2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Democrats in the House intend to focus on establishing a right to health care, investing in public education and mitigating climate change, among other priorities, said House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland.
That’s too ambitious of an agenda for the short legislative session, Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte told reporters.
“All I’ve got to say is, wow, all in 35 days,” he said. “Abuse of this short session has brought us to the point of questioning how we operate. The session has turned into a propaganda session and a campaign session.”
Courtney also voiced concern about the Legislature taking on too much when he appeared separately with the Senate leadership panel.
“Already the expectations are well beyond what you can do in a 35-day session, well beyond, in so many areas” Courtney said.
Oregon Senate leaders struck a bipartisan chord of caution during a legislative preview event Monday with reporters, keen to reiterate that the session beginning Feb. 5 is only 35 days long and grand policy proposals could very well fall short because of the truncated timeline.
“Already the expectations are well beyond what you can do in a 35-day session. Well beyond. In so many areas,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.
Democratic House leaders, meanwhile, outlined broad policy objectives targeting some of the more controversial issues facing the state, sparking a combative response from a Republican colleague who echoed the senators’ timing concerns.
House Democratic Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, also laid out their intent to pursue bills on the opioid epidemic, public school funding, government effectiveness, net neutrality, gun violence and economic fairness.
“All I’ve got to say is ‘wow.’ All in 35 days,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, seated two seats away. “I never thought that the course of history could be reset to that extent in such a short amount of time.”
House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, called House Democrats’ priorities “ambitious” and “aggressive,” saying they were geared more toward the November election — including an effort to make health care a right in the state’s constitution.
House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, said she understands the language in the bill, championed by State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, which refers the issue to voters, to be “aspirational.”
“My understanding is (Greenlick’s) goal is not to set up a right of action but to set up an aspirational goal,” Williamson said.
McLane disagreed, saying the measure “may be aspirational in how it’s marketed, but it is absolutely functional in the leverage that they’re seeking to dictate public funding, so we have to talk about that.”
“The question becomes, what’s the purpose of this, outside the political ramifications from the 2018 campaign, where Congress’ health care discussion may give them some leverage in swing districts?” McLane said.
Top Democrats in the Oregon Senate said on Monday that the 35-day session that begins next week is too short to pass a statewide cap and pricing plan for greenhouse gas emissions. Their comments suggest supporters of the climate plan lack the votes necessary to achieve even a simple majority in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 17-13 edge. They spoke at an event organized by the Associated Press to provide a preview of the session.
House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte said he believes House Democrats also are short of votes to the pass the legislation, but he declined to identify the source of that information. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, declined to answer a question about whether there is a way to enact a cap and invest program this year.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said the session should primarily go to fixing any problems with the state budget caused by the new federal tax cuts. He said the long to-do list of his colleagues in the House was unrealistic. “Expectations are well beyond what is possible,” said Courtney. “This is not a 40-day session; it’s not a 60-day session; it’s not a 90-day session. It’s 35 days.”
Portland Business Journal
“My personal opinion is that we most likely will not be able to get over the finish line,” Burdick said, according to the Capital Press. Courtney said the legislation needed more work, the Oregonian reported, and suggested it could be passed in 2019. But that’s nothing new, said Brad Reed, communications director for Renew Oregon, which spearheaded passage of the state’s last major climate legislation, in 2016. “I did not hear the Senate president or the majority leader say a bill won’t happen this year,” Reed said Tuesday. “They did express how challenging the timeline of a short session could be, and that’s what they’ve been saying all along.”
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said a “one-time hit” on the budget is anticipated from the federal tax overhaul. But McLane said the tax changes passed by the federal government will increase money coming into state coffers, will make Oregon’s economy grow, and will reduce taxes most Oregonians pay. “If taxpayers behave in certain way, then it’s possible that in the short run, the state government may have a reduction,” McLane said. “But all projections and the state economists have said the tax plan passed by Congress and signed by the president will increase the amount of money coming into the state government.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting
House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, countered that Democrats want to use the measure as a “political talking point” during campaigns. He said everyone wants to improve access to health care, but he added the measure could lead to more costs for taxpayers.
Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner said he anticipates long days when the Legislature’s short session convenes Monday. The Republican representing House District 57 has eight committee assignments, including vice chair on the House committee on revenue, co-vice chair on the joint committee on ways and means and co-chair on a ways and means subcommittee. “I’m really going to spend the vast majority of my time working policy issues through money,” Smith said.
Wagner, a Lake Oswego School board member and former longtime Salem lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers, faced stiff competition from Claudia Black, who recently retired as a lobbyist for Multnomah County, and Daphne Wysham, an environmentalist from West Linn. Black in particular generated strong support from people who’d known her over decades of public service. But Wagner got an earlier start and had strong support in Clackamas County, where more than half the voters in Senate District 19 reside.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon incarcerates young people at a higher rate than almost any other state, according to a new report from the Oregon Council on Civil Rights. The report focuses on ballot Measure 11, which passed in 1994. Measure 11 imposed mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes like rape, murder and assault. It also required 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds charged with those crimes to be tried as adults.
Oregon’s longstanding policy of treating juvenile offenders accused of serious crimes as adults is “harsh and costly” and fails to account for adolescents’ capacity for change, the Oregon Council on Civil Rights says in a new report issued Tuesday.
Kambarov claims he is not served halal meat and that vegetarian alternatives have been cross-contaminated with pork, a forbidden food for Muslims. Halal refers to food and drink prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary laws.
Once an applicant receives land-use approval from the county, the OLCC assigns an investigator to each marijuana grow. The investigator conducts a background check and completes the application process. Danica Hibpshman, OLCC’s director of statewide licensing and compliance, said a shortage of investigators, particularly east of the Cascades, has caused a significant backlog, and the licensing process can often take six months even once an applicant earns land-use approval from the county.
OREGON MILITARY DEPARTMENT
A former high-level official at the embattled Oregon Military Department has filed suit against the agency, claiming she was fired for blowing the whistle on wasteful spending, sexual discrimination and officials’ dishonesty with regulators. Laurie Holien, deputy director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management from 2013 to 2016, is seeking a $4 million judgment, according to her suit. The Oregon Military Department has denied all her claims in its own court filings.
Oregon’s emergency preparedness agency misspent millions of dollars of Department of Homeland Security grants between 2010 and 2012, prompting federal officials to demand repayment, according to records recently obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive. Federal auditors now plan to audit three additional years of agency spending to check whether it misused money during those years, a letter from federal officials shows.
Portland Business Journal
The goal of the Oregon Impact Fund is to address job creation in under-serviced communities, as well as affordable housing, education, access to health care and natural resources management. Investments from the fund will range from $500,000 to $2 million.
Oregon’s Senate leadership broke with colleagues Monday by admitting the upcoming legislative session is far too short for the aggressive plans of fellow Democrats. The refreshing realism is a hopeful sign that Democrats might not be able to railroad a complex cap-and-invest carbon pollution plan advocated by other Democratic leaders, including Gov. Kate Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek.
Bureaucracy flows downhill. Each time Oregon adopts a new school regulation or law, it increases the administrative burden, which means less time for working with school principals, who then have less time for effectively coaching teachers, and on and on. Whenever the Legislature adds a mandate, it should have the guts — and the insight — to cancel outdated, ineffective mandates. That should be a central function of the Legislature and of the state administration, especially because a new mandate might be needed in response to our second issue: Is it too easy to become a teacher?
Whistleblowers — employees who disclose what they believe to be wrongdoing in their agencies — are protected from retaliation under both federal and Oregon law. That protection may get stronger if state Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, has her way. She’s introduced Senate Bill 1599, which would require the state to allow whistleblowers to report anonymously.
These are exciting times for agriculture — and ag education. More students are learning the skills and gaining the backgrounds they’ll need for a career in agriculture. And more colleges and universities are joining the region’s community colleges and land-grant universities in helping their students find professions in agriculture. They recognize the opportunities that await their students. All they have to do is take a drive.
Rep. Chris Gorsek
This is not the reform we need. This tax won’t help us address the big revenue problems we face in Multnomah County nor will it directly address the healthcare issues we face here and around the state. We need sweeping tax reform to find enough money to support our schools. Every time we approve a tax on the most vulnerable, a tax that doesn’t do enough, it’s harder to create smart, fair solutions.
Nick Smith, Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities
A “cap and invest” scheme that imposes arbitrary emission limits on a relatively small number of Oregon businesses at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars per year will do little to influence global climate conditions, but it could potentially cost Oregon jobs and reduce our competitiveness in a global economy. A better solution is to increase the pace and scale of forest management on public lands and reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfires. Let’s produce more Oregon grown and manufactured products that are environmentally friendly and support our rural economy.