Legislative Update April 20 2017

Deborah Boone

Greetings from Salem!

When the 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly convened this year, lawmakers received a revenue forecast identifying a $1.8 billion budgetary shortfall.  Revenue projections have improved since then, but the budget deficit still stands at $1.6 billion.  Oregon law requires that the Legislature approve a balanced budget, and with the revenue shortfall, this won’t be an easy task.  More than 95% of the General Fund is allocated to three areas: Education, Health Care and Public Safety.  The remaining five percent covers everything else. Lawmakers need to juggle priorities and make difficult decisions in the months ahead.  Medicaid expansion for 350,000 low income Oregonians costs the state $256 million, but brings in $5 billion in matching federal dollars. Recent voter-approved unfunded mandates created additional challenges; Measure 98’s alternative learning programs to boost high school graduation rates adds $300 million and Measure 99 funding Outdoor school adds $44 million to the budget deficit. This week, the Ways and Means Co-Chairs released some proposed budget cuts and reduced spending on education included delaying funding of Outdoor School, reduced payments to school districts, universities, educational service districts, and preschools.   Health and Human service reductions included fewer people on Medicaid, less support for foster families, stricter limits on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and reducing anti-smoking programs.  The potential reductions outlined in the cuts list would have profoundly negative impacts on all Oregonians, but could be offset by proposed new taxes on hospital services and businesses.  There are no easy answers, I will continue to work across the aisle with my colleagues to find solutions to these budget problems that best serve the people of Oregon.

The Salmon forecast, and closure of Pacific Ocean salmon fishing south of Florence this year will have severe economic impacts for our coastal communities.   The Coastal Caucus invited several experts to discuss a response strategy, and those people included: Curt Melcher, Director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Governor’s Natural Resources Policy Advisor Lauri Aunan, and Nancy Fitzpatrick Executive Director of the Oregon Salmon Commission.  Oregon officials have started the effort with California to request that the U.S. Secretary of Commerce declare a salmon fisheries disaster to qualify for federal relief funds. While it is unfortunate, this is not our first experience with salmon fisheries disasters, so we are immediately embarking on the effort to support our coastal fishing communities.

Last week during Oregon Hunger Response Day, member of the Oregon Food Bank, and Food Roots stopped by the office to talk about state support feeding hungry Oregonians.  I have been happy to work with OFB, in 2012 I sponsored HB 4068 which allowed commercial fishers to donate to the Oregon Food Bank, the fish they had accidentally caught.   Marlin Martin of Clatsop County Food Bank says in the past 5 years 140,000 pounds of by-catch has been voluntarily donated to the food bank, in Clatsop County they now have this protein-rich seafood year-round, have enough to share with other food banks in the network, and are looking at ways to expand this very successful program.

Oregon Food Bank Visitors
Oregon Food Bank Staff on Oregon Hunger Response Day

Last Friday I celebrated Honorary Oregon Artists Day with Hayley Rollins and many talented artists at Seaside High School.   Thanks to a suggestion from Hayley, I introduced HB 3042 in 2015, naming each April 14th as Honorary Oregon Artists Day.   For the past two years, Hayley has organized a wonderful event at Seaside High school bringing in artists who have held workshops, teaching various artistic techniques.   I participated in both a portrait class, and was honored to speak about the event at the school assembly.   Congratulations Hayley, for a job well done!

Portrait Class At Honorary Oregon Artists Day
Portrait Class at Honorary Oregon Artists Day

One of my priorities continues to be Emergency Preparedness, this week House Speaker Tina Kotek appointed me to another 4 years on the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (OSSPAC).  I had initially been appointed to the Homeland Security Council, and Representative Paul Evans was on OSSPAC, but given our various interests the Speaker agreed that we should trade places.  Rep. Evans now will serve on the Homeland Security Council, I will serve on OSSPAC.  When it comes to community preparedness, the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay is setting a standard of excellence.  This coming Monday at the Pine Grove building in Manzanita, the Emergency Volunteer Corps will hold their annual meeting from 1:00 to 3:30pm.  Those attending will receive an update on Earthquake and Tsunami Research, new insights on evacuation and local efforts to meet new challenges.  While this group was initially formed due to the threat of a Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake and resulting Tsunami, being prepared for a natural disaster of any kind pays off.  Last October 14th a rare tornado struck the city of Manzanita, damaging 128 homes, and causing $1 million in damage.  The Emergency Volunteer Corps responded immediately and put their training into action, coalescing the community around the work to be done. This hands-on experience is helping to strengthen their volunteer network for the benefit of the community, and they are very proactive in sharing their story and training with other communities.  

My office door is always open to constituents, and I have met this week with folks working on Humane Society issues, Oregon State University students, Seafood industry leaders, and Health Care advocates.   We are getting lots of input on issues, and that is so appreciated!   Your input helps me make the decisions that best represent House District 32.   If you have a concern or comment about legislation or a state agency, please write, phone or email my office.

It is my privilege to serve you in the House of Representatives, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Deborah Boone

email: Rep.DeborahBoone@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1432
address: 900 Court St NE, H-481, Salem, OR, 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/boone