Rollercoastering Toward the Finish

 

Michael

Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445

 Email: rep.michaeldembrow@state.or.us 
Website: http://www.repmichaeldembrow.com  

E-Newsletter                              6/20/2013

Friends and Neighbors,

Well, things have become quite intense down in Salem.  Last I wrote you I said that things were finally beginning to move, as we head toward a planned “sine die” in the next two weeks.  Since then, we’ve had a few bumps, but the train is still very much on the track.  We are now very much in “end game” time.  Most of the committees have now stopped their work for the session (including the one that I char), and work is now concentrated on the Rules Committees in each chamber and the joint budget-writing Ways & Means Committee.


In this edition of the newsletter, I’ll update you on some of the news of note, and a few things that I’m keeping my eye on as we wrap the session up.

K-12 Budget Stalls in Senate

The biggest budget bill that we pass every session in the legislature is the one for K-12 education.  As you might guess, it’s also often the most controversial budget.  This session has proved no exception to that trend, and right now the fate of the K-12 budget is causing some heartburn for those who hope to adjourn the session late next week.

HB 5519 allocates $6.55 billion to the state school fund.  Combined with $200 million in PERS savings from SB 822, passed earlier in the session, it means $6.75 billion for our K-12 schools, on top of local funding from property taxes and levies.  This is an increase of about a billion dollars over the current biennium, a significant investment that represents a cooperative effort by the Ways & Means co-chairs to find as much money as possible for K-12. 

Certainly, $6.75 billion is by no means a perfect funding level – in fact, it’s about two billion dollars short of full funding for the Quality Education Model – but it’s a huge step forward from the current biennium, and a great base to build on for 2015-17.  It allows Portland Public Schools to start bringing back a variety of positions.  It puts us in a strong position to make a bigger investment as the economy continues to expand. 

Unfortunately, 5519 hit a speed bump on Monday morning, when one Democratic Senator voted with the 15 Republicans to defeat the bill on the Senate floor.  He then made a motion indicating possible reconsideration of the bill, a procedural move that keeps the bill alive.  The Senate will take it up again tomorrow, when we expect it to pass.  In the meantime, there is always a chance that we will see a possible package of new revenue and additional changes to PERS.  Stay tuned.

HJM 6 Moves out of Rules Unanimously

The Citizens United court case in 2010 brought to the surface concerns that many of us have had for a long time about the role of money in political campaigns, and the ability of Congress and state legislatures to regulate the raising and spending of money in politics.  Several states have considered and passed legislation urging Congress to take action.  A grassroots movement here in Oregon led to the introduction of several bills this session dealing with this issue, and this past week saw real movement for one of those bills, House Joint Memorial 6.

HJM 6 calls on Congress to send to the states an amendment to the US Constitution that would provide a distinction between the rights of natural persons and corporations and other legal entities (unions, other associations etc.), and that would give Congress and state legislatures the express ability to regulate money raised and spent for political purposes.

As a member of the Rules Committee and a co-sponsor of the memorial, I’ve been working on HJM 6 for the past month or so, seeking to find language for an amendment that would bring together both the advocates who have worked so hard on it, and the legislative votes needed to move forward.  We had a breakthrough last week, and this Monday the House Rules Committee passed HJM 6 with a unanimous, bi-partisan vote.  It was really a huge moment, and even I was surprised by (and of course proud of) the breadth of support for the bill on the committee.

The amendment, which you can view here, is a “gut and stuff,” or complete replacement of the language from the original version of the bill.  I think it sends a strong message from Oregon’s legislature to our Congressional delegation, and I look forward to a good floor debate later this week.

Third Reading Rollercoaster

When a bill is first introduced into the legislature, it has its “First Reading.”  When it is voted out of committee and a floor vote is imminent, it has its “Second Reading.”  And when it comes up for a vote by the full House it has its “Third Reading.”  So, Third Reading is simply legi-speak for a floor vote. 

Each day, the House has a Third Reading List that comprises all of the measures up for a vote that day on the floor.  Early in session, this list is typically short.  As we get into the final weeks, the list can grow to 30, 40 or more bills.  This is exacerbated by the fact that we can carry over bills to a following day if we don’t have time to get to them.  At one point last week we had nearly 50 measures on the Third Reading List.

The Third Reading List is fed by two sources – House committees, which vote bills out and send them to the floor, and the Senate, which passes bills with amendments that need to come back to the House for “concurrence.”  So, when things are really churning down here, we can get a lot of bills out in a short period of time.

A few extra floor sessions late last week reduced the Third Reading List to a total of two measures yesterday!  But, we were back up to 14 measures today and tomorrow’s list brings us 30 bills.  Sheesh!  Still, it’s a positive sign that we’re getting work done and heading toward a resolution to the session.

Medical Referrals Patients’ Rights Bill Passes

It’s common for a medical practitioner to refer a patient to another provider or facility for a procedure or imaging test.  Unfortunately, sometimes personal interest enters into that decision and it’s difficult for patients to know, under current law, the extent to which that happens and what their rights are when it comes to medical referrals.  We took a step toward changing that this week, when the House passed Senate Bill 683.

SB 683 requires that patients be informed both orally and in writing when a practitioner has a financial interest in a facility to which the patient is referred.  It also requires that referrals be based solely on the patient’s clinical needs and personal health choices, and prohibits a practitioner from rescinding or limiting a referral if the patient decides to take the referral to a different facility. 

This is an issue that I’ve been interested in for several years, as a result of concerns expressed to me by a local radiologist, who lives in HD45.  I had legislation drafted in 2011, but it was not able to move then.  I’m delighted that the bill was able to get traction this time, though it did have to go through some significant amendments in both chambers.  While the end result is good legislation, I’m afraid it doesn’t go far enough in protecting Oregon patients.  Hopefully we can come back to this issue in future sessions, after we can review the impact of this initial bill.  Special kudos to Sen. Chip Shields and his staff for staying on top of this bill and following it all the way through the process.  They did great work.

Status Report – Bills In the Process

At our last coffee, I shared a handout with an update on some of the bills that I’ve worked on this session.  I’ve updated it, and you can view it here.  It’s an interesting snapshot of some of the successes, and some of the setbacks of the session.  I’m happy to report that most of my priority bills have either passed or are on track for passage, which is very gratifying.  More details to come.  On the down side, I’ve already got a list of issues for interim work that seems to grow with each passing week!  I’ll share more on that front with you once the session wraps.

For Your Calendar:  Constituent Coffee, July 6th

Our next constituent coffee meet-up will be Saturday, July 6th.  By then, (fingers crossed) the legislature will have adjourned and I’ll be able to provide you with the full run-down.  With all the last-minute wheeling and dealing, there are sure to be some surprises to report – hopefully all of them positive. Mark your calendars and I’ll see you then.

WHAT: Constituent Coffee

WHEN: Saturday, July 6th at 10 AM

WHERE: Hollywood Senior Center (1820 NE 40th Ave.)

For Your Calendar:  Bike Town Hall, August 17th


It’s back!  Our fourth annual “town hall on two wheels” returns on Saturday, August 17th.  Please hold the date now – I’m looking forward to another great ride.  The details of the route and the stops are yet to be determined, so if you have ideas about something interesting happening in your neighborhood, let me know.  In the past, stops have included bike/ped improvement projects, community-based improvements at local schools, a look at the Audobon Society’s Backyard Habitat Certification program for homeowners, Safe Routes to School, and a Depave project that replaced a blacktop with a community garden.  I hope you can join us this year.  Stay tuned to the newsletter for updates as we get closer.

Until next time,

Michael

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