The Living, The Dead and The Dying -- 2014 Legislation



Senator Michael Dembrow 
SE & NE Portland, Maywood Park

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1723


Twitter: @michaeldembrow

E-Newsletter                              2/17/2014 

Friends and Neighbors,

Well, the 2014 session is halfway over, or somewhere close to halfway.  This past Thursday was the key day for moving bills out of their first committee—or not.  Many bills remained in committee after the 5 pm deadline was reached, and that’s where they will stay for this year.  Others successfully advanced to floor votes, and many of those have already had those votes and are headed to the other chamber (House or Senate) for committee hearings on that side.  In some cases, they have been significantly amended or turned into “work groups” or task forces designed to keep working on the issue in hope of preparing legislation that will hopefully pass next session.

Others were referred to the Rules Committee, where they will have further amendments and move to the floor, or they will remain in Rules till the end.  Others were referred to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means (the big budget committee), where they will either be heard in a subcommittee (in which case they have a chance of passage by the subcommittee, then by full Ways and Means, then by each floor)—or they won’t.

As you can imagine, things were intense around the Capitol in advance of the deadline, and then relaxed greatly the next morning.  The next morning was particularly special because it was Valentine’s Day, plus Oregon’s statehood day (our 155th anniversary), plus it was the 100th anniversary of the Oregon Supreme Court Building.  In our floor session on Friday morning, we had Supreme Court Justices with us (the newest justice, my friend Dick Baldwin, who lives in SD 23, sat with me at my desk), and Curtis Salgado was on hand to sing a funky, compelling version of “Star Bright” as our invocation of the day. (Curtis also was the recipient of a well-deserved lifetime achievement memorial from the Legislature.)  It was a very special way to end the week.

In this newsletter I want to catch you up on some of the key bills that have been working their way through the Legislature.  In some cases, I have good news to report.  In other cases, it's not so good.  I also want to tell you about the latest revenue forecast.  Regarding the latter, you’ll see that we won’t have much in the way of new revenue this year, which is going to make it difficult to make any program improvements from the budget we passed last year.  If we can make any additions, it will most likely be to fund emergency services for the most vulnerable.  This is the week that the Ways and Means process really gets going.  In the next newsletter I hope to be able to let you know which if any programs will see additions to their funding.

Having said that, we did receive some very good news regarding additional funding for our local school districts -- more on that below.

Constituent Meeting Tomorrow Evening

Since we're in the midst of session, it seems like a good time for me to check in with you in person.  So I'm having a mid-month, evening constituent meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday).  I'll provide some light snacks and a more complete debrief on where the session stands.  If you have particular bills or issues you're interesting in hearing more about, I'll be happy to expand on those as well.  I hope you can make it.

Constituent Meeting

Tuesday, 2/18 at 6:30pm

PCC Southeast Campus (SE 82nd and Division)

Tabor Hall Room 144

A quick note on parking -- with all the construction going on at the campus right now, parking is a bit hard to come by.  We're working on securing parking waivers for the PCC lot, but please don't park in the adjoining church parking lot (just to the north of the campus) because you may be towed.  It wasn't an issue at our last town hall there, but just be advised.

Additional Money for School Districts

As part of the latest Revenue Forecast, the Legislative Revenue Office also reported on one additional benefit of the recovery in the housing market—with the rise in property values, we’ve experienced a higher than expected rise in the state property tax base (all of the tax bases—except for local-option funds--go into a common pool,  where they are divided up in an equalized manner).

The 2014 update indicates local revenues for the State School Fund are $98 million more than the previous estimate, largely due to increasing property values as the housing market improves.  LRO projects that local tax revenues will see about 3 percent growth in property tax revenue over the 2013-15 biennium, up from previous expectations of about 1.5 percent growth.

This increase translates into about $38 million projected to be available to districts across the state at the end of the 2013-14 school year, and about $60 million available for the 2014-15 school year. These projections are estimates and will be revised.

For Portland Public Schools, their share of the increase translates into an additional $4,653,360 (though this number will be reduced once certain other local calculations are factored in).  Parkrose’s share is $338,368.  For more details, here is a district-specific list.

So What Happened to Those Bills???

You may recall that in my newsletter just prior to the session, I summarized some of the bills that I predicted would be in the headlines during the session.  Below is an update on where they are right now.  As you’ll see, most of them are still alive, but in some cases their future still remains uncertain.  You can click on the bill number to find out more about its trajectory so far and read submitted testimony.

HB 4073, 4115  Regulating E-Cigarettes.  Failed to Advance

HB 4094         Would allow an underage drinker or the companion of an underage drinker to seek medical help and not be at risk of arrest.  This is a bipartisan bill, for which I’m one of the sponsors.  Passed unanimously in the House.  Will be considered by Senate Judiciary this week.

HB 4136         This would allow high schools to continue to have Indian-themed mascots with the permission of a neighboring tribe. Bill was amended in a manner I could support.  The State Board of Education will create a system modeled after the NCAA rules, which will only allow the use of names that are very specific to the individual neighboring tribes.  The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will be considered in the House this week.

SB 1551          Criminal Background Checks on Private Transfer of Firearms. I wish I could tell you that the criminal background checks bill was headed to the floor, but I cannot.  The bill was sent (on a party-line vote) to spend some time in the Senate Rules Committee, during which time (a) a sixteenth vote to pass it will be found and it will go to the floor; (b) it will be amended, perhaps to become a referral to the voters; or (c) it will fail to advance. 

SB 1556          This measure would refer to the voters (in the November 2014 election) the question of whether or not marijuana should be legalized, and if they say yes, the Legislature will be responsible for designing the best possible program. Since this is a referral to the voters, it needed to be sent to the Rules Committee.  It did pass out of the policy committee to Rules on a party-line vote.  Not sure yet what its chances are.

SB1569            Toxics Disclosure -- Labeling and eliminating children’s products that contain known toxic chemicals. Passed from Senate Health Care on a party-line vote to Ways and Means.  Not sure yet if it has the votes to pass there.

SB1570           Remove Sunset on Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.  Oregon’s effort to promote fuel that releases a lower amount of carbon into the atmosphere (e.g., biofuels, propane, natural gas) is scheduled to sunset in 2015 if we don’t take action to remove that sunset.   Failed to advance.  Governor Kitzhaber has directed DEQ to use its administrative rule-making authority to more aggressively implement the program in advance of the next legislative session.  Stay tuned for a hearing on the new rules during our May legislative committee hearing.

HB ???            The I-5 Bridge Replacement Project (Columbia River Crossing) is still out there as a potential bill for February.  Its prospects have become very uncertain now that Washington has pulled out of direct involvement in the project.  Many of us, including I, are still hoping for more certainty from Washington regarding the collection of toll money from Washington residents.  I don’t believe that there is a bill yet.  If a bill does emerge, expect an extensive public hearing on it.  If a bill does not progress, the Governor has said that the project will officially come to an end in March.  The bill is HB 4113.  After a four-hour hearing last week, it was sent to Ways and Means on a 6-4 party-line vote, with all Democrats voting yes and all Republicans voting no.  We probably won’t know its fate until the very end of the session.

Some Other Key Bills:

·         SB 1531 : This bill was brought to us by representatives of cities and counties, who wanted the ability to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, to the point of banning them.  It came to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  While I support giving local governments the authority to impose reasonable regulations regarding time, location, and manner of operation, I believe that it would be wrong to allow them to ban dispensaries entirely.  When Oregonians voted for medical marijuana, they sent a clear message that people with medical needs should have easy access to medical marijuana.  In the end, a majority of the committee agreed with that position, and the bill was amended to remove the ability to ban.  It’s up for its Senate floor vote on Tuesday.

·         SB 1518 :  This was a bill that failed in the Senate last session but managed to make it through this time.  It allows lead firefighters who supervise others but don’t have hire/fire authority to be part of the same bargaining unit (union) as their fellows.  This will bring us back to the way it was prior to changes in collective bargaining law in the mid-1990s.  The system prior to the change—which was made for political reasons—worked very well by all accounts.  Firefighters have been working to get back to the way it was for many years, and on Friday they got their wish.  The bill is headed to the House, where it is expected to pass easily.  

·         Bonds for OHSU:  Oregon Health Sciences University is seeking $200 million in state-backed bonds to build the new cancer-research facilities on the South Waterfront made possible if they are able to raise $500 million to match the $500 million offered by Phil and Penny Knight.  The university believes that having guaranteed funding for the construction will help them to secure the additional philanthropy.  If this all works out, it could be a great thing for cancer research and for Oregon.  We probably won’t know the fate of this bond request until the very end of the session.

My Personal Bills – One Still Alive, One Not

I’m happy to report that HB 1553the bill that would create a badly-needed state guardianship/conservatorship program for vulnerable Oregonians of limited means, passed unanimously from the Senate Health Care and Human Services Committee on Tuesday and is now in Ways and Means with good prospects.

HB 1543, the bill that seeks to prevent workers from having their hours cut in order to keep them from access to the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, had a good public hearing on Tuesday but failed to advance.  Committee members heard from Barry Edwards, a long-time math instructor at PCC and Mount Hood CC, whose combined workload is more than full-time. Under the proposed bill, he would qualify for healthcare insurance, with both employers paying for a share of his coverage.  They also were presented with a list of companies that have openly declared their intention to reduce workers’ hours.  Still, despite its merits, this was a difficult bill to pass during the short session.  Rest assured that it will return.

You can read about the bill in this article from and a recap of the hearing from The Lund Report.

Revenue Forecast – Continued (Slow) Recovery

On Wednesday we received the quarterly revenue forecast from Mark McMullen and Josh Lehner of the State Office of Economic Analysis.  These quarterly forecasts allow us to read the pulse of the state economy and to see if we’re on track to receive the amount of tax revenue that we expected when we built the final biennial budget last June.  The word this time is that the economy and job growth is definitely picking up here in Oregon, but personal and corporate income tax revenues don’t really reflect that yet.  They are only slightly higher than the last forecast in November. 

Here are the highlights of their presentation:

·         The bottom line is that there’s not much change in revenues—net income tax revenues about $20 million higher.
·         Job growth is very robust (3rd highest in nation).  Some improvement in the public sector, but still below population growth. 
·         Most Oregon businesses are profitable, but they are still sitting on their profits, rather than investing them in expansion.  Now that the Congressional, there’s hope that they’ll start to invest.
·         Many industries production levels haven’t reached where they were.  So not much reason to expand.  But we’re starting to see some of them get close to their capacity constraints, which should lead to expansion.
·         Rapid gains in central and southern Oregon (Bend and Medford), though it’s stalled in the last couple of months; much of the recovery was due to the rebound in the housing industry, but with rising interest rates and increase in value, it’s slowing down.  But think there’s still 3-4 years of housing rebound ahead of us.
·         Salem has seen strong private-sector growth.
·         Recovery in Eugene and Lane County is still very sluggish, largely due to the huge declines in the RV manufacturing industry, which are unlikely to reverse.
·         Feeling optimistic about Californian retirees moving to the South Coast.
·         Columbia Gorge continues to do well, as they did even during the recession.
·         While economic outlook has improved, revenues have not.
·         Estate tax revenues continue to decline; speculation is that CPAs getting better at using gifting options to bring down the end value of estates.
·         Cigarette tax revenues, video lottery, and court fees in decline.
·         Stock market up 28% year over year.  This should be reflected in next year’s income tax collections.

If you’d like more detail, check out the entire economic/revenue outlook presentation and the forecast summary.

See you around the district,


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