GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
It’s official: The collective “kicker” tax rebate Oregonians will likely receive when they file in 2020 is going to be $108 million smaller, thanks to a bill Gov. Kate Brown signed into law on Wednesday. At the last forecast in February, state economists predicted Oregon’s one-of-a-kind personal income tax rebate could reach $748.5 million. At that time, economists estimated that individuals earning the median adjusted gross income of $35,000 to $36,000 would receive kickers of roughly $180.
Oregon lawmakers would give local school districts wide latitude on how they spend $2 billion in new tax money under a framework introduced in Salem this week. The proposed tax hike has been proceeding on two tracks during the current legislative session. One is preparing a plan to raise $2 billion in each two-year budget cycle from new businesses taxes. The other track is considering how to use the money. The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Student Success has been working for more than a year to set priorities for Oregon’s schools, from kindergarten through high school. The Democratic-led committee says it visited 77 schools last year to gather input.
Oregon would enact a new tax on businesses and raise more than $1 billion annually for public schools under a legislative proposal released Thursday, April 4, after more than a year in development. Three leaders of the Joint Committee on Student Success briefed reporters on a House bill aimed at prioritizing early childhood education, student mental health and district initiatives to improve graduation rates and other priorities.
The Daily Astorian
The Student Success Act being debated at the state Legislature could add another $1.4 million a year to the Astoria School District’s budget, Superintendent Craig Hoppes said Wednesday. House Bill 2019, introduced last month by the Joint Committee on Student Success, calls for an additional $2 billion in K-12 funding per biennium starting in July to improve behavioral support, mental health and early learning opportunities. The money would likely come from a tax on businesses’ gross receipts above $150,000.
Oregonians would once again be able to buy cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription under a bill up for a vote on Thursday in the Oregon House. House Bill 2303 would not give those drugs the same status as common over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin or acetaminophen. Instead, pharmacies would need to store products containing pseudoephedrine under lock and key. But people who wanted to purchase them could do so without a prescription, as long as they are 18 or older and can produce a government-issued photo ID.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A 9-year-old Oregon girl in foster care has been largely abandoned by state regulators charged with her care and sometimes drugged in an out-of-state facility, advocates say. In October, two Oregon Child Welfare officials flew to Montana with the girl to drop her off at a 105-bed psychiatric residential treatment facility. For six months, no one from Oregon’s Child Welfare office visited her. But there is no record of any contracted case worker checking on the 9-year-old child either, according to the girl’s attorney and a state senator.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A group of Oregon’s congressional Democratic lawmakers announced Wednesday more than $87 million in funding for the Division Bus Rapid Transit Project — a public transit project that is expected to provide faster trips between downtown Portland, southeast and east Portland and Gresham. Oregon U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Oregon U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said the federal funding for the project will improve mobility for the region.
Lobbying is largely synonymous with interest groups, but every year, government agencies big and small spend money to amplify their interests at the Capitol. Yet lobbyists for the city or county you live in or the public university your children attend are working at taxpayer expense in the Capitol with the hope of gaining influence. “That’s our tax dollars lobbying for more tax dollars,” said Julie Parrish, a former state representative. In 2017, the city of Portland spent more on lobbying than any other government body. In fact, at $353,391, the city was the sixth biggest spender out of all organizations lobbying the Legislature.
Efforts to tighten rules for new and expanded megadairies, launched in response to a regulatory and environmental disaster at Oregon’s newest large dairy, have failed. Senate Bill 876, put forward by a legislative work group that met for months, died in committee Tuesday as a key deadline to move measures forward passed. So did two related bills pushed by a coalition of 22 health, environment and animal welfare groups. “Even the most reasonable reforms were blocked by lobbyists working with these big corporate agribusinesses,” said Ivan Maluski, policy director for Salem-based Friends of Family Farmers.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
In a ruling Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the state’s unique nonunanimous jury law. The case stemmed from the 2017 conviction of Olan Williams, an African American man. Williams was convicted of sodomy by a jury in Multnomah County. The verdict was split, with 10 jurors voting to convict and two dissenting. One of the dissenting jurors was an African American woman. Effectively, Williams argued he was denied a jury of his peers. In his appeal, he said the nonunanimous provision of the Oregon Constitution violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled it couldn’t review the case.
They demanded counselors. Smaller class sizes. Books. Teachers from across the metro area took to Pioneer Courthouse Square Wednesday to press the Oregon Legislature for more funding to beef up offerings in public schools. Speakers such as Evan Selby, a 23-year educator at Reynolds High School, called for tax increases on corporations across the state to boost funding for schools. “Nike is morally and ethically obligated to help funding our schools,” the social studies teacher said through a bullhorn to a crowd of hundreds gathered amidst a light drizzle.
Hundreds of Portland-area teachers filled Pioneer Courthouse Square Wednesday afternoon to rally for better public school funding from Oregon lawmakers. The April 10 “Take it to the MAX” rally included teachers and school employees from several school districts who rode MAX trains and gathered downtown for increased education funding by state legislators. Teachers gathered, chanted and waved signs and banners.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A tool forest managers use to determine the level of fire danger is getting its first update in more than 40 years. The National Fire Danger Rating System uses information like temperature, humidity and wind to let firefighters know how wildfire will behave. “It allows us to combine a lot of information to produce a very simple categorical scale of fire weather conditions for a particular place on a particular day,” said U.S. Forest Service researcher Matt Jolly.
Clatsop County should do more to support diverse housing at higher densities and control vacation rentals to address an affordable housing shortage. The recommendations are the product of a nearly yearlong, countywide study that was commissioned by the county and five cities. On Wednesday, Johnson Economics and Angelo Planning Group presented a draft of the final report to the county Board of Commissioners, which outlined several suggestions on how local governments could adapt codes, zoning requirements and other regulations to encourage affordable housing.
State Rep. David Brock Smith wrote a letter to the editor saying, “HB 2020 will devastate Oregon families, their communities and the businesses that support them.” He claimed Oregonians contribute only 0.14 percent of carbon emissions and said the director of DEQ described that as “minuscule.” Oregonians represent 0.055 percent of the world’s population. If Oregonians emit 0.14 percent of the world’s carbon, they emit over 2.5 times as much carbon as the rest of the world per capita. Yet he said nothing about this. Neither did he mention the lives that would be lost. A study by the Climate Impact Lab states, “by the year 2099, even with economic growth and adaptation, 1.5 million more people will die each year around the world because of increased heat. By comparison, 1.25 million people died in 2013 in all traffic accidents world-wide.” How much are 1.5 million lives lost per year due to increased heat worth?
The current measles outbreak was not spread in a school setting. So why are Oregon lawmakers currently pushing a law that would permanently ban unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children from day care and schools? Healthy unvaccinated children do not harbor illness or viruses. They cannot spread what they do not have. I thought that education was important to Oregon’s elected officials. In Oregon, there is already a law that unvaccinated children must be excluded from school during an outbreak of a contagious disease such as the measles. Why would anyone want to make the quarantine permanent? What is the point of denying perfectly healthy kids an education or after-school activities?