February 2013

Dear Friends,
Oregon's 77th Legislature is now fully underway, and we have a lot of work to get done.  I am honored to once again be representing my constituents at our capitol, and I look forward to everything we can accomplish this session.
We have a great group of legislators and I am excited to work with new faces (14 freshman first-timers joining our ranks) as well as old friends on both sides of the aisle.  We've already passed a couple of big proposals: tuition equity and the I-5 Columbia River bridge replacement.  I have introduced 28 bills; several have been heard in committee, and three have already passed the House. We're lining up testimony to advocate for better government, lower operating cost, improved service, and a few specific bills for public safety, health care and consumer protection. A full list of my bills is here

The recent revenue forecast shows that revenue will probably be a little more than expected through the end of this biennium (ending July 2013), and a little less than previously forecast for 2013-15.  More importantly, however, it looks like the prudent budget actions from the past few years, and the investments we made in Oregon's future are beginning to pay off. The forecast shows that Oregon is on a slow but steady path toward economic recovery, and we are optimistic that revenues will stabilize and increase as the economy continues to improve in the years ahead.  The State Economist explains, "The baseline (most likely) outlook calls for growth rates to improve modestly during the 2013-15 biennium. Although Oregon's economic expansion is not expected to match the pace seen during past periods of growth, it is likely that growth will improve somewhat relative to the crawling pace of recent years... Although revenue growth will improve going forward, it will remain modest..." 
We will still have many difficult decisions to make, since operating costs continue to grow faster than revenue.  Global economic changes and federal budget and tax decisions could play an important role in both our economic recovery and state tax revenue.  Federal revenue reaches nearly every corner of the state's budget, from small airports and coast ports to food stamps, caring for children and seniors, and clean water. We will do our best to ensure that our communities stay safe, our economy continues to grow, and that schools can give our children the education they deserve. 

Want to keep your fingers close to the pulse of what's going on in Salem and around the district?  For Facebook users, please "like" my page; I will occasionally post short comments there about specific topics, projects, or events.
In This Issue
Legislation (Bills)
Transp and Econ Devt Committee
Tuition Equity
Town Hall
Coffee conversations
Salem office
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One of the vote boards in the House chamber

Government efficiency and public safety.  Some of my 28 bills focus on making government run smoother and more efficiently.  We have put together five bills to aid in making the criminal background check process easier, more thorough, and less redundant. These improvements will benefit the dozens of occupations that require pre-employment background checks, such as home care workers, daycare workers, school employees and volunteers.  The bills would also improve the process and catch more convictions during screening to further protect Oregonians in their homes, on the job, or at school. 

Affordable housing, consumer protection, and health care.  To help manufactured home park residents, I have a bill improving the process for them to make an offer to purchase their land before the owner sells to an outside party.  Another bill would retain odometer readings for cars older than ten years, to prevent fraud and scams for car buyers and dealers.  Other bills would help expand access to mental health services in local communities, and help sustain school based health centers. 

Recognizing important work being done by colleagues, I have added my support to several bills as a co-sponsor.  Here are two examples: Affordable Health Care for All Oregon, authored by Representative Michael Dembrow, and banning the practice of growing canola in the Willamette Valley, a potentially devastating risk to fertile farmland, and our worldwide recognized organic seed crops.

Another bill tackles one of my priorities for education and jobs.  The Career and Technical Education Revitalization Grant Program would provide funding to the Department of Education to help students not on the four-year college track find good jobs.  For a full list of other bills I'm co-sponsoring, click on this link.

In the Transportation and Economic Development Committee 
film-video tax credit proponent
Rob Shaw, Bent Image Lab, showing the stop-motion animation puppets used for the series "Portlandia"

We've started hearing proposals for enhancing the state's growing film and video (and games) industry, business retention and expansion, and investments in critical infrastructure such as water, sewer, court buildings, roads ... and I'm pushing for telecommunications, too.


Transportation: The Oregon Department of Transportation recently reported on progress made in developing and repairing our transportation infrastructure. ODOT is well above its 80% target rate for on-time project completion; as of 2012, it's nearly 89%. Additionally, over 95% of state projects have been completed on or under budget, with 795 projects totaling $24.6 billion finishing 1% under budget overall. Because of improvements to our highway system, Oregon's automobile fatality rate now ranks 12th lowest in the nation.   Looking to the future, the state is also building its ability to accommodate electric vehicles along the I-5 corridor, with plans to add more charging stations there and to several other routes across the state in the coming decade.  

Tuition equity

Last Friday was an historic day for the Oregon House of Representatives, passing a tuition equity. This bill allows students who have grown up here in Oregon to be eligible for in-state tuition rates at our public universities, even if they are undocumented (many came with their parents to Oregon as small children).  I am proud proud of the many ambitious students who have completed high school and worked hard to earn their chance for higher education.

Town Hall at Willamette High School

 On February 13th, I had the pleasure of speaking to citizens at a town hall with Representative Val Hoyle and Senator Chris Edwards.  It is always great when I can get a better understanding of the concerns that are on the minds of my constituents, and to discuss potential solutions.  We discussed a range of important topics such as health care, education funding, human services, natural resources, the environment, and specific topics such as home births (and midwifery), and campaign finance reform.  We also discussed the massive costs of running our state prisons, the urgent need to expand access to mental health care and addiction and abuse treatment programs in Lane County, and the close relationship between the availability of these services and public safety.

Coffee conversations

Last month I met with constituents a couple of times at locations in north Eugene.  We talked about  my legislative work and their ideas and concerns.  Here's a quick list to give you a flavor of how interesting these conversations are:  genetically modified rape seed (canola) and its threat to Willamette Valley crops; jail overcrowding; coal trains; the flood threat in the Eugene area; guns in schools, ensuring senior driver safety; new passenger trains purchased for Oregon to replace current trains; protecting interest of people living in manufactured homes; corporate "personhood" and spending in political campaigns; whether Oregon is friendly to business (there are impartial national studies giving Oregon favorable ratings in areas such as small business and taxes); the cultural tax credit; off road vehicles; Section 9 (subsidized) housing; farm to school programs to help local farmers and student nutrition; and the tax status for municipal bonds.    

In the Salem office
Our legislative office is pleased to welcome this year's great group of interns: Dominique Rossi, Emily Ann Farrell, and Katherine Hamburg.  Dominique is a second year law student at the University of Oregon, and Emily Ann is a University of Oregon Law School grad who currently practices in the Eugene area.  Katherine is an undergraduate Politics major at Willamette University.  It's a joy having them help around the office, and I very much look forward to working with them throughout the session.  Adam and Casey are handling a huge load, for example, nearly 700 email messages received last weekend alone, in addition to supporting committee work and tracking those 28 bills!
Eugene visitors to state Capitol
It's a treat when I have time before or after hearings to meet with Eugeneans visiting the Capitol. This month I met with nurses, high tech business owners, school parents, college students, EWEB Board members, bankers, and more!
Stand for Children
Ashton Eaton, Olympic decathlon gold medalist, "World's Greatest Athlete"
Stand for Children parents
and student

EWEB members local nurses and students
EWEB Board members and staffNurses and nursing school students