The First Fortnight



Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445


E-Newsletter                              February 18th, 2013 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

The session is now two weeks old.  It has been an action-packed two weeks, particularly for me.  The first week started with a rally of a thousand supporters of extending universal health care coverage and ended with a rally of supporters of protecting the right to bear arms in public places.  Though I was apprehensive about how the latter rally would turn out, I’m pleased to say that our very professional state troopers kept everything very calm in the Capitol building.  In fact, with most lobbyists and advocates staying home that day, I was able to have an unusually quiet and productive day!

The second week saw our public hearing and first round of committee votes on tuition equity.  I’ll be going into detail on both of those.   I’ll also be talking about the revenue forecast that came out on Friday.

In each of our regular session newsletters, I’ll also want to give you a little “Leg 101.”  In this one, I’ll be talking about our upcoming bill deadlines, and provide you with a link to a comprehensive glossary of legislative terms.

If any of the topics in the newsletter provoke questions, concerns, or suggestions, please feel free to get in touch with us.  I’m committed to getting a timely response to every constituent who writes, either from me or from one of my staffers. 

Until next week!


Tuition Equity Moves Along with New Momentum

Tuition equity—which allows young people who grow up here and graduate from an Oregon high school to be eligible for in-state tuition, irrespective of their parents’ immigration status—appears to be on a steady path to passage this year.

The bill was introduced during the first week of the session as HB 2787, with four chief sponsors on the House side—Republicans Bob Jenson of Pendleton and John Huffman of The Dalles, and Democrats Betty Komp of Woodburn, and I—and one chief sponsor on the Senate side, Senate President Peter Courtney.  This is shaping up to be a strong bipartisan effort.  This is partly due to the changing political landscape in Oregon, but it’s also due to changing attitudes towards immigration nationally.  But in large part it’s also due to all the work that has been done in the preceding sessions.  The groundwork has clearly been laid.

Last Monday we had a press conference with Governor Kitzhaber and leaders from the state’s three primary business organizations.  The theme of the press conference?  We need to build a world-class workforce from within, and that means taking advantage of all the talent that we have.  Each of the speakers spoke to the importance of tuition equity in meeting that need.  You can read about the press conference here.

On Wednesday we had our public hearing on HB 2878, and the personal stories of students, teachers, and clergy were incredibly moving.  We again heard from the business community, along with immigration attorneys, two university presidents (President Wiewel of PSU and President Gottfredson of the University of Oregon), and State Board of Higher Ed member Jim Francesconi.  They all voiced their strong support.  We also heard from two panels of tuition equity opponents.

On Friday the committee adopted amendments to the bill.  Republican members of the committee wanted to see some changes that clarified that the students eligible for tuition equity really wanted to become citizens and become working taxpayers.  Knowing that they did, it was easy for me to agree to include these clarifications in the bill.  Some of the proposed amendments, on the other hand, would have compromised the integrity of tuition equity, so I could not agree to them.  But by meeting their needs halfway, we were able to enhance the bipartisan support for the bill, and the compromise amendments passed on a 7-2 vote.

This morning we were at last able to vote on the now-amended bill.  It too passed on a 7-2 vote, and it’s now headed to the floor of the House for a vote, hopefully later this week.

A Thousand Voices for Health Care

Buses converged on the Capitol on the very first day of the session to show their strong support for universal health care in general and a publicly-financed single payer (Medicare for All) system in particular.  The rain stayed away, there was great music by Norman Sylvester (“Singing the Health Care Blues”), and the energy was wonderful.  I laid out our goals for this session:  double the number of sponsors of the single payer bill, secure great hearings on the concept in the House and the Senate, pass a bill to initiate a study by national experts of different healthcare funding options for Oregon, and initiate the statewide organizing effort that will get us a million votes for tuition equity when it goes to the ballot.  See here and here for a couple of good articles on the rally.

As I mentioned above, our goal was to double the number of sponsors of the bill from 11 to 22.  In fact, we were able to get 24 members to sign on, and the bill has been introduced as House Bill 2922.  We’ll be introducing the study bill this week.

Those of you who want to get involved in the effort to pass single payer in Oregon, go to the Health Care for All Oregon website,

The February Revenue Forecast: A Little More Recovery

Each quarter the State Economist and his staff report on the state of Oregon’s economy and provide a prognosis of her economic future and update the forecast for this biennium and next.  On Friday we received the latest update.  This time we learned that revenues are projected to be up this year by around $90 million.  This is partly due to the ongoing recovery of our economy (albeit a very slow one), and it’s partly due to an unusually high level of revenue coming in this year as a result of federal action. 

Here for you to peruse are the Oregon Economic and Revenue Forecast Summary and all the charts that go into detail.

 Leg 101: Dates and Terms

The session is now two weeks old, and bills are being “dropped” (i.e., introduced for “first reading,” then assigned to committees) every day.  This Thursday (Feb. 21) marks the deadline for members and committees to have their bills dropped.  After Thursday members are limited to five “priority” bills for the rest of the session.  Priority bills will necessarily on be used for bills that are particularly important to members.

Over the course of the session, you’ll be hearing a number of unfamiliar terms used.  You’ll find an explanation of most of them here.  As always, please let me know if you’d like more information about any of them.


P.S. -- Don't forget to follow me on Twitter! -- @michaeldembrow

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