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June 11,  2013

  

Dear Friends,

The legislative leaders and the Governor have continued meeting to seek real PERS reform and discuss tax reform. At the "Fix PERS Now" press conference on the Capitol steps on Thursday; school board members, Oregon School Boards Association officials, and Stand for Children representatives spoke to the press about the PERS burden on local school budgets. They encouraged the Governor and the legislature to continue working on this issue. The "We Can Fix PERS Now Coalition": comprising schools, parents, business and youth organizations; believes that Oregon's citizens and their elected representatives must act to fix PERS now in a meaningful way to help stabilize the state's economic future. For the whole story, visit www.fixpersnow.org .

 

Bend-La Pine school board member, Cheri Helt, said at the press conference that we must stop kicking the can down the road on PERS reform. House Republican Leader Mike McLane issued the following statement; "I still believe we can come to an agreement that will help our schools and take steps towards fixing PERS. I am hopeful we can regroup and find consensus."

 

I do not know when the next meeting will occur but I hope they continue to meet and find a real solution. The Oregonian Friday editorial headline was "Stay at the table."

 

Sincerely,

 

Gene Whisnant

 

 

 

 

COMMITTEES

 

House Higher Education Committee:

On Monday, Oregon University System (OUS) Assistant Vice Chancellor Joe Holliday and Portland State University Office of International Student Services Director Christina Luther presented a report to the House Committee on Higher Education and Work Force Development on Monday describing Oregon's efforts to comply with existing directives concerning the international student visa program. The Boston Marathon terrorist attack has focused attention on student visas. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently monitoring 850,000 foreign students. OUS has approximately 7,500 foreign students.

 

In response to the national attention on student visas, I requested the committee receive a report on the student visa programs and any plans for strengthening our programs.    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS agency, is in charge of monitoring the Student and Exchange Visitor Program in cooperation with school and university officials, who help monitor students' academic status and other matters through a database known as SERVIS.

 

The testimony appears to confirm that OUS universities are complying with the existing directives, but the growth of international students will require a continued close monitoring of the student visa program and reporting on students who are not attending classes and other suspicious activities.

 

On Wednesday, we had informational meetings on college student loans and teacher preparation. University of Oregon Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships Jim Brooks and Oregon State University Assistant Provost Kate Peterson discussed the opportunities to secure student loans, student debt, and their efforts to counsel students. I urged the witnesses to work with local Access to Student Assistance Programs In Reach of Everyone (ASPIRE) volunteers to inform and advice students about the opportunities to earn scholarship and the job opportunities to provide student loan debts. Students must look at the "return of the investment' possible in their choice of degrees. Teacher Standards and Practices Commission Executive Director briefly discussed teacher preparation.  

House Human Services & Housing Committee:

On Monday, OHCS Director Margaret Van Vliet briefed the committee members on the Transition plan for her agency. I am concerned about the reorganization and the impact on our local communities.

On Wednesday, a retired Health Education teacher Suzanne Simas from Silverton and former Silverton Mayor Ken Hector provided information about the Public Health School Curriculum. They discussed their success in alerting and reduction use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

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FLOOR SESSION

 

school house rock 

 

On Wednesday, the House honored former Speaker Lynn Lindquist with a resolution and speeches. Lynn passed away on April 9 at his Powell Butte home. Republican Leader Rep. Mike McLane, a Powell Butte neighbor of Lindquist, carried the resolution. I knew and respected Speaker Lindquist through his work and leadership as Crook County Commissioner, children advocate, and first president of Oregon Business Association. Central Oregon and Oregon will miss him.

Also, on Wednesday, Rep. Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg) tried unsuccessfully to bring HB 3508 to the floor for a vote. HB 3508 provided the Oregon University System to withdraw from the Public Employees' Benefit health plan and seek alternative plans with a potential savings of $67 million. It is reported that PERS costs accounts for over $1,000 of OUS tuition costs. A health cost savings would reduce OSU tuition costs and put more money in our K-12 classrooms.

On Thursday, I had the privilege of presenting the House Session's opening ceremony. I introduced and read President Franklin D. Roosevelt's June 6, 1944 D-Day prayer announcing the successful landing of American, British and Canadian troops on the Normandy shores. (House Floor Prayer Video Link)

Also, on Thursday, Republicans led by Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville) tried unsuccessfully to bring to the floor for a vote HB 3508. The bill provides relief for students who pursue science, technology, engineering, and math. I voted for the bill which passed the Higher Education Committee unanimously but "lies dormant in the Ways & Means committee.

 
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In This Issue
Committees
Keep Kids Safe
Floor Session
Visitors
Items of Interest
OLIS
Contact Info
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VISITORS 

 

 

Lava Ridge Elementary
Rep. Whisnant and Rep. Conger visit with Lava Ridge Elementary in the Capitol.

 

 

 

Ashton Eaton

Honoring Ashton Eaton at the Capitol.

 

Rep. Whisnant,2012 Gold Medalists/World Record Holder Ashton Eaton and Legislative Assistant Vicki Olson

 

 

Tim and Linda Rawlins

ITEMS OF ITEREST

 

I met with ODFW Deputy Director Curt Melcher and Wildlife Division Administrator Ron Anglin to seek a solution to elk herd damage to Awbrey Glen Golf Course.

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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.

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SALEM CONTACT INFO

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

 

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