HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
The tax overhaul President Donald Trump signed last month will save Oregon taxpayers nearly $1.5 billion a year, according to a new state analysis out this week. That works out to $840 per tax filer, substantially more than state forecasters estimated last fall, though savings will vary enormously from taxpayer to taxpayer. And a small percentage of Oregon taxpayers actually face a tax increase under the new tax code, according to the new analysis from the Legislative Revenue Office.
Oregon lawmakers this week dove into the most complicated and controversial debate of the upcoming 35-day legislative session: legislation that sets up a market-based, carrot-and-stick approach to reducing greenhouse gas pollution. The two bills will pit environmental advocates determined to see the state do more to combat climate change against business interests who believe the policy is either not ready for primetime or, worse, a job-killing energy sales tax that will deliver little benefit for the planet.
Oregon lawmakers on Friday offered a tepid response to Gov. Kate Brown’s new plan to beef up oversight of day cares, praising the effort while simultaneously questioning if it goes far enough fast enough. Childcare regulators unveiled specific details of the plan during a meeting of a House committee on early childhood development. Among other things, the proposal would increase maximum fines for rule-breaking day cares while closing a licensing loophole that can allow bad providers to escape consequences. But committee members questioned if the state’s bid to create 14 new positions would actually move the needle and help ensure kids are safe.
After 37 committee hearings, major announcements by the governor and secretary of state, special election debates and scores of one-on-one chats among lawmakers, lobbyists and constituents, a hyper-busy week at the Capitol has wrapped up.
Colt Gill, who served as Oregon’s inaugural “education innovation officer,” was named the permanent head of the Oregon Department of Education Friday. Gov. Kate Brown, who created the job of education innovation officer and put Gill in it, said in a statement that she trusts his leadership and insight to improve Oregon’s low high school graduation rate and improve the quality of education the state’s children receive.
The Legislature’s presiding officers, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, laid out in no uncertain terms Friday the challenges ahead for members of the new Joint Committee on Student Success. Facing low graduation rates, large class sizes, school inequality, limited funding, prohibitive fees and years of ineffectual policy fixes, this committee is tasked with understanding the challenges that face Oregon K-12 schools and devising innovative ways to solve them, potentially changing significant aspects of the state’s schooling system.
Oregon NAACP leaders say the Oregon Department of Education unfairly allocated millions of taxpayer dollars meant to help African-American students statewide succeed. The Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2016 in 2015, earmarking nearly $2.7 million in general funds that ended up being divided between four Portland-based programs serving black students and their families.
The Lund Report
Oregon provides all eligible families who apply with caretaker supports and equipment that make it easier for children to live at home with their parents – but funds for that money-saving approach were slated to be cut.
Baker City Herald
A state representative from Portland wants to raise some document recording fees collected by county clerks from $20 to $75. The fee applies to real estate document recordings such as deeds, easements, mortgages, mining location documents and liens. Baker County Clerk Cindy Carpenter said she’s concerned about how the proposal by Democratic Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer would affect local residents.
The revelation that Oregon’s district attorneys are proposing an end to non-unanimous jury convictions may have obscured the full scope of prosecutors’ intentions on changing the state constitution. The Oregon District Attorneys Association is considering a ballot initiative that would also strip defendants of the right to waive a jury trial and ask for a bench trial, in which a judge, rather than jury, decides guilt or innocence.
Supporters and opponents of Measure 101 agree on one thing: The measure, at its core, is a question of how Oregon pays for growing Medicaid costs. Opponents call the taxes unfair, because insurers could pass the 1.5 percent tax on to group health care plans purchased by small businesses and college students.
Voters must be too busy shopping January sales or reading “Fire and Fury” to fill out their ballots on Measure 101, the only issue in the Jan. 23 special election.
Turnout in Mutlnomah County so far is 16.42 percent, a little higher than the statewide number of about 13 percent.
Herald and News
Opponents of Measure 101 say they have concerns about new taxes being imposed on private insurance carriers. But many local doctors and healthcare providers say there could be harsher economic impacts on middle- and low-income Klamath County residents, which could start with hospital fees rising if Measure 101 fails.
ENVIRONMENT & NATURAL RESOURCES
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke agreed to consider exempting Oregon from the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plan after speaking with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, her office said Friday. Brown previously criticized Zinke for the plan to resume drilling for oil and gas off the shores of the United States, saying it would endanger Oregon’s coast.
Marijuana, the psychoactive variant of the cannabis plant, has drawn headlines and controversy since Measure 91 passed in Oregon, with even small Deschutes County marijuana facilities drawing the ire of neighbors. Hemp has seen its own growth in the shadow of its psychoactive cousin, however, in Deschutes County and across the country. And some industry advocates believe this is only the beginning.
Killing barred owls to help threatened spotted owls isn’t prohibited by an international treaty aimed at protecting migratory birds, according to a federal appeals court. Since 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has shot barred owls as part of an ongoing study to see if their removal will mitigate the decline of spotted owls, which are smaller and more sensitive to habitat disturbances.
The Oregonian Editorial Board
For Oregon, there couldn’t be a better time for such a confirmation of the need for a strong, vibrant local press and increasingly aggressive watchdog agencies such as the Government Ethics Commission. Without those questions and pressure to produce public documents, the first couple likely would have pushed on with their ambitious plans, which called for further expansions of Hayes’ roles and responsibilities. Without this ruling, Kitzhaber and Hayes could have continued on with their misplaced criticisms and disingenuous narrative.
Statesman Journal Editorial Board
We believe it was money and time well spent to ensure that every worker feels safe in their workplace. We wish Post had used his air time, even if he did not appreciate the training, to tell his listeners about why such training is so important in today’s social climate. Instead of complaining about having to attend, he could have been the example for those who get it and those who don’t. What a wasted opportunity.
Reps Cedric Hayden and Julie Parrish
We know Oregonians value having health coverage. In fact, we’re grateful to the nearly 90,000 Oregonians who signed a petition — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike — who believe lawmakers failed the everyday citizen without a lobbyist or who cannot afford to write out-sized campaign checks. They deserved to have legislation crafted in the light of day, and not in a backroom deal with only one public hearing before the vote. If Medicaid is a shared obligation, then we all need skin in the game. Join us in voting no on Measure 101, and demand lawmakers pass a Medicaid package that is fair, equitable and sustainable.
Anthony Biglan, Oregon Research Institute
For the past couple years I’ve been working with communities and states around the country on how they can identify and implement tested and effective prevention programs. I am proud to say that Oregon is on the cutting edge of developing a health care system that improves the health and well-being of all Oregonians, not simply by providing treatment once people become ill, but by preventing illness from ever happening. It would be a tragedy if the advances Oregon is making were halted by the defeat of Measure 101.
The new bill, in its LC 49 form, is an outright ban on a footbridge in this stretch of river. By passing this bill, legislators would have the dubious distinction of making themselves the great saviors of the riverside views of a few and purge easy access for many in Bend to Central Oregon’s beauty.
Legislators shouldn’t manipulate the rules to silence voices they don’t like. But that appears to be what’s at work with a proposed bill to change who can sit on the State Board of Education.
As we prepare for the beginning of the Legislature, we tip our hat to one priority that Gov. Kate Brown hopes to accomplish during the short session. That priority is affordable housing. Her proposal to allow the state to temporarily waive fees and education requirements — in favor of on the job training experience — for construction professionals to obtain supervisory licenses makes sense. We especially appreciate the idea of instituting low-cost Business Oregon loans that would allow subcontractors to work on affordable buildings in rural Oregon.
The Daily Astorian
But even if you take those suspicions out of the equation, the Florida exception simply fails to meet the fair play sniff test. That state’s concerns are legitimate — and exactly the same as ours. It is perfectly reasonable that we demand equal treatment. The only bright spot in this controversy is that elements of the negative reaction are likely to cross party lines with equal passion.
Tax fairness is a legitimate concern. But we should also consider what these taxes buy. In this case, I’m more concerned about what will happen if we who have coverage reject the Legislature’s plan for those who just got it and will otherwise lose it.
Rep. Smith Warner and Sen. Arnie Roblan
Oregon’s future depends on giving every student an equal opportunity at success. If students are a top priority, state funding and local spending should reflect that. We’ve set ambitious goals to meet the needs of Oregon’s current and future students. They are depending on us to meet that challenge. To do that, we must put them first.
State lawmakers, who go into session next month, should consider increasing the seriousness of this offense beyond the level of a traffic ticket. If RV dumpers know they could face jail time, they might think twice before unloading their problem on others.
To be fair, when Oregonians flinch from a rendezvous with an unattended gas pump, progressive government has done its duty, as it understands this. It wants the governed to become used to having things done for them, as by “trained and certified” gas pumpers. Progressives are proud believers in providing experts — usually themselves — to help the rest of us cope with life. The only downside is that, as Alexis de Tocqueville anticipated, such government, by being the “shepherd” of the governed, can “take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking” and keep them “fixed irrevocably in childhood.”