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Legislative Report, Volume 29, Number 7 – March 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

Our League Climate Team attended hearings, provided testimony and engaged others in understanding the importance of addressing “the urgency of now” related to climate change.

LWVOR members attended or plan to attend the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction’s six statewide public hearings that started February 22, in Springfield and end in Bend, March 2. The Springfield public hearing was about 50/50 support/oppose in testimony and in the audience. The hearing in Medford was about 50/50 in testimony, however the audience was over 4 to 1 oppose vs support. Shirley Weathers from the LWV of Rogue Valley provided League testimony. Most of the opposition voices came from rural Oregon and relate to the fear of fuel price increases and potential job loss. It is estimated that gasoline could rise 10-16 cents per gallon in the first few years of the program. But gasoline prices fluctuate with market changes even without HB 2020.

House Bill 2020 Summary

Oregon’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals: The bill strengthens the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals to 80 percent below 1990 emissions by 2050 and adds an interim target of 45 percent below 1990 emissions by 2035.

Setting the Cap: The Carbon Policy Office will place an annual cap on total regulated greenhouse gas emissions by setting an annual allowance budget that will steadily decline to meet the state’s GHG reduction goals. Allowances each year act as permits to emit a ton of greenhouse gases. Regulated entities will be required to turn in allowances equal to their emissions.

Annual Auction: There will be an annual auction of allowances that regulated entities must purchase to cover their emissions. There will be a price floor and ceiling to provide certainty and the Carbon Policy office shall adopt measures to protect against market manipulation.

Direct Allocation of Allowances: To protect Oregon businesses that are at risk of leakage and to offset potential impacts to low income utility customers, a certain number of allowances will be directly allocated to regulated entities.

Program Investments: All investment of proceeds from the auction must meet the goals of the program, which include: (1) reducing greenhouse gas emissions, (2) sequestering carbon, (3) helping communities adapt to the impact of climate change, and (4) helping communities and businesses adjust to a new low carbon future.

Recommended amendments to the bill may include: 1) More aggressive Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Goals (including increased interim 2035 goals) that address zero emissions by 2050 per IPCC science related to keeping global warming to max of 1.5º C, 2) Related to that goal, consideration to the current number/size of free allowances, offsets, free credits, exemptions and exclusions, 3) clarify percentage of funds/reinvestment process in rural and other most affected communities, and 4) a possible companion bill that would put a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. There could be a new bill from the Senate replacing HB 2020, which would reflect all critical amendments needed for an affirmative vote. Like with Coal to Clean bill in 2016, a new bill number was used for the final move through the House and Senate.

Other Bills

The League is supporting HB 2623 creating a 10-Year fracking moratorium. Shirley Weathers, Claudia Keith and the League submitted written testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Environment. A Work Session is now scheduled for March 5 and is expected to move directly to the House Floor for a vote next week.

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 A (moved to Joint Committee on Ways and Means ) and SB 99 (public hearing in Senate Environment and Natural Resources March 12). 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 is the funding bill. A Senate bill to approve formation of the agency will most likely appear on OLIS early next week. We oppose SB 444, small scale nuclear energy, and SB 508 (public hearing in Senate Environment and Natural Resources on March 7), which would change the definition of the Renewable Portfolio Standard to include hydroelectric 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 League Climate Change Advocacy

Jordan Cove & Pacific Gas Pipeline: We are awaiting decisions on the Dept. of State Lands and Dept. of Environmental Quality permits. 

Our Children’s Trust (OCT) recent developments: In the Federal case, the 9th Circuit will expedite an interlocutory appeal. The LWVOR and LWVUS have submitted a third amicus brief in March. In the State of Oregon case, they received in Jan. 2019 an unfavorable ruling, and OCT will appeal. Most recent OCT press releases: March 1, 2019: Thousands Urge Ninth Circuit to Allow Juliana v. United States to Go to Trial. February 28, 2019: Over 30,000 Youth Urge U.S. Court to Allow Juliana v. United States to Go to Trial.

The 30,000 signatures are related to the “Zero Hour Launched Nationwide Campaign in Support of Juliana v. United States Youth Plaintiffs, San Francisco, California – On Saturday, Zero Hour, youth-led climate group, launched the website www.joinjuliana.org and announced its nationwide campaign to help thousands of young people add their names to the Young People’s amicus (‘friend of the court’) brief in support of the young Americans behind Juliana v. United States….” This is a real legal brief that Zero Hour will file with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, calling upon the court to allow the voices of the Juliana Plaintiffs to be heard. The JoinJuliana organization includes clear platforms.

Crag Law Center in Portland Oregon has provided legal services to the Leagues. Crag teamed up with the League of Women Voters to support the youth, and filed an amicus curiae brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today. As amici, the League emphasizes the importance of the courts to act as a check and a balance to the other branches of government. You can read the Leagues brief here. Please consider donating to this critical partner.

The LWVUS Board recently approved the following position on climate change (to be included in next LWVUS Issues for Action): 

“The League believes that climate change is a serious threat facing our nation and planet. The League believes that an interrelated approach to combating climate change—including through energy conservation, air pollution controls, building resilience, and promotion of renewable resources—is necessary to protect public health and defend the overall integrity of the global ecosystem. The League supports climate goals and policies that are consistent with the best available climate science and that will ensure a stable climate system for future generations. Individuals, communities, and governments must continue to address this issue, while considering the ramifications of their decision, at all levels—local, state, regional, national, and global.”

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.

If you listen to only one thing this week, the discussion on assessment exams required for graduation considers the benefits and harm related to the summative and pre-tests in both dollars and time. When “teaching to the test,” many other aspects of a well-rounded education are eliminated. Oregon is now only one of eleven states continuing to require this high-stakes test in order to graduate from high school.

Joint Committee on Ways and means Subcommittee on Education

This is the committee where all education budgets are discussed in detail over a period of three weeks. For now, this budgeting process is separate from the ambitious wish-list budget additions proposed by the Joint Committee on Student Success; that additional $3 billion in potential programs and the $2 billion ask in somehow creating more revenue are not the nuts and bolts reality of the current education budget.

HB 5015, the Oregon Department of Education budget controlled through Salem’s ODE office, and HB 5016, the State School Fund passed to districts through a complicated distribution formula, were heard. 

If you have a great love for education, and can’t get enough of detail, feel free to listen to the discussion/presentation for the past week and the upcoming week (3/5, 3/4, 2/28, 2/27, 2/26, and 2/25) and follow along on the exhaustive PowerPoints for the HB 5016 Oregon Department of Education Presentation based on the Governor’s Recommended Budget (GRB).

Oregon Education Association, Oregon PTA, and Coalition of School Administrators all describe this as a “cut budget” so expect a lively hearing on K-12 budgets on 3/7. Public testimony on early learning and youth development will be heard on 3/6. While budget discussions appear to increase funding to schools from prior years, the argument is in how to determine Current Service Level (CSL) and the shortfall from the Quality Education Model (QEM) that would be “ideal” funding that the state has never funded. Health care costs and funding retirement in PERS take a substantial amount from the classroom. These differences are dissected in the LFO Budget Review. Ultimately it will be the session-end Legislatively Approved Budget (LAB) that will determine allocations to schools.

Senate Committee on Education

Vision screening and student safety were discussed on 2/25. On 2/27 a great discussion around testing included SB 456. Sen. Hass (testimony) and Senator Lew Frederick (audio) urged discontinuation of exit testing. SB 456 would prohibit the State Board of Education, school district or public charter school from requiring a student to pass the test to demonstrate proficiency in Essential Learning Skills in order to receive a diploma. Other testing bills discussed included SB 154 that directs the Department of Education to conduct study to determine which statewide summative test to administer to students in grade 11; SB 428 that directs Secretary of State to conduct audit of use of statewide summative assessment in public schools in this state; and SB 433 that modifies process for revising form or notice sent to parents or adult students regarding statewide standardized assessments. While substantial testimony against testing was presented, testimony from these organizations touted the value of testing: Children’s Institute, Chalkboard Project, Latino Network, Oregon Business & Industry, Oregon Coalition of Community Charter Schools, and Stand for Children. To test or not to test continues to be a flashpoint.

Next week on 3/4, an informational hearing on dyslexia screening and training and these bills are on the hearing agenda: SB 16 specifies types of licensed health care practitioners authorized to perform assessments or examinations for purposes of determining special education services eligibility; SB 486 establishes timelines by which evaluations must be completed to determine eligibility for special education; and SB 719 directs the Department of Education to conduct evaluation and administer a pilot program related to abbreviated school day programs.

House Committee on Education

On 2/20 discussions were about: Secure Rural Schools Program payments, remote small high school use of Measure 98 CTE funding for existing programs, and Department of Education and Office of Child Care evaluations to increase the number of educators in Eastern Oregon. On 2/25 the Higher Education Coordinating Commission encouraging accelerated college credit programs in high schools, and college textbook costs were addressed. On 2/27 a suite of bills relating to increased funding for school meals, universal school meals, and breakfast after the bell addressed hunger and access to food. LWVOR supported School Meals (HB 2760) and Breakfast after the Bell (HB 2765).

Next week on 3/4, HB 2440 will have hearings. It would direct the Department of Education to develop and implement a statewide education plan for students in early childhood through post-secondary education who are Latino or Hispanic and have experienced disproportionate educational results. Roberto Franco, Director of the Latino Partnership Program at Oregon Community Foundation writes compelling testimony. HB 2897 establishing an Early Childhood Equity Fund providing culturally specific instruction and deepening engagement with families as a priority of the Early Childhood Coalition, the Chalk Board Project, and United for Kids.

Joint Committee on Student Success

While this larger committee has been meeting as subcommittees for the past several weeks, they are anticipated to come back together about March 15 for joint discussion and hearings on assigned measures (bills first heard in House or Senate Education committees).

Joint Committee on Student Success Subcommittee on Revenue

See the Revenue/Tax section of this Legislative Report where we report on all tax and revenue committee action.

Joint Committee on Student Success Subcommittee on Accountability and Transparency

On 2/26 data and transparency in other states were overviewed by Brennan Parton, Data Quality Campaign, and Nancy Smith, Data Solutions. Student Information Systems to collect and utilize data were demonstrated by Ella Taylor and Robin DeLoach, Willamette Education Service District. On 2/28 Better Together Executive Director Katie Condit and Education Systems Managing Partner Iris Maria Chavez, Equity Action Partners (report), provided testimony (summary).

Joint Committee on Student Success Subcommittee on Early Childhood Education

Early Learning is followed and reported in-depth by Stephanie Feeney.

The committee meeting 2/26 addressed aspects of the early learning workforce.

  • The first speakers from Oregon State University reported on workforce research conducted with the Center for Career Development at PSU. Megan Pratt, Oregon Child Care Research Partnership at Oregon State University showed data on the nature of the workforce (verbal testimony) (presentation). She began by pointing out that the knowledge and skill of the early learning workforce are critical to quality early learning. She then presented data on the early learning workforce, ethnic diversity, caregiver languages, the effect of teacher education on child outcomes, staff training in different kinds of child care centers programs. Bobbie Weber, Research Associate at Oregon State University, provided information about Oregonʻs early learning workforce. She discussed the Oregon Registry, the system used to document the education and training of the early learning workforce, and designed to understand the characteristics of the workforce. She emphasized that low wages are the major barrier to an educated early learning workforce—the median center teacher wages range between $24,000 and $34,000 annually. She pointed out that these wages are too low to fund college tuition that would lead to a better-prepared workforce, are insufficient to pay off student loans, and are associated with low levels of retention (one year Oregon retention rate is 74% compared to national K-12 rate of 92%). The frequent turnover of teachers creates instability for children. She looked at challenges related to professional training, including the ways that people enter the field, the fact that most revenue comes from tuition paid by families, and the small size of centers. Recommendations included increased access to training for targeted populations, reducing barriers to accessing training by developing a more coordinated system, and clearer pathways as well as improving compensation.
  • The next speaker Eva Rippeteau, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees discussed recruitment and retention challenges. (verbal testimony) (Recruitment and Retention Challenges – (written testimony) (handout) She reviewed the EC coalition recommendations and discussed issues related to caregiver compensation. She reiterated the need for a coordinated system and better compensation for child care providers.
  • The third speaker, Sara Mickelson, Early Learning Division, discussed policy opportunities, (verbal testimony) (Policy Opportunities (presentation). She began by pointing out that we are not going to get quality without investing in the workforce. She presented information about types of programs, sources of funding and levels of compensation. Ms. Mickelson talked about parts of the system including job-embedded professional learning and professional training, as well as the context of supportive work environments. Policy priorities include: pathways and partnerships with higher education, supporting ongoing professional learning through CCR&R (Child Care Resource and Referral) and raising standards and supports. She suggested a balanced approach to addressing the early childhood system.

LWVOR comments: These speakers reiterated the need for a coordinated system and parity between the compensation of preschool teachers with those in the K-12 system. Legislators asked their advice about how to proceed but there were few well-developed recommendations.

This subcommittee scheduled internal discussions on 2/28 (recording) and 3/5.

A “Map” to Education Committees in the 2019 Session

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

Some activities were limited this week by snow. We sent an action alert for NPV, see below. A state League Cyber Security/Privacy Today study proposal has been submitted to the board for consideration at Convention, as SCR 4, calling for a state policy study, moves forward. A number of bills we have been concertedly committed to over several sessions are progressing.

Elections

Networking continues for amendments to the two bills we spoke to last week.

HB 2234, on candidate filing software.
HB 2685, on candidate filing information.

Preparing for our bill presentation are:

  • State Geospatial Information Officer, Cy Smith
  • LWVOR Vote411 expert, Mary Sinclair
  • Bill(s) sponsor, Representative Pam Marsh
  • LWVOR Governance Coordinator, Becky Gladstone.

Initiative Reform, Tom Messenger

These two bills form a package which will, if HB 2891 is passed by the Legislature and if HJR 18 is approved by the voters, require that Chief Petitioners of an initiative provide a funding source for initiatives that cause an increase of $500K or more in state expenditures in the first ten years of implementation and operation. We are preparing for these to be brought to House Rules soon.

HB 2891: For ORS changes.
HJR 18: For constitutional changes.

National Popular Vote, Marge Easley

Please respond to the NPV action alert sent last week for SB 870, including how to connect to your legislators, details here.

Redistricting, Norman Turrill

We are actively visiting legislator and public official offices to recruit sponsors for the Redistricting Matters Coalition’s proposal that is currently in Legislative Counsel. We have oral commitments for bi-partisan support for the bill.

The League has held 19 popular educational forums throughout the state with more than 600 people attending. 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

HB 3004: The Small Donor Election Program bill is now available, but it is probably not yet in final form. It is assigned to House Rules with subsequent referral to Ways and Means.

Save the date: The LWVOR will be supporting HB 3004. We also encourage our members to attend the Small Donor Elections Lobby Day on April 25, Room 161 in the State Capitol.

Behind the scenes discussions are continuing around a proposed constitutional amendment (such as SJR 13, SJR 18 and HJR 13) to limit campaign contributions. Other pieces of the campaign finance puzzle are what to do about independent expenditures, coordination rules, dark money organizations, and illegal foreign contributions.

HB 3328: Campaign Caregiving Expenses: Oregon law currently allows political campaigns to pay for certain campaign-related expenses, such as event, office, and travel costs. However, the law does not specify whether caregiving costs are considered campaign-related or personal expenses. This bill defines caregiving costs, including childcare or care for a family member who is elderly or disabled, as lawful campaign expenses if they are related to campaign activities. This bill should help remove barriers to running for office.

Transparency, Public Records, Josie Koehne

Most relevant bills are not scheduled yet. The Sunshine Subcommittee met Feb. 22 to discuss personally identifiable information (PII) and some concepts of conditional exemption criteria. Each member will make individual recommendations for the next meeting on March 15th. The full Sunshine Committee will meet the following week on March 20th. An interesting note: they do not post their notes, but they are making slow progress.

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

The Dept. of Forestry budget was heard last week. The Governor has called for a Council on Wildfire Response. The Water Resources budget is up this week. Much of the week was focused on land use and housing bills. Air Quality issues are emerging.

Budgets

The Dept. of Forestry (ODF) budget (HB 5019) was heard last week—snow days for your League volunteer. After working with ODF during the interim to help find answers to the need for more firefighters and addressing the wildland urban interface, the Governor has instead called for a Council on Wildfire Response to help determine exactly what is needed and how to pay for that need. The agency had originally requested over $25 million in new General Funds. It is valuable to read the public testimony submitted by others for this budget.

The Oregon State Marine Board budget (SB 5521) had both their presentation and public testimony on Feb. 28. The League provided oral testimony in support of continuing the aquatic invasive species program, something we helped create in 2009. It was alarming to learn that 12 zebra or quagga mussels were discovered this last year in vessels coming into Oregon. These invasive species can seriously damage water, sewer and other infrastructure. We also recognized that their fees need to be increased (HB 2080) in order to pay for contracted law enforcement on the water. The Board is also looking to create a new non-motorized program (SB 47) to fund improvements for that growing constituency.

We testified in support of HB 2672, a bill that would authorize reimbursement to the Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Energy and Water Resources Dept. for administrative and enforcement costs around activities related to the cannabis industry. Both the Dept. of Agriculture and Water Resources provided information on the effect of the industry on their mission requirements and had Policy Option Packages in their agency budgets that did not make the Governor’s budget. This bill is a way to help pay for that work. Farm Bureau representatives also made the case for cannabis businesses paying their fair share.

Coming up this week is the Water Resources Dept. budget (HB 5043). The League has strong positions in support of water issues and we have worked during the interim to help develop the budget. Public testimony is due March 7.

Air Quality, Susan Mates

HB 2007 addresses diesel engine emission standards. Besides degrading air quality from particulate matter and ozone, diesel exhaust is responsible for over 70% of the cancer risk from all air toxics, an effect that is two to three times worse for minority communities. This bill would direct the Environmental Quality Commission to adopt diesel engine emission standards for medium-duty trucks and heavy-duty trucks, help school districts replace old school buses with clean-running buses, and ensure that certain public improvement contracts require use of motor vehicles and equipment with newer diesel engines. These measures would bring us more in alignment with California and Washington. This bill has been referred to Energy and Environment with subsequent referral to Ways and Means. Expect the League to weigh in to support.

The Dept. of Environmental Quality has identified the first facilities to review under new Cleaner Air Oregon Rules. The League is pleased to see this program move forward, but they do need the positions requested in their budget to fulfill this mission.

Land Use

An important case has been decided by the Oregon Supreme Court: The Court has clarified that negative impacts from non-farm developments can’t be offset by making payments to surrounding farmers. They also concluded that such developments can’t significantly change agricultural practices or costs for individual growers in “exclusive farm use” zones. The ruling comes from a case in Yamhill County involving a requested expansion of Riverbend Landfill. The case is now remanded back to the Land Use Board of Appeals where they need to apply it on a farm-by-farm basis.

SB 2, as amended in the Senate, has been assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use. The bill allows some Eastern Oregon counties to designate no more than 10 parcels region-wide of up to 50 acres outside of urban growth boundaries for industrial or other employment. Because of the sideboards on this bill, the League is neutral.

HB 2573 would remove cranberries from the definition of high-value farmland. Oregon is the third-largest cranberry grower in the United States, and cranberries brought in $12.7 million in revenue in 2017. The League has not weighed in on this bill, but our positions would recommend opposition.

The League provided testimony in opposition to SB 8, requiring petitioners to pay attorney fees should developers of affordable housing prevail. We expressed concerns on SB 10, establishing very high-density requirements in areas adjacent to transportation corridors. We have been asked to provide input on amendments to SB 10.

In the meantime, 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, is still alive with amendments expected. Speaker Kotek’s office has a work group seeking consensus on addressing this issue. It sits in the House Committee on Human Services and Housing.

HB 2003, a 30-page bill related to housing, has been scheduled for a public hearing on March 5 in the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use. The extensive bill deals with a number of state agencies and regional responsibilities. The cost to implement the bill will be extensive. The intrusion into local jurisdictions and reduction of Goal 1 obligations are just a few of the reasons that, as filed, the League will express concerns. We understand that this bill will be rewritten so we expect a “gut and stuff”. As such, we will limit our comments until we see the new version.

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 is pleased by proposed amendments that clarify the roles of AOC, LOC, the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development and the Oregon Housing and Community Services.

SB 88, a bill that would allow counties to authorize accessory dwelling units in certain rural residential zones, sits in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. A new bill has been dropped (LC 3680) that includes language from SB 88, that bill’s -1 amendments, and additional state-required sideboards around such a use, if counties choose to allow in their development codes. The League is reviewing the new proposal.

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.

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.

Water

The League will support SB 756. It has been scheduled for a public hearing on March 5 in the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment. The League has supported this program since its inception and will support again, although at the same level as last biennium of $1 million instead of the $2 million asked in the bill unless the legislature provides more revenue for all state services. This program helps protect our waters and helps keep Oregonians in their homes.

The League will also support HB 2085, a bill that will allow the Water Resources Dept. to regulate dams in Oregon, particularly high hazard dams. Our Seismic Risk positions, adopted in 1995, provide guidance.

The Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is considering a 3% increase in their water quality permitting program. This increase will be billed in Sept. 2019. This is separate from the proposed significant increase in the 2019-21 DEQ budget that would take effect in 2020. A League member participated in a rulemaking advisory committee on March 1 to consider the 2019 increases. These fees apply to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and Water Pollution Control Facility permits. See water quality permit fee rulemaking 2019.

The Willamette Basin Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load Advisory Committee will meet via webinar on March 7. More information is here.

The League will be meeting with water stakeholders in a discussion related to the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program. It is important that these Clean Water Plans are accurate and clear before issuing water quality permits.

HB 2437, a bill on how the agricultural community deals with their need to clean ditches while protecting fish streams, is still alive in the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use. There is still much disagreement among the varied interests on this issue, but work is being done to find some common ground. Another bill 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) has been filed as a “place-holder”. The latest understanding is that amendments would narrow this “partial assumption” to Urban Growth Boundaries. The League continues to be engaged in discussions around this issue. At this point, we are opposed. A third bill would establish 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). Both bills 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.

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 Oregon Office of Economic Analysis’s March revenue forecast is close to their December forecast. The Joint Committee on Student Success Subcommittee on Revenue heard the Revenue Roundtable’s revenue proposals and staff summaries of possible tax packages, this time with rates and revenue estimates.

March Revenue Forecast

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) reminded the House and Senate revenue committees that the national economy is likely to hit a recession in the next two biennia, but timing is up in the air, and in the meantime, growth will likely slow. OEA’s March revenue forecast for Oregon is pretty close to their December forecast. On the one hand, the personal income tax (PIT) forecast for the next biennium, 2019-21, is down from December. Since PIT is most of the General Fund, it drags down the total forecast for the next biennium, now $82 million, or 0.4%, less than in December. On the other hand, the forecast for this biennium grew by even more. This biennium’s additional revenue will balance forward into 2019-21, giving $61 million (0.3%) more in resources for the next two years than the December forecast did, even after the smaller PIT forecast. The new total, $22.5 billion, is $2.4 billion (12%) more than the close of session forecast for this biennium. All the slides are of interest to a revenue junkie, but OEA’s forecast is on slide 16. LWVOR’s crystal ball claims two points for calling the small decrease in next biennium’s revenue forecast, less a one-point demerit for missing the stronger 2017-19 forecast that will help the coming budget.

This biennium’s PIT increase bumps the kicker a bit to $748 million. Next year the median Oregon tax filer will get back $180, unless the legislature kicks part of this biennium’s kicker to PERS (HB 2170), or the legislature and voters send it more permanently to the Rainy Day Fund (HJR 12) or the Education Stability Fund (SJR 3) or a new Personal Investment in Education Fund (SJR 23). Sadly, none of the four bills has been scheduled for a hearing. Fortunately, the $353 million corporate income tax kicker goes to the Education Stability Fund, but both kickers come out of next biennium’s revenue, reducing the amount available for programs.

Good news for those watching for recession clouds: The state will end the biennium with 12.9% of a biennium’s general fund revenue as a cushion, counting the Education Stability Fund, the general Rainy Day Fund, and the ending fund balance. However, over half the cushion is ending balance, most of which could be budgeted for spending, either this session in the end-of-session balancing bill, or next biennium, and not saved for a downturn. See slide 20.

Joint Committee on Student Success revenue Subcommittee

The Joint Committee on Student Success Subcommittee on Revenue heard the Revenue Roundtable revenue proposals, which LWVOR helped develop, on Tuesday, February 26. The proposals start with principles: progressivity, adequacy, viability, and equity, plus simplicity, stability, horizontal fairness, and neutrality. Skeptical that the legislature and voters would approve an entirely new tax, the roundtable focused on changing existing corporate taxes. They proposed taxing C corporations with the same brackets and rates as people. They also proposed changing the minimum corporate tax, something of a gross receipts tax, but with brackets topping out at $100,000 in tax if receipts exceed $100 million, to a pure gross receipts tax, 0.3% or 0.45% of most receipts.  

The Legislative Revenue Office (LRO) then presented four possible tax packages, each with rates yielding $1 billion/year, $1.5 billion/year, and $2 billion/year. The packages contained a mix of several individual tax tools: a value-added tax on all businesses, a commercial activities tax (CAT, a gross receipts tax) on all businesses, increasing the corporate income tax rates to match the personal rates, transforming the minimum corporate tax to 0.3% of receipts, and a 0.5% cut to all but the top personal income tax rate. Note that the two corporate tools are the same or close to the Roundtable proposals, which LRO had seen last fall. Each of the four packages included the personal income tax cuts.

The committee adjourned to ponder and did not reconvene for a second meeting on Thursday.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The federal government gives some low-income workers an earned income tax credit (EITC). Oregon, like a number of other states, gives a credit on state personal income tax returns of a percentage of the federal credit: 8% of federal for most who get the EITC and 11% for those who have dependents under age three. Oregon’s EITC, a lower share of the feds’ than most states, is up for sunset or renewal this session, and sparked several bills. HB 2139 is a straight renewal, no rate change. Others increase the percent of the federal credit allowed on Oregon’s return. The Renew and Raise coalition, which again includes LWVOR, supports the most generous raise, to 20% of the federal credit for most and 25% for those with dependents under three, in HB 3028. It also allows those without a Social Security number, not eligible for the federal EITC, to receive Oregon’s EITC. For procedural reasons, HB 3028 was not heard yet, but House Human Services and Housing heard the straight renewal bill, HB 2139, with a -1 amendment that would stuff in HB 3028’s provisions. The Renew and Raise coalition turned out in force, reporting how valuable the EITC is to struggling families, including first-hand accounts from current and former recipients, and LWVOR submitted written testimony in support. The Oregon Center for Public Policy estimates the full biennium cost would be $169 million in addition to the $103 million for the current EITC rate. See video and testimony.

House Revenue and Senate Finance and Revenue

The Legislative Revenue Office, LRO, reminded House Revenue of Oregon’s connection point to federal personal income tax. Forty of the 45 states with personal income tax connect to adjusted gross income (AGI). Oregon connects to federal taxable income, which is smaller.

Adjusted gross income – personal exemptions – standard or itemized deductions = federal taxable income

Note: the 2017 federal tax bill removed personal exemptions. If Oregon changed and connected to AGI, it would need to explicitly decide whether to accept or ignore any changes in federal deductions. House Revenue heard HB 2155, which changes from connecting to federal tax code as of December 31, 2017, to December 31, 2018, but the otherwise sleepy bill opened up the question of reverting to an automatic, rolling, connect to federal code, which Oregon has done before, and/or changing Oregon’s connection point to adjusted gross income. If connecting to adjusted gross income, and there were no other changes, tax revenue would increase as the base broadened. It would also open the discussion to changing the mortgage interest deduction and possibly other deductions. Meeting materials here.

SB 549 decreases reserve amounts in auctions for tax credits for certified Opportunity Grant contributions and certified film production development contributions from 95% to 90%. In other words, people or entities who know they’ll have a tax liability, can buy the credits for as little as 90 cents on the dollar, making up to 10% between auction day and the day they pay taxes. Recall that when first heard, the state film office testified what a help the auctions were to the film industry and how the film industry has grown in Oregon. Senate Finance and Revenue passed SB 549 out of committee unanimously.

Senate Finance and Revenue heard a pair of agriculture bills. HB 2237 renews the existing credit for constructing housing for agricultural workers, both seasonal housing on farms and year-round housing in towns, and adds a tax credit for operating costs. Agricultural interests supported the bill. Tax Fairness Oregon pointed out that the state does not support housing for other types of low-wage workers, some of whom sleep in their cars, so why single out operating costs for agricultural workers?

HB 2264 exempts farm equipment from taxation, whether it is real property or not, and adds preparing farm crops for shipping as tax-exempt use of personal property. Supporters said some county assessors had been asking farmers for their equipment lists, there was concern over possible unequal taxation, and this bill would just clarify the existing exemption for farm equipment. The Department of Revenue (DOR) said they had worked with bill supporters on the -1 amendment to clarify the bill so it could be easily and consistently applied by assessors, but there was more work to go. The Association of Oregon Counties (AOC), hoping to prevent more holes in the property tax base, voiced concern that the bill expanded the exemption. Supporters, DOR, and AOC will work on reaching an agreeable amendment.

Sneak Preview: What We Know So Far about the Week of March 4

House Revenue will hammer through a pair of housing tax credit bills: HB 2811 makes proceeds from selling market-rate rental housing to a community development corporation or a housing authority exempt from personal income tax; and HB 2374 allows a transferable credit against income taxes for half of eligible costs (costs up to $120/sf) of a newly constructed single-family dwelling affordable to households with income at or below 120 percent of area median income; statewide credit total capped at $10 million. They’ll hear HB 2130, extending sunsets on property tax exemptions including food processing equipment; nonprofit land for building homes to sell to low-income people; low-income rental housing; cargo containers; and historic property.

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 big news was the passage of HB 2010 A through the Senate Chamber on Feb 28, so it is headed to the Governor’s desk. This bill designates sources of funding for the continuation of the Medicaid program. However, it is not expected to cover all costs, so the Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee is looking for other sources of revenue, such as an increase in cigarette taxes. So stay tuned for more budget considerations.

The Oregon Health Authority Budget HB 5525 will be heard in the Human Services Subcommittee this week and into the following week. The Senate and House Health Care Committees are considering bills on insurance plans and drug prescription costs, which have yet to be resolved. 

The Oregon State Hospital and Mental Health Services are within the Oregon Health Authority programs and supervision. However, mental health intersects with human services and public safety programs. The Oregon State Hospital receives commitments from the courts for psychiatric evaluations and for ability to aid and assist evaluations. OSH reports overcrowding of 136% due to the number of court ordered aid and assist evaluations, which cover felony and misdemeanor charges. An attempt to limit the court commitment for misdemeanor charges was not successful in previous sessions, so the issue of overcrowding is back for reconsideration. 

SB 24 and 25 have been discussed in Senate Judiciary this past week. SB 24 modifies procedures related to the criminal defendant lacking fitness to proceed. SB 25 amends statute to order the release of records to the OSH for the forensic evaluation. SB 184 adds terms of certified evaluator, extremely dangerous and involuntary medication. SB 375 directs the court to inform the defendant of the consequences of the insanity plea. For a felony, the defendant could stay at OSH for 5 years, but for a misdemeanor is limited to 1 year. The Oregon Criminal Lawyers agreed to notice and information provided at the hearing.

SB 167, the Mental Health Bill of Rights for patients at OSH, passed after consultation with Disability Rights Oregon. SB 184 -1 also passed on 2-27. SB 388 -1, which requires the Governor to give notification of pardon to the committing court and have the record sealed, also passed. The League remains concerned about the overcrowding at OSH and will continue to follow the developments.

Gun Safety, Marge Easley

A bill that would effectively ban assault weapons in Oregon has been introduced this week on behalf of Lift Every Voice Oregon, and a second bill to limit magazine size is soon to follow. The League strongly supports both bills, although they are sure to engender considerable opposition by gun rights groups.

HB 3223 would end the future sale, transfer and manufacture of military-style firearms like the AR 15 and AK 47, with a few limited exceptions. Civilians who own such firearms before the law goes into effect must either register the firearms or take one of the following actions: remove them from the state, sell them to a licensed firearms dealer, turn them in to a law enforcement agency for destruction, or render them permanently inoperable. The bill clearly defines the types of weapons included and the penalties for violating the ban. There are currently seven sponsors, and we encourage members to call or email them with a word of thanks for their brave stance: Rep. Piluso, Rep. Doherty, Rep. Keny-Guyer, Rep. Sanchez, Sen. Frederick, Sen. Monnes Anderson, and Sen. Taylor.

HB 3265, limits high capacity magazines to 10 rounds. Rep. Greenlick is the chief sponsor.

Housing, Debbie Aiona

This past week at the Legislature.

Governor Kate Brown signed into law SB 608 on 2/28/19. SB 608 passed on a 35-25 vote and is effective immediately. The bill will: 1) provide protection from no cause evictions for tenants after the first year of occupancy; and 2) provide statewide protection from economic evictions by limiting rent increases to no more than seven percent plus the consumer price index percentage. It exempts already protected regulated affordable housing and new construction for the first fifteen years.

On Monday, February 25, the House Human Services and Housing Committee held an informational hearing on the role of property tax exemptions in affordable housing. Next, the Committee heard several bills including HB 2700, which extends the sunset on a property tax exemption for housing used by the cities of Portland and Eugene; HB 2127, which extends the sunset on the capital gains exemption for the sale of manufactured home parks to nonprofits, public housing authorities and resident owned cooperatives; and HB 2136 and HB 2664, which extend the sunset on a tax credit for residents whose park is closed.   

On Monday, February 25, the Senate Housing Committee was expected to hold a work session on SB 595, but did not since two out of five committee members from Southern Oregon were unable to attend due to snowy road conditions. The Committee did hold a public hearing on SB 262 to extend the sunset on the property tax exemption for housing owned by the cities of Portland and Eugene. 

On Tuesday, February 26, the House Judiciary Committee heard HB 2285, which makes changes to the receivership laws for housing.

On Tuesday, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services heard public testimony on DHS’s budget, HB 5026, and programs within Self Sufficiency, including the Oregon Hunger Response Fund. 

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Human Services held a work session on SB 737, and passed it out of committee. It extends the sunset on a local option property tax exemption. The bill now heads to the Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures.  

On Thursday, the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use heard HB 2137, which extends the sunset on the Agricultural Workforce Housing Tax Credit. 

Next Week at the Legislature.

On Monday, March 4, OHCS Director Salazar will present before the House Revenue Committee the agency’s homeownership and foreclosure programs. Also at the hearing, the Committee will hear HB 2811, which provides a capital gains tax exemption for housing that is sold to a nonprofit or housing authority. The Committee will also hear Representative David Brock Smith’s bill, HB 2374, to create an income tax credit for builders of homeownership units.

On Monday, March 4, the House Committee on Human Services and Housing will hold an informal hearing on manufactured housing.  The Committee also will hear HB 2893, HB 2894, HB 2895 and HB 2896, which are Representative Marsh’s bills.  HB 2894 and HB 2895 would help provide assistance to homeowners with low incomes to replace their aging manufactured homes.  HB 2896 would help preserve manufactured home parks by creating a loan fund. 

On Monday, March 4, the Senate Committee on Housing will hear bill SB 586, which is the Landlord Tenant Manufactured Home Park Coalition bill.  The Committee will also be holding a work session on SB 262, a property tax exemption sunset, and SB 595, the transient lodging tax bill.

On Tuesday March 5, the House Revenue Committee will hear HB 2130, which is an omnibus property exemption sunset extension.

On Tuesday, March 5, the Senate Workforce Committee has scheduled a work session on SB 202, which extends the sunset on the Agricultural Workforce Housing Tax Credit.

2019 Housing Opportunity Day is on Thursday, March 14th from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in Salem. The Housing Alliance has arranged visits with key legislators to talk about their Housing Opportunity Agenda including investing in housing opportunity, including ending homelessness, protecting people who rent their homes, developing and preserving more affordable homes, and expanding access to homeownership. March 11 is the deadline to register.

Paid Family Leave, Debbie Runciman

Two bills have now been introduced to assure workers can take paid time off to welcome a new baby, recover from a serious illness, or care for a seriously ill family member.  HB 3031 establishes a mechanism, much like unemployment insurance, where employees and employers each contribute a small amount each paycheck to cover benefits.  HB 3140 builds on the existing unpaid family leave act, but specifies that leave would be paid.  It doesn’t include specific provisions about how such leave is financed, giving each employer the flexibility to cover those benefits as befits their own business, whether though juggling employee responsibilities, purchasing private insurance, etc.  HB 3031 is in the House Human Services and Housing Committee;  HB 3140 has yet to be assigned a committee. 

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


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