E-Newsletter Volume 7, No. #22



Representative Brad Witt
District 31

Phone: 503-986-1431    900 Court St. NE, H-374, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: rep.bradwitt@state.or.us    Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/witt
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June 28, 2013              E-Newsletter              Volume 7, No. 22

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Hi Everyone,


In 1994, the citizens of Oregon passed Measure 11, a ballot measure that would apply mandatory minimum prison sentences to certain crimes against persons, with no possibility for any reduction in sentence, such as good behavior.  Since then, the Legislature has modified the measure on several occasions, based upon input from both the public and the Department of Corrections.  They have been able to do this because statute permits revision of ballot measures with a 2/3 majority of both the House and the Senate.

Measure 11 has been very successful in getting criminals off the streets, particularly repeat offenders, but the continued growth in incarceration rates has presented us with the specter of a system that is rapidly becoming unsustainable.  In February 2012, legislative leadership requested Governor Kitzhaber to reconvene the Commission on Public Safety in order to review Oregon’s public safety system.  Over the last six months, the Governor’s directive to “develop fiscally responsible, data-driven policies and practices that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control correction costs,” has been carried out by the Commission and resulted in HB 3194A, which we considered yesterday. 

In order to fully vet the components of HB 3194A, a special Joint Committee on Public Safety was formed, and a host of stakeholders were involved in the crafting of the final bill.  Participants included the Oregon District Attorneys Association, the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association, the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, community corrections directors and the Pew Center on the States, to name a few.  Their tireless efforts to devise policy changes that would not violate the spirit of Measure 11, and yet make the system less expensive and more effective cannot go unrecognized.

The bill as amended makes changes that should arrest the growth of the state’s prison system for about five years, postponing the need for a new state prison.  Some of the provisions include reducing sentences for certain property and drug crimes, including marijuana offenses and driving while suspended.  It will establish programs aimed at reducing recidivism, and it modifies some of the conditions surrounding parole and probation.  Finally, a task force will be appointed to implement these changes. We can expect to generate savings of almost $17 million during the 2013-2015 biennium, which will be reinvested in community corrections and local public safety priorities.  The bill passed with strong bipartisan support on a 40-18 vote.

Another item of interest involves the state’s corporate kicker law.  As you may know, anytime state revenue exceeds the economic forecast by more than 2%, the state is required to refund the entire amount back to individual and corporate taxpayers. However, last November, the voters approved Measure 85, which diverts future corporate kicker proceeds to the state school fund.  Unfortunately, the measure did not apply to the current tax year, and although it is unlikely that the kicker will “kick” this year, HB 2305 was introduced to put the policy in place, and it further directs the funds to community colleges.  It’s a good bill and it passed the House 46-13.

As a follow-up to last week’s newsletter, I wanted to let you know that the Senate passed the Education budget yesterday, after many days of furious negotiations.  It passed on a 22-8 vote, and is now on its way to the House for consideration.  I look forward to a speedy passage so that our school districts can get on with budgeting for the next school year. 

Finally, we were supposed to adjourn on the 28th of June, but instead we will probably be working into next week.  Personally, I’m hoping that the 4th of July will find us all back in our districts, enjoying the parades and fire works with our neighbors!

 Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter…have a great weekend!