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June 18,  2013


Dear Friends,

Children with vision problems that have not been addressed usually do not succeed in education. I learned about this issue from Julie Bibler, with the Bend Children's Vision Foundation, in 2008. This non-profit provides vision screening tests for many children across Oregon. Under current law, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and school nurses are responsible for the state's vision health program.


In 2008-2009; Julie and I worked with other legislators including Speaker Kotek (D-North Portland); ODE; other vision non-profits like the Lions Clubs; optometrist and ophthalmologists to improve Oregon's vision health issue. We held meetings to work on a consensus bill and studied how other states legislatively addressed this issued.


In 2009, we secured the funds for a pilot project to demonstrate how non-profits could assist ODE develop an effective, cost efficient vision health program. This session, two bills were introduced addressing vision health. The Senate bill required an eye exam and the House bill required a vision screening. I joined the House sponsors including Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-West Portland) and amended the House bill to allow either an eye exam or vision screening which gained the support of all the stakeholders. HB 3000 B requires students entering Oregon's public schools to submit proof that the child has had a vision screening or eye exam. Most private insurance health plans provide for eye screenings or exams and the Oregon Health Plan does; thus, there will be very few students who will not be covered. The medical professionals had indicated they will service those in need. Our research indicates that most students will be covered.


I am proud of my role in the success of this "five year in the making" bill which passed the House unanimously on Thursday.  I was a co-carrier. (View speech here.) 


 HB 3000 B should pass the Senate next week. HB 3000 B does not address follow-on and periodical student eye screenings or exams because vision problems can occur later. However, this is a great success for our children and demonstrates how good ideas can become law but sometimes takes dedication and persistence.




Gene Whisnant











school house rock 

 The legislature approval unanimously HB 2158 B which allows military veterans nationwide to pay in-state tuition at Oregon's public universities.

Under current law, all honorably-discharged, nonresident veteran undergraduates at public universities and community colleges in Oregon receive a tuition reduction until they establish residency in the state. Under this formula, veterans pay the resident rate plus half the difference between resident and nonresident rates, and the GI Bill does not cover this added 50-percent difference.


HB 2158B requires that colleges charge in-state tuition for undergraduate veterans with either an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions if the veteran demonstrates his or her physical presence in Oregon within 12 months of enrollment. That saves veterans from having to pay the added 50 percent calculation that is not covered by the GI Bill.




Last Thursday, we held our last Central Oregon Cities Organization (COCO) hosted video television conference meeting. Every other Thursday, during the session; COCO lobbyist Doug Riggs arranges a video conference meeting for all Central Oregon Legislators - Senators Whitsett, Knopp, Ferrioli and Reps Huffman, McLane, Conger, and Whisnant. This conference call allows the local elected and staff members from Madras, Sisters, Redmond, Prineville, La Pine, and Culver discuss legislative issues.

On every other Thursday, all the above state elected officials also participate in a telephone conference call with Deschutes County Commissioners, staff and their Salem lobbyists to monitor legislative action on bills of interest to the County.

A third effort to keep you informed; KBND Lori Rapp interviews me every Thursday on legislative items of interests and uses my comments during her daily reports.


 The Oregon Employment Department June 2013 report

In April, the US and Oregon unemployment numbers declined slightly. The US from 7.6 % to 75 % and Oregon's from 8.2 % to 8 %. Deschutes County decreased from 10.3% to 10 %. However, the Oregon Employment Department reports "Fewer Oregonians work now and even fewer will work in the future. The portion of able-bodied people working in Oregon has declined to historic lows and will continue to drop another seven years." The report states Oregon's labor force participation rate (the share of the population 16 years old and over that is employed or unemployed) was 63.4 percent in 2012. You may read the full report by clicking here.

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Rep Whisnant and Rep Gilliam on House floor
Rep. Whisnant and Rep. Gilliam on House floor.

On Tuesday, we began holding morning and afternoon floor sessions to vote on 21 pages of bills. Again, Wednesday and Thursday, we held morning and afternoon sessions and after Friday morning's session we are caught up. In fact, there are only two bills scheduled for Monday morning. We still have many important agency bills which we need to vote on including the K-12 Budget. Last session, we passed the K-12 budget April 13, 2011. An earlier K-12 budget is very important to our local school districts developing their budgets.

Change your license plate and Change a child's life! 
Keep Kids Safe Plate 

Change your license plate and change a child's life. It sounds simple and it is! Proceeds from the Keep Kids Safe license plate go to local child abuse prevention programs, helping to protect vulnerable children and strengthen families across Oregon. Our goal is to sell a minimum of 1,000 license plates - help us move the dial forward! Click Here to find out how to order your plate.


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.

Contact Information


Please monitor our work on your behalf by signing up to receive our "Legislative Updates" and press releases. Provide us your email address at rep.genewhisnant@state.or.us. Also, you may use that email address to contact us.


     You can also review our work on our official website: www.leg.state.or.us/whisnant.


     If you want to actually view legislative floor sessions and committee meetings; go to the link:  www.leg.state.or.us/listn.



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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