Rep. Barnhart carrying HB3680, the "BETC" Bill, on the House Floor


Recently our office was contacted by a couple who fell victim to the mortgage crisis.  In early 2009 they started paperwork to refinance so they could stay in their home.  Despite filing a notarized agreement with the bank and paying on time each month, the bank grossly mismanaged their account, misapplied payments, and destroyed their credit.  The bank has yet to provide any reasonable means to fix the errors and bring the situation to a close.  Hardworking families across the state are facing similar problems with large national banks.   Do you have a story you are willing to share?  We are committed to standing up for consumers, and need your help to find out what problems exist.  Please send us an email with a detailed account of your situation and together we will stand up to a corrupt financial system.



Bill Updates:

Mortgage Lending Regulation

HB 3656 - Protects borrowers of 80/20 loans from being sued for the second loan once their home has already been taken by foreclosure. Passed unanimously out of the House and Senate Consumer Protection and Public Affairs Committee.  It will now go to the Floor of the Senate for vote.
HB3657 - Requires owner of foreclosed properties to be a good neighbor and take care of vacant property. Passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee. 
HB 3706 - Gives the Attorney General the ability to prosecute lenders for fraudulent and misleading lending practices by adding lenders to the list of industries regulated under the Unlawful Trade Practices Act.  Gives additional protections to consumers and gives Oregon the ability to prosecute national and out of state lenders. Passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

Insurance Provider Regulation

HB 3666 - Encourages insurance companies to provide discounts to small employer groups and individuals who choose to get insurance notifications electronically.   The bill increases efficiency and promotes cost containment. Passed the House unanimously and will be up for vote in the Senate soon.
HB 3631 - Is a proactive bill which prohibits insurers from discriminating against victims of sexual violence by classifying sustained injuries as a preexisting condition and reason to deny or limit coverage. Passed unanimously out of the House and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

HB 3613 - Bans Offshore Drilling in Oregon's Territorial Seas for the next 10 years. Passed the House and the Senate and now moves to the Governor.

Stay tuned for my future report on Job Development during this session!

Rainbow at the Capitol

Legislative Report

We call it budget "balancing" for a reason.  Legislators walk a tight rope to maximize the quality of services for the lowest cost in the fairest way possible.  This is no small feat even in good economic times.  The global recession makes this task more like walking a tight rope in a wind storm.  This February Special Session is a tool to help us recalculate the financial standing of Oregon and make adjustments as we traverse the gusty path. 

On February 8th the State Economist, Tom Potowski, released the latest Revenue Forecast.  The General Fund is down another $182 million from the November forecast and $406.5 million down from the close of session in June.  When we drafted the budget we reserved funds to protect against a further down turn, but the best estimate indicates we will be short $106 million even with the reserves.  Keep in mind that the tax measures passed last month upheld the budget we passed at the end of June. To be fiscally prudent we should make some cuts now and save a portion of reserves for the final year of the budget cycle when our ability to respond is restricted and cuts cannot be spread over a long enough time.  When we faced a large shortfall at the end of the 2001-03 biennium Republican Leadership chose to borrow money to close the budget gap, we will be paying back this large loan for 8 more years.  These decisions are not easy ones. I will do everything in my ability to avoid using that budgetary tool as it postpones costs at a great future expense.  We need to live within our means.    

Last session we started work on two policy changes that would help us with the potential shortfall.  First we instituted a tax amnesty program.  This program brought in revenue now when we really need it and put more stringent penalties for the future.  The program was extremely successful and $25 million of those funds have been set aside to help cover the current shortfall. 

Over the past six months I have focused much of my time on reforming the Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC).  You may recall from my previous reports that the Governor vetoed the BETC bill we passed during the 2009 Legislative Session.  HB 3680 places a cap on the total dollar amount of tax credits granted, eliminates a provision allowing projects to be automatically granted a 10% increase for running over original project cost estimate, and stops developers from dividing up their project into smaller projects to scam the system and qualify for larger than intended subsidies.  These changes will save $55 million from the state's general fund during the current biennium and a half a billion dollars over six years. The Department of Energy will also be required to prioritize projects to move us faster to a sustainable energy economy.  Lastly, I am working to increase transparency of this and all tax credits and to create an easy to use website with accurate regularly updated information.  HB 3680 passed unanimously out of the Revenue Committee and 59 to 1 off the House Floor.  The bill now moves to the Senate. Stay tuned.

We are flying through our business.  I look forward to finish what we can do now to balance our budget and support job development and be back home before the end of the month. 

As always, let me know your questions and concerns.