Representative Phil Barnhart's E-newsletter )
News from the Capitol July 27, 2005
in this issue
  • Senate Passes My School Board Accountability Bill
  • New Commission on the State Legislature
  • House Acts Against Methamphetamine
  • House Votes to Reform Forest Fire Insurance
  • Senate Passes Bill that Unfairly Targets Coburg
  • This is the thirteenth e-newsletter that I will be sending out during the 2005 session of the Oregon State Legislature. The purpose of this newsletter is to keep you informed about the progress that the Legislature is making, and about the work that I am doing to represent House District 11 and to support the values that we all hold dear: educating and nurturing our children, supporting our seniors and disabled, and protecting our communities.

    Phil Barnhart

    Senate Passes My School Board Accountability Bill
    Science Class

    The Senate passed SB 1053-A, which would increase school district budget reporting requirements in order to ensure the responsible management of local K-12 education budgets. I developed this bill together with Senate President Peter Courtney (D - Salem) in response to a faulty report by the Salem Statesman Journal that claimed that school districts were hoarding funds in reserves at the expense of their students.

    In researching the article's claims, I discovered that none of the districts cited by the newspaper were, in fact, acting irresponsibly. This situation proved, however, that the details of school district budgets, and the reasons behind them, are insufficiently transparent to the public. Enter SB 1053-A, which received bipartisan support in the Senate.

    New Commission on the State Legislature

    SB 1084 will create a citizen commission to review the efficiency and effectiveness of the Oregon State Legislature. The commission will be charged with evaluating the systems and rules that guide the Legislature, and making recommendations about how the Legislature could improve its operations to better serve our constituents. Similar commissions in the past have been responsible for significant reforms that have increased the accuracy and consistency of budgeting data and revenue forecasts, among other improvements. SB 1084 passed the House unanimously, and has already passed the Senate with only one dissenting vote.

    House Acts Against Methamphetamine

    The House overwhelmingly passed HB 2485-B, which would require that pseudoephedrine be sold as a prescription drug, rather than over the counter. Pseudoephedrine is a necessary component for the production of methamphetamine, which is one of the largest threats to Oregon's public health and safety. This bill would impede methamphetamine cookers, protecting properties from the chemical and fire damage caused by meth production, shielding the children of meth-addicted parents, and reducing property crime (90% of the property crime in Oregon is committed by meth addicts). The Federal government should be addressing this problem nationwide, but they're not doing it, so we will in Oregon.

    I share the concerns of those who use pseudoephedrine as a decongestant. I supported this bill because the companies that produce cold and allergy medications, like Sudafed, can substitute other decongestants that cannot be used to make meth. Should any consumers not respond to the new drug, pseudoephedrine will still be available by prescription. HB 2485-B will also increase the punishments for a number of crimes related to meth production, including disposing of meth manufacturing waste, and unlawful possession of elemental iodine, lithium metal and sodium metal, three more components of methamphetamine.

    House Votes to Reform Forest Fire Insurance
    Forest fire

    Under current law, Oregon landowners are responsible for the entire cost of forest fire insurance premiums, and the first $10 million of their $25 million deductible, with the State paying the last $15 million. HB 2327-B would modify this agreement by splitting the cost of premiums evenly between landowners and the State, while increasing landowners' share of the deductible to $15 million.

    This new coverage formula is projected to reduce forest fire damage in Oregon by ensuring swifter responses to developing fires and better management of potential fuels, and should thus simultaneously reduce fire loss and State costs. This is a win-win proposal that will make Oregon's forests more sustainable. It was supported by the Small Woodlands Association, the Forest Industry Council, and the Farm Bureau.

    Senate Passes Bill that Unfairly Targets Coburg

    The Senate passed SB 1074-A, which caps the revenue that the city of Coburg can generate from traffic citations. Some Senators have said Coburg is operating a speed trap on I-5. Not so. The speed limit is the same 65mph as most of the freeway. Coburg writes speeding tickets at 80mph and up (the average is 86, and many are over 90). So long as we have way too few State Police officers, Coburg is providing an important service to Oregonians by slowing down speeders inside their city limits, and making the freeway safer for the rest of us.

    The provisions of SB 1074-A apply only to Coburg, because the proponents understand that it would be too detrimental if it were applied statewide. I believe that it would have been wiser to craft legislation to persuade every Oregon city to act responsibly, through measures to increase accountability, rather than punishing one city for alleged past indiscretion.

    The Coburg Police Department stops many drunk drivers and arrests illegal drug traffickers on I-5. They are important protectors of public safety. I will oppose SB 1074-A if it receives a vote in the House.

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    July 27, 2005