Rep Nathanson enews
Working with Rep. Holvey in the House Chamber

March 2012

Legislative Session Overview 

Dear Friends, 
The 2012 Legislative Session went by quickly. This first-ever regular annual session lasted just 24 days.  We approved major health care and education reform, and passed measures to improve Oregon's economy and streamline government. We re-balanced the budget in response to the latest revenue forecast, and prioritized programs that help Oregon move forward and protect vulnerable citizens.  I also succeeded in getting my two bills passed!

One of the most critical pieces of legislation that directs
help to many Oregonians was Senate Bill 1552, the "foreclosure bill" (read more below).  I held a town hall with other Lane County area legislators last week to review the legislation, including presentations from the Attorney General's office, Economic Fairness Oregon, and Vicki Walker (former State Sen.) discussing the USDA home loan programs. With judicial review and approval, Oregon will receive more than $30 million of relief for distressed homeowners from a settlement with the nation's five largest banks. 

During the period 60 days prior to a primary or general election, an elected official running for re-election is limited in the way they communicate with their constituents. The intent of this rule is to limit use of public resources for mass production of information that might be perceived as campaigning. I will use campaign funds to produce and send newsletters or updates about my candidacy during this period.


Due to the length of this Legislative Session Overview, I will include District and other updates in the next newsletter. 


In This Issue
Tax returns and EITC
Economic Development
Public Safety & Consumer Protection
Government Efficiency
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Tax returns, and EITC 
For help filing a tax return, AARP's free Tax-Aide program is available to people of all ages - not just seniors or AARP members. Program information and where to get help are in the middle column of this webpage: AARP Tax-Aide.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is available to eligible working people, based on income and family size.  You can take a credit on your federal return that is based on your earned income, and you could receive a "refundable credit" even if taxes are not owed. Oregon also has an Earned Income Credit available if you qualify to claim the federal EITC. State Dept. of Revenue webpage.
February Legislation Session: Overview
A Balanced Budget

Unlike the federal government, we are constitutionally required to balance the state budget.  When the 2012 session began last month, the budget picture had worsened since last June, which meant we needed to be very careful in choosing our funding priorities as we made additional strategic cuts and considered any new funding requests.

Some budget highlights:
Education: No additional cuts to K-12 funding.  We added $10 million in scholarship for higher ed. students, $2.5 million to support small rural schools, and help for the Vernonia School District, whose students have been using temporary classrooms due to the loss of all three schools from catastrophic flooding. 
Jobs and families: We retained funding for 8,500 families that use the Employment Related Day Care program, restored $9 million to TANF JOBS program, and maintained support for Early Head Start.
Joint Ways and Means meeting

Public safety:  We prevented cuts that would have closed the Santiam Correctional facility, and restored funding for alcohol and drug treatment within the Dept. of Corrections.
Health care and human services: We funded access to health care for children, prevented cuts to long term care for vulnerable seniors and Oregon Project Independence, and restored $8.5 million to care for persons with developmental disabilities. 
Economic Development
With Oregon's economy slowly recovering from the recession, it was important to bolster the recovery and make smart investments for our future.  The Oregon Investment Act will consolidate Oregon's economic development activities in a single location, making it easier to leverage public and private resources to provide businesses the tools they need to grow.

Several other noteworthy bills aim to assist Oregon's business and jobs climate.  Unemployed persons will be protected from discrimination by businesses that automatically prevent them from applying for jobs, and another bill increases coordination within the state's workforce system to support the needs of workers and businesses. Small businesses will have expanded access to the Oregon Credit Enhancement Fund to obtain the credit they need to grow their businesses. State agencies and local governments will be allowed to give greater preference in purchasing transit vehicles to those with more than 60% of their components made in America.
Education Reform
With LCC students discussing tuition, textbooks, & more.

Building on reforms passed last year that established the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB), the legislature authorized the OEIB to enter into achievement compacts with school districts to track student progress and look for ways to maximize outcomes. The other major education reform bill authorizes the Early Learning Council to continue work on streamlining and improving early learning services to students age 0-6 for kindergarten and beyond.  


Other key education legislation will: cut administrative costs and improve efficiencies by eliminating ineffective and burdensome mandates; encourage more students to study science, math, technology, and engineering and to help prepare for the jobs of the future; set up work groups to explore ways to lower the cost of text books for students; and examine governing boards for public universities.

Health Care Transformation
Several important health care measures were passed this session.  One establishes the criteria for Coordinated Care Organizations that will furnish the means to provide better care for Medicaid recipients through the integration of health services, a focus on prevention, and the reduction of administrative overhead. The goal is not only to save money, but to improve the overall health of individuals. 

Another establishes Oregon's Health Insurance Exchange as a central marketplace for individuals and small businesses to shop and compare different health insurance plans, with the goal of increasing access and decreasing cost.   (My February newsletter has a additional information about these bills.)

Other significant health related bills from the session require insurance companies to cover cleft palate procedures for children that will improve outcomes for kids yet at a lower cost than current procedures, and allow a supervising physician to apply to the Oregon Medical Board for permission to let a physician assistant dispense prescriptions.
Public Safety and Consumer Protection
The "Cash for Gold" legislation I introduced passed both chambers without a single vote in opposition.  Only a few cities and counties have ordinances regulating second-hand sales of jewelry and other items, making it easy for thieves to sell stolen jewelry for same-day cash somewhere nearby in Oregon.  The bill makes it impossible to sell these items anonymously at "brick and mortar" stores or travelling trade shows, and gives law enforcement another tool to track down and recover stolen precious metal jewelry, gold and silver items.  The bill requires the owner to identify the seller, describe the item, and hold the item for at least 7 days.  We also took steps to protect kids who are victims of cyber-bullying and to reduce teen dating violence.  
One of the bills I reported on in the last newsletter, HB 4039, had not yet passed the Senate. It has now passed both chambers and will bring help to seniors with a reverse mortgage who had applied for the property tax deferral program by Feb. 1.  Seniors who qualify will be notified by the Department of Revenue by the end of April. Another important bill creates critical new protections for Oregon's vulnerable seniors, by establishing new reporting requirements for individuals who witness or suspect elder abuse.  
Residential Foreclosures
Despite large bi-partisan support in the Senate, a home foreclosure bill was stalled in the House until it finally passed on the last day of the session.  Banks are required to discuss alternatives to foreclosure with homeowners, and must not use a "dual-track" foreclosure system, where they begin foreclosure while in the process of renegotiating terms with the homeowner.
Government Efficiency
My bill to overhaul the criminal background check system passed unanimously through both the House and Senate.  A work group will examine ways to streamline the current inefficient and redundant background check procedures used by more than 50 agencies, which have proved inefficient and costly for employers, employees, and the state. 
Other government efficiency bills will reduce middle management positions in state government and increase accountability in public contracting by cracking down on "sweetheart deals" and improving transparency with the public contracting process.