With former Gov. Kitzhaber
at Health Care rally
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.”
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.”
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.
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 .
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.
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
Prescription Drug Pool website.
The House Consumer Protection Committee approved a bill
to cap all consumer finance loans at 36%.
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
appreciate your understanding as my legislative staff answer your
calls and letters and sometimes meet with you while I’m