Nancy on a working lunch with Senator Winters and staff from the Legislative Fiscal
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As always, there is never a dull moment in Salem. We are heading into
the final stages of the session and all legislators are on one hour notice. Our schedules can change at the drop of a hat. Despite this busy
schedule I have been able to spend time with several visiting school groups from the district and enjoy a little bit of the spring weather by
taking 20 minute "walking staff meetings" around the Capitol with my legislative assistants.
This may be crunch time, as we try to balance the budget and pass
important legislation before Sine Die (our official way of saying end of session), but I am more committed than ever to make sure that we are being
thoughtful and thorough. I welcome any of my constituents to share their thoughts on the budget or any legislation that is important
Nancy chairs a lively discussion about the Secretary of State's budget.
Health care reform
Every week I receive emails, letters, and
phone calls from constituents with messages like, "health reform is economic recovery," and "please bring health care to thousands of Oregonians." As
we are nearing the end of the session, with less than four weeks left, I want you to know that we hear you and we are taking concrete steps
to do just that. We have made real progress in passing legislation that achieves our triple aim of increased access, improved patient safety and
privacy, and reforming the system to cut costs. Many of you may know that my bill, HB 2755, aimed at reducing the cost of health insurance, has
passed in both the House and the Senate and is waiting to be signed into law.
Additionally, two more bills have passed
with bipartisan support in the House and Senate, creating a charitable prescription drug program to distribute donated prescription drugs to
needy or uninsured individuals and allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines to persons who are at least 11 years of age. Two more bills have
passed the House and are now waiting for Senate approval: to require health benefit plans to provide coverage for hearing aids for children and
to allow dental hygienists to provide routine preventative services .
Just this past week, the House passed Senate
Bill 24, a step toward increasing access and containing health care costs. The bill requires health benefit plans to provide coverage of
medically necessary, evidence-based telemedical health services, if the health service is otherwise covered by the benefit plan. Telemedicine allows a two-way video
communication in which a health professional can directly see and talk with the patient, thus eliminating long commutes by patients and
helping reduce needless and expensive transport. Telemedicine will help reduce the number of hospitalizations, emergency department visits, critical
care transports, and other related care costs, and eliminates or reduces duplicate medical testing.
We understand that we must begin to rebuild
the Oregon Health Plan. With thousands of Oregonians going without health care and federal dollars available to provide care for
Oregonians, we do not have the option to do nothing. As we move forward, two of the biggest pieces of health care reform legislation, HB 2009 and HB
2116, have passed on the House floor this week and now head to the Senate for approval. In my evaluation of this legislation, I continue to be
committed to improving both access and affordability to health care while maximizing the use of federal
matching dollars. This would also boost Oregon's downturned economy by providing new healthcare sector jobs throughout the state.
Nancy and Representative David Edwards discuss important upcoming legislation on the House
Reforming the initiative
The state Constitution of Oregon was adopted
in 1867 by a vote of more than two to one. It remained unchanged until 1902, when voters approved an amendment establishing the initiative and
referendum process. The initiative process gives direct legislative power to the voters to enact new laws, change existing laws, or amend the
constitution. With the frequency of use during recent years, many Oregonians have begun to notice problems with the initiative process. A recent poll
suggests that 70% of Oregonians believe the system needs to be reformed. The legislature worked with Secretary of State Kate Brown on legislation
to restore trust and fairness in the initiative process. The changes will protect the rights of grassroots Oregonians to voluntarily collect
signatures and put some limitations on the paid signature gatherers. The bill has passed in the House and is waiting for Senate approval.
Fixing the ethanol
I'm reporting this topic
after concerns were voiced about "new gas" not working in lawnmowers and old cars, at a recent Saturday coffee. In the 2007 legislative
session a Renewable Fuel Standard for biodiesel and ethanol was established. The ethanol mandate made it difficult for ATVs, watercraft, and other
special engines to buy suitable gas. The passage of HB 3177 addresses this problem by allowing service stations to sell premium, higher-octane
gasoline without ethanol. The bill passed unanimously in the House and is now in the Senate.
Nancy and staff with Joyce, our receptionist for the House 2nd floor.
Bright Spot for
Although most of the news related to
employment is about high unemployment rates and the loss of thousands of jobs since last year, there is one bit of good news to report.
Food manufacturing is one industry that has continued to grow in Lane County and statewide over the last few years, even during this recession. From
March 2009 to April 2009 the number of food manufacturing jobs held steady and was up 1,900 jobs statewide since April 2008. The most recent data
available for Lane County shows a modest increase as well.
FYI: Oregon Child Support Program
– Recession Response Project
On May 5th Governor Kulongoski signed into
law a bill allowing the Department of Justice to respond to the current economic crisis by making temporary modifications of child support for
parents who have experienced an employment-related loss of income. If you are a parent, or know a parent, who pays or receives child support and your
income has been reduced due to the recession (lost job or reduction of hours), you may be able to get some temporary assistance from the Oregon Child
Support Program through a more streamlined process. Please contact the Oregon Child Support Program at 1-800-850-0228 if you need assistance and are
interested in this option. You can also visit the DOJ website to read
more information about this project.