The Dog Days of Session Arrive



Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445


E-Newsletter                              May 10, 2013 

Friends and Neighbors,

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that much of our attention in the Legislature these days revolves around money.  The Senate is working on a revenue package that will be able to pass both chambers. (More on this below.)  Next Thursday, May 16, is the day we receive the final revenue forecast on which the 2013-15 budget will be built.  We’re expecting the forecast to be somewhat higher, but we hope not so high that it will trigger the corporate kicker one last time.  I’ll be reporting to you on the forecast next week.  Once the forecast comes out, allocation decisions for the different state agencies will become clearer.

However, it’s not just the overall budget that demands attention.  Policy bills may also have fiscal impacts, requiring more money to go to the agencies charged with implementing the policy.  We need to make sure that there is money to pay for the new programs.  Therefore, policy bills that have “fiscals” are sent to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means and assigned to a subject-area subcommittee for a hearing and further analysis.  In some cases, the fiscal estimates are correct and justified.  In other cases, they are inflated beyond the bounds of reason. (This seems to happen when the agencies would prefer to see the new policy go away, but it can also be the result of unclear bill language and a misunderstanding of the bill’s intent.)

So, my fellow legislators and I are spending a lot of our time trying to get the fiscals corrected or amending our policy bills to bring down the fiscal impact and clarify intent.  This is required given the fact that we’re still dealing with the lingering effects of the recession and are committed to putting nearly all of the new money into education.  Reducing fiscals takes a fair amount of persistence and creativity, but it’s worth it if you want to get your bills through the process.  I’ll let you know how it’s going in my case.

If you want a first-hand report on how things are going, then I urge you to attend my May constituent coffee tomorrow morning in Maywood Park (you should have received a separate invite to that in your email earlier this afternoon).  I look forward to giving you a frank assessment of where we are and hearing your equally frank thoughts on what you’d like the Legislature to be doing.  We'll be starting at 10:30 AM tomorrow morning at MHCC's Maywood Park Campus in Room 223/224.

Single Payer Hearing On Monday

The volunteers and advocates with Health Care for all Oregonians have been instrumental in helping to organize the state wide campaign to provide healthcare for all. On Monday May 13, 2013, thanks in large part to the efforts of HCAO, we will be holding a public hearing on HB 2922, the Oregon single-payer bill.  The House Health Care Committee will hear testimony from several panels of experts and then the hearing will open up to public testimony.  You can watch the hearing online through the legislature's website -- contact my office if you need more info on how to do so.

An important stop along the way to health care for all is an objective evaluation of the options and their costs.  As many of you will remember I have introduced HB 3260 to study the most cost effective way to deliver health care in Oregon.  Through this bill OHA would study the costs and benefits of Single Payer, a Public Option, Coordinated Care Organizations, and a plan which would  provide essential health benefits through a constitutionally-dedicated sales tax.  This bill had a fiscal assessment from the Legislative Fiscal Office, which has since been altered to clarify that there is not a cost to the state to perform this study because the bill instructs OHA to accept outside funds for its completion. 

By the way, today the Oregon Insurance Division posed the proposed premiums from all the individual and small business healthcare plans that the carriers are proposing for next year.  They reflect very large increases and, I believe, reinforce the need for a Medicare-for-All, single-payer system in this state.  Those rates will be subject to review by the insurance division and they’ll probably come down.  In addition, these are grossrates—individuals and small businesses will have access to significant tax credits that will make them much more affordable.  Still, this is another example of why we need to separate health insurance from employment and remove insurance companies from the healthcare mix.

For full information, see:

PERS Bill and First Revenue Pass

In my last newsletter I reported that the House was about to vote on SB 822, which caps the COLA increases of PERS retirees in a means-tested manner, along with a revenue bill (HB 2456), on the same day.  We did, but not in the way that I had described to you.

Just to remind you, with the two bills House Democrats were hoping to hit the target of $6.75 million for K-12 (nearly $1 billion more than current) and create a path for needed increases in funding for community colleges and universities, CTE, and home care.

HB 2456 was intended to raise $275 million through equal contributions from Oregonians whose household adjusted gross income is above $250,000 and corporations whose gross revenues are above $100 million or whose profits are above $2.5 million.  To me, this was a balanced approach to raising revenue (individual and corporate) to accompany the sacrifices that we were asking public employees to make. 

Any revenue bill requires a super-majority for passage.  That meant we would need at least two Republicans in the House and two in the Senate for passage.  This was never going to be easy, and we knew that the final bill coming out of the Senate would be different than the one that we sent over.  Still, since all revenue bills must originate in the House, it was crucial that we get a bill out of the House and over to the Senate.

All of the House Democrats were prepared to vote for HB 2456.  However, at the last minute one of the two Republicans who had promised to vote for the bill felt that s/he could not vote for it at this time. So, faced with the possibility of not having a House bill to use as a vehicle for the final revenue plan, Democrats agreed to go along with a Republican-backed version of the bill that was much smaller in scope (it focused on one small piece of 2456, one dealing with corporations sending their profits to offshore tax havens).  It passed unanimously and is now sitting in the Senate, where a special revenue work group is working to add the necessary components to get us to a bill that can pass in both chambers and raise the necessary $275 million.

Again, stay tuned.



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