Join me for Java on Saturday



Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445


E-Newsletter                              January 4th, 2012

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

I hope you had a great holiday season.  For me, it’s been a tough and sentimental one.  I’ve been nursing our greyhound Sophie through her final days.  We “rescued” her from the track nearly eleven years ago, and she’s been a great part of our lives ever since.  It’s hard to let her go.  Another experience that helps put things in perspective.

Now, with the new year, the busy time has come again.  The short 2012 legislative session begins on February 1, and legislators are busy getting ready for it.  We’ll be having another round of committee hearings on January 18, 19, and 20th.  In many cases, committees will be jump-starting the February session by holding public hearings on their bills during that week.  That way, problems can be discovered, the bills can be amended, and then passed on to the floor for votes during the first week or two of the session.  (Given the brevity of the session, a bill that doesn’t get voted to the floor during the first two weeks will die.)

For those interested in the future of the Senior and Disabled Property Tax Deferral Program, the House Revenue Committee will holding a public hearing on the issue on Friday afternoon, January 20.  I’ll let you know more details as the date approaches.

In this newsletter, I’ll talk a little about what’s ahead of us in February in terms of the budget, tell you about the bills coming out of the House Higher Ed Committee (of which I’m one of the two chairpersons), and say something about the SMART program, which I got to help celebrate just before the holidays.

I’ll be going into these and many other issues at this Saturday’s constituent coffee.  Hope to see you there!

Constituent Coffee Saturday 1/7

Join me for our January coffee this Saturday, January 7th at 9:30 AM.  The Hollywood Senior Center (1820 NE 40th Avenue) has agreed to host us, and I'll be providing the coffee.  So come with your questions and a thirst for some delicious Ristretto Roasters blends.

For Your Calendar: January 30th Town Hall

On the eve of the February session, I'll be hosting a joint town hall with Senator Jackie Dingfelder and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (Ben Cannon's successor).  Please mark your calendars and plan to join us.  The event will be held at PCC's SE Center campus (corner of SE 82nd Ave. and SE Division) from 6:30 to 8:00 PM on Monday, January 30th.  See you there.

Budget Co-Chairs Looking at Further Cuts

With the economic recovery still sluggish and the last revenue forecast showing a $300 million deficit, I expect that the February session will be dominated by efforts to balance the budget and keep the cuts to our most crucial programs to a minimum.  Right now the Ways and Means Subcommittee Co-Chairs are going over the potential cut lists submitted by the various state agencies.  These cut lists were posted by the agencies on Dec. 1 and they reflect several budget scenarios, starting with a shortfall of 3.5% (i.e., $300 million) and ending with 10.5%, in the event of a $1 billion+ shortfall.

You can see the lists here.

The subcommittee co-chairs are expected to analyze the lists, then report back to the overall Ways and Means Co-Chairs by January 6 as to the options they could agree to put forward to balance the budget, starting with  the 3.5% level), then in increasingly larger drops in revenue by $100 million increments.  The goal is to have as many informed options as possible for the Co-Chairs to work with in order to present an overall framework of a rebalance (i.e., balancing the budget in light of the deficit) at different levels by the January Legislative Days (Jan. 18-20).

The next revenue projection will be given on Wednesday, February 8, and that will determine the final shape of the rebalance.

House Higher Education Committee Bills

During the short session each member is allowed to request and submit two bills, and each committee can request and submit five.  As co-chair of House Higher Ed, it’s been my responsibility to work with my fellow co-chair, Mark Johnson of Hood River, on selecting our five committee bills.  We’ve selected five bills that we believe are timely, important, and have a good chance of passage.  I’ll let you know more about them as the session goes on.

  • Legislative Workgroup on Higher Education Governance:  This bill will bring together a group of House and Senate members, along with two representatives from the Oregon Education Investment Board, to address the question of institutional boards for the state’s universities, as well as the relationship of the universities to the State Board of Higher Education and the colleges and universities to the new Higher Education Coordinating Commission.  The group will have a very open and deliberative process that will culminate in a recommendation of the right system for Oregon.
  • The Affordable Textbook Act: This is an update of the bill that I submitted last session, which died due to a combination of politics and timing at the very end of the session.  Its goal is to help dramatically bring down the cost of textbooks for Oregon’s students.
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (STEM):  One of the big challenges that we face as a state is too few college students being prepared to major in these disciplines, or to stay with them all the way to graduation.   As a result, good- paying jobs are going unfilled or going to non-Oregonians.  This bill will help focus attention and resources on this problem.
  • College/University Staffing Ratios:  Our colleges and universities already report on the ratio of full-time vs. part-time faculty each year, thanks to legislation that I sponsored back in 2009.  Now it’s time to extend that reporting to all employee groups, to see just how much of the budgets are going into administration, how much into student support, and how much into instruction.
  • Western Governors University and Prior Learning Assessments:  This bill will extend outreach to non-traditional students by directing the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to create a partnership with WGU (the nonprofit, proficiency-based, online university that I profiled in a recent newsletter) and extend the use of high-quality prior learning assessments, freeing qualified students from having to take courses that they don’t need.

We’ll be holding public hearings on the Governance Work Group, STEM, and Staffing Ratio bills at our committee meeting on January 19.

A Very SMART Program

One of the most valuable perks that comes with being a legislator is being invited to hear about long-standing successful programs related to kids, programs that I’ve always wanted to know more about but have never had the chance or the opportunity to do so.  Back in November I got to be part of this year’s celebration of the Big Brother/Big Sister program, which creates supportive mentor relationships for the long haul.  It was great.

Then, in December I went to Rosa Parks Elementary School in North Portland for a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) program.  SMART matches adult volunteers up with primary school students to read together at school for a half hour a week.  The adults are not really teaching the kids to read, but rather teaching the joy of reading, and forming a bond around the act of reading.   I was there with Sen. Chip Shields, my new colleague Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, and her predecessor in representing HD 46, Ben Cannon (now the Governor’s Education advisor), and my mother, who was visiting from Connecticut.  We learned that over the last 20 years 144,000 kids have gone through the SMART program, and nearly 2 million books have been given to them as gifts.

Finally, we got to pair up with a Rosa Parks student and join with the other adults in reading with them.  I paired up with G., a spunky 2nd grader; she and I read together, then picked out a book for her to take home.  My mother paired up with a Somali-American girl with a brilliant smile and a voracious love of reading.  It was so satisfying and really a lot of fun.

If you’d like to find out more about the SMART program, go to

I'll see you on Saturday at the Senior Center,


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