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May 7,  2013


Dear Friends,

In my March 12th Newsletter, I described how the final major task (the budget) of the 77th Legislative Session would be negotiated by the leadership involving the "triangulation" of PERS reform, the K-12 Budget, and possible new revenue. That is where we are today with probably less than 60 days remaining in the session. In accordance with the Oregon Constitution, the session must end by July 13 and the goal is to end the session by June 28 or July 3.


After the House passed unanimously HB 2456 A, the Republican minority report, on new revenue and the House Democrats passed the PERS "light" reform package (SB 822); the negotiations on the final budget has moved to the Senate.


The good news is that the Senate Democrats and Republicans are working to seek a negotiated agreement on the three major budget issues. They have invited the House Democrat and Republican leadership to participate. On Thursday, the Governor invited the legislative leaders to his office "in hopes of breaking through a partisan impasse over taxes and pension reforms."


The major roadblock to an agreement has been Speaker Tina Kotek's decision to go no further on PERS reforms than SB 822, the PERS "light" reform. "Senate President Courtney said the session has reached a critical stage where each party has to listen to the others' concerns."


Next week, we are scheduled to receive the May Revenue Forecast. This is the final input needed to develop the 2013-2015 Budget. However, rumors continue that we may need a special session to balance the budget if negotiations fail to produce a "real balanced budget."


I hope the leaders will make their decisions remembering we have at least $1.7 billion more revenue and we are still in a recession with too many Oregonians without jobs.



Gene Whisnant

State Mental Hospital
Rep. Whisnant in front of the Oregon State Hospital


House Higher Education Committee:

On Monday, we listened to presentations given by a representative from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission Task Force on "Credit for Prior Learning" and "Text Affordability." Both of these issues are on my radar for bringing down the cost of higher education.

On Wednesday, the committee held an informational meeting on the status and plans for Higher Education and Workforce Development in Central Oregon. OSU-CC Vice President Dr. Becky Johnson; COCC President Jim Middleton; CO Economic Development Director Roger Lee; and James Collins, OSU-CC graduate presented information in support of OSU-CC 4 Year Expansion.

On Friday, we had a very informative briefing on the "Eastern Promise" by Eastern Oregon University President Bob Davies, Blue Mountain Community College President John Turner, and InterMountain ESD Superintendent Mark Mulvihill. "Eastern Promise" objectives are to increase the "going- to-college" culture of rural Oregon and access to early college credit experiences in high schools. Central Oregon educators are discussing adopting this program. I was very impressed that "Eastern Promise" was a local initiated program without any legislative direction.  

House Education Committee:

On Monday, we had a public hearing on two Senate bills (SB 193 A and SB 611 A). Both bills passed the Senate without opposition.

On Wednesday, we had public hearings on SB 228 and SB 821. Also, we passed unanimously SB 193 A related to school transportation providers and drug and alcohol testing.

House Human Services & Housing Committee:

On Monday, we held an informational meeting on Oregon's Foster Care program. We had testimony from DHS, Children First for Oregon, Catholic Community Services, and Youth Villages.

On Wednesday, members of the committee and their staff toured the Oregon State Hospital. We received a briefing from Director Roberts and his staff and then visited different sections of the hospital. My group toured the "Bridges" transition sections where patients are nearing the point of no longer needing hospital-level care.




On Thursday, Governor Kitzhaber signed SB 833 B, the "drivers' card bill" for undocumented immigrants on the steps of the Capital as part of the May Day Rally. However, Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OIR) announced plans to file a citizens' referendum on SB 833 B.

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school house rock 


Although PERS reform bills, revenue bills, and K-12 budget are the major items to be resolved; there are many other policy bills which we will consider: HB 2480 is the 911 tax bill and HB 2453 A is the high mileage vehicle usage fee bill. There appears to be popularity for tax bills. There is an obvious lack of interest in bills to address the unemployment crisis. Too many Oregonians remain unemployed, under employed or have low paying jobs and are having a difficult time surviving.



Oregon Student Association
Victoria Redman, Bryce Wolford and Jonathan Farmer  Oregon Student Association


Oregon Fallen Firefighter Memorial Staff
Oregon Fallen Firefighter Memorial Staff


Shelly Nelson, housing councilor with NeighborImpact


Gordon Black and John Costa, Bend Bulletin


 Becky Johnson, Vice President OSO-Cascade Campus


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.

Capitol Staff enjoying Media Production Industry Day
Capitol staff enjoying Media Production Industry Day
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Office phone number: 503-986-1453

Vicki Olson, Legislative Assistant

Email: rep.genewhisnant@state.or.us

Website: www.leg.state.or.us/whisnant

Mailing address: 900 Court Street NE H-471, Salem, Oregon 97301


Michael C. Jensen  Photography
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