Bills, Bonding and Blues



Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445


E-Newsletter                              March 15th, 2012 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

A week has passed since the close of the 2012 legislative session.  I’ve been spending the week in Austin, Texas, happily distracted by family.  But I wanted to start giving you additional information on the bills that passed this session.  In this newsletter, the focus is on post-secondary education (which dominated much of my time as Co-Chair of the House Higher Education Committee).  In the next one, I’ll focus on Human Services bills and funding.

I’m also including some info about two upcoming lectures that may be of interest (more below).

A Rundown on the Higher Education Bills

We had hearings on seven bills in the higher education committee, and all seven of them ultimately passed to the House and Senate floors and on to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  You wouldn’t know it from the final floor votes, but I can tell you that every one of them required enormous effort to get to the floor.  You can read about them here.

But first let me give you a bit of “insider baseball”:  not all bills wind up looking much as they did when they started.  HB 4057, for example, ended up being a “gut and stuff,” where the original language of the bill was stripped out and replaced by other language on a related topic.  In many cases, this is an act of “hijacking,” against the desires of the original sponsors; in this case, it was done voluntarily.  The original bill called for an annual report from the universities and community colleges on their staffing ratios (administrators, classified staff, non-teaching academic staff; we already get annual reports on full-time and part-time faculty) and compensation levels.  In the end, there wasn’t clear bipartisan support to put this requirement into statute.  However, the Oregon University System offered to do the reporting voluntarily.  In exchange, the OUS asked us to use HB 4057 to do a technical fix to a bill that was passed in 2011.  That seemed like a good deal to me, and the technical fix really was necessary, so that’s what we did.    

Community College Capital Construction Package Passes

In the waning hours of the session, the green light was given to three important capital construction packages:  one for the Vernonia School District, whose schools were completely destroyed by flooding and needed to be moved to higher ground (and whose residents stepped up and voted for a substantial increase to their property taxes to help pay for it); one for the Oregon University System (for a science building at Western Oregon University and a student services building and residence hall at Oregon State University); and the community college package that I described in an earlier newsletter. 

The $10 million community college package includes projects at every college, thus benefiting every corner of the state.  All the projects involve improvements to career/technical education buildings, labs, and equipment, opening up additional slots for students seeking a good place in the workforce.   PCC will be receiving $1 million for its new Trades Center on Swan Island, an exciting new partnership project.

Unfortunately, there was no path for approval of the Oregon Sustainability Center on the PSU campus, despite strong advocacy from committed tenants, from companies around the state that would have benefited from their materials being used in the building, and from the sustainable-construction industry, which is poised to grow and would have benefited from the attention generated by the project.  In the end, the politics of the divided Oregon House of Representatives prevailed. 

It has always seemed to me that one of the best things that state government can do in a time of economic downturn (particularly in the construction industry) is to use its bonding capacity to the fullest extent to fund needed projects and create jobs.  I’m glad for the projects we did fund, but I wish that we could have agreed to more of these construction projects in the short session.

Some of the Country’s Top Education Thinkers Coming to Portland Soon

Those of us interested in improving education, closing the achievement gap, and treating public schools as the glue that holds our communities together have a rare opportunity over the next two weeks to hear from some of the nation’s most highly regarded writers on educational issues:  Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, and David Conley.

Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education, is probably the country’s foremost historian of education.   Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, looks critically at the proliferation of high-stakes testing and for-profit charter school chains (which she formerly supported).  She will be speaking on Tuesday evening, March 20, as part of the Illahee Lecture Series at the First Congregational Church in Portland.  For more information, click here.

Darling-Hammond and Conley will be appearing on Monday, March 26, as part of the Oregon Education Association’s all-day Symposium on Transformation in Public Education.  Darling-Hammond teaches at Stanford, was a member of President Obama’s education transition team, and her most recent book, The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future demonstrates convincingly why our resources and our focus need to be aimed at children in poverty if we are to reach the levels of educational attainment held by world leaders like Finland and Taiwan.  Conley, a professor at the University of Oregon, is one of the nation’s most respected experts on educational assessment and success.  You can read more about the symposium and register here.

These events should give us all lots to think about.   Hope to see you there!

A Special Treat for Lovers of Blues and Lovers of Single Payer

Fans of the blues have fond memories of the annual Inner City Blues Festival each spring in Portland.  Well, after a hiatus, the Festival is back, and this time the proceeds will be going towards the Single Payer Action Campaign.  Titled “Healing the Health Care Blues,” the reunion features Norman Sylvester and a host of Northwest blues stars.  It will be on Saturday, April 14, from 7:00 till midnight at the Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder.  Don’t miss it!

For more information about the Festival, click here.  To find out more about the Single Payer Action Campaign, go to

Next Constituent Coffee:  Saturday, April 7th

We'll be returning to our normal first-Saturday of the month coffee schedule in April.  Stay tuned for time & place.

Until next time,




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