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April 17,  2013


Dear Friends,

The significant issue confronting this 77th Legislative Session is PERS reform. Many of you have provided me your pro and con comments which I appreciate. To present an economists position, the following is a summary of an April 12th Oregonian "guest" editorial by John Trapogna and Ed Whitelaw with ECONorthwest:


"Last fall, a diverse panel of the profession's best thinkers predicted defaults and federal bailouts if states didn't act quickly to shore up their unfunded liabilities.


The growing consensus flows from a series of studies that pegs Oregon PERS as one of the most troubled systems in the country -- together with Ohio. One paper went so far as to predict a population exodus if Oregon were to price its liability appropriately and attempt to fully fund it with sharp tax increases or deep service cuts.


What these economists see so clearly is the disproportionate size of Oregon's obligations relative to the size of its economy. Oregon owed $59 billion in future benefits to public employees for all the service delivered through the end of 2010. By contrast, Washington owed $62 billion for its state-sponsored plans. But Washington's economy is about twice the size of Oregon's.


Senate Bill 822, which passed the Senate on Thursday and will be debated in the House this week, suggests that lawmakers recognize a problem but have yet to grasp its scale. Or, worse, they grasp the scale and are unwilling to address it.


The bill relies on a cost-of-living adjustment that's not especially fair. Big money match winners with short stints in public service are treated identically to career employees. Its other main feature calls on the PERS Board to postpone some of its scheduled contributions.


Proceed with SB822 as the fix and the odds are that Oregon will stumble through an era of subpar public services relative to our neighbor to the north."




Whatever, your position is on PERS reform. We have to confront the issue of a PERS unfunded liability of $14 to $16 billion dollars.



Gene Whisnant




school house rock 

Previously, we recommended you watch the revenue bills HB 2001 and HB 2456. HB 2456 appears to be the new bill being used by leadership to collect $275 million of new revenue to help offset the $1 billion K-12 increase in the 2013-2015 budget. House Democrats announced on Monday, April 15 they will back away from a proposal to cap charitable deductions in HB 2456. Remember the estimated 2013-1015 revenue increase is $1.7 billion. To capture the loss revenue of $64 million from not taking away charitable deductions; they will further raise the increases on corporations and high income earners. Your input to leadership on the potential impacts on elimination of charitable deductions helped convince them that this was not a good idea. Without the revenue from the elimination of charity deductions; the leadership is seeking revenue from another round of Measures 66 and 67 tax increases.

SB 822 A, the Democrat PERS "light" reform bill which passed the Senate on a party line vote, was scheduled to come to the House Floor today but has been withdrawn. There appears to be some members who are not comfortable with this vote although the official response is that the bill needs more paperwork.



The Oregon Legislature Ways and Means Joint Committee will hold a public meeting in Bend on Friday, April 19 from 4:30-6 PM at the William Healy Armory, 875 SW Simpson Avenue in Bend.


The hearing provides the public an opportunity to present your opinion on the financial decisions the budget writers face. The main budget issues include PERS reforms, tax increases, and the elimination of tax credits and tax deductions for mortgages and charities. The key legislation being considered includes HB 2001 , HB 2456 and SB 822 A.


I have attended these hearings in past sessions and believe they provide citizens a great opportunity to make your concerns and positions heard by the Oregon budget writers.



House Higher Education Committee:

On Monday, a public hearing was held on HB 3009 and HB 3114. HB 3009 would provide certain persons with rights to possess firearms on college or university grounds and HB 3114 would permit community colleges districts to establish police departments.

On Wednesday, work sessions were held for two bills. HB 2178 would provide loan forgiveness to such students who agree to manage medical clinics in the underserved areas. The bill was voted out of committee and I voted yes. HB 3038 would appropriate moneys from General Fund to Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development for work ready community programs, employer workforce training and back to work programs. The bill was voted out of committee but I voted no. The bill has no policy statement.

On Friday, we had a work session on two bills. HB 2154 would require community colleges and public universities to form achievement compact advisory committees and specifies membership and duties. It passed the committee but I voted no. HB 2898 would allow students with disabilities to earn credit at a community college or public university as part of transition services. The bill passed out of committee and I voted yes.

House Education Committee:

On Monday, we passed out of committee HB 2426. This bill directs school districts to adopt policies for the use of personal electric devices. I voted yes.

On Wednesday, we passed HB 3474 and HB 2150. I voted NO on both.

On Friday, we passed ten bills: HB 3014, HB 2192, HB 2748, HB 3254, HB 2153, HB 2875, HB 3093, HB 3394, HB 2743, and HB 3401. I voted NO on HB 2748, HB 2153, HB 3095, and HB 3401. HB 3401 is a bill which benefits a specific Education Service District. It protects the Lane ESD remaining school districts if Eugene school district opts out of the ESD.


House Human Services & Housing Committee:

On Monday, we held a work session on HB 3301 which authorizes an owner of a lot in a planned community or unit in condominium to install and use electric vehicle charging station. The bill passed out of committee and I voted in support of this bill.

On Wednesday, we passed and I voted yes on HB 2205A, HB 2055 and HB 3440. Then, we had testimony on HB 3131 related to staffing at the State Hospital.              

On Friday, we passed with a 6-3 vote HB 2639 which is chief-sponsored by Speaker Kotek. The bill requires rental property owners to comply with new policies concerning "Section 8" low income renters and sets up a taxpayer fund with additional state employees to compensate renters whose property is damaged or due rent after accepting "Section 8" renters taxpayer provided vouchers. I voted NO on the bill which I believe in fact will result in less rental property owners accepting "Section 8" renters. I requested amendments to the bill to protect the owners but the amendments will not be accepted.

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The State has a new comprehensive system to help keep track of bills and committee agendas. That system is called OLIS, Oregon Legislative Information System.



On Thursday, I carried House Memorial (HM) 2 on which I am the chief sponsor. The memorial passed 60-0 which supported the Federal Government's efforts to protect intellectual property rights and stop counterfeiting our products. Counterfeit products result in job and earnings losses, reduced tax revenues and threats to public health and safety.

On Friday, HB 2128A related to the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange Corporation passed on a party line vote and I was a NO. Most House Republicans believe this bill "rolls back" the policy agreements in the 2012 session on the Governor's healthcare reformation bills. We'll watch this bill to see if the Governor will support the previous agreements and veto this bill if it reaches his desk.

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Shawn Paulino,Rep. Whisnant,                  Beth Miller (Youth of the Year), Lisa Maxwell, Senator Knopp, JoAnne Sutherland

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Fun Political Information: The number of State Legislators is 7,383. Oregon has 90. The state with the most legislators is New Hampshire with 424 and the state with the least number is Nebraska with 50. Nebraska is unicameralism (one chamber).

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Vicki Olson, Legislative Assistant

Email: rep.genewhisnant@state.or.us

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