Legislative newsletter. Early March, 2008
At the Capitol
The Oregon Legislature’s supplemental session started fast, stayed
focused, and conducted the kind of business well-suited for a short, mid-term session. It was a good test responding to the
recommendation of the Public Commission on the Legislature when they reported in November, 2006, “The Legislative Assembly should establish a new meeting time for the 2007 legislative session and hold a
legislative session in 2008. The legislature must determine how and whether it is desirable to have annual sessions beginning with the 2009
session.” Full report. I expect this to be discussed in the next legislative session. Any
proposal would be forwarded to voters, since the legislative schedule is set out in the state constitution.
Legislative Aide Tim Inman and me in our temporary office (yes, this was the whole
When I wrote about this test run in a previous
newsletter, I noted the session should be used to make “housekeeping”
adjustments to fix any problems with previous bills, make budget adjustments, and respond more quickly to urgent matters that crop up in a
fast-changing world. We accomplished that. And given the recent economic forecast (gloomy), it seems even more important that we reviewed the budget
to make some discrete, targeted investments – or expenditures to address crises, such as the winter storm disasters in the northwest counties,
and to help turn around serious problems at the State Hospital.
We adopted bills for jobs, health, consumers, government accountability
and more. We approved funding for seniors, children, affordable housing, and the Oregon Institute of Technology building expansion to support health occupations. We provided help for the
Farm-To-School and Garden Program to aid in getting local produce into local schools to promote better student nutrition as well as local
Here’s a partial list of our work:
- Seniors: Initiated work for a comprehensive plan for long term senior care. Allocated over $12 million to improve access to adult foster home care,
assisted living centers, relative care, and in-home care to help seniors and disabled persons stay in their own homes, such as Oregon Project
- Children: Closed the loophole so retailers can’t continue to sell unsafe toys that have been recalled. Funded community health center test
projects to provide health care to children, additional staff to protect children in foster care, and improvements for the Talented and Gifted
- Economy and business: Initiated work to explore the potential for projects to store water from the Columbia River, Umatilla Basin and other
parts of Oregon, and use it to help increase agricultural production and economy. Expanded a popular program which provides a credit to businesses
involved in environmentally sound energy manufacturing.
- Homeowners: Tightened foreclosure laws to require more complete notification to homeowners facing foreclosure,
end “rescue mortgage” scams, place restrictions on foreclosure consultants and “equity purchasers,” and put limits on
mortgage loan originators.
- Public safety: Following the approval of 100 State Trooper positions last session, approved funding to continue hiring troopers to
achieve 24-7 coverage as quickly as possible. Prepared a measure for the November ballot to increase penalties for people convicted of various
property and drug crimes and increase funding for drug and alcohol treatment.
- Agriculture: Allowed for an inheritance tax credit for small family farms, fisheries and woodlots when the estate has been in natural resource production
and the heirs continue to use the property in a similar way.
- Environment: Required state agencies to reduce energy use 20% by 2015. As mentioned above, expanded a popular tax credit program that promotes businesses
that support greener technology.
- Disaster victims: Responded to the 2007
winter storms with legislation to improve state response and help for natural disasters. Remedies include allowing the state to
waive a one-week waiting period to provide unemployment benefits to people who lost their jobs due to natural disasters (also depends on federal
waiver), and allocating $500,000 to help local governments with disaster loans to aid in rebuilding the community.
OWIN staff, with map and a model of a communications tower.
My Committee work
The recent session provided the opportunity to convene meetings of
committees and task forces (we’re all there in the building, let’s make the best use of our time). The
Education System Design Team met for a couple of hours to talk about where we are and where we’re going (see my last newsletter to learn more about this
team). The Oregon Wireless Interoperability Network (OWIN) Work Group met several times and helped shape the recommendation proposed
– and approved – to start funding critical re-investment to improve Oregon’s aging and inadequate public safety communications
system. The recent storms, and last year’s summer fires, helped highlight the need which some communities experience every day, when police,
fire, and other emergency responders can’t talk to each other.
And more while I was in Salem
I met with the OWIN staff at their office, and visited a Port of Entry (or
“Weigh Station”) north of Woodburn. I watched the huge volume of truck traffic flowing through the station, learned
about the technology that speeds the work for the motor carrier enforcement officers as well as the truckers, and accompanied a professional to see
the underside of a truck up close!
Motor Carrier Enforcement Officer examining a truck at the Woodburn weigh
Back in the District
- Town Hall Alert
On March 13, from 6:30 – 8:00 pm in the library at Cal Young
Middle School (2555 Gilham Road, Eugene, OR 97408, map), I will be hosting a Town Hall with Representative Chris Edwards and Senator Vicki Walker. We will
spend the evening discussing the recent legislative session and listening to thoughts and concerns from our constituents. If you
would like to hear more about the session, share some thoughts with your legislators, or socialize with members of your community, please join us!
During the February session, my husband had a milestone birthday, the
hellebore in the backyard burst into bloom, and we recorded 11 different kinds of birds from our breakfast table one Sunday morning. I’m back
in gear at work now, and staff is back at the district office.
As the days get longer I look forward to seeing you in the district and
Click here to access my