Hearing from constituents
with Sen. Chris Edwards

 April 2013

Dear Friends,
April 18 was the deadline for a bill to have a committee hearing and work session so it could move on to the next stage.  Since the session is limited to 160 days this deadline allows the time needed for a bill to complete voting in both the House and Senate before we adjourn.  Most bills that survived went to the full House for a vote. Other bills are referred to Rules or Revenue for continued discussion, or to Ways and Means when money is involved.  (See my March newsletter for a brief description about the flow of bills in House and Senate.)  Of the 28 bills I introduced, most are still in play, including my bills to strengthen and save School Based Health Centers, and improve criminal background checks to protect the public.  Two have been signed by the Governor already, and I'm excited to be working on passing the others!  (My bills)
I'm in Salem every day for hearings, meetings, and voting, but a few weeks one day was set aside to allow legislators to spend time "in district."  I filled that day with meetings, site visits, and a coffee with constituents ... and dozens showed up! See details below.
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In This Issue
A few interesting bills
New trains
Criminal justice reform
Beltline project-Ramp metering
District Day visits
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Bills passed by the House
Here's a selection of interesting bills that passed the House recently and are headed to the Senate.


Offshore tax havens: The House voted to crack down on corporations that utilize offshore tax havens to avoid paying their taxes. House Bill 2456, which passed unanimously, would bring in an additional $18 million (rough estimate) of revenue over the next two years, dedicated to improving mental health care programs.


House of Representatives
(my desk is near left edge of photo)

Bill collectors: Third-party collection agencies buy up old debt at pennies on the dollar. Some take on a debt as much as a decade old and don't even check to see whether the debt is still owed. Unscrupulous debt buyers are trying to collect from people whose debts are long-since paid off.  Meanwhile, Oregonians are threatened, harassed, and spend money trying to set the record straight. House Bill 2826 would help them by requiring debt buyers to provide documentation proving the debt is indeed owed.  OregonLive news story.


Zombie foreclosures: As the number of home foreclosures grows, so does the number of vacant, neglected properties.  This blight causes problems for the neighborhoods - and the cities or neighbors who often have to take on the expense of taking care of problems.  More than half of all foreclosed homes in Oregon are vacant - fourth highest in the nation. House Bill 2662 authorizes a local government to attach a lien to the property for the actual costs to remedy a nuisance condition, and to have that lien first in line for payment when the property is finally sold.    


Putting more money to work in local communities. I'm pleased that this bill from my Government Efficiency Task Force passed the House unanimously last week.  Local governments, including school districts and community colleges, that use the state investment fund are currently limited to using the short term investment fund. HB 2140 allows them to earn a better rate on their investment by investing in the Intermediate Term Pool. Estimates from some community colleges and counties show this could allow them to earn millions more for local projects, and local jobs. My "floor speech."  PCC story.

New trains

TalgoAtSalemStationA new passenger train built just for Oregon made a 3-minute stop in Salem a couple of weeks ago. The Talgo was on its way for testing before joining the Amtrak Cascade route. The new trains will replace some older ones that will move to service in Washington. Oregon will have more influence over use and scheduling of the trains that it owns.  A few weeks ago my bill setting up joint rail corridor planning with the State of Washington passed the House unanimously (HB 2918).  ODOT is currently asking the public to help name the trains, too: submit a suggestion. ODOT has a web page about the new trains.

Criminal justice system reform

The 2012 Commission on Public Safety was charged with identifying "fiscally responsible, sustainable and evidence-based policies and practices that will control corrections growth, hold offenders accountable, and protect public safety."  Their work is completed, and a legislative group has been developing recommendations for the legislature. In short, the idea is to contain the growth of prison population, which will free up money to spend on community corrections (better treatment, services and supervision); that in turn will reduce recidivism - meaning fewer crimes and fewer revocations.    Evidence from around the country shows that low-risk offenders become hardened by the rough environment in state prison.  Recidivism decreases with appropriate treatment and community supervision, not more prison time.

An increasing number of offenders in prison are there for non-violent offenses.  Meanwhile, prison costs take an increasing share of the criminal justice budget. The result is less money for state police, youth services and other intervention and treatment programs.  Some of the ingredients for system change include changing sentencing policy (such as allowing judicial discretion in certain circumstances), ensuring swift, appropriate, and proportional response to probation violations, and expanding transition time to prepare prisoners for re-entering the community.

Beltline project: ramp metering

Have you seen those orange traffic cones placed at on-ramps to Randy Papé Beltline? The  ramp metering project is scheduled to be finished by July, and is expected to improve the safety of these interchanges with Coburg Road, Delta Highway, and River Road.  Project web site.   Map and details.  "Before and after" video comparison.


With an ODOT project manager to get us safely to the job sites, I saw work underway to install the ramp meters (like traffic signals). These are new to Eugene but you may be familiar with seeing them used in other cities.  The system is activated to show the red or green light only when traffic is heavy enough to warrant a safety control. Experience in other cities shows that over time the number of near misses and crashes is reduced. 

My "In-District" Day
LCC downtown rooftop
Solar panel rooftop at LCC Downtown
My legislative aides and an intern and I saw a piece of every neighborhood during the "in-district" day.  First up in the morning was a Constituent Coffee at New Day Bakery.  Dozens of people came to bring issues and questions about funding for education and human services, taxes, gun safety, alternative health care providers, canola crops, corporate personhood, coal trains, and much more.  I was joined by Senator Chris Edwards.  


LCC's new downtown building is both residential -- apartments for students -- and educational.  Solar panels, rainwater used for gardens, geothermal wells, and state-of-the-art window shades and room lighting contribute to making this the most energy efficient commercial building in the state.  Students attend classes such as business development, energy management, water conservation, nursing, fashion design, and massage therapy.


Veterans Clinic
Visiting the River Ave. Veterans Clinic

Touring the Veterans Clinic on River Avenue we talked about health services for veterans.  Patients have access to medical and mental health professionals including a dietitian and audiologist. The facility has a room equipped for telemedicine, too, allowing consultation with professionals outside the area. 


After lunch at a local café in the Goodpasture neighborhood we took a quick look at Delta Ponds.


In the afternoon I visited the fast-growing Oakshire craft brewery in the Trainsong neighborhood. We finished the day strolling a few blocks in Whiteaker for Last Friday ArtWalk, making several stops including Blairalley Vintage Arcade and Territorial Wine Bar to see Mari Livie's textile art.