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Legislative Report, Volume 29, Number 27 – Interim – November 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

Ballot Initiatives

“100% Ready for Clean Air” Coalition (smaller but similar list of organizations as Renew Oregon Coalition) was formed and announced a total of four ballot initiatives on October 7 and November 7. These potential ballot measures address four possible ways (each progressively more challenging to some anti-Cap and Invest groups) of reducing/reporting greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon by 2045/2050 and provide intended incentives to a variety of businesses to encourage / ensure a preferred Legislative solution to putting a price on carbon pollution. (Find ‘Oregonians for Clean Air’ details HERE.) (The League does not consider joining ballot measure coalitions until they qualify for the ballot or, very rarely, if we are part of writing the measure and are one of the coalition’s founding organizations.)

Carbon Cap & Invest – Clean Energy Jobs HB 2020 (2019)

During the recent November 18-20 interim Legislative Days, the League provided a letter of concern to Rep. Karin Power and Rep. Pam Marsh, Majority and Minority Leadership and 27 other Legislators and the Governor, in response to the representatives’ “Oregon Resilient Communities Act” (ORCA) legislative concept proposal. The letter addressed five areas of concern. During our conversations with Legislators we also addressed the LWVOR 2020 Legislative priorities including the Climate Change highlights. The Renew Oregon Climate Action Day on November 18 was a great success.

Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) 

The LWVOR submitted a comment strongly opposing the Environmental Protection Agency-proposed rule changes to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The proposed rules would have far-reaching significance by claiming federal powers to overrule state and tribal authority granted by Congress in the Act, including by stripping away Oregon’s ability to protect our water from degradation by activities of the JCEP. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied the project’s Section 401 permit last May, but without prejudice. A reapplication is expected in January of 2020. The proposed rules are rumored to be fast-tracked. However, we have also been told the EPA may not make a decision on the 401-rule change until May of 2020.

The massive number of local permits needed by JCEP are overwhelming project opponents. Decisions on two other critical state permits the four southern Leagues (Coos and Klamath County and Rogue and Umpqua Valley) have been working to oppose—Removal-Fill (Department of State Lands) and Coastal Zone Management Act consistency (Department of Land Conservation and Development) have been extended until January and February, respectively. The status of both considerations is largely unknown at this time.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on November 15. Note that this is not approval of necessary FERC authorizations, rather it completes the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The Commission is scheduled to render its decisions on February 13, despite the fact that Oregon would not have decided on several key state permits and has urged against that. The four Leagues and other allies are studying the FEIS. 

Our Children’s Trust

On November 13 League members attended the ‘Chernaik v Kate Brown’ Oregon Supreme Court hearing held at David Douglas High School in Portland. Plaintiff’s Attorney, Courtney Johnson, Executive Director of Crag Environmental Law Center, was quoted: “The main argument is that the public trust doctrine requires the state to protect and preserve shared natural resources for all Oregonians,” said “So, when climate change is this huge threat to all of our shared natural resources the argument is that the state has a duty to protect our shared natural resources from climate change.”

Oregon Economic Analysis

The League continues to be very concerned that the Oregon Economic Analysis Quarterly Report presented to House and Senate policy committees this week did not highlight financial risks, climate mitigation (moving to zero greenhouse gas emission economy before 2050) and horrific risk of wildfire, water drought, health and safety and other climate related adaptation financial issues. This report excludes any mention of Climate except buried on page 65 of the detail report. The League is concerned that this issue needs broader consideration related to future costs to the state, the effect on future revenue and applicable future bond rating stress tests. (The Biggest Threat to Financial Stability Is the Climate – The American Prospect.)

Climate Emergency Declaration

The City of Corvallis passed a Climate Crisis Declaration in October and Benton County is considering a Climate Emergency Declaration. Over 1199 jurisdictions globally have declared with 55 in the U.S. Over 11,000 scientists declared in November. LWVOR passed a Climate Emergency Declaration at the May 2019 Convention..

(Find Ocean Acidification, Wildfire Prevention, 100 Year Water Vision, Fracking, Hazardous Waste/Fossil Fuel Transportation (Oil Trains) in the Natural Resource Section.)

It would be great to have volunteers; YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you (Energy (DOE), Transportation DOT, Agency Climate Adaptation updates, etc.) please contact Claudia Keith, ca.keith@comcast.net.


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Education Policy

By Chris Vogel, Education Policy Coordinator with Stephanie Feeney

Preparing for the short five-week 2020 legislative session, education committees held informational hearings on anticipated bills. Including student oral health as part of the Student Success budget and prioritizing the next ten-year capital construction projections for colleges and universities were discussed.

The Joint Interim Committee On Public Education Appropriation formally adopted the Report on Adequacy of Public Education Funding As Required by Article VIII, Section 8, of the Oregon Constitution. OLIS discussion from Doug Wilson, Legislative Financial Office (LFO) overviews the financing of education in Oregon. This is a useful background piece explaining how Oregon’s funding for education plummeted after property tax changes in the 1990s and the hope that the modified corporate tax funding in the 2019 Student Success Act may boost funding near prescribed levels of adequacy. For the 2019-2021 biennium, full funding of the Quality Education Model would require a State School Fund allocation of $10.73 billion. During the 2019 legislative session, the legislative assembly provided $9.0 billion for the State School Fund and established a modified corporate activity tax (MCAT) for the purpose of funding education. The legislature anticipates the new tax generating $1.6 billion in revenue for the current biennium directed toward funding education in the state, with over $0.6 billion of the new revenue allocated as part of the State School Fund, at least $0.7 billion going to districts in the form of grants, and the majority of the remaining funds generated by the MCAT directed to early learning programs. The 2019-2021 Legislatively Adopted Budget represents a significant narrowing of the insufficiency reported in past years, from 23.9 percent in the 1999-2000 biennium to 9.8 percent, or $800 million, for the current biennium. The factors contributing to the insufficiency continue to be the effects of Measure 5’s (1990) limits on property taxes; competition for limited state resources with programs such as social services and criminal justice; and increasing annual costs of providing educational services, such as salaries, Public Employees Retirement System contributions, health care benefits, and increasing student needs. The Quality Education Commission predicts that graduation rates would rise faster and to higher levels with funding at the level required by the Quality Education Model. At full funding, the predicted graduation rate averaged for all students reaches nearly 90 percent by the 2024-2025 school year. Without full funding, the predicted graduation rate averaged for all students is forecast to be about 83 percent by the 2024-2025 school year, a difference of 7 percent.

The Senate Interim Committee On Education listened to several panels: oral health in schools, Project Outstanding and Talented You (OTY), dual credit funding mechanisms for college credit, and exploring a Ph.D. program for physical therapy at Western Oregon University. Watch OLIS and read submitted materials.

Of interest, Ben Cannon, Executive Director of Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), addressed the question of local university autonomy and oversight of universities and colleges by state law and HECC (at about 28 minutes on the OLIS recording). He urges early notification by universities and colleges regarding planning new offerings, to better serve Oregon students with mission differentiation among college programs.

A panel of five addressed dual credits earned in high school that applies to college or universities. Watch the PowerPoint or listen to OLIS starting at about 40 minutes).

Project Outstanding and Talented You (OTY) helps high school students identify strengths and goals, a growth minded curriculum for accountability, increasing graduation rates. It is a pilot being developed in Oregon and may be considered for curriculum statewide. Read the overview.

Oral health in schools was overviewed at about 1:20 on the OLIS recording and in this PowerPoint. Half of children have preventable cavities, 20% have untreated cavities, prevalence is higher in rural areas. School absence is three times higher in students experiencing dental pain and oral disease. School based dental programs and the neighborhood dentist program pairing volunteer dentists with specific low-income Title I schools, address everything from critical abscess to simply providing toothbrushes and floss to students never having seen a dentist. The Student Success health education standards requested oral health; more to be seen in the 2020 session. Only physical and mental health is now in Student Success language. Physical, mental and oral health is anticipated to be addressed. In 2023-2024 health standards will be deeply reviewed with implementation in 2025.

Joint Interim Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education received a report on a 10-year comprehensive strategic plan for capital investment in Oregon’s public universities. These funds flow through the Capital Construction budget. During the 2019 session, the Legislature approved $65 million for public university capital improvement and renewal, but deferred approval of remaining university capital requests pending completion of the 10-year Strategic Capital Plan. HECC is currently reviewing updated public university capital requests totaling $391.7 million of state-supported general obligation bonds. Prioritized capital projects are anticipated to be submitted to the legislature in December 2019 for consideration during the 2020 session that starts in February. PowerPoint and OLIS video offer details.

We are already working in coalitions to consider and promote legislative concepts for 2020’s short session and the next long session in 2021. Our work in LWVOR Action is only as strong and as in-depth as our volunteers allow. We are seeking new LWV legislative action team members for early learning, PK-12, career and technical education, at-risk youth, community college, and higher education. If you are able to contribute a few hours (from your home computer) and have an interest in strengthening Oregon’s education system, please contact ChrisVogelVolunteerLWVOR@gmail.com We need you! Gratitude to Stephanie Feeney for following early learning this session. Please join us. 


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Governance

By Norman Turrill, Governance Coordinator

News from around the interim legislative session about campaign finance reform, redistricting, and more.

Campaign Finance Reform

The House and Senate Rules committees did not meet during the interim legislative days, except that Senate Rules met to consider appointments. However, the Senate Campaign Finance Committee met to consider a proposal by Sen. Golden for campaign contribution limits and to hear testimony from anyone. Former Senator Alan DeBoer made an interesting proposal that only contributions from individuals be allowed. The League submitted testimony after the meeting.

The legislature’s referral of SJR 18 to the voters for the 2020 General Election is now referral Measure 401. The League has formally endorsed this ballot measure and joined a group of organizations to support its passage. This state constitutional amendment would enable campaign contribution limits, advertising disclosures, etc.

Redistricting Reform

Redistricting was not discussed during the interim legislative days. However, a diverse coalition of organizations, People Not Politicians, led by the League, has now filed three initiative petitions to amend the state constitution to institute a 12-member independent citizens commission to redistricting of the state for both congressional and legislative districts. Because of the long ballot title process, petitioning may not start for months. These proposals are aimed at the 2020 general election ballot.

Citizen’s Initiative Review, Marge Easley

The Citizen’s Initiative Review Commission is looking for funding for the next round of reviews for the 2020 ballot.

Cybersecurity & Privacy, Becky Gladstone

For technology, three eye-openers led this week: Rep. Nathanson and Sen. Riley co-chair the Joint Committee for Information Management and Technology (JCLIMT). Co-Chair Chuck Riley says we “will have cybersecurity issues on every agenda into the foreseeable future.” This week’s meeting featured Oregon’s “ShakeAlert” and “AlertWildfire” systems, and ransomware, notably in Coos and Gresham. Watch the video! The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Task Force talked about “de-identified” personal data that can still reveal an identity. These complemented our Cybersecurity and Privacy Today study, with Rep. Nathanson calling for “Cyber Hygiene.” Look for groundwork during this coming short session, but mostly preparing for the 2021 long session.

Oregon’s ShakeAlert

The League was invited to visit a ShakeAlert detector site. We have strong positions to support seismic preparedness and look forward to sharing information. They showed us the UC Berkeley MyShake phone app. It could give minutes of advance warning, for example if it detects a quake out in the Pacific, before the seismic waves spread to reach land. We could protect each other, our utilities, open fire station doors, etc., described in the same video.

Ransomware

More than $200,000 is lost daily to ransomware (globally). Portland was hit repeatedly, costing $550,000 in “lost work effort” and $50,000 in recovery, from 2015-2017. Complexity, impact, and cost are growing exponentially. The average time between “exposure and intrusion” is 243 days. They say that techniques are designed more now to fool people than for systems. The number of speakers anxious to help Oregonians protect ourselves was gratifying as we prepare our study resources.

Consumer Privacy

This Task Force has impressive “central table” members and observers, most known to us, also including Microsoft, Amazon, and the World Privacy Forum. They are comparing ongoing privacy rights management and legislation around the world, and they plan to file an Oregon legislative concept in May 2020.

Carrying Forward

Our They Represent You website: We confirmed ongoing interest this week, to be rallied during the short session for work in 2021. This League work led to an invitation to a proposed two-part ORMAPS Taxing Districts Work Group, one for technical discussions and one for policy.

Candidate Contact Information

We were stymied last session by the difficulty with reaching many judicial candidates. There are forty-one judicial candidates filed already for 2020, and the Oregon Department of Justice has offered to help during the 2020 session with complexities in reaching judicial candidates.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you, please contact Norman Turrill at n.turrill@lwvor.org.


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Natural Resources

By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator

Join the League in supporting Oregon’s 100-year water vision. Sign up on www.oregonwatervision.org. View the great videos and share with others. We are awaiting the filing of bills for the 2020 session. In the meantime, work continues in our agencies. 

Budgets

The League will be supporting a number of budget requests for 2020, including the Governor’s set of requests of about $6.4 million for data gathering and staff to begin the conversation around the 100-year Water Vision. We will also support a beginning set of budget requests around mapping and other implementation measures from the Governor’s Wildfire Council. The on-site septic loan program needs a General Fund financial infusion until a new program can be set up at the Dept. of Environmental Quality. Our priority, of course, will be seeing the adoption of a Cap and Invest bill.

Air Quality, Susan Mates

The Joint Task Force on Supporting Businesses in Reducing Diesel Emissions, established by HB 2007, has begun meeting. On October 31, they discussed the current fleet, clean diesel regulations, and existing incentives in Oregon, then heard from representatives from both California and Washington State about how they have handled these same issues in their states. In the tri-county area covered by HB 2007, there are approximately 19,000 medium-duty diesel vehicles and another 23,000 heavy-weight diesel vehicles that will be affected. Oregon has about $50M from the VW Mitigation Fund to use for the new incentives for these trucks. About 60% of miles logged in Oregon are by vehicles registered out of state that will not be captured by these new regulations. Both California and Washington have spent considerably more to fund their incentive programs. They last met November 21.

The House Interim Committee on Energy and Environment met on September 18 to discuss electric vehicle (EV) system capacity and transportation information that builds on SB1044 and HB 3141A. The Legislature leveraged $4.5 in federal matching funds to add to rural EV infrastructure. The I-5 corridor from Mexico to Canada continues to become electrified, and over 400 new EV models are anticipated by 2025. The committee heard several next steps to consider, including investing in hydrogen fuel cell technology. Most of all, the state needs a stable, reliable source of funding for transportation infrastructure.

We continue to follow the Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO) process. This becomes especially important, as the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) withdrew federal approval for light duty (car and light truck) vehicle emissions standards, effective in mid-November. If the standards had remained in effect, about eight percent of new vehicles sold in 2025 would be zero-emission, and the overall efficiency would be almost fifty percent higher than it would otherwise be in 2025. In Oregon, vehicle-related greenhouse gas emissions make up a very large and growing share (40%) of the total. Over time, the federal action likely will push areas in Oregon into non-attainment for ozone under the federal Clean Air Act. This has a significant effect on the ability of new industries to locate in these areas in Oregon. Allowing our new cars to be dirtier will put more pressure on efforts to reduce vehicle miles, such as congestion pricing, and require substantial investments in transit and other modes of travel.

The Air Contaminant Discharge Permit Fee Increase 2020 Rulemaking Advisory Committee Meeting met November 12. As part of the Department of Environmental Quality’s 2019-2021 Legislatively Approved Budget, the Oregon Legislature authorized a fee increase for the Air Containment Discharge Permit program to generate a 70% increase in fee revenue beginning July 2020. DEQ is preparing for a rulemaking to determine the specific increases for types of ACDP fees. The ACDP program currently implements approximately 2,400 air permits across the state and is funded mainly by fees. The increase will provide funding for six new permit writing positions and sustain the program for the next four years. This proposed rulemaking does not impact any Cleaner Air Oregon fees. The last fee increase for the ACDP program was 20% and effective June of 2014. The 2014 fee increase was estimated to maintain program needs through 2017. DEQ eliminated the equivalent of four fulltime employees in 2017-2019 to balance the budget. DEQ is working with an advisory committee to determine the best way to raise the approved revenue. DEQ will hold a rulemaking on the fee increase in early 2020 which will include a public comment period and public hearing. DEQ expects to present the proposed rules to the EQC in May 2020 in order to implement the fee increase on July 1, 2020. 

On November 12, a Breathe Oregon Community Forum was held to discuss “Deconstructing Diesel, Pt. 2”. The presentation by Adrian Martinez, Staff Attorney with Earthjustice in California, discussed some next steps we might consider in Oregon, including electrifying refuse trucks and for cargo equipment on docks. He exhorted us to push for changes at the local level (city/county) and to use the competitive drive (i.e. California vs Oregon) to reach goals.

On November 14-15, the Environmental Quality Commission Meeting included a presentation about the Vehicle Inspection Fee (VIP) fee increase. The DEQ asked for a modest revision of the fees for the Vehicle Inspection Program (VIP), the first increase in over twenty years. Expenses have exceeded revenues since 2013. For the Portland area, the fee was established as $21 in 1997, which would equal $33 in today’s dollars. The DEQ was requesting a fee increase to $25. Although they were confident about the legislature’s response, the bill was derailed by last minute lobbying. As a result, they are cutting staff and considering closing one or more of their inspection stations, which will result in longer wait times. In November, the DEQ is planning to ask the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission to adopt the new fees, which could then need to be ratified by the legislature in February. That will be an opportunity for LWV and others to speak on behalf of the VIP, an important component of our state’s air quality.

Cleaner Air Oregon Hazard Index Public Hearing was held on November 18. These proposed rules move more than 150 toxics to the more protective Hazard Index of 3 vs. the ridiculously unprotective Hazard Index of 5. But we all know that human health is negatively affected with any level above Hazard Index-1.

On Nov 19, the Joint Committee on Transportation heard information about electrification of medium and heavy-duty truck fleets.

Here is an Air pollution fact sheet from the Oregon Environmental Council, an Oregon Conservation Network partner.

Air quality permits issued by DEQ are now available online at the DEQ website.

Climate

(See also Climate section in this Legislative Report for other climate-related info.)

The Dept. of Land Conservation and Development is leading the effort to update Oregon’s Climate Change Adaptation Framework. Twenty-three state agencies have been working together on the update. Their objectives are related to Mitigation, Sequestration & Adaptation. Two new “risks” have been added from the 2010 version: Air Quality & Water Quality. (The good news is that we’ve been addressing these two the last few legislative sessions.) Tentative recommendations include: Establish a leadership and governance structure (This refers at this point to a multi-agency “Council” –separate from the Climate Authority (SB 928 from 2019)).

In 2021 we hope that EVERY AGENCY (of these 23) should provide at least ONE item for their agency budget related to this work. The Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan is required to be updated every 5 years. They want to link this Climate document to that requirement. Public comments are planned for February and April with adoption by LCDC in June.

Coastal Issues, Peggy Joyce

Oregon Ocean Science Trust (OOST) held an organizational phone meeting on November 20 to officially restore itself to a full Board membership and take the necessary steps toward implementing a process for receiving and handing out grant monies to support marine assessments and near shore coastal research. OOST is seeking state funding for the marine assessment study in the short February legislative session. The League supports this effort.

Rocky Habitat Management Strategy Update: New Phase 2 working group materials are now available on www.OregonOcean.info. They include an early draft of work being done by the Rocky Habitat Working Group (see here)

Goal 18 Update (ability of landowners to use riprap along beaches): Meeting notes, agendas, and presentation materials, as well as meeting schedule and membership roster can be found on the DLCD website.

DOGAMI

Preparing for Landslide Hazards: A Land Use Guide for Oregon Communities, October 2019 is available.

Calico Resources USA Corporation on November 15 submitted its consolidated permit application under Oregon’s chemical process mining laws and regulations. Calico is proposing to construct an underground gold mine, surface mill complex, and tailings storage facility at Grassy Mountain, about 22 miles south-southeast of Vale in Malheur County. The site includes both private and public lands managed by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Consolidated Permit Application is available for review. To receive future updates regarding the project electronically, e-mail your request to grassymtn-info@oregon.gov with “Grassy Mtn List” in the subject line.

Drinking Water Advosiry Committee, Amelia Nestler

The League continues to attend these quarterly meetings and is following emerging chemicals of concern that are or should be considered by our drinking water authority. Also, consider engaging in the League’s study of Biocides.

Emergency Services

Are you prepared for a flood? Here’s a brochure provided by the City of Corvallis, but it has many useful pieces of information.

Professor Douglas Toomey was part of impressive Shake Alert presentations last week to the Joint Committee on Legislative Information Management and Technology. The video and meeting materials are available in order to learn more about this exciting technology that may provide enough notice for local officials to be able to turn off or otherwise protect infrastructure and to notify people in time to protect themselves.

Energy

For the thirteenth year in a row, Oregon ranks among the top 10 most energy efficient states in the country, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. ACEEE’s 2019 scorecard ranks Oregon at No. 9. The report highlighted Oregon’s transportation initiatives for zero emission vehicles, its Home Energy Scoring program, work with appliance efficiency standards, and leadership around building energy codes. 

A public hearing will be held December 5  at 2 p.m. at the Oregon Dept. of Energy related to rulemaking to Implement HB 2496 (1.5% for Green Energy Technology Program). There is a call-in number: (877) 336-1831, access code 872206. Hearing materials, including the draft rules, Secretary of State filing forms, and parking information, are provided on the ODOE rulemaking webpage.

Forestry, Josie Koehne

The League has a new volunteer following forestry issues. She attended a State Forests Advisory Committee and a NW Oregon Regional Forest Practices Committee meeting in October.

The Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response released its report, predicting the cost of extended wildfire seasons will exceed tens of billions of dollars over the next 20 years. Studies suggest the comprehensive costs of wildfire are, on average, 11 times greater than the immediate costs of firefighting. With firefighting costs exceeding $500 million during high-fire seasons, comprehensive costs to Oregonians can total several billion dollars in a single year. The indirect costs of wildfires are high, too—according to another report, the health costs caused by wildfire smoke in Oregon in 2012 was over $2 billion. The report provides lists of actions, including possible funding, as guidance to the legislature for future consideration, including possible actions in the 2020 legislative session. The Council provided reports to a number of legislative committees in November. See meeting materials in the Senate Interim Committee on Wildfire Response and Recovery, the House Interim Committee on Natural Resources and House Interim Committee on Agriculture and Land Use. 2020 legislation may be recommended by the November legislative deadline, including bills on funding, mapping high fire risk areas of Oregon and building codes meant to harden housing.

Here is where you can find the Forest Carbon study done by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry.

Much of Oregon’s drinking water comes from our pristine mountain forests. You might be interested in watching this YouTube video of a particular Oregon Dept. of Forestry timber sale and link to drinking water near Arch Cape. CBS news did a long segment on Oregon logging.

The Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) is working with state and federal partner agencies to pursue a Western Oregon State Forests Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). They are currently in Phase 2, which includes developing conservation and timber management strategies as well as a public engagement process. Sign up for updates on the ODF website. Cindy Kolomechuk, HCP Project Manager, cindy.kolomechuk@oregon.gov. This project is especially critical considering the recent court case in Linn County where a jury awarded certain counties and special districts about $1 billion because of reduced timber harvest on former county lands.

Hanford

LWVOR member Marylou Schnoes has been appointed to the Oregon Hanford Cleanup Board. Her first official meeting was November 4-5 in Astoria. Congrats, Marylou! 

Land Use/Housing

The first Rulemaking for HB 2001 and 2003 was held on November 14. Peggy Lynch was appointed to the committee with Debbie Aiona as alternate. Nancy Donovan will serve on the Technical Committee, which will develop the HB 2003 Housing Strategy rules.

Land Use/DLCD Policy Agenda 

The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development is sharing its final 2019-21 Policy Agenda. The Policy Agenda is now available online. Some changes reflect League input.

Land Use/LCDC Meetings

The League continues to participate in Land Conservation and Development Commission meetings. The last meetings, held in Reedsport on November 21 and 22 and attended by the League, included a report on data collected from HB 4006 (2018) on Rent-Burdened Communities (a bill the League supported and has reaped rewards in relation to data that can be used in the HB 2001 Rulemaking—final report to be available in January), an update on the Climate Adaptation project (see above for more info), HB 2001 and 2003 Rulemaking (see above for more info), the Jordan Cove project (see the Climate Legislative Report) and a briefing on the Statewide Transportation Strategy and approach to reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the land use and transportation sector. The Governor has instructed LCDC, the Oregon Transportation Commission, the Environmental Quality Commission and the Oregon Dept. of Energy to set GHG performance measures, implement the Transportation Planning Rule to include GHG reduction targets and other implementing measures to achieve these goals. The League and others asked LCDC to move more aggressively in implementing SB 1059 (2010) and complete rulemaking under that 10-year old legislation. In a surprising move, LCD Commissioners offered a “Statement of Commitment” to adopt such a rule as it works with the other agencies to assure financing for local jurisdictions, but to consider a draft rule at its January meeting. The four agencies and their chairs will hold the first of four private meetings on November 25 to begin to address the Governor’s directions.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife

Governor Kate Brown and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are seeking applications for membership on the new Oregon Conservation & Recreation Advisory Committee. Details about the Advisory Committee and how to apply can be found on ODFW’s website. The number of committee members and their geographic representation was determined by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission at their October 11 meeting. The deadline to apply is December 13 and the Governor will appoint the members in early 2020.

Water

The League continues to work with others to advance a “water vision” for Oregon to continue our work on the Integrated Water Resources Strategy. We encourage you to take the survey and sign up for email notices at www.oregonwatervision.org.

LWVOR submitted a comment strongly opposing the Environmental Protection Act-proposed rule changes to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The proposed rules would have far-reaching significance by claiming federal powers to overrule state and tribal authority granted by Congress in the Act, including by stripping away Oregon’s ability to protect our water from degradation by activities of the JCEP. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied the project’s Section 401 permit last May, but without prejudice (meaning that they can reapply). A reapplication is expected in January of 2020. The proposed federal rule changes are rumored to be fast-tracked. However, we have also been told the EPA may not make a decision on the 401-rule change until May of 2020.

The League is participating in the rulemaking for HB 2085 (2019), the dam safety bill. The Oregonian provided a great article on the national issue around dam safety.

The new House Interim Committee on Water met on November 19. The Chair is providing members with a number of educational presentations around water, including the role of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Coordination in the Deschutes Basin, even the damage caused by the use of “flushable wipes” in our sewer systems. (If you use these wipes, please watch their presentation!)  

We have been asked to support a request in 2020 to continue to fund the on-site septic program which we have done in the past. SB 760 (2019) did not pass, but the need exists for low cost loans to repair failing septic systems.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, is calling on the public to nominate rivers that should be protected under the national list of Wild and Scenic Rivers. Congress enacted the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968 to preserve rivers that offered extraordinary natural, cultural and recreational value for the public. The act protects the free-flowing nature of rivers in both federal and non-federal areas. Nominations from the public will be accepted through Jan. 20, 2020 and can be sent to rivers@wyden.senate.gov.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality released its draft 2018/2020 Integrated Report and is soliciting comments on surface water quality assessment results through Dec. 2. This report represents the state’s most comprehensive evaluation of water quality data and information about Oregon’s waters. The report is accessible through both an online searchable database and a web-based map tool that is transparent and easy to use. View the full news release here. Oregon’s Draft 2018/2020 Integrated Report on Surface Water Quality and List of Water Quality Limited Waters is available on DEQ’s website.

DEQ issued the Willamette Basin Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The goal for the revised TMDL is to lower mercury levels in rivers, lakes, and streams throughout the basin, allowing for the safe eating of fish and shellfish. The TMDL is not effective until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approves it, and EPA is expected to take action by November 29, 2019. DEQ previously developed a Willamette Basin Mercury TMDL that was issued in 2006. As a result of TMDL litigation, EPA is under court order to act on this Mercury TMDL by November 29, 2019. For more information, see the full TMDL and water quality management plan.

Wetlands

The League is engaged in rulemaking on HB 2436, a bill that would allow the Dept. of State Lands to put together a program where Oregon would partially “assume” the responsibilities of the Army Corps of Engineers for some portion of Oregon’s removal/fill permit requests. An organizational meeting was held with a schedule of meetings monthly to continue to the end of 2020.

Regional Solutions, Peggy Joyce

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 MID-VALLEY Regional Solutions Advisory Committee will meet on Dec. 5 from 9-11:30a in McMinnville. The agenda is available.

The Regional Solutions Advisory Committees have been reviewing their “priorities”, which are used to have agency staff help or spending state money on behalf of projects in these regions based on these identified “priorities.” Are they your priorities? We encourage other members to call in or attend.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED YEAR ROUND! League members are engaged in rulemaking, work groups and task forces as we prepare for the next session. If you are interested in natural resource issues, please contact Natural Resources Coordinator Peggy Lynch @ peggylynchor@gmail.com.


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Revenue and Tax Reform

By Maud Naroll, Revenue and Tax Reform Coordinator

There may be more revenue than originally forecast this biennium. The short February session will see a bill on the Corporate Activity Tax that funds Student Success. February may also see action to remove an Oregon tax break for the wealthiest that originated with the 2017 federal tax bill. And LWVOR will need a new person to cover revenue, as the current coordinator will be taking on a new role in another state. Please contact ChrisVogelVolunteerLWVOR@gmail.com if you are interested or would like to nominate someone else.

Revenue Forecast

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) raised this biennium’s forecast by $163 million compared to their September figures. Most of the increase, $118 million, comes from a higher than expected balance as last biennium’s books closed. In addition, the corporate income tax forecast grew by $55 million. However, remember the kicker before thinking of ways to spend the potential extra revenue. Plus, we are in the 11th year of the expansion, uncharted territory, and job growth is slowing. Full forecast and slide deck here, video there.

Corporate Activity Tax

Recall that a new Corporate Activity Tax (CAT) will fund the education investments in the Student Success Act of 2019. The Legislative Revenue Office walked through several possible technical changes, including whether to allow businesses to register once rather than every year, letting CAT filers use the same tax year (fiscal vs calendar) they use for the corporate income tax (CIT), since some computations flow from the CIT to the CAT, and allowing the Department of Revenue to waive penalties, especially for those who mis-estimated their tax liability the first year or two of the new CAT. Senate Finance and Revenue will introduce a bill relating to the CAT in the February short session.

Tax Expenditures

HB 2128 called for the Legislative Revenue Office to consult with the Department of Revenue (DOR) and report on the definition of tax expenditures and their automatic sunsets. House Revenue heard an update. What is and is not a tax expenditure is not always clear. That was not so big a problem when the definition was used only to decide what did and did not go into the DOR report. It’s more of a problem when tax expenditures sunset after 6 years. When is something a tax expenditure, subject to sunset, and when is it just not part of the tax base, and safe from sunset? Should it be the base when the law is originally passed, in which case the CAT currently has no tax expenditures, even though there are pages and pages of exemptions in the bill?

Also, statute does not give any entity the authority to decide what is or is not a tax expenditure and subject to sunset. Stay tuned – the report is not due until February 2021.

Sneak Preview: What We Know So Far About the Short Session

There will be a bill on the CAT, which funds Student Success. LWVOR, not a fan of tax expenditures, hopes the bill is just technical fixes and not more tax expenditures.

Tax Fairness Oregon (TFO) and other groups are working to disconnect Oregon from Opportunity Zones, part of the 2017 federal tax package that Oregon, by regularly adopting federal changes to the tax base, adopted as well. Opportunity Zones are a tax break for capital gains invested into state-designated areas that include high-rises in downtown Portland. Since almost all capital gains go to the wealthiest, this is a tax break mainly for the rich. The League supports progressive taxes, with the rich paying a larger share of their income in tax than the poor do. Thus LWVOR does not support tax breaks aimed at the wealthy, and supports disconnecting Oregon’s tax base from the Opportunity Zones tax break.

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

Public Safety issues were discussed in a Joint Judiciary hearing with Senate and House members.

The Family Preservation Project at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility needs continued funding for its mothers and children program. Former inmates testified about the value of having contact with their children during incarceration and the motivation to stabilize their lives upon release.

Crime Survivors, especially women of color, are served by the Portland community, outreach workers, and transition programs from the prisons.

Juvenile Detention Guidelines are being revised by a committee with Juvenile Department Director advisors. The new requirements will be tested in Albany, one of 12 detention centers in the state. New regulations cover time in isolation, behavior controls and restraints. Disability Rights Oregon staff have been advisors in this process. Crisis mental health services should be part of the guidelines.

SB 24 Implementation by courts and community mental health services was discussed for Oregon State Hospital commitments for Aid and Assist evaluations. This was passed in the regular session and was an update on implementation.

Public Defense Services was granted a budget increase in 2019 for current contracts until 6-30-2020. A new contract for July 1 will operate with new caseload standards, 30 additional attorneys, and a minimum hourly rate of $55. More oversight of attorneys and accounting is in the plan.

The Interim Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee accepts reports on needs but does not allocate funds until the 2020 Short Session. The Oregon Judicial Department submitted compensation changes for current employees. The Department of Administrative Services also submitted compensation changes, which will roll over and affect the next biennium budget.

The Department of Justice presented a proposal to change billings for legal services, which is now based on an hourly rate, to a percentage of use rate by state agencies. There were some objections to this proposal and it would require federal approval due to federal payments to the agencies.

The committee heard reports on the Youth Challenge expansion in Deschutes County with kudos to Sen. Jackie Winters for her support of the program. Youth Challenge is a residential high school program under the auspices of the Oregon Military Program. There will be new space housing females after construction is due to be completed in January.

The Department of Public Safety and Training (DPSST) will request additional funding for firefighters training and equipment at the Salem facility. This committee also received reports on natural resource agency and park and recreation needs.

The House Health Care Committee set an ambitious agenda on 11-19 but did not cover it all in the time available. Patrick Allen, of the Oregon Health Authority Director, talked about the Coordinated Care Organization 2.0 contracts which are due to start on January 2020. Observations were that contracts favored large insurance carriers over local models. All had existing provider networks.

The 2.0 contracts are in effect for five years. One year contracts in 4 areas will be reviewed before the CCOs are extended to the full five years. The Department of Consumer and Business Services conducts financial evaluations separately from the OHA Finance Actuarial Services Unit, so there is double examination in the accountability process. During the past contracted period Emergency Department use was reduced to 50% and cost growth was held to 3.4%.

John McConnell, an economist from Oregon Health Sciences University, spoke about Health System effectiveness and utilization management in Oregon compared to other states. His slides are on OLIS for the 11-19 House hearing. SB 889 (2019) was cited as benchmark reference for Oregon Policy.

Steven Allen, the OHA Behavioral Health Director, spoke about the need for access to services for adults and adolescents. There is a shortage of Qualified Behavioral Health workers, prescribers including nurse practitioners, and paraprofessionals. Research confirms the quality of the relationship with workers as the most important factor. However, turnover of staff is high and affects treatment. Language and cultural factors require interpreters. Billing is a problem with co-occurring disorders, since it involves both the physical and mental health systems.

Community Mental Health Programs receive state funding and 12 sites receive federal funds. Two rural projects draw grant funds for 4 counties with economic distress. The Senate Mental Health Committee plans to prepare a funding bill for the 2020 Session. The DCBS has conducted an examination of reimbursement rates for office visits as directed in SB 860 (2017). Reports are pending.

The Human Services Committees were introduced to the new Child Welfare Director, who has experience as a foster child herself, as well as professional experience in other states. The current goal for the agency is to build capacity for services in Oregon while continuing to provide oversight for children placed out of state. The Governor had appointed an Oversight Board for Child Welfare and the Board reported to the Legislative Committee. A broader Children’s Cabinet, appointed to advise on the integration of children’s programs across state agencies, also reported.

The House Human Services Committee plans to introduce bills, which failed to pass in 2019 session, for reconsideration in the Short Session. The bills are HB 2258 on family treatment courts and HB 3180 on the prevention of abuse and neglect of native children. The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law, which is not reflected in state law.

Family treatment courts were approved in committees but did not get funded or passed in the Ways and Means process. This proposed program in the courts would require funds for additional judges and program managers. Only 2 districts received a new judicial position during the 2019 session. SB 745 requested transition services for teens at age 14 or above in the custody of Children’s Services, but this bill, with related funding, was also not passed by Human Services Ways and Means Committee.

The Governor’s staff reported that the Opioid Task Force passed in HB 4143 has been studied under the Department of Consumer and Business Services and will report back. Substance abuse disorder may be passed down in generations. Project Nurture has shown some success in breaking the progression.

Several organizations discussed homeless students in schools and need for housing resources. Federal programs do not meet the needs and state resources (specific tax sources) are needed. Veterans Services provides help to homeless but the need exceeds the level of service. Vets are difficult to locate to get services. The work group on Racial Housing may draft a bill on homeownership assistance.

The Senate Human Services Committee presented a follow-up on SB 1 and 221, which provided in-home services and supports to families with children, crisis services and treatment foster care. SB 171 reported that 35 children were now placed out of state versus 88 at the start of 2019. John Aarons presented a slide show on his Treatment Foster Care Program in Lane County. The Senate hearing was on 11-19 if you would like to listen in or read the PPT presentation.

Housing, Debbie Aiona and Nancy Donovan

Below are actions proposed in Housing for the 2020 short five-week Legislative session beginning on February 3.

On November 18, members of the House Interim Committee on Human Services and Housing were briefed on two potential housing bills as described below.

  • Representatives from Northwest Pilot Project and three Housing Authorities proposed to create a State Long-term Rental Assistance Program to provide long-term rent assistance vouchers to persons with extremely low incomes to find housing from private landlords. It would be similar to the federal Section 8 program but more flexible. Housing Authorities already have the capacity to administer such a program. Local pilot programs have demonstrated positive impacts on recipient’s health, mental health and housing stability.
  • Operation Welcome Home is a program of OHCS and ODVA to end and prevent veteran homelessness in Oregon. 587 veterans were housed over a nine-month program, which ended in July 2019. More funding will be requested to continue this successful program.

On November 20, the Senate Interim Committee on Housing and Development heard a presentation by Habitat for Humanity on the Healthy Homes Initiative to assist homeowners living in unsafe homes that need help with critical repairs. Habitat is proposing $6 million in funding to CAP agencies to add to their weatherization programs. Also, the Committee heard from OHCS and ODVA on Operation Welcome Home (described above).

Fair Housing Enforcement changes are being proposed to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and the new Commissioner is supportive. The request is to change the law to allow BOLI to investigate fair housing complaints, as it did prior to 2015. The agency would investigate a claim, and if there is evidence of a law being violated, BOLI would take action to remedy the situation. HUD would be asked to provide resources to support BOLI’s work through a contract and grant funds.

A proposed change and funding are proposed for the Oregon IDA Initiative. Individual Development Accounts are matched savings accounts that build the financial management skills of qualifying lower income Oregonians while they save towards a defined goal. This program meets state goals of reducing disparity by race and ethnicity, increasing homeownership in communities of color and supporting micro enterprises. Because of changes in the federal tax law and IRS code, the IDA account is facing significant funding cuts. The proposed request is a one-time allocation of $4.5 million from the general fund.

The Independent Living Program provides support for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. The proposal would expand the age range to better serve youth and increase funding for transition services. The effort is being led by the Oregon Foster Youth Connection.

Upcoming Meetings

Peggy Lynch (lead) and Debbie Aiona (alternate) will attend a Rulemaking meeting for Middle Housing (HB 2001) and Housing Production Strategies (HB 2003) on December 16 in Salem. Nancy Donovan will attend a Housing Alliance Member meeting in Salem on the same day.

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


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