June 18, 2019 Newsletter
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are entering the final stretch of the 2019 Legislative Session and Sine Die, the day on which the Legislature adjourns for the year, is imminent. By May 24th, any bills assigned to policy committees that had not yet received a work session will not move forward. As a result, many policy committees have shut down, with the exception of the Committees on Ways and Means, Revenue, Rules, and other joint committees that are exempt from those deadlines. Many of the bills in these exempt committees concern issues of taxation and the budget. As these and other bills make their way through the chambers, floor sessions have become longer and more frequent as we try to complete our work before the session is Constitutionally required to end on June 30th.
SB 1008 passed the House on May 23rd. You may recall that Measure 11, which was adopted by the voters in 1994, established mandatory minimum sentences for those who commit the crimes of murder, 1st degree manslaughter, 1st degree robbery, rape, and sodomy — just to name a few — and waived juveniles charged with these crimes to adult court for prosecution. SB 1008 overturns Ballot Measure 11 with respect to juveniles who commit these terrible crimes, making it exceptionally difficult for prosecutors to charge them as adults. While there were some provisions of SB 1008 that I could support, I voted no because It leaves a number of unanswered questions concerning the high recidivism rates of juvenile offenders finishing their sentences at age 25 and calls into question the "best practices" of the Oregon Youth Authority. I believe there are more effective things we can do to rehabilitate juvenile offenders and reduce recidivism rates without circumventing the will of the Oregon voters who voted not to repeal Ballot Measure 11 in 2000. You can watch a video of my floor speech here. SB 1008 now moves to the Governor's Office for further consideration.
SB 576 was signed into law by the Governor on May 24th. On July 24, 2016, a security officer employed by a college in Oregon kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed a student named Kaylee Sawyer using his security vehicle, equipment, and uniform to garner her trust. SB 576, also known as Kaylee's Law, requires among other things nationwide criminal background checks and psychological testing of all security officers employed by colleges and universities in the State, and clarifies that such officers do not have stop and frisk authority, and requires that the vehicles used by such officers be equipped with GPS, video cameras, and recording devices, and be easily distinguishable from actual police vehicles. As a career law enforcement officer, I am appalled that something like what Kaylee experienced could happen here. I was proud to serve as a Sponsor of SB 576 and am hopeful that it will prevent anything similar from happening again in Oregon.
SCR 24 passed the House on May 29th. This resolution celebrates the life, accomplishments, and contributions of Lewis Linn "Lew" McArthur. After serving in the Army during WWII, Lew returned to Oregon where, over the next half century, he would serve as chairman of the Historic Columbia Highway Advisory Committee and as a member of the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation, the Oregon Geographic Names Board, the Oregon Historical Society, the American Name Society, and the Canadian Society for the Study of Names. Following in his father's footsteps, Lew compiled and published numerous editions of the landmark reference book, Oregon Geographic Names, and, in 2005, the American Association for State and Local History recognized him with a merit award for individual achievement. Lew passed away on August 29, 2018. His contribution to Oregon was unique and impressive. It was an honor to carry this resolution on the floor of the House. You can watch a video of my speech here.
HB 2285 was signed into law by the Governor on May 30th. A recurring issue in many Oregon communities is that of "zombie homes", houses which have been abandoned by their owners, become dilapidated and, sometimes, are taken over by criminals or individuals with drug addictions, thereby adversely impacting the quality of life in our communities, including some of the rural areas of House District 18. HB 2285 is an attempt to address this issue. It allows cities and counties to place a lien on zombie homes to give their owners an incentive to bring the property up to a livable standard. If the owner does nothing, the local government can foreclose on its lien and donate the property to a nonprofit organization or government agency to provide affordable housing for the community. At a time when housing in Oregon is in such short supply, and costs are so high, I am hopeful that this bill will not only give cities and counties another tool to help make our communities safer and more vibrant, but also give middle- and lower-income Oregonians an opportunity to become homeowners. I was proud to serve as one of its Sponsors.
SB 1049 was signed into law by the Governor on June 11th. It's no secret that Oregon's public pension liability is seriously unfunded — by $26 billion according to some estimates. SB 1049 extends the minimum payment schedule on our state's PERS debt by a number of years and trims some public employees' retirement benefits by a modest 1% to 2% of pay. While I have consistently advocated for comprehensive PERS reform, I voted "no" on this bill for a variety of reasons. For one, the $1.2 to 1.8 billion saved by the bill each biennium could easily be wiped out in the future as public employees re-negotiate their contracts. What';s more, any raises that public employees receive at one level of government wouldn't necessarily apply at others. As a career law enforcement officer, I know how hard our public employees work. I believe, as the courts have determined, that they deserve the benefits they were promised. But I also believe it would be wrong for the Legislature to punish taxpayers in order to pay for its poor financial decisions. That might be partially why the bill received bipartisan opposition. In fact, the bill initially did not receive enough votes to pass. It was only after the Speaker placed the House at ease and had private conversations with several members of her party that two of them agreed to change their votes. In any event, SB 1049 now moves to the Governor's Office for further consideration.
HB 2266 passed the House on June 6th. This bill allows couples where both partners work for either the state government or a public school to continue enrolling in double health insurance coverage. In 2017, SB 1067 was passed as a cost containment measure to end the option for double coverage on January 1, 2020. Earlier this year, we learned that the cost savings from that bill would not be as much as was originally predicted. HB 2266 changes the policy back to what it was. It also addresses public employee concerns about SB 1067's fairness, since double coverage insurance strategies are available to many private sector workers. Lastly, HB 2266 restores public employers' ability to pay incentives to employees who opt out of double health coverage and directs the Public Employees' Benefit Board (PEBB) and the Oregon Educators' Benefit Board (OEBB) to handle health insurance plans for school and state employees to implement surcharges for those who choose to enroll in double insurance coverage. The bill passed with wide bipartisan support and now moves to the Senate for consideration.
SB 3 was signed by the Governor on June 6th. Currently, Oregon community colleges are prohibited from offering bachelor's degree programs of any kind. SB 3 allows community colleges to enter into agreements with public universities to offer "applied baccalaureate programs", which incorporate advanced community college coursework in fields like data analytics, information technology, manufacturing, and digital marketing — making it easier for students in these fields to take their education to the next level. I believe we need to make it easier for Oregonians to obtain technical knowledge and skills, and I appreciated the opportunity to advocate for this common-sense measure particularly when community colleges and universities continue to be underfunded resulting in increased tuition costs for our students.
Also on June 6th, HB 2449 passed the House. This bill is an attempt to reform how our 9-1-1 call centers are funded. 9-1-1 services first became mandatory in Oregon in 1981, when they were funded by a 3% surcharge on telephone lines. In 1995, the existing surcharge was changed to $0.75 per telephone line. Of the money generated by this tax, 60% is distributed to counties and cities to assist them in operating local 9-1-1 call centers and the remaining 40% is managed by the state and used to pay for various administrative costs. While the cost of providing 9-1-1 services has increased significantly since 1995 due to higher 9-1-1 call volumes and technological updates, the revenue generated by the tax has remained relatively flat. Today, local governments contribute just under 70% of the funds needed to operate their 9-1-1 call centers, while the state contributes just over 30%. Because many local governments suffer from a lack of funding, some have been forced to cut back on law enforcement personnel and other first responders in order to pay for their call centers. HB 2449 gradually increases the 9-1-1 tax from $0.75 to $1.50 and reduces the percentage of those funds going toward administrative costs at the state level.
Again, as a career law enforcement officer, I was proud to Sponsor and support this bill. Rising 9-1-1 costs impact rural communities the hardest. In Silverton, where I served as Chief of Police for a number of years, we were fortunate that we never had to let officers go because we couldn't afford to employ them while paying for 9-1-1 services. Unfortunately, other communities weren't as fortunate. While many of our 9-1-1 call centers will remain underfunded and understaffed going forward, I'm hopeful that this bill will help us to shift more of that funding to the state so that local governments don't have to choose between maintaining adequate 9-1-1 call centers and employing the officers that respond to those calls. You can watch a video of my floor speech here. HB 2449 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
In the Capitol
On May 7th, the Oregon Police Memorial Trust Fund held its annual ceremony at the Oregon Fallen Law Enforcement Memorial at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem. Prior to my retirement from law enforcement, I served for a number of years as Chair of the Trust Fund Board. The memorial honors law enforcement officers from all levels of government who have died in the line of duty, including city, county, and state police officers; county and state corrections officers; parole and probation officers; and other local, state, and federal law enforcement agents and officers. To date, 187 line of duty deaths — dating as far back as the 1880's — have been approved for the memorial wall. On the floor of the House, I gave a speech recognizing the four fallen officers whose names were added to the wall this year. You can watch a video of my floor speech here.
May 15th was National Police Officers Memorial Day. That morning, Representative Ron Noble, who served as Police Chief for the City of McMinnville, gave a speech during the opening ceremony of the House of Representatives explaining the significance of that date. You can watch a video of his speech here. Every year, the week in which National Police Officers Memorial Day falls is National Police Week. On May 16th, I paid a visit to the memorial with Representatives Noble and Duane Stark, where we placed floral bouquets to honor fallen Oregon police officers. We owe a debt of gratitude to the officers who protect our communities and to their families for the sacrifices they make.
On May 22nd, Trooper Nic Cederberg was awarded the National Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor at the White House. On Christmas morning in 2016, Trooper Cederberg, who was on patrol alone and without cover, attempted to arrest a craven and desperate murder suspect. The suspect engaged Nic in a close quarters gun battle in which he sustained a dozen gunshot wounds and was left clinging to life. That morning, Nic provided us all with the greatest gift imaginable: his determination and will to survive in the face of impossible odds.
Trooper Cederberg typifies the grit and perseverance of an Oregon State Police Trooper, humbly serving with distinction in demanding and difficult circumstances. All of Oregon celebrates his receiving the Medal of Valor and the personal story it symbolizes. Nic, who is a U.S. Army veteran and who was a seven-year veteran of the Oregon State Police at the time, has not yet been able to return to work due to his injuries. After initially spending 48 long days in the hospital, he continues to fight for a full recovery. You can watch a video of the ceremony here.
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor is the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer. The medal is awarded annually to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect human life. It was an honor to recognize Trooper Cederberg's service on the House floor on the day he received the award. You can watch a video of my speech here.
Memorial Day: Remembering the Fallen
Memorial Day began as a national holiday in 1868, when it was originally known as Decoration Day — a day when Americans decorated the graves of war dead with flowers. Starting in 1882, the preferred name for the holiday gradually changed to Memorial Day. Today, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May to honor the more than 1.1 million military personnel who have died in American wars and military operations since the Revolutionary War. My grandfather, my father, my brother, and I have all served in the armed forces. Each of us was fortunate enough to make it home. Every Memorial Day, I remember with gratitude the sacrifice that so many men and women made to defend the freedoms that we enjoy, as well as that of their families and friends. I hope you also had an opportunity to spend time with loved ones and to reflect on the true purpose of the holiday.
As always, it is an honor to serve as your Representative. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I or my office can ever be of assistance.
State Representative House
Oregon's Christmas Tree District
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1418
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-484, Salem, OR 97301