Happy Labor Day!



Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445

 Email: rep.michaeldembrow@state.or.us 
Website: http://www.repmichaeldembrow.com  

E-Newsletter                              August 30th, 2012

Friends and Neighbors:

I hope that you and those close to you are enjoying these final, lovely days of summer.  I’ve been able to spend a lot of time this last month with my grandchildren, which has been wonderful.  Alas, they are back home now in Austin, already back in school. 

In this newsletter, I want to tell you about the September Constituent Coffee, which will be taking place this Saturday, along with information about today’s revenue forecast, next week’s legislative hearings, a recent meeting on textbook affordability, some facts related to Oregon forestry, and next week’s Hands Across the Bridge event.

Happy Labor Day to you and your loved ones!    


Coffee on Saturday 

Please join me for a constituent coffee this Saturday (September 1) at Case Study Coffee (5347 NE Sandy Blvd.).  This time we’ll be meeting from 2:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon.  We’re approaching the deadline for the first round of bills for next session. I want to share some of my current plans with you, and get your feedback and perspective on the issues I should be prioritizing. 

The Latest Revenue Forecast:

Each quarter the State’s Office of Economic Analysis issues its updated revenue forecast for the Legislature, incorporating economic trends that have emerged since the current budget was adopted in June 2011.  You may remember that the May forecast was essentially flat, meaning that it had changed only slightly (slightly but not significantly down) from the amount projected in the previous forecast, in early February. 

Today’s forecast is more of the same.  We appear to remain in the middle of a stable, but very slow recovery in Oregon.  In the short run, the news is good—we are now projected to finish out this biennium (which ends next June) with $97.7 million more than had previously been anticipated.  We should not have to do any further cutting this biennium, which is great.  However, the prognosis for next biennium (2013-15) is not so good: with growth projected to remain slow, we won’t have as much of an increase as we had hoped to have to restore services next biennium. 

For those of you who love the details, you can see the State Economist’s charts and tables in the Powerpoint presentation, read the detailed report here, and some additional tables here.

 Here are some of additional highlights of the report:

  • Oregon’s job growth is right in the middle of all states, at #26.
  • Corporate, personal, and investment income tax collections are all higher than had been projected in May.
  • Housing market and related employment is moving up at last.
  • However, with continued world-wide uncertainty and continued unemployment, businesses and individuals are holding off on making long-term investments, which is restraining ecomomic growth.
  • Exports are down an average of 5%, with much higher reductions in hi-tech and agriculture.
  • Public-sector layoffs, particularly in K-12 and community college education, remain a drag on the economy.
  • Lottery revenues are down and projected to stay down, putting a real burden on those agencies that rely heavily on lottery dollars.
  • If things continue as they are, we are looking at 11% projected growth in revenues per biennium for the next two biennia.  This is the same rate of increase that we see in 2011-13, a level much lower than the norm during an economic recovery).  It will barely keep up with rising demands for public services, especially due to our aging population.

Again, in the short term the news is good.  However, it is clear that we must find a way to improve our revenues over the long term--through a combination of revenue reform, investments in infrastructure and other forms of job creation, and investments in education and workforce development to get us skilled workers with higher earnings.


“Legislative Days” Next Week

Next week (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) will be the Legislature’s quarterly “Legislative Days,” during which all of the committees meet to get status reports on legislation that was enacted in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, and to hear about issues that may produce legislation next year.  It’s a process that we’ve been using for several years now, and it has been very effective.  Previously, legislative committees met randomly at the call of the Chair, and there was little coordination.  As a result, it was difficult for legislators (most of whom also have other jobs) to plan for them, and attendance was spotty. 

Along with the regular committees, task forces will also be meeting.  (Two of mine are scheduled to meet: the Joint House/Senate Special Committee on University Governance meets on Thursday morning, and the Public Guardianship/Conservatorship task force meets Friday morning.  In addition, there will be a presentation on the State Plan for Alzheimer’s in the House Human Services Committee Friday morning.)

To see the schedule for all the committees and task forces, go to the legislative web site and click on “September Legislative Days Committee Schedule.” The various committee agendas will be available next week on the legislative web site.  Go to the Committees tab and click on “Committee Agendas Online.”  You can watch the hearings live through the internet or listen to them via audio archives after the fact.  Let us know if you need any help with that. 

Making College Textbooks More Affordable

You may remember that last February I was at last able to secure passage for HB4058, the Affordable Textbook Act.  Its goal is to help dramatically bring down the cost of textbooks for Oregon’s students.  Other states are beginning to explore ways of making textbooks more affordable by encouraging the use of online resources, open-source textbooks, rentals, bulk licenses, bulk purchases, and other new technologies and practices, and this bill steers Oregon in that direction.  I believe that we can slash the cost of textbooks by at least 50% for most Oregon students.

The bill directs the new Higher Education Coordinating Commission to assemble a group of faculty, students, bookstore managers, and other professionals from the state’s public and private colleges and universities to explore and recommend practices that could be extended statewide within the next year.   The Commission’s affordable textbook subcommittee (chaired by HD45 constituent Jamie Woods) had its first meeting last week.  They heard testimony from Caleb Green, who works for Creative Commons, a group committed to exploring creative textbook alternatives; from Bruce Hildebrand, with the Association of American Publishers; from the Oregon Student Association, and from Amber Kelsall of the Associated Students of Portland State University. 

Check out their testimony, and let me know what you think.  I’ll be keeping you informed about future meetings and recommendations.


A Day in the Woods

Yesterday I spent the day touring some private and public forests in the Coast Range near Philomath, learning about the Oregon State University Forestry Department’s Mature Forest Study.  The 30-year study, led by Professor Emeritus Mike Newton, demonstrates the advantages (in terms of eventual quality and quantity of wood, as well as diversity of habitat) of selective thinning in forests and encourages those managing timber harvests both to thin periodically and to allow trees to grow for a longer period of time. 

Along with the OSU demonstration site, we got to see two family-owned timber forests—Thompson Timber and Starker Forest—that follow this philosophy, managing their operations for the long term with care and foresight.  This kind of long-term philosophy is less evident in the large investor-owned companies, which tend to cut more frequently and more extensively (with larger clear cuts) as a way of assuring themselves a regular income stream.  These companies also are more likely to export their raw logs to Asia, rather than have them milled here in Oregon.

We were given data from the Oregon Forest Resources Institute showing that nearly half of Oregon is forest land.  Of that land, 60% is federal, 19% is owned by large firms (greater than 5,000 acres), 15% by small firms (less than 5,000 acres), 4% is state or county forests, and 2% is tribal land.  If we look at the current harvest, we see that the great bulk of harvesting now comes from the large private firms.  73% of the cut timber is coming from the large private companies, 12% from federal land, 10% from state and county land, 3% from small private companies, and 2% from tribal lands. 

It was a beautiful day to be in the woods, but it also gave me a lot to think about as we try to balance the various functions that our forests provide—economic, social, and environmental. If you have thoughts on how the state should be managing this responsibility, please let me know.


Celebrating Labor Day – Hands Across the Bridge

Monday, September 3rd is Labor Day.  That afternoon I’ll be at the annual Labor Day Picnic at Oaks Park, spending time with union brothers and sisters and their families.  I’m sure I’ll see some of you there.

That morning is another very special event, celebrating an equally important kind of labor—the arduous, crucial labor of those working to free themselves from addiction.  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 again 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 10:00 AM, and you can find out more info at www.handsacrossthebridge.org/.  It is a tremendously inspiring event, and I encourage you to attend.

Happy Labor Day to all!



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