Presenting awards at the Olympic Trials
Town Hall: What's changing
with health care in Oregon
Summer is usually slow for media-reported legislative news since we are not "in session". I have lots of work in Eugene and Salem, though; several committees are meeting through the summer. I was recently appointed to the Capitol Master Plan Review Committee (see below), and convene the State and Local Government Efficiency Task Force. I am monitoring progress of a group working to improve the burdensome and uncoordinated criminal background check process (see the text of my 2012 legislation here, and a summary here). I'm spending time on other local and state issues, as well, such as preserving school health clinics, hearing from local manufacturers looking to strengthen the area's food processing industry, attending a Eugene Chamber of Commerce meeting with Senator Ron Wyden to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing Lane County manufacturers, and improving data security at schools. Please contact my office at any time to share your thoughts and concerns!
The past four years have seen significant changes for our health care system. You can find out what's changing with health care in Oregon and how it will help, at a joint town hall I'm hosting with Representative Val Hoyle.
Tuesday, August 28th, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
North Eugene High School Library
200 Silver Lane
You will have the opportunity to hear from state and local professionals spearheading changes, including: Bruce Goldberg, Director of the Oregon Health Authority; Lou Savage, Administrator of the Insurance Division at the Department of Consumer and Business Services; officials from Trillium Community Health Plans, the local Coordinated Care Organization; and Jesse Ellis O'Brien from OSPIRG. We will discuss changes in the Oregon Health Plan; the Oregon Health Insurance exchange; and reviewing health insurance companies' requests to increase rates. (I sponsored a bill in 2007 that requires the State to immediately disclose rate increase requests, rather than posting them after they have already been approved, allowing time for public review and comment.) Come find out more about this, and other important health related topics on August 28th.
Foreclosure Law Takes Effect
The Legislature passed a law (SB 1552) earlier this year to help protect home owners before and during the foreclosure process. In addition to several new transparency requirements for banks, the law also establishes a mandatory mediation program for banks and home owners. With the Associated Press reporting that "banks are increasingly placing homes with unpaid mortgages on a countdown that could deliver a swell of new foreclosed properties onto the market," it is important to act quickly if you or someone you know is facing foreclosure, or believes they are at risk of foreclosure.
The law requires the lender to send the homeowner a mediation notice with instructions on how to confirm and schedule mediation. If you believe you are at risk of foreclosure, you may initiate mediation on your own by using forms here. Prior to mediation, you must meet with a free HUD-certified housing counselor to consider your options. (Meeting with a counselor is not required if no appointments are available within 30 days). If you are in Lane County, contact the
Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO): (541) 345-7106 or by email on their website. You can also get a list of qualified housing counselors near you from the 2-1-1 service: dial 211, or visit the 2-1-1 website for community, social, and health services in Oregon.
Other foreclosure resources:
Official Oregon Mediation Program Homepage
Oregon Department of Business and Consumer Services foreclosure page
Helping Oregon's businesses: Oregon Business Portal
Recently, the State of Oregon launched "Business Xpress", an online information portal for business owners. The site is intended to be a "one stop shop" for Oregon businesses. If you need to find resources for starting, expanding, and operating a business in Oregon, or would like to relocate a business within or to Oregon, the Business Xpress portal can help. The site provides links to other state agencies, and information on lots of topics ranging from obtaining permits and licenses to finding sources for financing. Visit the website for more information, and spread the word about this great new tool for Oregonian business.
With Sen. Prozanski and ShelterCare Director Susan Ban at a ShelterCare facility
Earlier this summer I visited two ShelterCare facilities, the Heeran Center and Hawthorn Apartments. ShelterCare helps families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and adults with a mental illness or brain injury. In a recent internal study, ShelterCare officials found that individuals who participated in their TIP ("The Inside Program") had great outcomes, and at less expense: 87% fewer medical hospitalizations and 82% fewer psychiatric hospitalizations. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law recently concluded: "Research has shown that providing immediate, permanent housing leads to more long-term housing stability when compared to traditional housing programs. Other positive outcomes for supportive housing participants include reduced hospitalization, decreased involvement with the criminal justice system, participants' greater satisfaction with their quality of life and improvement in mental health symptoms." I'm glad we have a staff of dedicated individuals at ShelterCare to serve Eugene and Lane County!
Capitol Master Plan Review Committee
I was appointed in June to the Capitol Master Plan Review Committee. The Master Plan was completed in 2009 after many years of work involving the participation of legislators, support staff, executive branch officials, architects, engineers, and regular citizens. The plan's goals include: "analyzing the existing condition of the Capitol, determine where upgrades are required, identify how space needs can be met, and develop a concept, cost plan and a phasing strategy to address the long term vision for a complete renovation of the Capitol."
The east and west office wings were renovated in 2007 to fix contaminated water pipes, hazardous wiring, serious fire dangers, and substandard heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The 1938 center section which includes the beautiful rotunda and the House and Senate Chambers has not seen significant upgrades. One of the key needs is seismic upgrade for the 1938 and 1977 structures (the current walls and partitions lack the strength to resist ground level shaking!). In addition, the four floors of the 1938 building are interconnected through stairs and elevators, without smoke separation, and the building is not fully fitted with fire sprinklers. Last year, more than 237,000 people visited the Capitol, and 2,800 tours were conducted. As the home of the Legislature, meeting place for thousands of Oregonians, and a significant public landmark, it is important to consider how to safeguard lives and preserve a working structure.