With former Gov. Kitzhaber
at Health Care rally

At the Capitol


News! The State Treasurer notified the Legislature last week that “...one of the three major national credit rating agencies has revised Oregon's general obligation bond rating outlook this week from ‘stable’ to ‘positive.’ The credit rating agency cited the state legislature's approval of a new rainy day fund using proceeds from the corporate kicker as a reason for the change... We are one step away from getting an increase in our bond rating... An improved credit rating would save the State millions of dollars each year in interest and the benefits would also flow to local governments and consumers.”

Last week we passed the midpoint in the session.  At a news conference House leaders described the Legislature’s accomplishments to date. The progress has been swift and noteworthy.  You may have read Governor Kulongoski’s quote in the Register Guard, “I think this session has worked harder and moved faster than I’ve ever seen any Legislature move.” 

Highlights since my last newsletter report:  Each week brings more action toward improving health care and reducing the costs of health insurance coverage.  The House passed a bill to increase information available to health insurance consumers, helping them understand the costs associated with medical procedures before they are surprised with huge bills.  Insurers would have to provide customers with a reasonable estimate of the costs associated with common medical procedures such as normal office visits, child birth, and orthopedic surgery.  I have introduced a bill – HB 3103 – to increase public access to information about insurance rates which had its first hearing last week.

Health for kids: Poor nutrition among children is a growing problem, leading to the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes, and other chronic health problems.  Disease prevention is just as critical for a healthy society as are fire and crime prevention.  The House passed school nutrition legislation to set standards for portion size, calories, sugar and fat.  It would phase out junk food sold in schools, and by the 2008/09 school year start replacing high-calorie sodas and overly large snack portions with healthier .


Faces you might recognize
standing behind the Governor’s desk:
Rep. Sara Gelser (Corvallis) on my right,
Rep. Terry Beyer (Springfield) and
Rep. Arnie Roblan (Coos Bay) on my left.

Prescription drugs: The House passed Senate Bill 362 which will bring down the cost of health care.  It expands the Oregon Prescription Drug Program to include more individuals as well as business associations, labor organizations, and employer-sponsored health plans.  Piggybacking on last November’s successful Ballot Measure 44, this bill will greatly increase the number of people who will benefit from lower drug costs.  For more information about the program and whether you qualify, visit the Oregon Prescription Drug Pool website.

Consumers: Payday loans.  The House Consumer Protection Committee approved a bill to cap all consumer finance loans at 36%. 



Recent meetings.  A partial list of visitors and activities at my office and elsewhere: advocates for children, K-12 education, community colleges and higher ed, and protecting air and water.  Also representatives of managed health care, credit union and banking industries; airport managers; EWEB Commissioners; brewers’ guild; Senior and Disability caucus; Oregon Wireless Interoperability Network (OWIN); Joint Ways and Means Committee hearings in Oregon City and Portland.  I’ve been discussing Belt Line and Delta Highway with ODOT, expressing the need for some measure of safety improvements now – without waiting several years for costlier long-term solutions.

Speaking at Town Hall

In-District Day


Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley called for March 30 as a day for representatives to be in their home districts.  House sessions and committee meetings were not scheduled, and I filled the day with work in Eugene.  I met with business leaders, visited the Lane County Veterans  Services office, discussed local issues with Commissioner Bobby Green, and had a briefing on Urban Search and Rescue.  At the last meeting I got a good view of the equipment and trailer that would be used to respond to emergencies for a large region of the state.

Constituents gather for the Town Hall at North Eugene High School

Town Hall


Rep. Chris Edwards and I hosted our second Town Hall of the session on April 7, at North Eugene High School. Commissioner Bill Fleenor was once again the moderator, guiding us through a full agenda and audience questions and answers.  Concentrating on the theme “Making Government Work Better” we explained recently-adopted legislation, bills being considered, and government efforts.  Just a few of the items I talked about:


Improving democracy and ethics (mentioned in my first newsletter).  This topic includes the new gift ban, better representation on committees, increasing public notice of hearings, and finally expanding the “whistleblower” rules to protect the confidentiality of anyone who contacts the state government to report fraud, waste, or abuse.

Responsible budgeting.  Why the new Rainy Day fund is important to make sure our spending level is sustainable when the economy cools, and revenue tapers off, as they always eventually do.

Performance measurement.  Making sure we’re spending money the right way, and on the right things.  We don’t want to just measure how many phone calls are answered or reports are written, we want to know the effectiveness of how we spend the money, and whether it improves lives.  We want to look at outcomes showing, for example, children’s health, safety on the road and in our homes, and success of treatment programs.  I highlighted examples of Oregon performance measures and comparisons with other states for rates of childhood immunization and senior immunization against influenza, and recidivism (or return to crime) for young people who are on parole or probation through the Oregon Youth Authority.

Continuous improvement.  The legislature requires state agencies to report their efforts to improve services or reduce costs (or both).  Scouring through pages and pages of binders from government departments.  

Wrapping up with my personal priorities, I noted education, health care, and public safety; a healthy economy and healthy living, and a special focus on drug and alcohol and mental health treatment to save lives, help families, and reduce crime.


Questions and comments covered funding for community colleges and K-12 schools, tax fairness, expanding the bottle bill, and enhancing the Willamette River corridor.

Tim, Marilen and Adam

Personal notes


We welcome Marilen Delgado, a Lane Community College student,  to our office as an intern this term. Shannon Judge, also from LCC, continues her internship that began in January.


The cherry blossoms at the Capitol Mall were beautiful in March.  I took advantage of a warm Friday afternoon to have a half-hour “walking meeting” with staff so we could enjoy the air and the trees while getting some work accomplished!


Tim says that my schedule “went from crazy to crazier” this week.  After full days in Salem I’ll be leaving late afternoon each day for Ways and Means hearings in Corvallis, Eugene, Bend, Medford, and then Coos Bay on Saturday.


I appreciate your understanding as my legislative staff answer your calls and letters and sometimes meet with you while I’m in committee.

April 2007