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Salem, Eugene, and Pendleton, enjoying majestic views along the Columbia Gorge
March-April, 2016
After a short legislative session, back in Eugene ... and then to Salem again next week for hearings.
Dear friends,

Oregon Trail
Spring walk on the Oregon Trail
The 2016 legislative session adjourned on Thursday March 3rd, within the constitutional limit of 35 days. Despite the short duration -- only 32 days -- we passed legislation to help improve the lives of working families and protect Oregonians who've been left behind by the recent economic recovery. We re-balanced the budget, updated statutes, finished business from the previous long session, and handled time-sensitive topics. I've highlighted some of these below.

Since being back in Eugene, I've been on a number of site
visits to see how programs really work - beyond the official reports and talking points - and visit with local businesses.  Some of the special memories include a ride-along with a Lane County Public Health nurse to visit a family participating in the Nurse-Family Partnership  Program; a great conversation about education with staff at Pacific University's School of Teaching and Learning, which offers a Master of Arts in Teaching, and previewing software development work with a few of the teams at Pipeworks Studio (more below).

Oregon Trail - Echo
More highlights: digging into child welfare topics at Oregon Social Learning Center, hearing from a kickstarter funding guru at The Big Mix, watching the opening event at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, and an evening with Options celebrating their 25th anniversary. One of the takeaways from a day in Pendleton for the Governor's Tourism Conference was about the role of wineries in tourism. Oregon produces about 1% of U.S. wine, but can boast having 20% of the nation's wines rated 90+.  The industry brings in $208 million in tourism revenue and sustains over 17,000 jobs.  A million of Oregon's overnight visitors included a winery visit.

Oregon Trail wildflower
I'll be in Salem again next week, for another round of committee hearings and other meetings. Already on my calendar is a discussion of geospatial data sharing.  Well beyond mapping roads and road maintenance projects, this information runs the gamut, from environmental hazards and public health, to economic indicators, emergency dispatch, conservation and restoration and watershed management, and utilities. Yes, I really like to sink my teeth into that topic!
Bigfoot crashes the scene at Tourism Conference
2016 Legislative Session


Compared to a regular session in an odd-numbered year, where well over 2,000 bills are introduced, the short session has far fewer bills to consider. Legislators and committees are restricted in the number of bills allowed for drafting.  For example, House members were allowed a maximum of two bills. Of the 283 bills introduced for the 2016 session, 124 were signed into law. The non-partisan Legislative Committee Services office publishes a summary of bills heard in policy committees, and the Legislative Revenue Office reports on revenue measures.

A few of the
"big bills" that passed:

Minimum wage.  Oregon is one of 29 states that have a minimum wage rate higher than the federal minimum of $7.25. The last national increase occurred in 2009. Eight states now have minimum wage rates above $9 per hour.

Oregon's Employment Department recently published a report on the minimum wage.  Here's one important statement I noted in the Executive Summary: "The purchasing power of Oregon's minimum wage today is similar to the purchasing power of the minimum wage in the late-1970s, while nationally the minimum wage has lost purchasing power."

The 2016 legislation establishes a new minimum wage starting this year.  It recognizes different circumstances in different areas of the state by identifying rates for three regions: rural counties, Portland, and everywhere else.  It phases in increases over six years to allow businesses, especially small businesses, time to adjust. The increases are smaller and phased in over a longer period as compared to the two proposed ballot measures and the Governor's alternative proposal.  Oregon's new minimum wage starting July 2016 will be $9.75 (Portland metro) or $9.25 (rural counties and everywhere else).

Climate change. In order to reduce Oregon's dependence on fossil fuels and spur new investments in renewable energy, the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition bill will double Oregon's Clean Energy target to 50% by 2040, and phase out coal power. 

Affordable housing.  One bill allows some local communities to make decisions to include affordable housing in new developments when considering land use regulations or conditional permit approval
Nurse Family partnership
With a nurse on a maternal and child wellness home visit (I'm the photographer)
s. Another bill increases the notice period for rent increases.

Help for Working Families. Oregon's Earned Income Tax Credit match is increased for families with children under 3, from 8% of the federal credit to 11%.  Working families with an infant or toddler could see up to $187 more to help meet household expenses, like a car seat, a safe crib, or a child care payment.

By the close of the 2015 legislative session, the legislature had approved Oregon's 2015-2017 biennial budget.  The short session allows an opportunity for a mid-biennium adjustment to address unforeseeable events and make other changes.  Among these are: Harney County police overtime and other costs associated with the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge;
security upgrades for Umpqua Community College and rebuilding of Snyder Hall where the 2015 mass shooting occurred; expanded oversight of industrial emissions and additional monitoring stations throughout the state; emergency housing assistance; and funds to Lane County for planning and designing a new courthouse.  (Legislative Fiscal Office budget update) 
State news
Economic growth: more jobs, unemployment down

The Oregon Employment Department reports that Oregon's job growth in 2015 was 3.4%, behind only Idaho which had a 3.9% gain. Unemployment rate: Last year, Oregon's unemployment rate in February 2015 was 5.8%.  By February 2016 the rate had dropped to 4.8%.  The last time Oregon's rate was this low was April 1995.
Unclaimed property: is it yours?

When a person doesn't cash a payroll check, forgets about a safety deposit box or bank account, or isn't aware of insurance proceeds or refunds, the Department of State Lands deposits the property into a special fund. Until it can be returned to its rightful owner, the money is held in the Common School Fund and interest earned goes toward Oregon's K-12 schools through biennial distributions. The state currently has a record $565 million in unclaimed property. If you think you may have unclaimed property or assets, visit the website to search. Beware of "finders" who will charge to search for or return unclaimed assets;  you can do it yourself for free.
Scam alert: bogus college loan payment demand

The Oregon State Treasury has warned of a new telephone scam targeting college students. Individuals are posing as the Treasury's Oregon 529 College Savings Network. Reports claim that treasury impersonators are calling college students demanding student loan repayments. Neither the Treasury nor Oregon 529 Network collects student loan payments, and Treasurer Ted Wheeler is recommending that anyone who receives a call like this immediately hang up and contact local police or the state Department of Justice.

For more information on scams in Oregon, you can visit the Attorney General's Scam Alert
Network website.
The train ... reporting again  
Some of you have contacted me with enthusiasm - and frustration - about Oregon's passenger trains: we need more, and they need to be faster and on time. Responding to passenger suggestions, In 2015 I passed a bill instructing ODOT to study ways to increase ridership and on-time performance of passenger rail, as well as submit a quarterly report to the Legislature on ridership and on-time performance.  ODOT has taken action: regular reports are coming in, and so far the information is looking better.  

This quarter's report shows that trains arrived on time 89% of the time, well above the contractual threshold of 80%. Ridership for the first quarter is up 9.1% compared to this time last year.  Almost 2/3 of that increase is attributable to the schedule change made last October 2015, moving the weekend northbound train to a later morning time.
Around Eugene
A visit to Pipeworks Studio in downtown Eugene:  We talked about motion capture, virtual reality, interactive entertainment, audience participation, and the business of developing games (it's serious business here in Lane County, a major hub for game and entertainment developers).
Pipeworks game
Pipeworks launched a new game
a couple of weeks ago.

Fertilab ribbon cutting
Ribbon-cutting with Mayor Piercy, for Fertilab at their new space in downtown Eugene.  Since June 2013, Fertilab has provided mentoring and incubation to over 60 individual entrepreneurs and 30 companies, such as Nemametrix, a biotech company.  Fertilab offers programs to early-stage entrepreneurs, biotech lab space, and coworking memberships for services including access to desk space, Internet, and conference rooms.
Pacific U
Pacific University has four campuses: Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Woodburn, and downtown Eugene, where the College of Education and Master of Arts in Teaching program is located.

At our office
Gillian and Canaga art
Gillian, master "juggler"

John Bain intern
John - UO Law School
You met our Legislative Assistant for the 2016 session, Zach Fergus in my January/February E-news; in a short period of time he has gained valuable exposure to the legislative process. My former intern, John Bain, returned as a staff member to help get all of the work done in such a short session. Thank you!  Now it's back to just Gillian juggling all the balls that we toss her way.
Nancy Nathanson, State Representative | 541-343-2206 | rep.nancynathanson@state.or.us
Representative Nancy Nathanson, PO Box 41895, Eugene, OR 97404
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