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Session's over. Bills passed or failed. The budget is balanced.
July-August, 2015
The session ended by the deadline, the budget is balanced, and I'm happy to be working out of Eugene, visiting local businesses and organizations.
Dear friends,

Northwest Youth Corps
Northwest Youth Corps: visiting a crew
working at Hendricks Park
The legislative session, which began Feb. 1, ended on July 6th at 6:04 pm ("Sine Die"). When all business of both the House of Representatives and the Senate had been completed, both chambers swung open their doors and gaveled down in unison to signal the end of the 78th legislative session. The event was followed by a meet and greet celebration in the House chamber, until people finally started trickling out to other celebrations or heading home. (I came straight home!)

Immediately following Sine Die I jumped into new things: A test ride on the new light rail line from Portland's south waterfront to Milwaukie, seeing the investment also in bike and walking paths, water filtering swales, etc.  Planning a conversation about expanding access to free books at food pantries.  Visiting OTRADI to discuss investment in  equipment and staff to facilitate scientific collaboration and the commercialization of new bioscience discoveries in areas like heart disease and eyesight. Then back in Eugene, visiting a local custom chemistry company. Preparing for a two-day meeting about child welfare and foster care, with fellow legislators from other states, including meetings with Judges Ilisa Rooke-Ley and Valerie Love who provided valuable insight.  And celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, with Lane Independent Living Alliance.


About all those bills

MHP advocates
Constituent advocates: they testified in committee hearings, and they were heard.
Our bill passed. Congrats Donna and Susan.

The session was marked with several accomplishments and disappointments that I've been writing about in my past newsletters, but overall I am proud of the work that we did for Oregonians. A close analysis of the voting shows that the vast majority of House bills that were passed had bipartisan support. As of the end of June, of those 822 bills, 86% had the support of at least half of the Republican caucus as well as the Democratic majority. Only a mere 3% passed without any minority support on a party line vote.

A wide variety. 
Each legislative session brings a wide variety of proposed bills. The 2015 session saw bills such as a tax on birdseed that would ensure non-hunters pay their share of wildlife preservation fees, a study on the feasibility of a statewide uniform speed bump height, mandatory use of the Metric measuring system by all Oregonians, and even a bill allowing drivers to request a new license if they dislike their current photo. Some bills are introduced to start the discussion and raise awareness, knowing it will take months or years to lay the groundwork for new policy to be passed and signed into law. Other times bills are submitted as "placeholders" to be amended later in the session when an alternative approach to a proposal is needed, and the deadline for introducing new bills has already passed.

MHP bill signing
Gov. Brown signs the bill 
Making it to the finish line.  So how many of these bills actually do get signed into law?
Here's what happened with about 2,800 bills that were drafted for the 2015 session.  In the House, a little less than 1/3 survived. Of 1,712 introduced in the House, 748, or 44%, were "reported out" (passed by a House committee).  Then 547 (32%) were subsequently passed by a Senate committee. About 56% of the House's own bills didn't make it out of committee: failed to get a hearing, or did not get passed.  In the Senate, a little more than 1/3 survived. Of 1,087 Senate bills, 526 were reported out (of Senate committee) and then 383 (35%) made it through a House committee.  The ones that didn't make it failed to get a hearing, or weren't passed out of committee: the Senate saw 52% of their own bills die, compared to 56% of House bills failing to get out.
The state's budget; money for local programs

Helping local programs

Shared equipment for start-ups
I helped secure $250,000 for a youth shelter and assessment center on the Serbu Youth Campus in Eugene. This center is key in ensuring the health and safety of Lane County's juvenile population, and I am proud to support this deserving program.
Other programs I helped get funding for: At the end of the session, $150,000 was directly appropriated to The Oregon Hunger Task Force, which provides critical help in developing public policy on hunger issues and coordinating emergency food programs throughout the state.  Earlier in the session, I helped secure funding for the seismic monitors to provide earthquake warning (see my September/October newsletter).   To beef up help for runaway and homeless youth, another $1.6 million was provided for local programs providing services such as street outreach, day drop-in, and overnight shelter to unaccompanied youth.

The 2015-17 Budget

Organic Consultants
Eugene specialty chemists
Following the end of session, the Legislative Fiscal Office responsible for budgeting and allocating funds (LFO) prepared a "Budget Brief" that gives an overview of the adopted budget for the 2015-2017 biennium. LFO will release a more detailed analysis in the near future with more details on how your tax dollars are spent.  The overview is a starting point for understanding how the complex budget comes together. 90 budget bills were processed through 8 Joint Ways and Means budget subcommittees (for each agency, board, commission, etc.), with a handful of bills to handle last-minute changes.  The final budget approved by the Oregon State Legislature is $68.983 billion, a 4.4% increase from the 2013-2015 budget. That includes nearly $18 billion of General Fund, and about $914 million Lottery Fund (some is dedicated to specific purposes).  Nearly a third of our budget, over $21 billion, is in Federal Funds, for strictly defined programs.  Lots of the money has "strings attached" such as federal funds for specific programs, gas tax for highways, and a portion of lottery funds for economic development and education.  When looking at the General Fund, where the legislature has discretion to allocate money, priorities and key responsibilities of state government pop out immediately: a little over half of the budget goes to education.  Over a quarter of the general fund goes to health and human services;  after adding in federal and other funds, nearly $30 billion goes to programs including health care, seniors and persons with disabilities, child welfare, self sufficiency, and vocational rehabilitation.

Funding for school-aged children

LILA-OPI recipient
Living independently, and celebrating it
As I reported in my June Newsletter, state-wide education budgets won big this session with large increases for Oregon's K-12 and higher ed students. After the promising revenue forecast, an additional $105 million was allocated to K-12 education bringing the total to $7.36 billion, and more for community colleges and universities as well. But did you know that we spend an additional $3.7 billion on school-aged children each biennium? Here are some of the other areas in which the state helps kids with special programs:
* child welfare
* intellectual and developmental disability support
* career opportunity
* physical and behavioral health care
E-cigarettes: Vaping, and youth

In my April Newsletter, I talked about the relationship between tobacco use and obesity in Oregon. During a presentation to one of my committees by the Oregon Health Authority, I heard some disturbing facts about the use of electronic cigarettes by youth.

From 2011 to 2013, use of e-cigarettes among 11th graders increased from 2% to 5%, a worrisome increase.  I suspect it's increasing much faster now, as marketing increases.  On a national level, use of "e-cigs" among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, surpassing all other tobacco products. The use of e-cigarettes is concerning for several reasons: nicotine exposure has lasting consequences for brain development, may lead to prolonged use of conventional tobacco products, and can cause addiction.
Grape Solar
Meeting with Grape Solar CEO
Eugene in the (tech) big leagues

Over the past year I have highlighted various aspects of our local economy that play a role in the burgeoning technology sector. In my September 2014 letter I wrote about Eugene being dubbed "silicon shire" because of its increasing number of tech startups. In February 2015 I talked about the thriving game development industry and the FertiLab Thinkubator's participation in the "Global Game Jam" to help boost creativity and new game innovation. I testified at the Regional Solutions meeting and at legislative committees about high speed internet access as critical infrastructure.  It's critical for any business, not just "high tech" - whether you're communicating with people 10 blocks or 10,000 miles away.  Building on past successes and recognition, Eugene has now been named as one of the country's top 10 emerging tech cities by Fast Company, a technology and business magazine.
Nancy Nathanson, State Representative | 541-343-2206 | rep.nancynathanson@state.or.us
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Representative Nancy Nathanson | PO Box 41895 | Eugene | OR | 97404