Off to a Big Start: 2019 Legislative Session

Representative Pam Marsh

January 2019

Off to a Big Start!

Wildfire Forum, Contest Winners & 2019 Legislative Priorities

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

As the new year dawns, I’m exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to once again represent Oregon’s 5th district in the state legislature.

On January 14, I’ll join 59 colleagues as we’re sworn into the Oregon House of Representatives. The state’s 80th Legislative Assembly will begin a week later and promises to address some of the most intractable issues facing the state. I’ve been assigned to serve as Vice Chair of the House Revenue Committee, and as a member of the Economic Development Committee, Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, Ways and Means Subcommittee on General Government, and the Joint Legislative Information Management and Technology Committee.

I’m convinced that my district, which sits just above the Oregon border and stretches from the Jackson-Klamath county line through to the Applegate, encompassing the communities of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Jacksonville, the Applegate, and a corner of Medford, has the state’s most passionate, most involved constituents. I’ll welcome your input, and your partnership, in the months to come.

A thousand thanks for your support. I’m already looking forward to the accomplishments we’ll celebrate in 2019.


Representative Pam Marsh

State Representative
Oregon House District 5 - Southern Jackson County

January 2019 - In this Issue Quick Links:

Wildfire Forum event cover

Upcoming Wildfire Forum to Address Community Safety

A summer filled with smoke, followed by the inferno that destroyed Paradise, California, means that issues around fire and community protection are front and center in southern Oregon.

Our January 17 Wildfire Forum will feature officials from local, state and federal fire protection agencies who will share their insights, experience and recommendations for community protection. This will be an opportunity to learn about coordination among agencies, data utilized for decision-making, resources available for fighting catastrophic fires, and the need to adapt strategies in the face of changing and challenging conditions.

Speakers will include Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southern Oregon Area Director Dave Lorenz; Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal Jim Walker; Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Supervisor Merv George (dependent on government shutdown); and Ashland Fire & Rescue Forest Division Chief Chris Chambers. Additional panelists may be announced.

Open to the public with free admission, the Wildfire Forum continues the community conversation initiated at September’s Smoke & Fire Summit, which addressed the strategic, economic, health and climate impacts of wildfires. The event takes place from 6:00-8:00 PM at Asante Smullin Health Education Center, 2825 East Barnett Road in Medford. Doors open at 5:30 with a prompt 6:00 start.

Get directions to Asante Smullin Health Education Center Here

Follow the Wildfire Forum on Facebook Here

There Oughta Be a Law Contest - We Have Winners!

Fifty-four community members entered our "There Oughta Be a Law" contest. As we predicted, we received a host of thoughtful suggestions aimed at changing or amending public policy.

Some submissions – for example, those targeting elimination of the bail bond system or the use of isolation in the state’s prisons – tackle big, broad issues that can’t be distilled down into a single bill. However, I’m committed to working with advocates to advance work in these important areas in the year to come

Other suggestions – for example, initiating a ban on plastic straws or reforming the electoral system – are already being addressed in bills initiated by other legislators.

After lots of research on each submission, we chose three winners:

  • Mail order of inhalant (vaping) delivery systems:
    Ashland High School students Chloe Boucher, Molly Bloom, Danae Haldane and Katie Cropper suggested tougher regulation of mail order purchase of vaping products by under-age Oregonians. While the 2017 legislature increased the age of purchase to 21, teens still find it easy to obtain these products on-line. The proposed bill will require a vendor to engage in reasonable due diligence to ensure that a purchaser is of age.

  • Cosmetologist license change:
    Cosmetologists, those wonderful people who make your hair look good, are required to obtain a state license and to post that license in a visible location by their designated chair in the salon that employs them. Jay Stockton pointed out that the license includes the cosmetologist’s home address, which is then easily available to every customer. The exposure of personal information poses safety concerns for workers and is irrelevant to the license. Our bill will simply remove the address requirement from state law.

  • Salary threshold required for exemption from overtime:
    Employees who receive salaries instead of hourly wages can be exempted from overtime pay if the job meets two requirements: first, the job description must meet a duties test to confirm that the position qualifies as executive, administrative or professional. Second, the salary paid must meet a minimum threshold. Because the federal government has failed to increase the salary requirement, that threshold in Oregon is simply the equivalent of 40 hours of minimum wage.

    Ashland resident Rick Landt pointed out that the overtime exemption can easily result in low wage employees moved from an hourly wage with overtime benefits to a salary basis that produces the same base income but without extra pay for hours in excess of 40/week. Accordingly, our bill proposes to set the minimum salary requirement for overtime exemption at a base salary that is twice the minimum wage. A reasonable salary threshold will protect low-income workers from unreasonable and uncompensated overtime mandates.

We are indebted to Ashland High School senior Bella Mannray, who coordinated the contest. Bella will track the progress of each bill as it travels through the legislative progress.

2019 Session to Address Oregon’s Future

Thousands of bills are now being drafted for consideration in the 2019 session, which officially begins January 22. Four overriding issues are certain to dominate the discussion:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions:
    Here in southern Oregon we see daily signs of climate change, in the form of sustained drought, violent storms, reduced snowpack and disrupted biological patterns. October’s release of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirmed our experience in stark terms, stating that world nations have ten to twelve years to act if we are to avert irreversible consequences across the globe.

    That’s a call to action we can’t ignore. Here in Oregon, our Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is preparing legislation that will most likely propose a cap on greenhouse gas emissions that will decline over time. By 2050, we need to reduce total emissions to no more than 20% of 1990 levels in order to have a chance of containing temperatures.

    I’ve been appointed to the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction. This work will be my highest priority in 2019.

  • School Funding:
    The Joint Committee on Student Success, a bicameral, bi-partisan group of legislators, has been touring the state for much of the past year. Broadly stated, the group’s mission is to: 1) identify the “secret sauce” of student success in our K-12 and pre-K systems; and, 2) to find revenue necessary to enable all school districts to implement appropriate programming.

    The committee has produced a long list of desired investments that begins with universal preschool and includes a longer school year, trauma interventions, smaller class sizes, and much more. That list will be distilled, prioritized, and priced out.

  • Revenue Reform:
    In the meantime, we need to figure out how to pay for those investments. Property tax reforms in the 1990’s resulted in a loss of approximately $2 billion from our local tax collections and shifted 2/3rds of school funding from local sources to the state, with no commensurate increase in revenues. In essence, we are still trying to recapture that tax revenue to adequately support our education system.

    Revenue reform, along with thoughtful investments that will enable our children to be successful students and productive adults, will be front and center in 2019. As vice-chair of the House Revenue Committee, I expect to play a significant role in that discussion.

  • Health Care Funding:
    Once again, we face a significant hole in the health care budget that supports approximately one million Oregonians, including 400,000 children on Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program. Fortunately, a group of stakeholders, led by the governor’s staff and including key legislators and industry leaders, is working to devise a revenue plan to keep OHP whole.

    In the resounding defeat of Measure 101 last January, Oregon voters affirmed our state’s commitment to provide health care to low income Oregonians. Now we must identify long term revenue options that will provide stable and predictable funding for these essential services.

My 2019 Legislative Agenda

In addition to those big issues, I’ve spent much of the past year traveling to and from Salem to prepare my own legislative agenda. Here’s a summary of the issues and legislation I’m working on:

  • Broadband:
    For many of us who live in urban areas, access to good internet is a given that we don’t think much about. But that’s not the case for many Oregonians across the state. We know that (at minimum — the number is likely much higher) 400,000 Oregon residents lack internet, and at least 27 school districts have no or minimal service.  It’s time to get serious about ensuring that broadband is available in every corner of our state. I am working on legislation that will: 1) Establish a state Broadband Office within Business Oregon; and, 2) develop an ongoing source of funding to support broadband in unserved and underserved communities. Internet is our most important economic development tool as well as the key to generational transition in our rural areas.

  • Manufactured Housing:
    With about 104 parks, Jackson County hosts about 10% of the state’s total inventory of 1100 manufactured home parks. Those numbers translate to thousands of homes for individuals and families across the state and a significant portion of our naturally occurring affordable housing. Because these parks are often tucked away in the corners of our communities they have frequently been overlooked or underestimated by planners. However, the severe deficit of housing units across the state has shined new light on the contribution of parks; we now clearly understand what residents have known for a long time: Oregon's manufactured home parks provide not only shelter, but also community and connection, often at a fraction of the price required in other kinds of neighborhoods. Yet maintaining and expanding the manufactured housing sector will take effort. Many homes were constructed to pre-1980 standards and need significant upgrades in order to meet energy efficiency or habitability standards. Development pressures and ownership changes can result in untenable costs or park closure. In 2019, we will be pursuing legislation to help parks that are for sale transition to nonprofit or cooperative ownership. Other bills will focus on support for homeowners who need to upgrade pre-1979 homes to meet new, energy efficient standards.

  • Trauma Informed Law Enforcement Policies & Procedures:
    Access to justice for a victim of violence begins with the victim’s initial contact with law enforcement. The quality and substance of that interview, including the officer’s assessment of the victim’s credibility and the facts gathered, will determine whether the case goes forward. It will also impact the survivor’s ability to assess their own experience and to begin to understand and process their own reactions. Conventional law enforcement training hasn’t equipped officers on the ground with tools to effectively respond to a victim experiencing traumatic or high stress neurological response, though advances in neurobiology have enabled us to craft and adopt new approaches that will help investigators understand victims’ responses and produce more effective investigations. In 2019, I will introduce legislation that will accelerate the adoption of trauma-informed policies and procedures for law enforcement, including training money to help officers and partners adopt new, smart interviewing strategies to use with victims.

  • Maintaining our Housing Stock:
    Addressing the statewide housing deficit of 155,000 units requires that we invest in new housing stock — but we also need to maintain and improve current units to ensure that they continue to provide safe, habitable and energy efficient homes for decades to come. Accordingly, I will be sponsoring legislation that would provide funding for critical repairs to our low-income housing stock. These upgrades will have multiple benefits for residents including significant positive health outcomes. I am also working with advocates on legislation that will provide cash incentives to middle income families who make energy efficiency improvements in their homes.

Smoke & Fire Summit Follow Up & Video

Summit photos

As a community, we’re trying our best to figure out how to mitigate and adapt to the intense and persistent conditions we are facing here in the Rogue Valley and across the state. Hundreds of local residents attended the Smoke & Fire Summit, which took place in September 15, 2018 at SOU, and was a starting point for many conversations about how we move forward to mitigate the consequences of severe wildfires and climate change on our economy, health and quality of life here in Southern Oregon.

Enormous thanks again to everyone who participated both on the panels and in the audience. If you missed the Summit or would like to see it again, here are links to videos of the event, in full-length and segmented by panel topics.

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1405

District Phone: 541-282-4516

Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-375, Salem, Oregon 97301