Carrying a bill on the House Floor

Newsletter – Early June


We're speeding ahead now, doubling time spent in "floor sessions" as committee work winds down. We have dozens of House and Senate bills on our list to consider each day.  Quite a few House bills that were passed to the Senate have returned to the House to concur with Senate amendments, such as HB 2650 (which I mentioned in my April newsletter) that specifies minimum nutrition standards for food and drink sold in schools; and HB 3466, which clarifies electoral procedures for water conservation district elections.


Budget: Of 99 regular agency budget bills scheduled for the Ways and Means Committee, nearly 70 had passed Ways and Means by June 1st, and over 40 have been passed in both chambers, such as budgets for the Health Licensing Agency, Secretary of State, Dept. of Energy, State Marine Board, State Police and Dept. of Veterans Affairs.


Still remaining are several large budget bills for human services and higher education.  In higher education, I am particularly concerned about inadequate funding for Lane Community College, and university capital (construction) projects for science and engineering.  These investments are critical to address shortages in health care occupations, job training for people entering or changing direction in the workforce, and the near- and long-term economic health of the state.


Unfinished business? Big ideas: A few high profile proposals failed to get majority (or super-majority) support in the House, so advocates and legislators have been considering whether amended or scaled down proposals should be considered in the Legislature or referred to voters, for example: Healthy Kids health care and tobacco prevention programs, funded by an increase in tobacco tax; and an updated corporate minimum tax. And lots of other ideas: There are dozens of bills still in the queue for the Ways and Means Committee, and not all of them will make it out of committee to be considered and sent to the Chambers for final passage.


Helping counties. I'm working with Rep. Dallum (R-The Dalles) and others, discussing ways to help many counties solve their fiscal problems, due largely to the anticipated loss of federal payments. You may have heard of this problem as the "timber money" or the "rural schools payments." The official name of the federal law that has provided a hefty payment to hundreds of counties in Oregon and 38 other states is the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (Public Law 106-393).  As explained in the Register Guard and other reports, the federal government pledged to help counties pay for roads, schools and law enforcement following the creation of the national forest system in 1907. Large areas of land were no longer available to be developed or otherwise produce income and pay taxes to support public services. Of all Oregon land, 62% is publicly owned; in Lane County, 55% is owned by the federal or state government. 


By the mid 1900s, to partially offset that loss, 18 Oregon counties were receiving 50% of the receipts from timber harvest on land that had belonged to the Oregon & California Railroad ("O&C money"). As the timber harvest declined dramatically, Congress passed alternative legislation to calculate and distribute funds differently.  That legislation has now expired, and you've been reading that Oregon's Congressional delegation is trying to renew that law or arrange another funding mechanism to make up for the $230 million a year that will be lost for Oregon.

At a bill signing ceremony

Lane County is one of six Oregon counties that will lose a third or more of their general fund revenues with the loss of the federal payment, and one of 16 that will lose more than a third of the budget for roads.  For decades the state and counties have shared responsibility for certain programs, especially services for veterans, public health, human services (such as mental health and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, seniors, and housing), and the criminal justice system (such as District Attorneys and trial courts, and youth and adult corrections).  In many cases the state provides funding and the county delivers the service directly or through contracts with the private sector, particularly nonprofit organizations.


Counties have requested help ranging from direct grants or payments to "structural" changes such as formulas for calculating shared revenue, restructuring county governments, and reversing laws that prohibit local authority to charge certain fees.

Reviewing Whilamut Natural Area along
the Willamette River

In the District


I spent an hour visiting the after-school program at River Road Elementary School, and tagged along with the garden group to watch them paint their seed pots, pick strawberries, and check on the tomatoes. On a Sunday afternoon I walked with committee members to see opportunities to fix or spruce up some neglected and hazardous areas in the Whilamut Natural Area of Alton Baker Park, near the Autzen footbridge. I also enjoyed a couple hours visiting and listening to music at the "Scottish Festival" at Peace Presbyterian Church in Santa Clara.




We have gathered the following information about the disturbing environmental problem in the news last week. Groundwater under a part of the River Road neighborhood has been contaminated by solvent that was released at the Union Pacific Railyard and has traveled north into the Trainsong and River Road neighborhoods. The railroad has begun cleanup. The Oregon Health Department (OHD) and the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have become more actively involved in providing information and coordinating follow-up investigation and monitoring. DHS's SHINE (Superfund Health Investigation and Education Program) conducted a health assessment. This assessment can be found at SHINE's contact person is Jae Douglas. She can be reached at 503-872-5356. DEQ's project manager is Greg Aitken. He can be reached at 541-687-7361.

Students advocating for
School Based Health Centers

Visitors and Meetings


The last couple of weeks have been trying for my staff and me as we reschedule confirmed appointments to squeeze in hastily-called meetings. As the pace quickens toward the deadline, some committee hearings or work sessions are called on a one-day notice, or even less. Special meetings of work groups may even be called on just a few hours' notice.  Office appointments are now almost exclusively related to a specific bill – an advocate or opponent coming to explain their position on it – or a funding request for an agency budget or a request for additional funds beyond the current level.


Add to previous lists of visitors and meetings: OWIN (Oregon Wireless Interoperability Network); AARP (American Association of Retired Persons); advocates for mental health programs, health care system reform; new funding for housing programs; treatment for gambling addiction; and an event to learn about possibilities for biotech innovation in Oregon centered on research involving collaboration among Oregon's universities.

With an Honorary Page from
Kelly Middle School

Personal Note


This is nail-biting time for many legislators – and advocates – waiting to see which bills will be heard and passed by the planned close of session, June 29th! Staff with experience in previous sessions are saying that both staff and legislators will be putting in long hours as bills are being processed "morning, noon and night."


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