Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I'm preparing to go to Salem for the February legislative session (more information below). While much of my time has been spent preparing my legislative agenda, I've also worked on some interesting projects, met with Eugene School Board members and Lane Transit District officials, and participated with other Lane County legislators in a town hall meeting.
Feel free to contact me to share your thoughts and ideas. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-343-2206.
Annual Legislative Session
"Dropping" a bill in the Office of the Chief Clerk of the House
The annual Legislative Session is fast approaching. This will be the first time in history that the Oregon Legislature meets in consecutive years for a regularly scheduled session. The Oregon Constitution originally required the Legislature to meet every two years. In 2010, voters approved an amendment to allow the Legislature to meet for "short sessions" (no more than 35 days) in even-numbered years.
Because the session lasts for a limited period, this Assembly has agreed to limit House members to introducing no more than two bills each. I have introduced two bills: HB 4091 aims to streamline the process for occupations that require criminal background checks or licensing. The goal is to save time and money for employers, employees, and taxpayers while maintaining or improving safeguards for the public. HB 4108, which we're calling "Cash for Gold", aims to reduce property crime associated with the theft of gold and other precious metal jewelry by establishing record-keeping requirements for second-hand sales of those materials which are often sold for immediate cash. This will provide an additional tool for law enforcement officers to track down stolen precious metal jewelry. While Eugene has a good ordinance in place, most Oregon communities don't, so there's easy access in nearby towns to "same day cash" for jewelry, which might be stolen goods.
Education, Health Care, and Hearing
Budgets are stretched thin; school classrooms are bursting at the seams, and health care costs are climbing. That's why the legislature, and the governor, will continue to spend a lot of time working on changing the education and health care systems. Education: eliminate independent silos and do a better job of coordinating early education with K-12, and linking high school with community college and university. These changes will be designed to produce better outcomes in student achievement and graduation. Health care also needs to be looked at in a new way. The new Coordinated Care Organizations will play a large role in showing how it will work better for health care givers to work together in treating patients for improved physical and mental health.
I recently heard from an audiologist about the increasing rate of hearing loss in children under the age 15, which may be due to exposure to environmental noise (such as ear buds, headphones, concerts, gyms) or medical and other reasons. Permanent hearing loss can affect learning and work, increase risk of accident, and impair social development. This topic doesn't get much attention, but I hope to increase awareness of the risks and encourage protecting our kids' ears - and ours - from loud noise.
Government Efficiency Task Force
Chairing the first GETF meeting of 2012
In 2009-2010 I chaired the Task Force on Effective and Cost Efficient Service Provision to focus on program areas where both state and county governments are involved to make service delivery more efficient. The Task Force made 23 recommendations; several were implemented by administrative action, 14 were drafted into legislation, and six passed during the 2011 session.
The Legislature reauthorized the work as the State and County Government Efficiency Task Force. Fifteen members have been appointed as of this date, with three positions remaining to be filled. Despite the poor weather, thirteen members were able to participate in the first meeting last week, either by phone or in person. The group includes state, county, and local government representatives from around the state, and will seek assistance from many others involved in the day-to-day business of programs in human services, criminal justice, natural resources, education and elections.
still in the center of District 13!
Every ten years, as a result of the US Census, states examine their legislative district boundaries to see if changes need to be made as a result of shifting demographics. In many states the process of redrawing boundary lines can be extremely contentious. The 2011 Oregon Legislature did a remarkable job in avoiding controversy and passing Senate Bill 989 with wide bi-partisan support.
Although the new district boundaries do not become operative until 2013, any representative or senator who runs for reelection in 2012 will campaign for election to the newly drawn district, while still representing the "old" district. The new boundary for District 13 became operative on January 1st of this year. You can find more information about redistricting, including a map of the new district 13 boundaries, at the State Redistricting website. District 13 has relatively small changes, most notably: adjustments in the downtown area; the Trainsong neighborhood, more of the Santa Clara neighborhood and the far northern edge are added; reassigned to other districts are a chunk of the northwest part of River Road neighborhood and a few other small parts.
Help for Oregon businesses
Business Oregon, a state agency that works to create, retain, expand and attract businesses in Oregon, has received $16.5 million in federal funds to help small businesses borrow money. When combined with other available resources, the funds will inject $165 million into Oregon small businesses over the next four years through the Credit Enhancement Fund, the Oregon Business Development Fund, and the Capital Access Program. These three programs have helped businesses in this state access an estimated $817 million in financing already, and are prepared to help with more.
Business Oregon has several financing options and other assistance available for small businesses in Oregon. For more information click here.
A sample of some of my activities in the past few weeks:
- testified to the House Committee on General Government and Consumer Protection on my latest government efficiency bill, relating to criminal background checks (see below),
- a day-long hearing in Portland for legislative oversight on the Columbia River Crossing--a project to replace the current I-5 bridge, add light rail between Portland and Vancouver, and upgrade a number of highway interchanges,
- Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum featuring regional economic development efforts,
- meeting with Lane County Circuit Court Judges Mary Ann Bearden and Karsten Rasmussen to discuss court conditions, funding, and access to the judicial system,
- Oregon Film and Video Office annual meeting; the main site was in Portland, but UO hosted video conferencing so groups in Ashland, LaGrande, and Eugene could participate without travelling,
- meeting at the Oregon Student Access Commission (OSAC) about their work assisting students with grant programs, scholarships, precollege mentoring, and financial aid outreach programs,
- Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee visit to Eugene, including a briefing at EWEB about smart metering, water storage and healthy farms program, and discussion of solar energy production and wine industry development at King Estate vineyard,
- presentation to a fourth grade class at St. Paul Parish School on the law making process.