Family visiting!

 March 2013

Dear Friends,
So what's going on up there at the Capitol? Here's the flow of business, in general - with rare exceptions.  Bills that originate in the House of Representatives are assigned by the Speaker to a specific committee, where most (but not all) receive a hearing.  If they are approved (with any amendments) by the committee they go to the full House for a vote. Then it's the Senate's turn. The Senate President assigns them to a committee, where they may die, or get passed with or without further amendments.  Those that pass go to the Senate floor for a vote.  Before going to the Governor for his signature, any Senate amendments must be approved by the House.   Bills that start in the Senate go through the same routine: hearings and votes in the Senate before going to the House.

Bills that require an expenditure greater than $50,000 usually go to the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee for review before they are heard in either chamber.

Senate Bill 483 is one of a few bills on a "fast track," having already passed both the House and Senate.  Part of the effort to keep pushing Oregon's health care transformation, the bill makes it easier to use mediation instead of lawsuits to resolve medical disputes. It allows patients, health care facilities, or providers to report medical errors confidentially to the Oregon Patient Safety Commission.  It sets up an "Early Discussion and Mediation" process to allow the commission to suggest ways to mediate grievances, improve care and reduce the volume of expensive malpractice lawsuits, while still protecting patients' constitutional right to justice.
Click here to get more information about all the bills and track their progress.  Under Bills, select 2013 Regular Session.
To keep close to the pulse of what's going on in Salem and around the district: Facebook users, please "like" my page; I post short comments there about specific topics, projects, or events.

In This Issue
Legislation (Bills)
Making it easier on business
Sequestration: Federal budget cuts
Tax filing hlp
Local experts come to Salem
State road work
Salem office
Eugene visitors at Capitol
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My Legislation

Smarter Government. Continuing my work on making government work smarter, I'm joining forces with three other colleagues to craft ideas and pass bills for Government Accountability, Transparency and Efficiency (GATE).  Besides the half dozen bills I brought from the Task Force I chaired, here's one of the recent bills we're pleased about:  Oregon has a Charitable Prescription Drug Program.  The bill gets unnecessary rules out of the way of doing good work, making it easier for pharmacists to distribute donated prescription drugs to needy or uninsured persons, and help more people.


Greeting residents in the Hearing room
Greeting residents in the Hearing room

Some of my bills are moving right along. 


Safety on the road: Window Tinting. HB 3136 passed the House on March 21 and is heading to the Senate.  This bill is supported by pro-pedestrian, pro-cycling, and law enforcement groups to keep everyone safer and ensure broader compliance with existing Oregon law.  Click here for my testimony describing the bill.


Protecting affordable housing: Opportunity to Purchase Mobile Home Park. HB 3007 had its hearing on March 20, and the work session is set for April 10. Several local resident homeowner-tenants came to Salem to testify, and others wrote letters in support.  Click here to listen to the testimony from housing experts, park residents, and conversion advocates.  


PNW Rail Corridor
Federally recogized high speed rail corrior

Advocating for Passenger rail: HB 2918 passed the House on March 26.  This bill puts Oregon on a path to plan and coordinate rail improvements through joint agreements with the state of Washington, as we develop the federally-designated 466-mile Pacific Northwest High Speed Rail Corridor from Eugene to Vancouver BC.  My testimony.


Consumer protection: odometer fraud.  HB 3137 had its hearing last week. My testimony describes why we should be keeping odometer readings for all automobiles, not just those under ten years old.  Rolling back the odometer to mislead the buyer means inflated sales prices and unexpected expenses for repair and maintenance.


Coming up this week: I'll be testifying to strengthen and save School Based Health Centers, to increase funds available for schools to spend directly on classrooms and services for kids, and to improve criminal background checks to protect the public.

Secretary of State helping Oregon's business climate 

You probably don't usually put "helping small business" and "Secretary of State" together in the same sentence ... but  a couple of weeks ago the General Government Subcommittee heard for several days from Secretary of State Kate Brown and her team, which includes Elections, Archives (and public records), and Corporations.  Noteworthy points:
* Oregon's Corporation Division provides an online registry to help small business.  The average for completing the registration process is under two days, compared to 43 days in California. Here's a typical story related by Secretary Brown: a Medford business owner had to drive four hours to Salem several years ago to complete a business registration. This year, he spent five minutes taking care of it online. Imagine the savings! Travel time and cost, time lost at work.  (Corporation Division home page. Notice that my cash-for-gold bill is mentioned on the first page.)
* The new web portal, Business Xpress, has been recognized by the Computerworld Honors Program as one of the "visionary applications of information technology moving businesses forward and benefitting society." 

Sequestration: Federal Budget Cuts Will Affect Oregon

The federal government has begun cutting the budget, and it will start having an impact in Oregon.  For example, Oregon's share of federal aid to primary and secondary education will be cut by about $10.2 million.  To find out more about the cuts, see the federal government website, and a chart prepared by the Washington Post.

Tax Time

The deadline for state and federal tax filings is April 15th.  The Oregon Department of Revenue website offers a listing of free tax preparation software to file your state tax return online. The Internal Revenue Service also offers free filing of federal tax returns for taxpayers making less than $57,000. Taxpayers can visit the IRS website and use the industry's top tax preparation software for free. If taxpayers choose to use Free File with direct deposit they can receive refunds in as little as 10 days.   See the DOR approved software vendor list for online filing.


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can provide a significant amount of help for individuals and families.  If you need help with EITC, federal and state Child and Dependent Care Credits, the federal Child Tax Credit, the Making Work Pay Credit and the state Working Family Child Care Tax Credit, or general help with filing, you can contact AARP Tax Aide at 888-227-7669 or 1-800-SAFENET (723-3638) for information on a LOCAL tax aide assistance site. 

Our Local Experts Testifying at The Capitol
Craig Opperman Looking Glass
Looking Glass' Craig Opperman

A few weeks ago, Eimar Boesjes, CIO at Moonshadow Mobile, spoke to the Transportation and Economic Development Committee on the topic of economic development, and specifically about the Oregon Growth Board.  The OGB's mission is to "Lift Oregon's efforts and improve outcomes to attract and make available capital for business formation and growth..."


Also, in the last few weeks, I've invited local organization directors and staff to talk with the Human Services Subcommittee and provide their perspectives on health care and social services. 



A Family For Every Child

They talked about the work they do, and what Oregon could be doing better.  We heard especially good testimony from Directions Service, A Family for Every Child, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and Looking Glass.  One example where work is needed: how to keep kids out of foster care when possible, and get them more quickly back into a stable family home or into permanent adoption. Advocates say that some kids get "stuck" in foster care, with poor outcomes. Speakers called out Relief Nursery and Judge Ann Aiken, too, for compliments. I'll be pushing for effective reform that will lead to better lives for kids.

State road work coming to North Eugene

More improvements are coming to the interchange of Beltline and I-5, starting April 1. Oregon Department of Transportation has published a project description, and a diagram of what it should look like during and after construction.  ODOT says the project will "enable the interchange to safely accommodate travel demands 20 years into the future."  It will feature:
1. New south-bound I-5 off-ramps to Beltline, in both directions.
2. A new ramp from west-bound Beltline to south-bound I-5.
3. A new Beltline Bridge over I-5.
4. A new multi-use path to connect south of the interchange to north of the interchange, set to open in 2016.

Orange cones and other prep work are showing up now around the Beltline interchanges with Coburg Road, Delta Highway, and River Road. Next month I'll describe the project to install ramp meters and improve safety and congestion.

In the Salem office

DominiqueBill Tracking whiteboard

Dominique Rossi, a second year law student at the University of Oregon, spends time going through a few thousand email messages (the majority from other counties around the state) so we can respond to our constituents; tracking down information to help constituents; and helping with local events.  On the right: Keeping the whiteboard updated, tracking progress of my bills in committee. 

Eugene Visitors at State Capitol
Northwest Youth Corps
I was delighted to speak with some students currently working with the Northwest Youth Corps.  We chatted about how the program has strengthened their work ethic, and helped them to advance their education.  I also met with key people from UO's Museum of Natural and Cultural History about the work they do at the Museum in Eugene, and in classrooms and field work around the entire state: preserving history from Oregon road construction and building sites, fields, and caves - and more.  The MNCH houses nearly a million ethnographic and archaeological objects and almost 100,000 fossils and biological specimens.

UO Mus Nat and Cul Histoy-Patty Museum rep's in a West Wing hall outside my office
Museum's Patricia Krier showing us
some of their publications
Museum reps in West Wing
hall outside my office