Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you’re enjoying these beautiful summer days. I’ve had family in town, which has allowed me to do what many of us love to do: show off our beautiful Rose City and the Beaver State.
But there’s also been plenty of legislative work to do. Newly-created task forces are already beginning to meet, and our first round of interim committee hearings will begin in a few weeks -- Sept. 21-23. (See the interim committee schedule here). Our House Higher Education Committee will be meeting jointly with the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee to examine the work that’s been done to date on the new Education Investment Board. (The Governor’s office has just announced his appointments for the new Board—you can see them here.) We’ll be looking closely at how the new Higher Education Coordinating Commission fits into the proposed system, along with the question of whether or not our universities should have local boards of directors (and if so, what those local boards would look like). In future newsletters I’ll let you know more about these discussions, along with the work around career/technical education and online education initiated by legislation in the recent session.
Please, if you have any questions about anything you might be seeing in the news or reading about in this newsletter, please get in touch. I’ll be happy to let you know what I know, and share the information with others as well.
Ben Cannon Joins Governor’s Staff
I had really mixed feelings last week when I learned that Rep. Ben Cannon, my neighbor to the south in House District 46, will be moving on from the Legislature at the end of the month to become Governor Kitzhaber’s education policy advisor. This is an exciting opportunity for Ben, who has been front and center during the education discussions in Salem since his election in 2006. It’s a real loss for his constituents, and for Sen. Dingfelder and me—the three of us share an office here in Portland, carpool to Salem, and pool our expertise on the issues that we face. But it is clearly a gain for the Governor and for Oregon. I wish him the best and look forward to continuing to partner with him in his new role. Click here to read his announcement (with details of the process to replace him in HD 46).
For Your Calendar: Upcoming Events
Saturday, September 3rd will be my constituent coffee for the month of September. We didn’t have one in August, so I’ll have plenty to update you on. Once again, we’ll be trying an afternoon time, when it should be a bit quieter in the coffee shop and easier to have a discussion. Please join me from 2 to the 3:30 on the afternoon of the 3rd at Case Study Coffee, 5347 NE Sandy Blvd. up the street from the Bike Gallery.
Monday, September 5th is Labor Day. I’ll be at two events, and I hope to see you at one (or both). Hands Across the Bridge is an annual event to celebrate National Recovery Month. Thousands of people will meet on both sides of the Columbia River, meeting in the middle and joining hands across the I-5 bridge. This year, I’m honored to have a chance to speak at the beginning of the event, and I’m really looking forward to it. The kickoff is at 9:50 AM, and you can find out more info at www.handsacrossthebridge.org/. In the afternoon, I’ll be at the annual Labor Day Picnic at Oaks Park, shaking hands, kissing cheeks, and enjoying some BBQ.
Saturday, September 17th is the day of our third annual Bike Town Hall with Sen. Dingfelder and, if his new schedule permits, Rep. Cannon. We will be starting the event at Wilshire Park on NE 33rd at 10:00 AM. Please mark your calendars now and plan to join us, with further details to come on the route. We will be moving at a comfortable pace, so bikers of all ages and fitness levels are welcome.
Single Payer Campaign Update
As I’ve said before, the effort to improve and extend Medicare to all Oregonians—creating a system popularly known as “single payer”—is the ultimate, long-term solution to the problem of inadequate healthcare coverage in this country. It’s not something that’s going to happen in one legislative session, but it will never happen if we don’t commit ourselves to framing legislation (e.g., HB 3510), organizing our friends, relatives, and neighbors, and looking to the future. To that end, a number of groups and individuals are banding together to create a new movement: The Oregon Single Payer Campaign.
I was able to attend the new organization’s strategic planning retreat in Albany on July 16. Seventy people from around the state attended, and there was a high level of engagement and commitment. You can read a summary letter from the Campaign chairperson, Peter Shapiro, here. If you have an interest in Improved Medicare for All, I encourage you to check out their website and get onto their mailing list. Go to oregonsinglepayer.org.
As I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, I’m currently working with advocates exploring a feasibility study for different funding options for an Oregon single payer system. Such a study was done in Vermont last year by Dr. William Hsiao of Harvard, who helped design Taiwan's successful single-payer system. Hsiao’s recommendations were instrumental in moving the Vermont Legislature to pass a healthcare law incorporating single-payer principles earlier this year, and we’re hoping to see the same thing happen here. We’re currently working on a fundraising plan to pay for the study. Stay tuned.
By the way, one of our Oregon allies in the single payer campaign, Dr. Sam Metz, has a letter in today’s NY Times, which is going to be the focus of the Times’ Sunday Dialogue this weekend. Check it out.
Joining the Workforce Investment Board
I’m happy to report that I’ve been appointed to the Oregon Workforce Investment Board, which advises the Governor on workforce matters and helps allocate federal workforce dollars in training programs that meet changing local needs. Read more about the board here. If you have any recommendations regarding the work of the Board, please let me know.
State Plan for Alzheimers-Related Disorders
I want to thank those of you who were able to attend one of the recent town halls to gather feedback for the State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease in Oregon (SPADO). If you were unable to attend and want to provide feedback on your alzheimer’s-related experience, you can do so through a series of surveys that the SPADO folks have set up. Select the category that best fits your situation:
Please forward these links to anyone that you know who has an interest in this issue.
Website Updates and Session Post-Mortem
In the last newsletter, I talked about some of the successes that we had in the 2011 session. Many of you have asked how some of my personal bills fared, so I’ve set up a page on the website with a rundown of all of the legislation that I Chief Sponsored during the session. You can view the full text of each bill, and see how far it got in the legislative process.
It’s important to remember that while some bills don’t move past an initial committee hearing, they may still represent a “win.” Some bills, like two that I introduced around career & technical education (HB 3236 and HB 3237), are combined or incorporated into other bills (HB 3362) that end up passing. Others, like my bill to clarify reporting requirements around usage of part-time college faculty (HB 3118) spark discussion with state agencies that result in a non-legislative fix that achieves the same result.
In other cases, a bill just isn’t “ready for prime time.” HB 3320, my bill to make part-time college and university faculty eligible for unemployment insurance during summer terms (current practice bars them from collecting unemployment even if they normally teach during the summer), ran into technical problems with federal requirements . I’ll continue to work on this proposal with our Congressional delegation during the interim, with the intent of having workable legislation ready for the 2013 session.
We also have a new feature on the site called “Insider Baseball.” It’s an opportunity for you to ask questions about the process, the budget, or particular terms or phrases you’ve heard that you’d like some more background or information on. We’ve already got a few topics up and I encourage you to email me some more ideas.
There is also a new Issues page, where I’ll be highlighting hot topics as they come up. Look for more updates there in the near future.
As well as the new content, there’s plenty of other information to be found on my legislative website, including contact information for local elected officials, as well as our representatives in D.C. If you have ideas for helpful content on the site, let me know. I want it to serve as a resource to you, and we’re constantly working to improve it.
Wireless Installations Met With Neighborhood Resistance
Many of you are familiar with the neighborhood skirmishes around placement of cell phone towers and antennas. As wireless technology has become ubiquitous, demand for service has grown. Cell towers and antennas that used to be confined to industrial areas are now creeping into neighborhoods as providers try to keep up with consumer demand for faster speeds on their mobile devices. Of course, this creates a natural conflict with neighbors who don’t want the equipment installed near their homes.
I’ve been engaged with this issue since I started serving in the legislature, and two years ago I set up a page on my website to provide you with some information about the city’s role in these siting decisions. Recently, some constituents contacted me about a proposed cell tower near NE 31st and Prescott. T-Mobile is interested in attaching a cell antenna to an existing utility pole, and had begun construction when the city stopped them for using expired permits. Constituents are concerned about next steps, so we’ve been working with the City to get clarification, and the people in the Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management have been very helpful.
I’ve provided a longer explanation of this installation and the public process to come on my website. The short version is that in order to receive new permits for the antenna, T-Mobile will be required to hold a public neighborhood meeting, with at least two weeks’ notice to the neighborhood association, the local business association, and property owners and residents within 400 feet of the proposed site. When I hear from the City about the date and details of this meeting, I’ll post it on the website and let you know in a future newsletter.
Legislature Reduces Paper Footprint
The legislature has been moving toward using less and less paper in recent sessions. It’s both a good move for the environment, as well as a cost-saver. In addition, this transition has meant more documents being available online in electronic format, which is good for citizens. Many of the reports, summaries and other information that used to be provided in paper are now distributed electronically, via email and through the legislature’s website. We’ve just received a status report on the impact of the new policy.
To give you a sense of how successful these efforts have been, take a look at the graph below. It shows that the legislature has gone from the equivalent of over 56 million one-sided printed pages in the 1999 session down to fewer than five million pages in 2011. This is a huge success, and it saved taxpayers $312,000 in 2011 compared to the 2009 session. We’ve got to continue this trend, and continue the trend of making more information available to the public via the legislature’s website.
Budget Note Report Released by LFO
The Legislative Fiscal Office has released their report summarizing the 67 budget notes contained in the 2011-2013 Legislatively Adopted Budget. Access it here. Budget notes are inserted into individual agency budgets. They are non-binding directives to the agency, often requesting them to do something specific with the funds provided by the legislature, like submitting a report on a particular topic or convening a workgroup to address an issue. A budget note can also be a way of putting legislative intent on the record. The LFO report includes information about each budget note, broken down by agency and program area.
Budget notes can sound complex, but they’re often fairly simple. One example is the following budget note in the Oregon University System budget, setting tuition increase limits for state universities:
In adopting the budget for the Oregon University System, the Legislature intends that increases in the rates for tuition paid by resident undergraduate students at Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Oregon may not exceed an average of eight percent for the two years of the biennium and may not exceed nine percent in any given year. Increases in the rates for tuition paid by resident undergraduate students at Eastern Oregon University, Southern Oregon University and Western Oregon University may not exceed an average of 6.5 percent for the two years of the biennium, and 7.5 percent in any given year. The Chancellor shall report to the Legislature by March 1, 2012 regarding increases in the rates for tuition paid by resident undergraduate students for the 2011-12 academic year. If the State Board of Higher Education proposes to increase rates in excess of the legislatively intended rates stated above, the Chancellor shall report to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means or the Emergency Board prior to the Board approving any such increases.
You can access the full report from LFO here.
NY Wins EPA Reprieve: Ramifications for Portland?
Oregonian columnist Steve Duin recently wrote about an EPA decision in New York to rethink requiring the city to spend $1.6 billion to cover a reservoir that provides drinking water to city residents. This decision has provided additional fuel to local activists seeking an EPA variance to prevent Portland from having the cover the reservoirs on Mt. Tabor. You can read Duin’s column here. I’ll let you know what more I hear on this topic.
Until next time,