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Legislative Report, Volume 29, Number 4 – February 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

LWVOR members attended the Feb. 6 Clean Energy Jobs (CEJ) Lobby Day.

The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction (JCCR) canceled the Feb. 4 scheduled meeting. The Feb. 8 informational meeting included the long awaited Economic Impact Study presented by David Roland-Holst, Managing Director and Principal, Berkeley Economic Advising and Research, LL. “Our primary finding is that Oregon can meet its 2050 climate goals in ways that achieve higher aggregate economic growth and employment,” David Roland-Holst, a UC Berkeley economist, told the JCCR.

LC 894, now HB 2020, continues to receive news coverage. It addresses 45% interim 2035 GHGE reduction targets, based on 1990 pollution levels. However, it’s unclear how this legislation could address the Jordan Cove Energy Project proposed for Coos Bay or other new fossil fuel infrastructures. The current bill assumptions would not accomplish zero GHGE by 2050 that is necessary to meet 1.5º C maximum warming. (Refer to the LWVOR Climate Change (CC) Legislative reports (Feb. 4, Jan. 14 and Jan.26) for the League CC resolutions policy framework and scope, including how the League CC position does not agree to the recent Governor’s Carbon / Climate Policy November 2018 announcement.) The JCCR plans public hearings on Feb. 15 and 18. There are discussions regarding taking this issue “on the road.” More amendments are expected and the committee is not expected to vote on this legislation until mid or late March. The League has prioritized advocacy that addresses our positions and recent climate change resolutions, including meeting aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction targets balanced with ensuring that equity/social policy issues are addressed. The League continues to agree with the Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) and Renew Oregon CEJ proposed policy outcomes.

Other Bills

The League is supporting HB 2623 creating a 10-Year Fracking Moratorium. Shirley Weathers, Claudia Keith and the League submitted written testimony last week to the House Committee on Energy and Environment for the Feb. 7 public hearing. The LWVOR is working with a number of other groups on this bill and hope to pass this important legislation this year. Our testimony may be similar to 2017 HB 2711 A. Related, here’s Coos Bay Curzon Energy PLC info.

We are encouraged, after four legislative sessions, to see Oil Rail Safety disaster prevention and response, including appropriate funding legislation receive public hearings. The League supports SB 41 and SB 99. We support the Governor’s recommendation for forming and funding an Oregon Climate Authority state agency, which would assist coordinating climate mitigation and adaptation efforts across all agencies, including folding the Dept. of Energy into the new agency, HB 5044. We support, with many other groups, an off-shore gas and oil drilling moratorium, SB 256. We oppose SB 444, small scale nuclear energy. We support SB 598, which addresses changes related to the Oregon Global Warming Commission, including folding it into the new Climate Authority, renaming it to “Oregon Climate Change Commission” and providing a real budget. Other bills we may support: HB 2209, HB 2064 and SB 45.

Other Climate Change Advocacy

– Jordan Cove & Pacific Gas Pipeline: Recent developments include over 35,000 testimonies, including Jackson County Commissioners’ opposition to the Dept. of State Lands removal/fill permits. Our four local southern Leagues and the state League provided a letter.

– Our Children’s Trust (OCT) recent developments: In the Federal case, the 9th Circuit will expedite an interlocutory appeal. The LWVOR and LWVUS may submit a third amicus brief in March. In the State of Oregon case, they received an unfavorable ruling, and OCT will appeal. On Feb. 7, Our Children’s Trust filed a motion to stop the federal government from leasing out federal land and offshore areas to fossil fuel companies for oil, gas and coal extraction. It also demanded a halt in federal approvals of new fossil fuel infrastructure. The motion, asked for a temporary injunction to freeze all fossil fuel infrastructure permits while an early appeal of their case, Juliana v. United States, is being considered. “At a minimum, this injunction would apply to the approximately 100 new fossil fuel infrastructure projects poised for federal permits, including pipelines, export facilities, and coal and liquefied natural gas terminals,” the motion said.

– Green New Deal: On Jan. 10, the LWVUS signed onto, with 600+ other groups, a Green New Deal Congressional letter and referred to it in its recent League Update. The Oregon Green New Deal coalition has formed, and the LWVOR will consider joining this group with a decision most likely later this spring. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., foresee as a massive policy package that would remake the U.S. economy and, they hope, eliminate all U.S. carbon emissions. They formally introduced their legislation Feb 7.

Environment Oregon is launching, “This is Climate Change,” an online storytelling project to share the stories of Oregonians already feeling the impacts of climate change. The plan is to share these stories with decision-makers and others to reinforce that climate change isn’t something happening in the distant future, but one that is impacting us, our neighbors and our environment right now. You can read the stories at “This is Climate Change”.

The CC team: Julie Chapman, Shirley Weathers, Cathy Frischmann and Nancy Murray. Openings: We critically need volunteers to cover transportation, Oregon 2010 Climate Adaptation Plan update, and forestry/ag renewable energy policy.

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.  

This past week the Joint Committee on Student Success addressed measurement metrics, the complexity of the early learning patchwork of programs, and how the state may best raise revenue to support education changes.  Other education committees considered bills to diminish youth suicide, make allowance for student mental health absences, and provide mailed books to children younger than five. Written assessments for students younger than third-grade sparked a heated discussion.

Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education will tackle the complex budgeting for P-20 Education starting on 2/13/2019, so in the next LR we shall present highlights.  Those who want to join in real time may find items posted on Wednesday in meeting materials.  In Oregon’s process the subcommittee first considers budgeting requests before they move to full Ways and Means.  This year policy bills and budget recommendations that flow through the Joint Committee on Student Success will make the budgeting complex even more complex than usual.

Joint Committee on Student Success Early Childhood Education (sub group meetings) held two Information packed meetings this week.

On 2/5/2019 Miriam Calderon, System Director, Early Learning Division, ODE, presented an overview of the early learning system in Oregon, including existing programs and challenges. Her verbal presentation and slide deck were based on the three main objectives for the new Raise Up Oregon early education initiative:

  • School readiness
  • Healthy stable families
  • Coordinated system for early learning, family centered

Content addressed adult caregivers of young children and the importance of a diverse workforce; the commitment to optimize choices for families by providing a mixed system of program delivery, familiesʻ need for child care, especially for infants and toddlers, and the need for more child care licensing workers. The presentation reviewed state funded early education programs in Oregon including the OR prekindergarten program, Preschool Promise, Preschool Special Education and programs for infants and toddlers. Slides showed how many children meet the income eligibility for each of these programs and how many are actually served. The gap is huge! Family support programs and issues relating to teacher/caregiver training and retaining a diverse workforce were also addressed. Additional background is found in the Early Learning Program Fact Sheets and the State Early Learning Programs Matrix. (Written update by LWV member Stephanie Feeney)

On 2/7/2019 Doug Wilson, Principle Legislative Analyst, Legislative Fiscal Office also made a  verbal presentation summarizing work on goals done by the Students Ready and Able to Learn Work Group of the Joint Committee on Student Success. The presentation included slides on funding for proposed early education programs including cost estimates. The sub-committee identified four major goals. The first two, healthy attached families and affordable high quality preschools were discussed. Programs addressed were Healthy Families OR, intensive early childhood services such as Early Head Start, Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Ed (ECSE), parenting education, state subdidized preschool programs for children 3-5 who have not entered kindergarten (especially children below 200% of federal poverty level), and equity funds for culturally specific programs.The presentation also focused on expanding the early learning workforce and making it more diverse. The goal is to build an integrated birth-to-five system that supports children and families. LWVOR observations: There appears to be strong commitment from subcommittee members to moving forward with funding for early education initiatives. The problem is that the needs are great and there is an enormous gap between the percentage of children being served in each type of program and the number of eligible children and families who want and would benefit from the programs. It appears that some funding will be found, but given the magnitude of the need and fiscal constraints in the state, the process of determining priorities is going to be very challenging. (Written update by Stephanie Feeney)

Stand for Children and Chalkboard Project were invited to present guidelines to the Joint Committee on Student Success Student Success Accountability and Transparency Subcommittee on 2/7 about designing new Student Success metrics. KairosPDX and Education Northwest may also speak at a future meeting about designing research and evaluation to drive student success. On 2/5 the committee heard the Oregon Department of Education – 2019 Audit Recommendations in the Secretary of State auditor’s report, Andrew Love and Scott Learn (presentation)

House Committee on Education 2/4/2019

Considered testimony on HB 2318—that prohibits State Board of Education from requiring, and school districts from administering, assessments to students enrolled in prekindergarten thrugh grade 2. The verbal testimony and written submissions were divided between supporters and those who had reservations about the impact of the legislation. The intention is to protect children, but the bill does not appear to be clear enough about what assessments are addressed. Also heard was HB 2247 about the Imagination Library which provides free books to families. Rep. Lively and others testified in support of funding the measure. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (presentation) received positive comments with no opposition testimony. (Written update by Stephanie Feeney)

An emotional hearing 2/6 discussed suicide prevention and communication with youth. Virtually all students and schools are impacted. Hear about the issue. Another public hearing next week will discuss all of these but focus on SB 180 since time ran short this week.

    • SB 52 requires school district to adopt policy on student suicide prevention.
    • SB 485 directs Oregon Health Authority to collaborate with certain schools and facilities when developing plan for communication following suspected suicide.
    • SB 180 directs Department of Education to award grants to school districts to support safe schools by funding programs related to bullying prevention and youth empowerment.
    • SB 489 encourages school districts to collaborate and enter into agreements with law enforcement and providers of social media websites and applications for purpose of responding to acts of cyberbullying.
    • SB 584 establishes Statewide School Safety and Prevention System.

Students and professionals shared experiences and stories encouraging a policy to allow for school absences due to mental health 2/6,

    • HB 2191 expands reasons for excused absences from school to include mental or behavioral health.
    • HB 2327 establishes Statewide School Safety and Prevention System.
    • HB 2307 directs Department of Education to conduct study related to safety of career and technical education spaces.

Oregon Law allows individual schools to determine which absences, other than illness or family emergency, should be excused. Some schools do not recognize mental illness as an excused absence – requiring the student, or their parent, to either claim they have a cold or not be able to make-up tests and homework. By not explicitly recognizing mental health as an excused absence we are adding further stigma to a common and treatable condition.

To follow specific committee discussions in detail, use these links; then click on a specific date to see the agenda, meeting materials and video recording.  We routinely follow:

2019 is a very busy year for Education legislation. If you have an interest in working with us, following specific assigned bills, watching recorded OLIS hearings from home on your own schedule, or making recommendations to assure LWVOR Action is effective in following bills, then please contact ChrisVogelVolunteerLWVOR@gmail.com. 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 and Sharon Posner; Higher Education: Alice Bartelt and Karan Kuntz


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Governance

By Rebecca Gladstone, Governance Coordinator  

Thanks to our volunteers! You’re welcome to work with us, too.

Rick Bennett, governance bills review
Marge Easley, National Popular Vote
Josie Koehne, Transparency, Public Records
Ann Potter, League position review
Norman Turrill, Redistricting, Campaign Finance

Brief

Bills are stacking up in committees as agendas now largely work to familiarize new members with ongoing efforts. We expect schedule flurries after legislators sift through bills and prioritize. Some meetings are simply cancelled or postponed as relevant bills are being negotiated and amended. We are seeing ethics, elections, and/or revenue overlap with bills so we’re comparing notes and plan to coordinate. We are grateful for the reliable OLIS video coverage which may be more important with snow predicted for much of our 3rd week of session. This week’s governance bill grab bag includes several on daylight savings: SB 320, SB 464, and HB 2297, none assigned hearings yet. More on this, too, to be sure…

House Rules

In a meeting with Chair Rep Holvey this week, we admitted that LWV lacks positions for advocating on his two bills below. We appreciate efforts to study blockchain technology. We anecdotally share the common perception that cryptocurrency is “dark money”, do not want to see it used for campaign contributions due to the lack of transparency, and also are leery of the “extreme volatility of Bitcoin on the stock market”, cited from the hearing. Learn more 22 minutes into the video from the Dept of Consumer and Business Services, with presentation
HB 2487 directs Oregon Department of Administrative Services to study and make recommendations regarding use of blockchain technology by state agencies to administer public services.
HB 2488 prohibits state government from accepting payments using cryptocurrency.

Senate Judiciary

Several bills flagged for us will be heard in this committee.
SB 360: This 62 page bill “… represents a significant effort to update the Nonprofit Corporation Act [ORS chapter 65]. It streamlines administrative tasks for nonprofit organizations, without limiting the Attorney General’s enforcement authority, and represents an improvement to the Act.” See Dept of Justice two-page summary.
SB 366 caught our attention because it addresses a specific feature of consumer protection, “Removes sunset from statutes that regulate guaranteed asset protection waivers.” We welcome help from interested members who would like to develop our coverage in this topic.

Joint Legislative Audits (JLAC)

A draft audit plan (overview) was presented from SoS staff (video). They meet with Agency Directors, the Governor’s office, and steer requests from legislators back to JLAC. They winnow down to top 30-40, using “high risk” factors, the criteria driving audit priority, listing as examples: leading with larger agency sizes and budgets, sustainability and audit history, and criticality of agency missions. Some strategic focus areas include cybersecurity and other high-priority IT topics, education as a continuing problem in Oregon, potentials for cost savings and revenue enhancement, public health and safety, vulnerable populations, and economic development. They continue to search for ways to incorporate citizen participation.

Redistricting, Norman Turrill

Little news on the redistricting front lines (punny?), except that we are actively recruiting sponsors for the Redistricting Matters Coalition’s proposal that is currently being drafted in Legislative Counsel.

The League has held 16 popular educational forums throughout the state and more are scheduled in February and March. The next forum will be 2 pm, Feb. 23 at Rooster’s Restaurant in Pendleton. If the legislature does not refer an amendment to the 2020 ballot, then discussions are underway for an initiative petition drive.

Campaign Finance, Norman Turrill

The Senate Committee on Campaign Finance will hold a hearing Feb. 13 about proposals for small donor elections; the League has been invited to testify.

Bills that are of interest to the League:

HB 2134, which would extent the sunset of the political tax credit, had a hearing in House Rules. The Revenue Impact Statement shows that this tax expenditure would cost $32.9 million through tax year 2025. See the excellent Tax Credit Report by LRO that analyzes the policy purposes of this tax credit and shows that it has had a modest positive effect on encouraging small political contributions.

None of the following bill have yet moved beyond being assigned to a committee:

HB 2278 would require disclosure in ORSTAR of contributions to or expenditures of any political committee that supports or opposes any petition (initiative, referendum or recall) during the petitioning period. Such disclosures are now only required of the petition committees.

HB 2709 would specify types of expenditures that are definitively considered to be made in coordination with candidates for purposes of determining if they are independent expenditures. This is important for limiting independent expenditures that are often used for “hit pieces” during candidate campaigns.

HB 2710 would require the Secretary of State (SoS) to randomly select political committees 4 times per year to be audited. It also permits the SoS or Attorney General to audit political committees upon complaint from a voter.

HB 2712 would prohibit a candidate from expending campaign moneys for services from certain businesses required to be listed on the candidate’s statement of economic interest (SEI).

HB 2714 would establish another Task Force on Campaign Finance Reform. Compare with HB 2178 Enrolled (2015) on which a League representative served.

HJR 13, SJR 13 and SJR 18 would amend the state constitution to allow regulation of political campaign moneys.

National Popular Vote, Marge Easley

Please see our updated flyer for NPV. Meanwhile, we are working to educate legislators.

Transparency, Public Records, Josie Koehne

The Sunshine Committee formed a subcommittee that met Feb 1st to answer questions regarding ‘Personally Identifiable Information’ that makes up many of now nearly 600 exemptions. These exemptions from disclosure are designed to protect people from harassment, physical violence, or who are under investigation, but who have not yet been adjudicated, and to protect private financial, medical and business information, for just a few examples. The team will try to figure out and recommend what should and should not be disclosed. The LWV has a letter to the Sunshine Committee concerning an idea about how the disclosure criteria might be used in the future that will help agencies and the public understand when public records requests show to comply with the public records law.

Several new bills have been introduced this session.

HB 2345 would require state agencies to reduce public records fees for members of the media/press by half or waive fees entirely for local government agencies.

HB 2053 would apply attorney fees against public bodies that unnecessarily delay or fail to respond to requests.

SB 105 would call for a study for creating a chief privacy officer position. 

SB 223 would prohibit using personal email or private servers for official public business and calls for agency rules. 

SB 223, introduced by Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, calls for much more agency information to be put on the state transparency website, including itemized information about state agency nonpayroll and payroll expenditures, starting next January and August respectively, to be updated monthly. This is an important bill to watch.

There are about 14 bills that concern transparency and public records, and we will keep you posted once they are in committee.

Ethics

HB 2830: This bill not been scheduled yet. The tag line caught our attention, “Relating to penalties for public employees engaging in prohibited political activities”, so we networked with staff for Rep. Doherty, the sponsor, who referred us to Scott Winkel, lobbyist with League of Oregon Cities, for background.
“Prohibits Secretary of State from imposing civil penalty on person who violates prohibitions on political activities by public employees if person’s actions were sanctioned by relevant legal counsel.” See Bend Bulletin opinion. In digging deeper, this bill for local elections, moves “existing Secretary of State (SoS) Ethics Code safe-harbor language and inserts it into elections statute for levy, bond, code/charter amendments and candidate forums. 

  • It encourages people to consult with their attorneys before taking actions that could result in a legal liability.
  • The existing safe harbor process is taking longer than the prescribed elections rule of five days. This way, officials could communicate on elections issues with advice from counsel.
  • Finally, the SoS would like to get out of the business of providing safe-harbor to local governments on their levy, bond, code/charter amendments and candidate forums.  It’s taking up a lot of staff time and acting as a drag on their other operations. We’re attempting to find a method that relieves the SoS of that burden without placing public officials in jeopardy of personal fines. 
  • We have talked to the SoS about the bill, and you can expect to see changes as this progresses.

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

An incredible number of questionable land use bills were heard last week and are scheduled to be heard this week.  Natural Resource agency budgets are being quickly heard. Our coastal issues volunteer traveled to Newport to gain knowledge on important coastal issues. There’s new information about the South Slough.   

The League sent in written comments on HB 5002, the budget for the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture to the Jt. Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources.    

On Feb. 7th, the Land Use Board of Appeals budget bill, HB 5028, was heard. The League provided oral testimony because we believe that this small agency helps enforce our land use laws and provides citizens with a voice in the land use process.  

Next week the committee will hold public hearings on HB 5027, the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development budget. Public testimony will be taken on Feb. 12th.  The League supports our statewide land use planning program with local implementation. We will support Policy Option Package 101 that will provide technical assistance grants and one full-time planner (See also HB 2075 testimony).  We also support the department’s federal funds to update Oregon’s Climate Change Adaptation Framework and federal and other funds to help Oregon counties, cities and special districts continue preparation for natural disasters. 

Coastal Issues, Peggy Joyce

Fittingly, the Rocky Shores Working group meeting at the Oregon Ocean Aquarium in Newport completed its Part III update of the Territorial Sea Plan, which now goes to OPAC (Ocean Policy Advisory Council) for final review prior to public comment. This committee has spent many hours tweaking, re-writing, re-thinking, and re-imagining policy language in an effort to avoid the litigation cauldron that trapped Part V. Caution seemed to be the overwhelming driver on this last day of the re-write.  A public release is scheduled on Feb. 23. OPAC will hold a webinar on Feb. 23, 2-3:30 pm; a public comment period begins Feb. 23, with final adoption anticipated in May.  OPAC’s next meeting is scheduled for April 3 at the Holiday Inn, Salem, where Part V is expected to be adopted. Final adoption of these chapters is required by the Land Conservation and Development Commission so they can be used in our land use and Coastal Management systems. 

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 12 on two bills the League supports:  SB 753 allows the Oregon Ocean Science Trust to authorize outside groups (in this case the Oregon Community Foundation primarily, but there could be others) to raise monies for the purpose of funding scientific studies and investigations relating to climate change and its impacts on ocean acidification and hypoxia. The League has submitted testimony in support of this bill.

The second bill is SB 260 authorizing the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to establish a program for studies into ocean acidification and hypoxia and $1.9 million in funding. A -1 amendment is expected to be added to this bill requesting the bulk of that $1.9M be assigned to the Oregon Ocean Science Trust. The League has submitted testimony in support of the original bill, without commenting on the funding request.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources unanimously passed SB 256 (repeals sunset on moratorium on oil, gas and sulfur leasing in territorial sea).  The League signed on to a letter in support of SB 256, which would block offshore drilling in state waters now and in the future.  The bill now heads to the Senate floor. 

Drinking Water Advisory Committee, Amelia Nestler

The League provided testimony in support of SB 27, a bill that authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to adopt by rule a schedule for fees assessed on water suppliers to partially defray costs of authority related to performance of duties under the Oregon Drinking Water Quality Act.  It has been scheduled for a “possible work session” on Feb. 11 in the Senate Committee on Health Care. The -1 amendments will be considered to address some of the water supplier concerns, although we understand additional amendments may be forthcoming. 

Elliot State Forest

More information here.  On Feb. 5th, the State Land Board met and continued to move forward with Oregon State University taking over the Forest as a State Research Forest.  Oregon Public Broadcasting provided this report.  Of note is the section reporting: “Walker says the new agreement does not commit OSU to purchasing the land. She said the university has indicated it is not “capable of or interested in” taking on $120 million in debt to purchase the forest. “We’re continuing to have discussion about what options are there,” said State Treasurer and Land Board member Tobias Read of the university’s willingness to take on some portion of the sale price. “I suspect that there’s some capacity for timber-backed revenue bonds. (At what) level, I don’t think is clear yet.”

Environment

HB 2250, the Oregon Environmental Protection Act, was heard Feb. 5 in the House Committee on Energy and Environment. The Governor provided oral and written testimony in favor of this bill to require certain state agencies to regularly assess proposed and final changes to federal environment laws to determine whether changes are significantly less protective of public health, environment or natural resources than standards in effect as of Jan., 19, 2017, and requires state agencies to take actions to retain protections.  As the current federal administration weakens environmental protections, this bill is meant to protect Oregon’s environment and its people.

Land Use

HB 2001, a bill that would require certain cities and counties to allow “middle housing” in lands zoned for single-family dwellings and require a number of other changes to land use law, will be heard on Feb. 11 in the House Committee on Human Services and Housing. The League supports housing for all in communities, but has concerns about a number of provisions in this bill as written. A large number of testifiers are expected at this hearing.  

SB 2, which will allow some Eastern Oregon counties to designate up to 50 acres outside of urban growth boundaries for industrial or other employment, was heard in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Feb. 5.  With assumed adoption of the -1 amendments on Feb. 12 limiting the number of 50-acre designations to no more than 10 throughout the region, the League is neutral on this bill. 

HB 2228, a bill sponsored by the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) and League of Oregon Cities (LOC), asks for funding for land use planning work AND for technical assistance focused on a variety of local actions around affordable housing.  The League wants HB 2228 to be narrowed in focus so as not to duplicate the work being considered in HB 2075. A hearing on HB 2228 was held Feb. 4 in the House Committee on Human Services and Housing where the League provided testimony and proposed amendments to narrow the bill.  The Housing Alliance, of which we are a member, is working with all the parties to consider amendments that will provide for local jurisdictional help for facilitating local citizen conversations, adopting appropriate land use updates and finally getting projects on the ground.   

The League provided oral testimony opposing HB 2456, a bill that would allow some agricultural lands within the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region (defined in HB 2012 in 2017) to be rezoned in 1, 2, 5 and 10-acre lots and would allow tax credits to reward such behavior.  Oregon agriculture is our most stable industry and, although the land may not be Class 1 and 2 soils, it “grows” cattle–our first or second highest agriculture crop.  With water an issue, having more exempt wells in the area is also a threat to agricultural producers.    

SB 88, a bill that would allow counties to authorize accessory dwelling units in certain rural residential zones, was heard on Jan. 31 in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. A -1 amendment was included in the meeting materials to create additional state-required sideboards around such a use if counties choose to allow ADU’s in their development codes. The public hearing provided a number of other issues that may be included in future amendments, including clarifying that the 900 sq. ft. limit refers to the total size and “Is a garage allowed?”  We look forward to additional amendments and continue to work on polishing this bill so it addresses concerns around more housing in rural areas of the state. 

HB 2225, related to certain forest dwellings, had a hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use on Feb. 5.  The League will continue to follow this bill that attempts to reduce the number of new dwellings in forest zones, a position we support.

HB 2363, a bill that would amend HB 3012 (2017) that allowed conversion of an 1850-1945 dwelling to become an accessory dwelling unit and a new home to be built on the same lot, will have a hearing on Feb. 12 in the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use.  HB 2363 seeks to expand dwellings without a true nexus between preserving historic homes and our land use system, the purpose of the original bill.  The League will oppose.

HB 2357 will also be heard on Feb. 12.  It would limit “standing” in appeals of land use decisions to people who live within 25 miles and actually appeared before the decision maker (not just provided written testimony for the record).  The League has always opposed limiting the ability of people to participate in our land use processes.  We all pay for roads and other infrastructure.  Some people own multiple properties and have a personal interest in activities nearby.  Lastly, arguments around who should be able to participate end up in Circuit Court where those land use decisions are then delayed further.  This limitation does not lead to a simpler or more expedited appeals process. 

Marine Board

The League will follow HB 2351, which authorizes the State Marine Board to adopt special regulations to protect shoreline in Willamette River Greenway and HB 2352, which creates a towed watersports program within State Marine Board.

Solid Waste

HB 2772 establishes a product stewardship program for household hazardous waste.  There are a number of bills around various plastics bans:  bags, straws and other implements in an attempt to reduce our use of plastics. 

Scenic Waterways

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission will consider a recommendation to add a section of the Nehalem River as an Oregon Scenic Waterway on Feb. 21.  The Water Resources Commission will hear the issue on Feb. 22nd.  The League has been supportive of this program and hopes both Commissions will so designate.  For more information see State Scenic Waterway program.

Water

The League supported HB 2084, which would extend the Place-Based Planning program sunset to 2023.  This bill had a robust public hearing with members of the current efforts attending from around the state.  The bill had some technical amendments adopted and was passed 8-1out of the House Committee on Energy and Environment on Feb.7 and is headed to the House floor.  Funding for continuing this program is included in the Water Resources Dept. budget (HB 5043) to be heard in early March.

HB 2437, a bill on how the agricultural community deals with their need to clean ditches while protecting fish streams, was heard on Jan. 31 in the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use.  There is still much disagreement among the varied interests on this issue.  Additional bills, on whether or not the state should partially “assume” part of the role of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers related to some removal/fill permits (HB 2436) and establishing a pilot program to help some Willamette Valley cities develop a mitigation bank or find other answers to addressing the clash between wetlands and development (HB 2438), are tentatively scheduled for a hearing in March. The League is likely to support the third bill if Business Oregon can find a way to assist in the proposed program. 

The League has been a long-time supporter of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR) as has our Coos County League.  The State Land Board received a report on this important asset at its Feb. 5 meeting.  Additional information was presented at the meeting, including a letter from the Coquille Indian Tribe expressing concern related to a change in management, a memo on the South Slough’s work related to climate change, and a memo from Dept. of State Lands Director Vicki Walker related to alternative funding and management options for the SSNERR. The League continues to be concerned about any change in management for this first-in-the-nation estuarine research reserve.  On Feb. 7 the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources approved a federal grant application for $154,000 for a pole barn to house 2 each 35-foot canoes and an RV pod for a volunteer on the reserve.

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! We don’t have someone to follow Stewardship issues (as in plastic bag bans, etc.), Transportation and Toxics.  If you are interested in these issues OR have one bill you want to follow, please contact Peggy Lynch, peggylynchor@gmail.com


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Revenue and Tax Reform

By Maud Naroll and Chris Vogel, Revenue and Tax Reform Co-Coordinators

The Joint Committee on Student Success Revenue Subcommittee heard from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI). OBI agrees that education needs more revenue, says that PERS needs fixing to ensure additional revenue goes to the classroom, and proposes a business activity tax (BAT). The Legislative Revenue Office (LRO) walked through examples of business taxes that could raise $1 billion a year.

Joint Committee on Student Success Revenue Subcommittee

The Joint Committee on Student Success Revenue Subcommittee heard from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI). OBI agrees that education needs more revenue, and says that PERS needs fixing to ensure additional revenue goes to the classroom.  They are against a gross receipts tax (GRT) because of pyramiding, in which an input such as food can get taxed each time it changes hands from producer to wholesaler to grocery store. To avoid pyramiding, they propose a business activity tax (BAT), essentially a value-added tax (VAT), subtracting purchased inputs from business receipts to get the tax base. They allowed that a consumption tax like a BAT is regressive and hope it will be paired with reductions in personal income tax rates or increases in deductions or credits for low-income people. View their slide deck and listen.

The subcommittee also heard from the Legislative Revenue Office (LRO) examples of tax rates that would be needed to raise $1 billion a year from a gross receipts tax (0.33%), a value added tax (0.44% to 0.80%, or something else, depending on how it’s structured), and the existing corporate income tax (CIT) (11.76% – added to the existing rates).  The CIT has a much smaller base; under $10 billion compared to $300 billion for gross receipts.  They discussed advantages and disadvantages of gross receipts and value-added, and looked at how much higher rates would need to rise to reduce personal income taxes by half a billion/year, and/or eliminate the corporate income tax. Read the document. They also looked at Oregon’s rank, 7th lowest, in total taxes paid by businesses as a share of private-sector gross state product.

Other Interesting Bits from House Revenue and Senate Finance and Revenue

House Revenue heard about blockchain and crypto-currencies. Most non-payment of tax, the three presenters thought, is due to confusion and lack of information, rather than deliberate tax avoidance.  Crypto-currencies fluctuate in value compared to the dollar, so are both tender used to pay for transactions and assets fluctuating in value.  In the latter role, owners need to report capital gains or losses on transactions the way a stock sale is reported, including every time a Bitcoin is used to buy something on Overstock. It can be hard to figure out the basis for the Bitcoin just used, and teens and 20-somethings might not know they need to report. The three testifiers recommended the formation of a task force to look at the model legislation put out by the Uniform Law Commission.

Sneak Preview: What We Know So Far About the Week of February 14

Next week the Joint Committee on Student Success Revenue Subcommittee will hear from the Coalition for the Common Good, a group including Nike and a number of unions.  On Tuesday 2/12, Senate Finance and Revenue will hear SB 211 which raises the tax rate on many businesses such as S corporations, partnerships, and sole proprietors, whose income passes through to individual owners’ personal income taxes.  Currently, the individual’s share of business must be over $5 million before the tax rate hits 9.9%; this bill reduces the threshold to $415,000 for joint filers, heads of households, and surviving spouses. Wednesday they hear a wreath of estate tax bills, two of which eliminate the estate tax for anyone dying after 12/31/18, and the rest of which exempt parts of estates from tax. The Joint Committee on Student Success Revenue Subcommittee and House Revenue both get briefed on federal tax law changes, and House Revenue gets briefed on tax expenditures

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

The House Health Care Committee started off with many bills and has scheduled work sessions already for this week.  The most critical bill was HB 2010 which assessed hospital and insurance provider taxes to fund Medicaid services in the next biennium.  The provider taxes are collected from large hospitals, rural hospitals, nursing homes, commercial insurers, PEBB, OEBB, and long term care facilities as a match for federal funds for Medicaid payments. The Medicaid program has grown from 2013 to 2019 to cover 300,000 people in Oregon.  The state match rate has increased since the inception of the program. A larger tobacco tax is being considered to balance the needed match funds. 

The committee rejected two amendments to the bill, but it passed a referral to the Human Services Ways and Means Committee by a vote of 9 to 2. The Ways and Means process will review the financial situation for the operation of the health plan in 2020.  The bill was supported by the participating commercial insurance companies, medical groups, unions, and advocacy organizations. A Work Session is scheduled for 2-12-19 in Human Services Ways and Means.

The House Health Committee has scheduled work sessions on 3 other bills for Monday, Feb 12.  The bills are HB 2621 for a mental health crisis line in the Oregon Health Authority, HB 2691 for a psychiatric help line for physicians at Oregon Health Science University, and HB 2667 for an Adult Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the Oregon Health Authority.

The Senate Health Care Committee has discussed SB 130 to utilize telehealth services in the operation of School Based Health Centers. The bill is waiting for amendments on school nurses.  SB 249 concerns the consumer protection act and the appeals process for insurance denials. There were no objections. SB 139 covers the prior authorization process and denials to which amendments are expected. SB 770 has been filed as a Health Care for All bill, but it is not yet in the OLIS system. 

The Senate Human Services Committee filed SB 30 and 31 on Oregon Guardian and Conservator laws. Disability Rights Oregon and the Oregon Guardian director discussed changes to the bill, and a lawyer, who is a guardian for a disabled child, presented the parents’ point of view.  The bills will be sent to the Senate Judiciary at some point.

The Senate Housing Committee passed SB 608 on February 4. Strong renter protections on rent increases and evictions will provide stability for individuals and families. The housing crisis in Oregon requires this strong legislation to hold down rent increases and terminations while other actions build on the housing supply.   

The Family First Work Group presented the plan to implement the federal Prevention Services Act within the Child Welfare Program.  Non-family placements in Quality Residential Treatment Programs will qualify for federal IVE funds starting October 1, 2019. Oregon has the lowest rate of placement in congregate care. These placements can be shelter programs, Behavioral Rehabilitation Services or Independent Living Services.  Medicaid pays for BRS or Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs.

House Human Services started with Child Welfare and the need for community placements.  The temporary lodging in hotels has stopped, but residential placements are needed.  A psychiatric program is no longer available and some children have been placed out of state. Every Child, a volunteer group, has been helping local child welfare offices around the state.  Foster parents need support too. The DHS administrators also discussed plans to change the workforce by hiring diverse community members and by those who have not completed college degrees.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates program was placed under the Department of Administrative Services temporarily, but is still looking for a permanent home.  CASA assists 23 local programs, which provide volunteer advocates for children under court supervision. 

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


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