planning: 1) cultural responsiveness and equity including expanding availability of quality child care to “children furthest from opportunity”, 2) community connections, through the Early Childhood (EC) hubs and 3) shared data and measurement. This is a new plan that will include all agencies concerned with children and families and involve cross-sector coordination. Emerging themes are focusing on child care and preschool, the development of a diverse workforce, and support for families through a variety of program approaches including home visiting and parenting education. The recent increase in federal child care funds was discussed. These will be used for employee related day care (ERDC)—priorities will be infant-toddler care and helping providers meet licensing requirements). 30,000 eligible Oregon children are currently not receiving services. ELD is working on blending and layering funding to achieve a more unified approach that aligns child care, transportation and compensation.
  2. Testimony regarding child care quality and availability with a focus on ERDC program funding. Testimony was provided verbally and in writing by a representative of AFSCME, a sheriff, parents, child care providers and administrators, and advocates. They agreed that the current system is cobbled together, underfunded, not equitable and ineffectively administered. Speakers eloquently expressed concerns that the subsidies don’t reflect the true cost of care and a variety of other frustrations including the need for a substitute pool, urban-rural disparities, and programs for children with disabilities. Benefits of quality care for children, families and the state and the need for more state support for subsidies was emphasized. Advocates said that 80% of eligible parents don’t access subsidies or can’t make the co-pay. They also state that “we know what to do” to make programs more accessible but it requires dollars and other valuable programs have been cut for lack of funding. The need for a comprehensive plan that addresses all of the issues and is consistently funded was stressed. Advocates called for a long-term view and connection to other issues including family medical leave, housing and children’s mental health.
  3. The Committee Chair ended the hearing by acknowledging the importance of early learning and expressing his hope that the Committee could focus its attention on long-term issues rather than changing focus every biennium. He said that some work had been done on potential issues to address in the 2018 session and that he would share a draft document with committee members at a later time. He concluded the meeting by stating the need to build a list of potential legislation by the Sept. meeting. (reported by Stephanie Feeney)

The House Interim Committee On Education on May 21 heard invited testimony from:

  1. The Oregon Youth Reengagement Coalition says there is still a troubling number of low-graduation-rate high schools, and data shows that alternative high schools are overrepresented on this list. Portland Public Schools noted in a handout that multiple pathways to graduation best serve students who are at risk of not graduating.
  2. Funding for School Lunches overview: In 2015 HB 2545 required districts to provide lunch at no charge to students eligible for reduced priced lunch benefits. In that year the legislature made a carve out from the State School Fund for ODE to reimburse to districts the $.40 not covered by federal funding for every lunch served at no charge to students eligible for reduced priced lunch benefits. This program saw a $105,249 shortfall in funding for the 2015-2017 biennium. That shortfall was split across the 197 state school districts, allocation levels will be examined for the future to assure that eligible students receive no-cost school meals. More discussion will be heard in the September interim session.
  3. Teacher Standards and Practices Commission reported on procedures to investigate complaints. Priority is given to: student safety, sex abuse (touching, inappropriate relationships, child abuse); boundaries (inappropriate comments, sharing text messages, etc.); assault (using excessive force on a student); drugs, alcohol & mental fitness; failure to report (child abuse); internet (pornography); and conduct with adult (sexual harassment, affairs with colleagues, etc.).  In 2017 there were 236 charges, 36% or 87 were formally sanctioned, 25 had reproval, while 124 or 52% were dismissed. Click on the link above for more details (Chris Vogel).

The Senate Interim Committee On Education on May 23 heard invited testimony on:

  1. Oregon’s Testing Assessment System and potential changes balancing time to take tests, costs to districts, ESSA federal requirements, equity, logistics and other factors.  See the link for more information on contemplated use of OAKS (Smarter Balanced), AP, IB, ACT, and SAT.
  2. The Advisory Committee on Safe and Effective Schools for ALL Students plan for every student in Oregon to graduate from high school with a plan for their future and that starts with creating a safe, equitable classroom environment where everyone can focus on learning was highlighted. Follow upcoming meetings and publications of this Safety Advisory Committee on the website.
  3. Student Success and Achievement Through Oregon Public Universities was jointly discussed by public university leaders representing the Oregon Council of Presidents, OCOP.
  4. The Youth Development Council introduced Serena S. Wesley as the new Director. She was formerly Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion/Affirmative Action for Governor. (Chris Vogel)

The Senate Interim Committee On Workforce on May 22 considered: Oregon’s Workforce System and how to close the gap between skills and available jobs.  Presentations from union apprenticeships, CTE and STEM programs, and post-secondary education programs showed cooperative efforts to retrain older workers while also engaging youth in relevant job skills programs. Future Ready Oregon will create equitable options for youth and adults that enable them to see and access opportunities that match their interests, are available in their communities and are supported with local education and work-based learning strategies. These programs will ensure that traditionally underserved people and populations are able to move to a place of access and outcomes through supports for individuals, families and communities, in partnership with businesses. Oregon Tradeswoman provides union access to non-traditional students, but the demand is higher than availability in the program.  (Chris Vogel)

The House Interim Committee On Higher Education and Workforce Development on  May 23 heard an early appeal for more money in the university system and the harsh reality of rising PERS and benefits costs of university faculty on students in the presentation The Impact of Funding on Tuition. The Legislative Fiscal Office reported distribution of funds to universities and community colleges (slides 4-6) and discussed the changing relationship between the state and universities since the advent of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), slide 10. Public Universities’ requests are made through the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) including approval by HECC’s governing board. This includes any requests for bonding and capital finance. University staff are not state employees but are participants in PERS and state government health care (PEBB). Only the General and Lottery funding designated for Public Universities are part of the state’s accounting and budget systems as part of the larger HECC budget. The state has limited oversight and control of their expenditures. The Public University Support Fund was allocated $736.9 million and the Community College Support Fund was allocated $573.9 million in the 2017-19 legislative-approved budget.  (Chris Vogel)

The Joint Interim Committee On Student Success invited Dr. Marguerite Roza, Director, Edunomics Lab, Georgetown University and Senior Research Affiliate, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington to make a presentation Can Public Education Get More Productive? Yes! While rather long and wonky, this is worth listening to if you have any interest in how students may succeed given budgeting restrictions. This committee may rely on Edunomics research as they continue their statewide meetings with local schools. Remember this Student Success committee’s work was initiated based on five foundational principles:

  1. Early childhood education is important to school success.
  2. Attendance and having sufficient learning time are crucial.
  3. Oregon must improve high school graduation rates.
  4. The school system needs to be accountable and transparent.
  5. Schools need stable and sufficient resources.

The schedule of public hearings from 7-9 pm includes: March 22, Eugene; April 24, Baker City ; April 25, Hermiston; May 9, Clackamas; May 24, Woodburn; June 5, Medford; July 11, Beaverton; September 13, Redmond; September 27, Portland; and October 10, Coos Bay. While the legislators on this committee are meeting privately with students, educators, administrators and community leaders, the public hearings from 7-9 pm are recorded for OLIS.  Click on the above links to listen to comments for meetings that have already been held. Check back later for dates (in the far right of OLIS page) as other meetings are held by the Joint Interim Committee On Student Success.  Testimony has been insightful, covering a huge gamut of issues including sophisticated discussions on local property taxes that fund 1/3 of schools and frustrations around “compression” that prevents further funding.  (Chris Vogel)

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If Education and Early Learning interest you, please contact Chris Vogel chrisvogelvolunteerlwvor@gmail.com The 2019 session is likely to consider multiple aspects of Student Success. Chris and Stephanie will be meeting with coalition partners, doing research and interviews during the interim—we welcome your involvement.

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