January 2014

Last week, Salem.  Next month, Salem.   


Legislators met in Salem in mid-January for rounds of hearings, committee work, and preparing bills to introduce in February.  This will be the "short" legislative session, limited to 35 days.  In 2010 voters approved the constitutional amendment to enable the Legislature to meet in a regular, shorter session in even-numbered years. We use the time primarily to fix what needs to be fixed, consider uncomplicated and straightforward proposals, finish business started last year, address urgent needs, and re-balance the budget.  Because we're on a very tight timeline, each legislator is limited to a maximum of two bill ideas, and each committee is limited to only three. 

During the holidays, I met with lots of people wanting to discuss their pressing issues!  I talked with college students, CASA volunteers, justice courts judges, Lane Transit District Board members and staff, local social service organizations, health care advocates, and school superintendents.   


I also saw a new movie (first "go out" movie in months), and a basketball game, and checked out nearly a dozen books from the library.  Whether it's a movie, a play, good music, or a winter stroll along the river, I hope you too will have a nice memory to start the year. Best wishes for 2014.  



In This Issue
Health Care Transformation
Passenger Rail
Neighborhoods USA Awards, and bus routes
Business Plan Summit: food clusters and high tech
Staff on-the-go
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A short legislative session in 2014
The legislative session will begin the first week of February. I expect lots of bills to be introduced, and also expect that many of them will not get far in this short session.  Sometimes bills stall because they just weren't ready for "prime time," meaning that some complex and detailed issues were not fully worked out or controversies not resolved.  I hope that we are successful in passing legislation to raise standards for government contracts and hold companies accountable for their work. I'm a chief co-sponsor so I'll be working hard on that one! Examples of other priorities:
  • deliver better results for students at all grade levels
  • make higher education more affordable and accessible
  • strengthen workforce retention and development programs
  • help communities rebuild aging infrastructure and boost local economies
Around the state: Health Care Transformation - so far
Ambulatory Surgical Center
visiting a surgical center
You may have heard about a study showing that Oregon's Medicaid expansion in 2008 resulted in more visits to hospital emergency rooms.  That study was based on stale information.  I have much better news to share, from the past year, since the regional Coordinated Care Organizations (CCO's) started working on improving health care costs and outcomes.  Over 700,000 Oregonians are now receiving "coordinated care." Early data is already showing improvements in many of the most important cost-saving areas.  Here are some key points from the first six months:
  • Emergency department visits and expenditures: decreased.  ED cost per person: decreased.  Nine months of data indicate a decrease of 17.6% from 2011. 
  • Hospital readmissions: decreased.  Fewer people needed to return shortly after hospitalization.  
  • Enrollment in patient-centered primary care homes: increased.  Primary care visits: increased. Primary care in a long-term investment, so expenditures increased as expected, but early treatment and intervention reduce costs in the future.
  • Hospitalization for congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and adult asthma: decreased
  • Use of electronic health records: increased  
Around the state: Passenger Rail Council
Passenger Rail in the Willamette Valley: Connecting Eugene and Portland, the southern end of the Cascadia Corridor

As a member of the Passenger Rail Council, I continue pushing the work forward: Oregon needs to adopt plans that position us to compete for federal funds when they are next available.  Oregon missed out on a major distribution of rail improvement funding a couple of years ago, so it is critical that we be ready for the next round of investment. At each meeting we continue to refine the objectives, and face the tension between investing in incremental improvements to get more frequent and faster service in the short and medium term, and investing in a wholly new route for very high speed rail sometime in the future.  Ideally our investments will yield more, better, and faster in the short term and build ridership and infrastructure that will
National Guard Civil Support Team demonstrating equipment used in the field
 support future improvements.  Several other considerations will influence decisions.  One is the type of train based on fuel (diesel versus hybrid diesel-electric versus all electric) and how it will be compatible for the entire corridor where Washington state and Amtrak also own equipment.  Another is how many stops should there be, and where: planning inter-city fast rail pushes toward only a few stations in the 110-mile Oregon stretch of the Cascadia corridor, and away from adding more stations to serve "commuter rail" such as that offered in the Portland metro area.

A different route that would provide a direct connection between Eugene and Corvallis has been dropped from the formal review for further study.  I advocated for that route, to support the Regional Accelerator (RAIN) connecting the high tech corridor, universities and airport, and to support an economy for the future.  While it will not be in this proposal, the idea will not be forgotten. Here is a recent news release describing the Council's work.
Around the district: expanded bus routes and schedules proposed
LTD is working on its annual review of routes and schedules, and is proposing several changes that would affect District 13, or north Eugene and downtown.
  1. Restore service on four holidays: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and New Year's Day, to provide a Sunday schedule.
  2. Route 96-Coburg would be re-routed to increase customer access (Oakway Road, Gilham Road, Crescent Avenue and County Farm), and add one additional trip in the morning and afternoon.  
  3. Route 55-River Road Connector is proposed to continue into the Whiteaker neighborhood, connecting to Eugene Station.
  4. Timing on route 40-Echo Hollow would also be slightly altered.
You can view the full proposal and maps of routing changes here. The website also allows you to provide comment directly. When LTD schedules public hearings for March or April, they will be announced on that webpage.
Around the district: national recognition for 3 local community organizations
Congratulations to the River Road and Santa Clara Community Organizations for being recognized by Neighborhoods USA (NUSA)! Santa Clara River Road Outreach and Learning Project (SCRROL)
Grassroots garden
Day of Caring: volunteering at Grassroots Garden
Grassroots Garden
Here I'm washing carrots (with Rep. Val Hoyle)
came in second in the nation for their work in multi-neighborhood partnerships. Harlow Neighbors were awarded the grand prize by NUSA for their Feed Hope initiative that provides for the nutritional needs of children during school breaks that depend on breakfast and lunch programs.

You can click here to see pictures of both neighborhoods receiving their honors. The SCRROL and Harlow Neighbors efforts were the only groups in the Pacific Northwest to be recognized for their community work.
Oregon Business Plan Summit
The Oregon Business Plan is an organization "guided by a steering committee of business leaders representing business associations and boards/commissions with responsibility for Oregon's economic progress, as well as at-large business leaders.  In addition to conducting economic research, the steering committee gathers information and opinions statewide about what Oregon can do to support businesses that create high-paying jobs." Each year they sponsor a major gathering, called the Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit.  The motto is "A Plan to Create Jobs, Raise Incomes, and Reduce Poverty in Oregon."

I attended to hear this year's ideas and attend workshops. The day started with a breakfast meeting to discuss our regional economy in the southern Willamette Valley.  The next few hours were spent in the "plenary" or full sessions, with very interesting presentations from Oregon businesses: Elemental (Portland), Tillamook Dairy (Tillamook), and Erickson Air Crane (Central Point in southern Oregon) , a helicopter manufacturer that makes specialty equipment to ship all over the world, such as firefighting in California, Greece, Italy, and Turkey, and lower-impact logging in Malaysia.

Food and Ag industry.  We heard from the Governor, the Speaker of the House, Senate President, and House and Senate minority leaders.  Workshops on specific topics filled the afternoon, and I attended Health Care.  Since I've been promoting
 Tillamook Creamery: Click here for video
agriculture as a key industry in Oregon's export economy, I was very interested to hear Paul Criteser, CEO at Tillamook Creamery, the 100+ farm cooperative that produces dairy products. Criteser explained that "The world's food entrepreneurs should see Oregon as a place to innovate and start companies" and emphasizes consumer interest in food that is "healthy, real, and local." Governor Kitzhaber underscored that we have the opportunity to build a "world-leading food industry cluster" in Oregon, to create "valuable, sustainable jobs in every corner of the state." 

High tech. Elemental Technologies is a Portland startup with international reach; they build multi-screen video processing software (transforming video to deliver over the internet to iPad, computer, Android, X-box, etc.) From the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, they streamed the 24 live events continuously to 77 countries around the world, including Galen Rupp running the 10,000k.  Sam Blackman, CEO, described three reasons why Elemental is located in Oregon: public investment in schools, education, and extra-curricular activities (just like when he was growing up here); relationships with the successful video business cluster in Oregon (Pixelworks, InFocus, etc.); and the presence of world-class graphic artists.  I have shared some of his ideas with our local Chamber of Commerce and health care professionals working to attract more primary care providers to our area.
Staff on-the-go
Jason Hitzert, L.A.
Jason Hitzert, Legislative Aide, catching up on business in the "hearings hallway"
A couple of months ago I welcomed Jason Hitzert to our office. Jason hit the ground running, and now knows what "warp speed" means in this legislative office. 

In just one day last week, Jason juggled schedules to accommodate several unplanned meetings and calls, hunted down documentation, lined up people to help with my bills, and figured out when I would eat lunch (i.e. during which meeting). Here's the stimulating list for that day:

Manufactured home parks bill; my bill on state interest rate calculation in the Revenue Committee; child health, early childhood education, and public libraries; construction project funding; racial equity; income disparity; public contracting accountability; budgets for Human Services and Oregon Health Authority; helping families to reduce child abuse and neglect; state managers; ambulatory surgical centers; wineries in the state's economy; OHSU's cancer research program.

Best wishes to Adam Renon who has moved on to a new job, working in Multnomah County.