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Legislative Report, Volume 29, Number 1 – January 2019

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In This Issue

Climate Change

Education

Governance

Natural Resources

Revenue and Tax Reform

Social Policy


Climate Change

By Claudia Keith, Julie Chapman, Shirley Weathers, Cathy Frischmann and Lynette Pierson

Carbon Policy Overview/Timeline/Disconnect

Since the 1990s, Oregon has enacted a variety of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in clean, renewable energy. However, the Governor’s current Climate/Carbon agenda addresses dated 2007 greenhouse gas reduction goals, established by the legislature using 2006 science. Note these reduction goals/targets are not consistent with the most recent two scientific reports on the volume of greenhouse gas reduction needed to avoid 1.5C warming nor in compliance with the recent LWVOR and LWVUS Climate 2018 resolution decisions: “The League of Women Voters supports a set of climate assessment criteria that ensures that energy policies align with current climate science. These criteria require that the latest climate science be used to evaluate proposed energy policies and major projects in light of the globally-agreed-upon 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.” Nor does the timing of the Governor’s Climate/Carbon Agenda address the urgency expressed in the latest Congressional Green New Deal nor the recent New Green Wave.

Carbon Policy Office

The 2018 legislature created the Carbon Policy Office (HB 5201) to conduct research, analysis, and stakeholder engagement to inform a statewide policy framework to grow Oregon’s economy while achieving Oregon’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. Guiding Principles-The Carbon Policy Office is charged with investigating how Oregon can achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals while growing its economy. It is intended to engage in research, analysis, and discovery with stakeholders to inform a legislative proposal in the 2019 Legislative Session. This led the Carbon Policy Office and the Governor to develop and publish a white paper on November 28, 2018. See the Oregon Climate Agenda for more information.

Three Research Topics Funded: Forest carbon sequestration, Emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries (EITEs) and Economic impact analysis.

Two White Papers Published: Implications of Cap-and-Trade for Highway Cost Allocation and Impacted Communities. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has prepared a white paper issue.

The Carbon Policy Office convened four working groups: Natural and Working Lands Working Group, Low-Income Utility Programs Working Group (final Low Income Utility Program Working Group report was published, which can viewed here), Emissions-Intensive, Trade-Exposed Industries Technical Advisory (EITA) Group, and Forest Carbon Study Advisory Group.

Legislature: Here’s a link to the most recent Joint Interim Committee on Carbon Reduction (JCCR) Dec 2018 Public Hearing Agenda. This Joint committee met seven times since March 2018.

Mark your Calendars and please sign-up for Clean Energy Jobs (Cap and Invest) Legislative Lobby Day, February 6, 2019, at Renew Oregon Facebook Lobby Day Event.

Oregon Office of Economic Analysis (OEA)

The Nov. 14 presentation to the legislature no longer listed Climate Change as a risk. However, the detail report included the following quote: “…there is a reasonable expectation that migration flows will continue to be strong as the rest of the country becomes less habitable over time.”

Our Children’s Trust – Five LWVOR League members attended the “Juliana vs US Gov.” lawsuit Oct 29, 2018 Rally and Program outside the Eugene Federal District court. On Dec 26, another detour – Government challenge to kids’ case moves forward. Recently, LWV Oregon, LWV California and LWV of the US agreed to Our Children’s Trust YOUTHVGOV campaign Partner Pledge. (The Pledge: ★ We stand with the 21 Juliana v U.S. youth plaintiffs.★ We need a science-based national climate recovery plan. ★ We support #youthvgov.)

Other Climate/Carbon Topics

In 2019, there may be legislation addressing sustainable investing; Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read leadership; SEC urged by institutions to mandate ESG disclosure; and recent Oregon Sustainable Summit. You can learn more about how Oregon Treasury takes action as a responsible investor in the Treasurer’s annual Stewardship report.

The  session may include proposed legislation on oil rail safety, Electric Vehicle incentives, a fracking moratorium, and improved energy efficient net zero building codes to complement the recent Governor’s executive order which charts course for net zero buildings.

Legislation to assist Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program movements may also appear during 2019. A number of Oregon cities are currently reviewing this program to improve their Climate Action Plan outcomes.

Cathy Frischmann (right) and Sarah Diefendorf (left) of LWV attend COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

LWVOR Action members, Claudia Keith and Cathy Frischmann, were two of the four LWVUS observers at COP24 in Katowice Poland Dec 2-15 2018. This team initiated a press release that was posted Dec 12, 2018; most likely the first LWV press release at a UNFCCC COP.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you, please contact Claudia Keith, ca.keith@comcast.net


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Education Policy

By Chris Vogel, Education Policy Coordinator with assistance from those listed below.

The Education LR follows policy legislation and budgets for student success, early learning, career technical programs (CTE), community colleges and higher education. We advocate to minimize factors impacting education for children at risk or historically underserved and underachieving youth.

During the three-day interim session in December we previewed some of the committees’ legislative concepts that will be bills in the 2019 session.

  • Joint Interim Committee on Student Success held a numbers-heavy analytical session where the estimated costs of possible ways to improve Oregon’s outlook for education were discussed. A ten-page table summarizes recommendations (it is highly unlikely that all can be funded, certainly not with current state revenues) so a process called Categorical Funding may be used to determine where investments have the greatest impact.

Three workgroups were established by the senators and representatives who have held multiple Student Success listening-sessions across the state, these workgroups are:

  • High Quality Classrooms Work Group
  • College and Career Ready Work Group
  • Students Ready and Able to Learn Work Group

A twenty-five page document provides a narrative of these three workgroups with potential associated investment costs

Meeting materials and the committee’s OLIS video recording offer more insight into the complexity of this committee’s work.  The three workgroups continue to develop language for bills to be considered in the 2019 session.

The Governor’s Recommended Budget references raising an additional $2 billion earmarked for Education and the Student Success but leaves the details to legislative negotiation. The Student Success Committee and those serving on Tax and Revenue Committees will work together to consider what new revenue measures are passed and what final investments are made in the legislature’s Approved Budget finalized about July, 2019.  Some of those measures are likely to go to Oregon voters for approval/rejection. Because LWVOR Action follows all aspects of Ways and Means budget development, we shall be watching to assure that other essential services for Oregonians are maintained in this effort to better fund student success—social services, health care, public safety, environmental and natural resources, climate change remediation, and other basic government services.

  • House Interim Committee on Early Childhood and Family Supports held informational hearings including: Update on the Joint Committee on Student Success; Employment-Related Day Care; Early Learning Division Update; Dolly Parton’s Imagination Libraries; Hunger in Oregon; Early Intervention; and Introduction of Committee Measures for 2019.  You may listen on OLIS and review meeting materials. Committee legislative concepts introduced in December will be assigned new bill numbers for the 2019 session:
    • LC 2086 establishes the CourtCare Fund and appropriates moneys in the fund to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) for distribution to counties to operate CourtCare programs.
    • LC 2791 requires the Department of Human Services to use savings in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to increase the amount of money paid to families enrolled in the program or to make additional investments in the JOBS program.
    • LC 2844 requires the Early Learning Division to develop a plan for ensuring that the transition from mental health services for children under the age of six to services for children aged six or over is seamless.
    • LC 2857 directs the Early Learning Division to establish the Oregon Imagination Library Project to distribute books to enrolled children each month.
    • LC 3079 establishes a grant program to lower kindergarten student-to-teacher ratios in high poverty schools.
  • Senate Interim Committee on Education considered testimony from: Oregon School Boards Association; College Possible; Low Incidence Disability Services; Bullying Prevention; and committee bills for 2019. OLIS recordings are indexed by topic for ease in listening and meeting materials detail each testimony with more background information.  These committee legislative concepts will be renumbered as 2019 bills:
    • LC 218 adjusts the statutory list of Education Service Districts (ESDs) to reflect mergers.
    • LC 1864 directs the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to reimburse the providers of vision screenings directly and appropriates funding for a Vision Health Account for the purpose of making these reimbursements.
    • LC 1865 directs ODE to conduct a study on the adequacy of Oregon’s education system and declares an emergency (a placeholder bill?).
    • LC 1866 requires ODE to study which statewide summative test students in eleventh grade should take and report to the interim education committees by September 15, 2020 (a placeholder bill?).
    • LC 1867 aligns state law with ESSA by prohibiting school employees from assisting other school employees in obtaining a new job if they know or have probable cause to believe the person engaged in abuse or sexual conduct; requires reporting of all sexual conduct allegations to the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) and requires TSPC to investigate without waiting for district investigations; adds staff to TSPC and shortens investigation times; revises the definition of sexual conduct; prohibits agreements that terminate investigations; creates registry of unlicensed school personnel and contractors and prohibits unsupervised contacts with students unless an employee or contractor is registered; adds school board members and charter governing board members to list of mandatory reporters; directs DHS and law enforcement agencies to notify TSPC if investigations involve school employees; and prohibits agreements that terminate or impair ongoing investigations.
    • LC 2034 requires ODE to administer a nationally recognized assessment in high school and allows school districts to replace the statewide summative assessment with the nationally recognized assessment administered by ODE.
    • LC 2912 directs the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) to establish a pilot program for foster youth transitioning from community colleges to public universities and establishes criteria for the program.
    • LC 2913 requires HECC to establish foster youth success centers at each public university and establishes a fund for this purpose.
    • LC 3308 requires public colleges and universities to provide credit to students who earn grades of four or higher on International Baccalaureate exams and establishes a method for providing exceptions.

Proposed committee bills would: 

  • require each community college and public university to establish textbook affordability plan
    • propose funding for Oregon’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Program
    • study issues and identify barriers relating to employment of persons with disabilities
    • provide financial assistance to state agencies that provide workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities
    • create business loans for persons who have disabilities

With appreciation to the following for analyzing specific bills and following committee hearings:

  • Early Learning: Stephanie Feeney
  • P-3, K-12, P-20: Fran Dyke, Nancy Donovan
  • Higher Education: Alice Bartelt, Karan Kuntz

2019 will be a very busy year for Education legislation.  If you have an interest in working with us, you’ll be able to follow specific assigned bills, watch recorded OLIS hearings from home on your own schedule and make recommendations to assure LWVOR Action is effective in following bills.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If Education and Early Learning interest you, please contact Chris Vogel, chrisvogelvolunteerlwvor@gmail.com


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Governance

By Rebecca Gladstone, Governance Coordinator

Thanks to our volunteers! You’re welcome to work with us.
Rick Bennett, governance bills review
Marge Easley, National Popular Vote
Josie Koehne, Transparency, Public Records
Tom Messenger, Initiative Reform
Ann Potter, League position review
Norman Turrill, Redistricting, Small Donor Elections

In December, League governance “legislative concepts” were carried to collect signatures from supportive legislators in preparation for the 2019 session. There was otherwise little action for some of our issues. Read below for details and please subscribe to our legislative reports, “LR’s” for updates. Governance follows voting and election issues, including security, National Popular Vote, candidate filing, initiative reform, small donor elections, redistricting, and others. We also cover public records and transparency, some immigration issues, ethics in government, and other topics covered in committees listed above.

Several 2019 committees addressing governance issues will meet concurrently. You can follow specific topics and bills, watch OLIS hearing videos online and give snapshot reviews, or help in other ways. Your help is very welcome! If these interest you, or you have other governance issues you’d like to help with, please contact LWVOR Governance Coordinator Becky Gladstone.

Watch these issues:

We have new legislators- look at their House Member Guidebook 2019, especially for how bills become laws and LC (legislative concept) drafting. This process is underway. We will be working to support/oppose/or comment on many bills during session. Meanwhile, watch for progress on these items that we’ve been working on:

  • Online candidate filing, HB 2234 (LC 1703) & LC 2658:
    Establishes centralized candidate filing system to permit candidates for public office in county, city or district to file for nomination or election by using electronic filing system adopted by Secretary of State. (This is a continuation of League work in progress from 2017.)
  • Elected officials’ website, HB 2210 (LC 3027):
    Requires Oregon transparency website to include information regarding elected officials and emergency managers of local governments and description of jurisdiction over which each official or manager presides.
    (Remember our work with “They Represent You”? The website has been built and is functional, it works like our Vote411 website by entering an address, and you can see all officials serving that location. This may be reassigned to a different committee and oversight responsibility than the Oregon Transparency website.)
  • Candidate filing contact information, HB 2685 (LC 3149):
    Requires person who files to run for public office to provide campaign phone number and campaign electronic mail address. Except for de minimis personal use, requires phone number and electronic mail address to be used exclusively for purpose of supporting person’s candidacy.
  • (This arises from the difficulty reaching candidates who file with contact information that is redacted from public records, also applying to the many candidates who file with their incumbent/office holder contact information. It may be addressed through Oregon Administrative Rules via Elections instead of statute adopted through the Legislature.)
  • House Commemorative Resolution, HCR 8 (LC 2089):
    In memoriam: Mary Katherine “Kappy” Eaton, 1924-2018. (This is to honor our long-time Governance Coordinator, past-League President, among other positions.)
  • Initiative Reform, LC 2100:
    Requires financial estimate committee to file statement “MEASURE SPENDS MONEY WITHOUT IDENTIFYING A FUNDING SOURCE” with Secretary of State upon finding that ballot measure with no dedicated funding source will have financial effect on public expenditures in excess of $100,000. Requires statement to be printed in voters’ pamphlet.
    (This LC may emerge with a fresh face since it was held during interim days for further work.)
  • Redistricting Reform:
    Although there is no bill yet in the legislature, the Redistricting Matters Coalition has completed drafting a constitutional amendment, and it will be submitted to Legislative Counsel soon. In the meantime, the League has held 15 popular educational forums throughout the state and more are scheduled in January, February and March. If the legislature does not refer an amendment to the 2020 ballot, then discussions are underway for an initiative drive.
  • Small Donor Elections:
    Likewise, a bill will be submitted on behalf of the Voice for All Oregon coalition that would allow candidates for statewide, legislative, and judicial offices to choose a different path to raise money for their campaigns. These participating candidates would agree to accept contributions from small donors ($250 or less). In exchange, small donations would be matched six-to-one with limited public funds. This allows candidates with community support to raise enough money to win elected office without relying on wealthy donors and to spend more time talking to their constituents. This bill is similar to the program already adopted for Portland city elections.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you, please contact Becky Gladstone, 541.510.9387, rebecca.gladstone@gmail.com.


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Natural Resources

By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator

2019 will be a very busy session. We have new Natural Resources volunteers who will use League positions to advocate for and against bills as they move forward. But our volunteers also engage with Boards, Commissions, Councils and other public entities related to Natural Resources all year long. We still need volunteers to follow Transportation and other areas. Governor Kate Brown is expected to introduce legislation to challenge any Federal rollback of air, water and other safety standards.

Natural Resource Agency Budgets: The League engaged with agencies as they developed their Agency Request Budgets (ARBs). We also engaged the Governor’s staff as she developed her proposed budget. The Governor’s Request Budget (GRB) is now available and may now be available in detail on each agency’s website for you to review. Our last Legislative Report provided information on the individual ARBs, but it is the GRBs that agencies will defend in the Legislature during session. The League focuses on budgets because, without money to implement policies, they cannot be implemented. As each budget is heard in the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee, we will provide additional information. Thank you for helping to defeat Measure 104. Without fees, our Natural Resource Agencies would have limited monies to protect Oregon’s environment. Expect requests for fee increases this session.  

Legislative Changes: The House has added an additional Committee where our Natural Resource bills may appear. In addition to the Agriculture and Land Use Committee and Energy and Environment, there is a new Natural Resources Committee. There is a Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction as well as the usual Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Look for Committee bills that were introduced during December Legislative Days in Meeting Materials for these committees. The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources has a whole new set of House members and a new Co-Chair on the Senate side.

Engage with your Legislators: Attend local Town Halls and share your views.Climate change, agency budgets, land use and water are all on the table for 2019. Bring League-recommended issues with you so they hear from constituents and not just those of us at the Capitol.

Air Quality (Susan Mates): The Environmental Quality Commission voted 5 to 0 on Nov. 15 to approve Cleaner Air Oregon rules that establish statewide health-based emissions limits for specific pollutants emitted by facilities. The rules also close gaps in the state’s existing air quality rules that can create health risks for families and communities that live and work nearby. View the full News Release here and the Cleaner Air Oregon program here.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) proposes to amend the General Air Contaminant Discharge Permits for halogenated solvent degreasers, bulk gasoline plants, clay ceramic manufacturing, and wood preserving operations located in Oregon. Information about the proposal can be found here.

Climate Change: See separate section of the Legislative Report from Claudia Keith and her team. An additional piece that is linked to the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development is Oregon Climate Adaptation Framework to update the 2010 Climate Change Adaptation Framework. DLCD Staffer Christine Shirley will lead up to 20 multi-agency people who will work on this document.

Coastal Issues (Peggy Joyce): Following the release of the Trump Administration’s Proposed OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program, more than 225 legislators from coastal states raised their voices in opposition in order to protect their coasts and economies by blocking offshore drilling in state waters now and in the future. Oregon’s Senate Bill 256 would limit any new offshore drilling capabilities off our coast.

The Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) is drafting policy statements that have clear intent and goals in alignment with the overall 1994 strategy to protect our Rocky Shores. The re-drafted policy statements include “Harvesting, gathering, or scientific collection of marine plants and animals in rocky shore habitats shall be conducted in a way that is sustainable and minimizes disturbance, trampling, or removal of rocky shore living resources.” OPAC is also working on a recommendation related to Part 5 of the Territorial Sea Plan (OAR 660-036-0005). These recommendations should eventually be adopted by the Land Conservation and Development Commission related to activities in Oregon’s coastal waters.

The Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), working on tsunami lines and other public safety reports, has released a publication: Open-File Report O-18-06, Tsunami evacuation analysis of Pacific City, Tillamook County, Oregon. Learn more about the study and download the publication from this preview webpage.

Oregon is among the first places to document the impacts of “ocean acidification”— what happens when human-produced carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater, resulting in chemical reactions that change the water’s pH and make it more acidic. Oregon has convened the Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia. Over the last two decades, the coast has also experienced several “hypoxia” events, where low oxygen levels lead to the die-off of crabs and other marine life. While researchers and industry were able to mitigate for water chemistry in a closed-system like the hatchery, dealing with changes in open-ocean ecosystems is even more challenging. Sept. 14, 2018, the Council released its 1st Biennial Report.

The State Land Board is considering seeking a management change or alternate funding for the first in the nation South Slough National Estuarine Research Center. The League has provided oral testimony in support of the value of the South Slough and the need for continued funding.

Drinking Water Advisory Committee (Amelia Nestler): The next meeting will be Jan. 16. Among the issues they are addressing include public safety around drinking water, harmful algal blooms, requirements for systems testing and related issues.

Environmental Quality: The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is proposing to align its hazardous waste fees more closely with program needs and the consumer price index. This effort is a multi-phase project to amend current hazardous waste fee funding over several years to secure sufficient funding by 2026.This proposal will amend fees established in rule to help bridge program funding through 2024. DEQ will have to seek statutory amendment to statutory fees in 2021 or 2023 to fund the program by 2026. DEQ will accept public comments on this proposed rulemaking until 4 pm on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. DEQ will hold a public hearing on this proposed rulemaking: 6 pm, January 17 @ Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 700 NE Multnomah Street, Room 610, Portland, OR 97232.  DEQ is also providing a teleconference and webinar opportunities.  See Hazardous Waste Rulemaking Page.

In 2017, Oregon recovered over 2 million tons of waste, or 42.8 percent of all waste generated, DEQ’s 2017 Oregon Material Recovery and Waste Generation Report shows. Look for a bill to address Stewardship from Rep. Susan McLain. Also, LC 998 from Rep. Sheri Schouten would prohibit food vendors from using polystyrene containers in selling, offering for sale, serving or dispensing prepared food to public, drastically reducing the amount of polystyrene waste that Oregon produces. Additionally, there will be bills related to plastic straws and plastic bags.

Look for bills related to mega-dairies, including requiring more stringent requirements around waste water permitting and air quality.

Elliott State Forest: The State Land Board met on Dec. 18th and gave further guidance to staff on decoupling the Forest from the Common School Fund. More information can be found here.

Emergency Management: Governor Brown has included $12 million in bonds for an earthquake early warning system in her proposed budget.

Hanford/Nuclear Waste (Marylou Schnoes): The League provided testimony to the U.S. Department of Energy on their suggested Interpretation of High-Level Radioactive Waste opposing these changes.

Land Use: League volunteers will work on Housing issues using a variety of positions this session. The Natural Resources element includes potential changes in land use that we will evaluate with our support for our statewide land use planning program with local implementation, our citizen participation positions, and the need for housing for all. Look for more information on bills being considered in our next Legislative Report.

We expect to support the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development’s (DLCD) budget for $1.4 million to their Technical Assistance Grants Program for the Governor’s Greater Oregon Housing Accelerator as it links employer contributions and the need for that housing. We will also advocate for additional grant dollars to help local jurisdictions update their Comprehensive Plans and Development Codes.

The League has been participating in a Work Group related to allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in rural residential zoning. SB 88 has been drafted (but amendments are also being submitted) to create state-required sideboards around such a use if counties choose to allow in their development codes. Besides septic system and well issues, fire risk has been a topic of discussion. There is consideration of a new set of “fire risk” maps to guide future development throughout Oregon. See a new report by 1,000 Friends on this issue: Click here to download A New Vision for Wildfire Planning: A Report on Land Use and Wildfires.

DLCD is doing rulemaking in two areas and drafts are available on DLCD’s website: 1) Amendments to the Simplified UGB Process (The League participated in this rulemaking). 2) Amendments to Rules Relating to Siting Solar Power Generating Facilities on High-value Farmland. Both will be considered at the Jan. 24th meeting of the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC).

LC 1005 relates to Urban Renewal.

Transportation: The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) wants the public’s help as it undertakes a major planning effort to identify improvements to the Oregon Coast Bike Route (OCBR), a popular bike route that runs the length of the Oregon coast. Public input will set the stage for improved safety, accessibility and enjoyment for residents, visitors and all users of the route. Visit an Online Open House through Jan. 31, 2019.

Scenic Waterways: The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission voted on Nov. 28 to postpone a decision on whether to recommend designation of a 17.5-mile segment of the Nehalem River as a state scenic waterway. They directed staff to gather more information on the possible effects of designation upstream from the study area, and will take the issue back up in February. We expect a presentation to the Oregon Water Resources Commission in February to seek agreement on a designation recommendation to the Governor. For more information on the State Scenic Waterway program.

Water: The League has worked with stakeholders and the Water Resources Department on legislative concepts for 2019. Among those we support are LC 507, which wouldextend the Place-Based Planning program sunset to 2023, and LC 508 to modernize Dam Safety Statutes. The Governor has made dam safety a high priority and has included funding for repair of the Wallowa Dam and perhaps bonding for other dam projects. The City of Newport is working to address safety issues around the dams that provide water for the city. They are also working with others on a Place-Based Planning project to include surrounding small water districts.

The League is participating in 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 (legislation has been filed), what are the roles of the various local, state and federal agencies around wetlands, the cost of mitigation and should the state create mitigation banks, and whether or not the state should “assume” part of the role of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers related to some removal/fill permits. The Dept. of State Lands has explained how they are providing increased information and mapping to help Oregon citizens deal with potential wetlands issues.

The U.S. Drought Monitor for Dec. 17th continues to show how dry Oregon continues to be into 2019.

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. Members can attend or call in to listen to economic activities in each of the 11 regions. The Governor’s budget recommends $15 million be allocated to this program for regional economic development projects.

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


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Revenue and Tax Reform

By Chris Vogel, Revenue and Tax Reform

In December, House and Senate revenue committees introduced roughly 80 bills that will be considered in 2019. Some are substantive. Most are housekeeping, placeholders, and extensions of minor sunsets. We have not yet seen major revenue-raising bill drafts, but expect that to be a major focus in the 2019 session.

During the three-day December interim session, the following two committees addressed revenue and tax issues in preparation for the 2019 session.

  • House Interim Committee on Revenue introduced the LC Drafts list with details provided in the meeting materials list as Legislative Concepts (LCs).
  • Senate Interim Committee on Finance and Revenue also introduced about thirty committee bill concepts that LWVOR ACTION is reading in the LC format.
  • These initial bill concepts in the House and Senate may change substantially with amendments as the session continues. Some will become “gut and stuff” under a relevant “relating to clause” that will enable legislators to flesh out concepts throughout the session.
  • Some agency bills introduced pre-session are mostly housekeeping and sunset extension bills that we will follow later in 2019.
  • The Governor’s Recommended Budget references raising $2 billion earmarked for Education and the Student Success, P-16, (page 17) but leaves the details to legislative negotiation. This major bill has not yet surfaced, but we shall report details in future 2019 LRs.
  • More substantive bills already introduced would increase the earned income tax credit (EITC), add a tax rate increase for higher earning pass-throughs, permanently send the kicker to the Education Stability Fund, tax properties closer to their real market value (RMV), and change corporate income tax.

In evaluating specific tax preferences, the League Positions use the following criteria: whether the tax preference promotes equity and progressivity; and whether the revenue loss from the tax preference is justifiable. The League of Women Voters of Oregon believes any tax proposal should be evaluated with regard to its effect on the entire tax structure, and the tax system should recognize responsibility for government services by providing for broad sharing of the tax burden.

Over the past year, the League has participated in a Revenue Roundtable discussion with more than two dozen other nonprofits representing diverse stakeholders. The Oregon Revenue Roundtable has developed a set of essential and preferred principles to guide tax policy decisions – these are compatible with our LWV positions. Essential principles are those that must be reflected in any tax policy proposal, while preferred principles should be considered in any tax policy proposal, but rank below the essential principles. Some Revenue Roundtable principles go beyond League positions, none disagree with the League, and almost all are widely-accepted principles among tax economists.

Essential

  • Progressivity: Tax policies should ensure Oregonians with more income and wealth contribute a larger share of their resources to support the common good than those with less.
  • Adequacy: Tax and revenue policies must raise enough revenue to fund the public structures that create opportunity for all Oregonians.
  • Equity: As in many other areas of public policy, tax policy has at times fostered inequitable outcomes based on race, ethnicity, and gender. New policies should remove these barriers and inequities and advance Oregonians’ economic opportunity.
  • Viability: The policy must have a viable path towards enactment in the legislature and defense at the ballot.

Preferred

  • Simplicity: Tax policies should be straight-forward, easy to understand, comply with, and administer, and difficult to manipulate.
  • Stability: Revenue from a tax should grow with the economy with minimal volatility.
  • Horizontal fairness: Similarly situated taxpayers should be treated the same.
  • Neutrality: Economic decisions should be made on their own merits, not to take advantage of tax subsidies.

If Oregon’s revenue and tax reform issues interest you, please contact Chris Vogel, ChrisVogelVolunteerLWVOR@gmail.com or Maud Naroll, MaudLWVOR@gmail.com


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Social Policy

 By Karen Nibler, Social Policy Coordinator

Health Care Updates

The Oregon Health Authority leaders have been working with Coordinated Care Organizations to draft the next phase of CCO 2.0 for the end of the 2019 session and operational start in 2020.  The staff of the Dept. of Consumer and Business Services, DCBS, reported that 73,181 enrollments in insurance plans were processed, an increase of 16% so far this year.  The premium increases were below 10% and the federal changes were at 7%, so affordability is maintained. The Prescription Drug review reported an increase of 10% in prices.

The Universal Access to Care Workgroup met during the 2018 Interim and submitted a 40+ page report to the House Health Care Committee.  During the December Interim Days, the House Health Care Committee has submitted legislative concepts for increased access, Medicaid expansion from 138% to increasingly higher income levels, insurance premium stability, and coverage for immigrants residing in the state.  The Workgroup report and legislative concepts are listed on OLIS under the committee documents for the December 12, 2018 hearing.  Link

The Senate Health Care Committee received reports from the Opioid Task Force on a pilot project for pregnant women, which succeeded in keeping mothers united with children in 93% of cases.  It will be recommended that the program continue and expand.  The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has enrolled 96% of prescribers and seeks to eliminate pharmacy shopping for opioid drugs.

The Task Force on Fair Pricing of Prescription Drugs submitted a report, which is on OLIS in the meeting materials for the 12-13-18 meeting.  Link   This Senate Committee has also listed its legislative concepts online.  Many of these LCs cover telemedicine and behavioral health, which will be of interest to League advocates and members.

Human Services Current Issues

The Department of Human Services Administrator and Child Welfare Head have been in the difficult position of answering accusations from the public, especially since they have been newly appointed agency heads.  DHS had experienced low morale and departure of staff in child welfare and has hired new staff with new training ongoing.  The child welfare leaders are trying to develop a positive and caring environment, evaluate chronic neglect and refer families to community services.

The media has been critical of the responsiveness and transparency from Child Welfare leaders.  The 18 child fatalities in the past year have reportedly resulted from an increase in deaths of newborns and suicides in teenagers.  Critical Incident Response Teams are formed after the death of a child in custody of Children’s Services.  The administrative staff investigates and reports to the Governor. The Committee members were supportive of agency staff efforts to improve safety and will continue to monitor the reports.

Public Health services in the community for bullying incidents and suicide prevention were encouraged by presenters.  Treatment for childhood trauma was seen as essential for future mental health stability.

Independent Living Services were sought by youth leaving foster care.  Services are currently available for ages 16 – 21 but youth requested an expansion to 14 – 23 to prepare for independence.    The Annie E Casey Foundation recently released a report on youth transitioning from foster care.  They found the majority of teens age out instead of returning home.  They need educational support or employment assistance services to become independent. This issue will be considered in the 2019 session.

Student homelessness is a growing problem and causes students to drop out of school.  Liaisons in schools help families to connect to services in the community.  Nonprofit shelter facilities provide temporary housing to isolated students, but these independent agencies are not well funded in the education or social service agencies.  The League has worked on Runaway and Homeless Youth issues.

A Budget Rebalance in Department of Human Services allocated additional funds for child welfare staff, a child abuse hotline, and an increased caseload in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.  DHS requested investigators for nursing facilities for Adults and People with Disabilities, and caseworkers for APD clients in hospitals for transfers to appropriate facilities. 

The Oregon Health Authority Rebalance included increased costs in the Oregon State Hospital, decreased tobacco revenue, growth in Medicaid numbers and costs, and retaining clients in housing.  OHA leaders requested to open a unit at the Junction City Hospital for Aid and Assist evaluations, but committee members would like to reduce the aid and assist commitments for misdemeanor offenses so community mental health received additional funding.  The next Rebalance will be during the 2019 session in April before the end of the biennium.

Joint Senate and House Judiciary Committees

These two committees meet together with a common agenda frequently.  The topics were Law Enforcement Contacts Policy, Trauma Informed Approaches in the Justice System, Post-Conviction DNA Testing, Crime Rates in Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle, and a Review of Public Defense Services.  The increase in salaries for Public Defenders has been sought over past biennia but will be more urgent due to recent court challenges.  Public Defenders appear in child welfare as well as criminal cases.

Public Safety issues to be considered in the next session are sentencing of youth for serious crimes, trauma informed practices in the justice system, gun safety, marijuana diversion, and treatment of possession of controlled substances.  Legislative concepts have been filed on mental defense in criminal cases, wrongful incarceration, and a Task Force report on Fitness to Proceed.  A few concepts cover marijuana amounts in transfers and in employment, family law issues and judicial fees.  These issues will be covered in detail throughout the 2019 session.

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


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