February 2014


Week four in Salem, and the legislature is on track for concluding work by the March 9 deadline. Compared to a few thousand bills in a six-month session in an odd numbered year, only 263 bills were introduced, and nearly 90% of them had at least one hearing. More than 2/3 were approved by a committee in either the House or the Senate. My bills have all passed the House; more about that below. 

Snow day
Snow day: I was in Salem during the snow storm, but my snow boots were in Eugene! 


I'll be back in Eugene for more than just weekends when the session ends. Shortly after that will be the candidate filing deadline for many local and state offices, and I have already filed for re-election.


When I get back I'm looking forward to visiting local businesses and organizations, following up on legislation that I passed earlier to see what progress has been made, and leading a walk to see the changes at Delta Ponds.


In This Issue
Good ideas passing
Good ideas stalled
My four bills
Robot cars
Delta Ponds tour
Tax filing help
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Good ideas that are passing, so far
The bee bill: HB 4139 looks at the impact of pesticides on pollinators; the collapse of bee colonies has become an increased concern for farms and the environment.

Silver Alert: Just like Amber Alert for missing children, Silver Alert aims to help protect vulnerable adults, such as persons with impaired mental condition like Alzheimer's disease, a disability, or brain injury.  I'm happy to have voted yes on SB 1577 requiring local law enforcement agencies to develop policies ensuring quick response for these missing persons.

Funding the 9-1-1 service: Almost everyone who uses a phone pays an automatic charge (75 cents a month) to help support 9-1-1 emergency service. But anyone using a pre-paid cell phone has been off the hook, until now. HB 4055 establishes a fee on those phones, too. We need to ensure that our calls for emergency service are handled by expert, trained staff and routed quickly on reliable equipment to our first responders in the field. This bill helps do that.

Helping small business: SB 1563 raises the cap on the Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund from $70,000 to $100,000, to help small businesses looking to hire and expand.

Education and jobs: HB 4058 supports apprenticeship as a career pathway in Oregon's 40-40-20 education goals. The goal: by 2025, Oregon will ensure that 40% of adults will have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, 40% will have earned an associate degree or post-secondary credential, and 20% will have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. These credentialed apprenticeship programs ensure math, science, language, and other educational curriculum along with specific and marketable job skills.  

Class action lawsuits: In a nutshell, HB 4143 says that wrong-doers should pay up on court-ordered damages. Currently, the guilty party keeps money that was not claimed. Under this bill, uncollected money from class action lawsuits will to go to Legal Aid to assist low-income Oregonians who are in need of legal services. 

Ballot measure review: I was happy to testify in a Senate committee on SB 1544, supporting the Citizens Initiative Review, and Healthy Democracy. CIR organizes an unbiased panel of citizens with diverse political viewpoints to come together for several days to hear from  experts and advocates for and against a ballot measure. After deliberation, they publish their findings in the state Voters' Guide. CIR helps voters by providing non-partisan, unbiased review that cuts through the blizzard of paid postcards, ads, billboards and phone calls. I have enjoyed working with my colleague, Senator Arnie Roblan, to get permanent status for this program. For the 2012 election, over half of all Oregon voters read a CIR ballot measure statement; two-thirds found it useful for voting. About CIR.
Good ideas that have stalled
Oregon Student Assoc and LCC students
LCC and Oregon Student Association visits my office
College Students: HB 4102 would have helped protect students from being charged unfair fees when they access and use their financial aid -- for example, by eliminating "swipe fees" for students using a debit card linked to their financial aid. Although it passed the House, it did not make it out of the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce Development. We expect this will be discussed during the interim, and be re-introduced during the 2015 session.

Vaping instead of smoking: HB 4073 would have expanded Oregon law to prohibit the sale of vapor products (or e-cigarettes) to minors. I support this idea but it's "dead" for this year.

Predatory practices: SB 1571 would have set business practice rules and allowed a brief period to rescind contracts that homeowners sign for restoration services after a disaster. This bill would have addressed the predatory practices of certain restoration companies, such as approaching victims of a house fire while the home is still burning, and talking them into signing contracts while they are under extreme duress.
My bills: interest rates, vehicle titles, public contracts, & manufactured homes
Legislators were limited to introducing two personal bills for this session. In addition to those, I also led the effort for two more.  All four have passed the House and are on their way through the Senate now.

I passed a bill to set up a program for expedited vehicle titles. Just as consumers can pay an extra fee for special handling or quick shipping, this one sets up a program at DMV to process a title in a few days instead of the typical three weeks. The charge will be hefty, but at least the service is available when there's an emergency or important need to have a title quickly, such as taking a new car out of state on an extended trip.

Here's another one that has passed both House and Senate:
MHP vote-passes House
One of my bills passes 60-0

Saving money for seniors: Property tax deferral for seniors and disabled persons. HB 4148 reduces charges for individuals who qualify for the Senior and Disabled Property Tax Deferral Program by changing the interest rate from compound to simple interest. This tax deferral program helps qualified people remain in their homes by deferring tax payments until the property is sold. This change will help seniors who are living on a limited income and managing a tight household budget.

I'll report on Manufactured Homes (HB 4038) and More accountability for public contracts (HB 4122) in the next newsletter.
Outside the Capitol: services for kids
Nearly 300 people gathered at a Salem conference hotel for the Alliance 4 Kids conference last month. In my keynote remarks I stressed the importance of school health centers, and more generally, the need for government agencies and non-profit organizations to work together and not as separate "silos."

An o
nline health care newsletter, The Lund Report, reported my comments on the value of 2-1-1 and social service programs.
Robot cars
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) -- Connected cars -- Driverless cars --Robot cars: The House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development recently heard a presentation about AVs, or self-driving cars. This is no pie-in-the-sky idea, and they're currently being tested (in California) by several car companies. This game-changing technology uses wireless communication between vehicles and infrastructure to help prevent crashes, make travel easier, and curb pollution. I am intrigued by the advantages of this idea that already has lots of enthusiastic support. Nevertheless, at the hearing I raised a concern for safety; I want to hear about plans for cyber security. We are aware of widespread security breaches that result in identity theft, financial fraud, and other crime. What if someone were able to "hack" a car's computer system, take control of the vehicle, and intentionally manipulate the vehicle in some way to do harm, such as causing a multi-vehicle crash and pileup on an interstate bridge? While the response explained that we would be making a risk-benefit analysis of adopting this technology, I pointed out that the risk-benefit is more public than individual.  When people use a credit card, cell phone, or other device they accept a small risk for the convenience, but a security breach involving a vehicle could endanger a large number of people.

This will surely be a lively topic for the next few years!  Wikipedia has an extensive article describing the technology, history, advantages, obstacles, and recent developments in California and other states. Presentation to our legislative committee by R. L. Bertini, PSU Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.   
Walking tour at Delta Ponds
Delta Ponds
An earlier tour at Delta Ponds
Join me in March for a walking tour at Delta Ponds, where Eric Wold, the Natural Resource Manager for the Eugene Parks and Open Space Department, will be our guide. We will be looking at the changes since our last guided tour, shortly after the work was completed to restore habitat and water circulation. We'll see how the water is flowing in winter, and learn about the efforts to control a highly invasive aquatic weed called the South American Creeping Water Primrose (or Ludwigia Hexapetala).

I will send an announcement with date, time, and meeting place, or contact my office directly.
Talent, and Tax filing help
Audrey Mechling,
Intern from Willamette U.
L.A. Becky Nelson
Becky Nelson,
Legislative Aide
Need help filing taxes? Here are two ideas: the state Department of Revenue list of free and other commercial online filing, and AARP's free Tax Aide help.

A couple more people have joined the office to help keep up with all the work during the legislative session, providing support as I chair a committee, juggle meetings and hearings, and work on bills and amendments.  Thank you!