Crunch Time ©



Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445


E-Newsletter                              April 16, 2013

Friends and Neighbors,

This week we hit crunch time in the Legislature.  Thursday is the last day for committees to hold “work sessions” (i.e., take votes) on bills that have been referred to their committees.  Many bills will be voted out to the floor or to Ways and Means (i.e., if they will require a significant budget allocation) this week, and many will fall by the wayside.  Legislators are scrambling, advocates are pushing, and the clock is ticking.  Pretty crazy.

For me, these last couple of weeks have been intense, with moments of euphoria, moments of frustration, moments of important progress.  I’ll mention a few of them in this newsletter.  But first—

The Budget and PERS

The Ways and Means Committee co-chairs, Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) and Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin), released their proposed budget last month.  It seeks to stabilize education funding by injecting an extra billion dollars into the K-12 budget above the last biennium.  This is a very heavy lift, but it’s in line with what Democrats promised to attempt this year.

The co-chairs’ budget assumes that we will get to that level in a balanced way:  through a combination of savings from “collaring” PERS rates (to lessen the impact of the residual effects of the stock market plunge on employer PERS rates), capping the annual COLA paid to PERS recipients, and eliminating a number of tax credits and deductions aimed at wealthier Oregon taxpayers and corporations. Their plan would raise nearly $800 million through a combination of PERS cuts and collaring, and $270 million on the revenue side.

I’m not happy about the PERS cuts, but we are under a great deal of pressure to bring down PERS costs in the short term. (The 2003 PERS reforms improved the long-term prognosis for PERS, and recent double-digit annual investment returns have definitely helped the system; still, in the short term, we are looking at sharply rising PERS costs as a result of the Wall Street recession.)  There are plans out there that would raise the full billion dollar amount from the promised retirement benefits of present and future retirees.  Their underlying goal is to take advantage of the current short-term shortfall to make radical long-term changes.  These proposals would almost certainly be struck down by the courts.  But more to the point, that kind of one-sided approach is unfair to our hard-working public servants and is unacceptable to me.

The action is now on SB 822, which passed the Senate last week and will be voted on in the House sometime soon.  The strategy proposed in SB 822 (the legislation that has already passed the Senate and will soon be voted on by the House), has a decent chance of holding up in court, and it has the advantage of capping PERS COLAs in a progressive manner, asking more from retirees with higher retirement income.  Rep. Buckley recently sent out his own newsletter that outlines the contents of SB 822.  I really encourage you to read it here.

I plan to vote for SB 822.  Though similar to the plan proposed by Governor Kitzhaber, I find it to be an improvement, because of its progressivity and its use of collaring (a method of extending payments to “smooth out” the impact of the 2008 losses while allowing the recent stock market gains to help refill the PERS reserve funds).  It also assumes that the needed funding increases will also come in part from wealthy Oregonians, not only from public employees.

This concept of shared sacrifice will be embodied in HB2456.  This bill will be coming out of the House Revenue Committee and should be adopted by that committee sometime this week.  HB 2456 raises the needed $275 million through equal contributions from wealthy Oregonians (those households whose adjusted gross income is above $250,000) and corporations (those whose gross revenues are above $100 million or whose profits are above $2.5 million).  It does so in a way that protects Oregon’s charities and non-profits.

My hope is that we will vote on SB 822 and the revenue proposal on the same day.  I look forward to voting for this balanced strategy this week or next.  It will allow us to secure at least $6.75 million for K-12 and create a path for needed increases in funding for community colleges and universities, CTE, and home care.

Governor Signs Tuition Equity Bill

It should come as no surprise to most of you that one of my top priorities since being elected to the House has been passing Tuition Equity legislation, to allow all Oregon high school students the ability to pay in-state tuition at our public universities. 

Two weeks ago, all the hard work (and all the advocates) came together as Governor Kitzhaber signed HB 2787 into law.  It was a wonderful moment, punctuated by the presence of a number of young students who will be able to benefit from the law’s passage.  There are far too many people to thank for their role in making this dream a reality, but I do want to call out Senate President Peter Courtney for his strong leadership, and my former Senate Colleagues and partners Frank Morse and Dave Nelson who were outspoken in their support for Tuition Equity during the 2009 and 2011 sessions. 

 Click here to read my remarks at the signing ceremony. 

Earned Sick Days Bill Heard in Committee

As promised, Rep. Keny-Guyer, Sen. Rosenbaum, and I have introduced HB 3390, a statewide version of the Portland earned sick leave ordinance.  It received a good hearing a couple of weeks ago in the House Business and Labor Committee.  We had amendments drafted to the bill to bring it into closer alignment with the Portland ordinance, while addressing a few of the concerns expressed during debate on the ordinance.  We’re now meeting with representatives of the business community who are interested in seeing a statewide policy that would provide consistency to their different workplaces around the state.  If those discussions prove fruitful and further problems are worked out, we may be able to get there this session.  In the meantime, the bill will go to the Rules Committee, where the normal committee deadlines don’t apply.

By the way, Rep. Keny-Guyer’s bill to extend the Oregon Family Leave Act to include bereavement leave (paid or unpaid), passed the House floor last week.  She worked on this in 2012 but couldn’t even get a committee vote on it.  This time we heard heartfelt testimony on the floor from one of our new representatives, telling us about her own experience losing her dad and then losing her job because she needed to take unpaid time off to attend to her family’s needs.  What a difference a year makes! 

House Passes Engineering Transfer Degree Bill

I recently carried HB 2970 on the House floor.  The bill passed 57-0. House Bill 2970 expands upon the work we began in 2011 with the creation of the Student Transfer Bill of Rights. That legislation was designed to make it easier for students to transfer community college credits to four-year institutions in order to obtain baccalaureate degrees. Additionally, we made it easier to “reverse transfer” university credits to community colleges to be applied to an associate degree.

House Bill 2970 directs the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to develop standards for an associate transfer degree in engineering that will allow students to more easily fulfill the undergraduate requirements for an engineering degree at community colleges.  It’s a small bill, but an important one as we continue our work to increase accessibility and affordability for our students.

Guardianship and Fiduciary Bills Move

As you most likely know, I’ve been involved for several years now with the issue of guardianships and conservatorships.  This session, I’m sponsoring two bills that I think will significantly improve both the availability of guardianships for Oregonians who need them, and the quality of services provided by paid professional guardians in the state.

The first bill, HB 2671, comes out of the good work of the Public Guardian and Conservator Task Force.  It’s part of an effort to create a statewide public guardian program, to provide additional access to guardianship services for seniors and people with disabilities who don’t have the financial assets to pay for a guardian.  The bill has been amended to establish the Oregon Public Guardian and Conservator within the Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman.  It’s provides us with a good starting point, and I really want to call out the work of my staffer Marissa and the volunteer members of the Task Force for all the hours that they’ve put it into it.  This bill is a modest investment in a crucial service that will protect the financial security and health of the seniors and vulnerable adults it will serve.  2671 passed out of the Human Services committee unanimously, and now heads to Ways & Means.

HB 3129 represents a bit of a different look at a similar issue.  Currently in Oregon, there are no requirements to serve as a paid, professional fiduciary overseeing the finances and life decisions of clients.  This bill protects clients by insuring that those practicing as professional fiduciaries in Oregon adhere to minimum standards, follow best practices, and participate in ongoing education. HB 3129 also passed out of the Human Services committee and will now move to the Ways and Means Committee.  It’s my hope that we can get both of these pieces of legislation passed out of that committee, and to the floor for a full vote of the House soon.  Stay tuned for more.

Lund Report Spotlights Health Care Study

Healthcare blog the Lund Report recently wrote a piece on our efforts to pass legislation that would establish a wide-ranging, high-level study of different health care coverage and payment options, including adopting a single-payer system. You can read it by clicking here.

For Your Calendar:  Transportation Town Hall; Jobs Fair


April 27th – East Portland Transportation Town Hall

Rep. Jeff Reardon has pulled together a group of legislators for a town hall focused on transportation issues in East Portland.  I’ll be there, along with Senators Jackie Dingfelder, Rod Monroe, and Chuck Thomsen; and Representatives Reardon, Shemia Fagan, Chris Gorsek, Alissa Keny-Guyer and Jessica Vega Pederson.  Also on hand will be Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Matt Garrett, ODOT Region 1 (including Portland) Director Jason Tell, TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, Portland Bureau of Transportation Interim Director Toby Widmer and other transportation officials.  So please come, and bring your questions.

WHO: East Portland Legislators and Transportation officials

WHAT: Town Hall on East Portland Transportation

WHEN:  Saturday, April 27th at Noon

WHERE: IRCO, 10301 NE Glisan St., Portland OR

April 30th – PCC Cascade Jobs Fair

PCC Cascade is holding their annual jobs fair on April 30th, from 11 AM to 3pm.  Several dozen local employers will be on hand, and there will also be workshops on resume writing, job searching using social media, and other relevant topics.  For more information, visit PCC’s website.

Until next time,


Update your subscriptions, modify your password or e-mail address, or stop subscriptions at any time on your User Profile Page. You will need to use your e-mail address to log in. If you have questions or problems with the subscription service, please contact