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 October 8, 2013

 

  

 

77th Legislative Assembly "October 2013 Special Session"

Dear Friends,

By now, you have probably heard a lot about the Oregon Legislative "special session" which was described by some as "a special session of solid gains" and others as "the grand bargain was no bargain."

I do not believe the Governor had justification to call a special session. Also, the people changed the Oregon Constitution so we meet every year which reduced the need for special sessions. However, with complete control of the legislature by his party; he had the power to call a special session. Like the Governor did to pass the Nike Bill, in January 2013 and week before the regular session began. In this environment, the minority party leaders had to find a way to achieve any wins possible.

Contrary to the Federal example; the Governor - the chief executive - stayed involved and kept the "grand bargain" alive when we thought it was dead Sunday night. Then again, on Tuesday, we thought the revenue bill, HB 3601 A, failed to capture the 36 required votes. The "Governor" had stated that all bills must pass or the deal would not happen.   However, on Wednesday, the Speaker did not gavel the vote completed until she took at least 3 Democrats off the House floor and into her office for over an hour to convince them they needed to change their votes and vote for the revenue bill.

In closed doors meetings, the House caucus leaders negotiated on how many votes each could bring in support of these two controversial bills: the revenue bill (HB 3601 A)and the PERS COLA bill (SB 861 A). Many Democrats did not want to vote for either of these bills.

Republican leaders were able to get two important "grand bargain" bills and a tax cut for businesses in the revenue bill. This was a major achievement for the minority party. They added SB 863 which was described as the GMO bill but it is really about certainty for family farms. It states that the State will establish an Oregon policy regarding the regulation of seeds and crops statewide; except Jackson County which already has filed a law suit. The second Republican bill was SB 862 A, the PERS fairness accountability bill. SB 862 A prevents future legislators from joining PERS and puts them in a 401 (k) retirement plan. It also prevents health insurance payments from being used for pension spiking. Finally, SB 862 A allows courts to attach PERS benefits from felonies convicted of job related crimes. I introduced bills in the 2005 (HB 2572) and 2007 (HB 2492) sessions to address this issue. The press called them "Greg Brown" bills. The business tax cut part of the revenue bill, HB 3601A is expected to help create more jobs and more state revenue from income taxes. Former Speaker Bruce Hanna spoke against HB 3601 A and stated the bill described as a tax cut; actually raises the majority of the new $408 million new taxes for the next five years from senior citizens. Rep. Gail Whitsett did not vote for the tax increase because the business tax cuts left out single proprietor family businesses with family employees. Rep. Whitsett pointed out that about 5 % of all businesses fall into this category and make up 15 % of tax revenue for the state. HB 3601A (1) increases corporate tax rate from 6.6 % to 7.6 % on income between $1 million and $10 million; (2) caps personal exemption at $100 K for single and $200 K for joint filers; and (3) changes senior medical deductions to produce $82 million for revenue this budget and $117 million for the next budget.

The "grand bargain" concept involved legislators trading votes to achieve the deal. I am proud that I have never traded a vote or sold my vote.   I understand the need to negotiate and compromise and do that on individual bills.

The "grand bargain" provided revenue which the Governor said we needed by reducing senior benefits, taking $33 million from the state's "rainy day fund," and funds from the PERS "reserves " or "contingency funds." His proclamation for the special session was justified based upon providing more funds for K-12. The $100 million which will be provided next school year is a one-time addition and is a small increase to the overall $ 9 Billion (est.) K-12 budget.

The Governor has declared that with the PERS COLA reduction, PERS reform is off his agenda. This will help his re-election campaign.

The issues addressed by the "grand bargain" bills were complicated and deserved more debate, discussion, and input than just backdoor deals by leaderships and minimum time for legislators to really evaluate the bills. The Chair of the House Revenue spoke against and voted against the revenue bill before he was convinced by the Speaker to vote for the revenue bill. The Governor commented to the "Oregonian" that adding SB 863 was "pure politics and little else." In my opinion, the "special session and grand bargain" was pure politics and nothing more.

In the end, this non-emergency special session was more about politics than helping reduce class sizes and increasing school days/time. I do not believe that we needed to pass such important legislation in such a short period after a 155 day session and with bills which will not go into effect until 2014.

I am proud that the minority leadership remained at the negotiation table and worked to assure that the "grand bargain" contained some good policies.

Respectfully submitted,

Gene Whisnant

 

2013-2014 INTERIM ACTIVITIES

Committee Work (September 16-18, 2013)

House Higher Education Committee (agenda) met on Monday morning, September 16. After approving committee rules; the committee received information on the following topics:

(1) Oregon Education Investment Board, higher education update by Interim Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden;

(2) Secretary of State Audit Report on "teacher preparation and professionalism;"

(3) What's new at Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development by interim Executive Director Gerald Hamilton;

(4) Higher Education governances by Ben Cannon;

(5) Report by Chair Dembrow on "Pay forward; Pay Back;" and

(6) Gorge Scholars Program by Columbia Gorge Community College officials.

 

House Education Committee (agenda) met on Monday afternoon to receive informational presentations by Deputy Superintendent of Public Education Rob Saxton on full day kindergarten; priority, focus and model schools; implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessments; and other issues. We also received testimony of implementation of 2013 "seclusions bills" and shortened school days.

 

House Human Services and Housing Committee (agenda) met on Tuesday morning, September 17. We received updates by the Early Learning Council, Youth Development Council, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Department of Human Services overview of services for the developmentally disabled, and Department of Corrections transition programs.

 

Task Forces and Work Groups

House Human Services Committee's Public Assistance Work Group has met several times. Vicki Olson has represented me at the meetings and reported they hope to have two bills to address welfare fraud.

 

HB 3007 Manufactured Home Parks Work Group met on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 working on possible legislation for the 2014 session.

 

Met on Aug. 30 with High Desert ESD Superintendent John Rexford about HB 3401 B work group. Work Group met in Salem on Sept. 18 to discuss regional services possibilities.

 

 

Official Meetings/Activities

August 11: Attended a reception in Atlanta reception for new NCSL National President OR Senator Bruce Starr.

 

August 12: Attended a NSCL workshop in Atlanta on states' "Foster Children" programs.

 

August 19: Met with Bend ODFW officials and Awbrey Glen GC representations about damage to the course by a large herd of Elk and discussed solutions.

 

August 20: Toured Gilchrist's Interfor mill with other legislators.

 

August 23: Attended CO "Jobs with Justice" reception for Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian in Bend.

 

August 27: Met with Dr. Gabby Marshall & Lobbyist Bill Cross about follow-on actions related to HB 3000 requiring entering students to have an eye exam or visual screening.

 

Sept. 4 & 5: Attended Governor's Veterans Advisory Committee Reception & meeting in Bend.

 

Sept. 4: Attended the Early Learning Council bidder's conference in Bend.

 

Sept. 17: Met with Gina Zejdlik, Legislative Director for the Secretary of State's office about a possible 2014 bill.

 

Sept. 18: Met with Oregon Housing Director Margaret Van Vleit and Ben Pray about foreclose counseling and funding for this and other services.

 

Sept 30-Oct 2: Special Session in Salem.

 


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Community Events

 August 16: Attended Sunriver - La Pine Combined Chamber of Commerce Lunch for "State of the County" presentation.

 

August 16: Attended dedication of Ben Westland Memorial park at the Opportunity Foundation in Redmond.

 

Aug 28: Attended Sunriver Rotary meeting.

 

Sept. 1: Volunteered for Sunriver hosted "Race for the Cure."

 

Sept. 6: Toured Northwest Sign Recycle Company, Facebook facility and Apple facility all in Prineville with Mayor Betty Roppe and Judge Mike McCabe.

 

Sept. 7: Spoke at Sunriver Resort dedication of memorial to WWII Camp Abbot commander, Colonel Besson.

 

Sept 9: Met with Redmond School board member Bob Perry and attended "Patriots" meeting.

 

Sept. 11: Spoke in Bend at the "9-ll Tribune" to first responders and military members.

 

Sept. 19: Attended Central Oregon Builders Association fund raiser in Bend.

 

Oct 4-5: Attended and spoke at the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) state convention in Bend.

 

Oct 7: Met with a group of constituents in Awbrey Butte area to discuss the 2013 session, special sessions, and other topics.

 

 

 

  
"Rep. Whisnant and Sunriver Resort Managing Director Tom O'Shea help Frank Besson III, nephew of Colonel Frank S. Besson, unveil a memorial plaque at the new Besson Commons."
   
 

Deadline for purchasing your "Keep Kids Safe" license plates

  

Friends: The deadline to purchase 500 "Keep Kids Safe" license plates is October 15, 2013. Please purchase a plate and keep this program alive. Information on how to order is below.


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.

 

Keep Kids Safe Gene and Josie 

  OLIS
  

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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