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March 14, 2021 — Newsletter
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
March began the second full month of the 2021 legislative session. Since January 19th, legislators have been meeting for daily virtual committees four days per week and for in-person floor sessions in the Capitol one day per week. Being in such close proximity to Salem, I attend all of my meetings in the Capitol and I am one of very few legislators who does so. It is eerie being in the people's building doing the people's business with no one around. Over 4000 bills have been introduced and more will enter the process in the coming weeks. The days are long, as we spend countless hours of screen time in various meetings and committees listening to the limited public testimony that makes it through the process given the technological challenges and busy schedules of citizens who wish to participate. Many find virtual testimony is just not the same as being in person.
Beginning Monday, March 8th, floor sessions increased to twice weekly and the first House bills of the session were passed off the floor and moved to the Senate President’s desk for committee assignment. We will reach our first legislative deadline on March 19th. At that time, committee chairs must post scheduled work sessions for measures in their chamber of origin. Those measures must move out of first chamber committees by Tuesday, April 13th to remain viable. The House and Senate Rules Committees, House Revenue and Senate Finance and Revenue Committees, Joint Committee on Ways and Means, and other joint committees (except for Joint Transportation) are the only committees not subject to this deadline.
This newsletter is a brief update of what's happening in Salem. It provides helpful resources, and covers some key issues on the horizon.
Redistricting — Make Your Voice Heard — Testify Virtually!
On Tuesday the House and Senate Special Committees On Redistricting began hearing public testimony. Redistricting is the once-a-decade process of redrawing United States House of Representatives (Congressional) and Oregon State Senate and State House of Representatives (Legislative) district boundaries to account for changes in population. Ten hearings are scheduled and will take place through April 10th.
Your voice is critical to how Oregon's legislative and congressional districts are drawn. Instructions on how to testify by video, phone, or written testimony can be found at the Legislature's Redistricting webpage here.
You may also submit written testimony to: [email protected].
Oregon's House District 18 includes parts of Marion and Clackamas Counties within Congressional Districts 3 & 5. Hearing dates for residents in these areas are as follows:
Residents of District 3
Residents of District 5
3/18/2021 5:30 PM: (View Agenda here) Includes parts of Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties, and all of Lincoln, Marion, Polk, and Tillamook counties.
4/10/2021 3:00 PM: (View Agenda here) Includes parts of Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties, and all of Lincoln, Marion, Polk, and Tillamook counties.
March Revenue Forecast
On February 24th, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released the March quarterly forecast. Emerging through a worldwide pandemic, catastrophic wildfires and a devastating ice storm, State Economists reported Oregon's economy to be more resilient than they originally expected, making it likely that Oregon taxpayers will see a "kicker" refund. Of the many factors that play into the unexpected revenue collections, the most significant has been the unprecedented amount of federal aid received.
Oregon's revenue forecast provides information to planners and policy makers in state agencies and private organizations for use in their decision making processes and it is the basis for much of the budgeting in state government. You can read the Revenue Forecast Executive Summary here. More detailed information is available at: https://www.oregon.gov/das/OEA/Pages/forecastecorev.aspx.
The June quarterly forecast is scheduled for release on May 19, 2021.
A full slate of bills await public hearings and possible work sessions as we quickly approach our legislative first chamber deadlines. The following is a snapshot of what's been happening in each of my committees.
House Special Committee On Wildfire Recovery:
It has been six months since the historic Labor Day fires raged across our state. In February, we finished a round of three virtual town hall meetings lasting well into the evening hours. We heard a great deal of public testimony about the heartache, challenges, and the gaps that exist to help folks recover from the devastating losses. We have several bills pending to help and are working on some budget proposals for the budget rebalance bill and others. I am grateful to all who took the time to share such personal stories of loss and tragedy. I want to sincerely acknowledge the strength and courage it took to publicly relive these experiences to help the committee identify and prioritize recovery efforts.
House Committee On Veterans and Emergency Management:
As Vice Chair, my immediate focus has been on emergency management reforms contained in HB 2927 that will move the Oregon Office of Emergency Management out from under the Military Department and move the Oregon State Fire Marshal's office out from under the Oregon State Police. I, along with the committee Chair and my Co-Vice Chair are meeting weekly with the Governor's office to work through the details of the bill. Public hearings and an extensive work group of stakeholders have also been instrumental in providing valuable input in these discussions.
House Judiciary & House Subcommittee on Equitable Policing:
These are two of the busiest committees in the House and cover some of the most controversial issues currently under consideration. A number of the concepts before us were brought forward from the 2020 interim Joint Committee On Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform.
Having spent a lifetime serving my country and community as a member of law enforcement and the military, the issues being discussed in the public safety policy arena relating to equitable policing present historic opportunities for common sense reform that allow police officers to do their job safely while protecting the individual rights and liberties of the people in our state. I am always mindful in doing this work of the importance of listening to the voice of victims in our policy decisions.
Next week, the House Subcommittee on Equitable Policing has several bills scheduled for work sessions. I am a sponsor of HB 2575 which directs the Department of Justice to establish a program for awarding grants to law enforcement agencies and local governments for training of groups and agencies that interact with persons who have experienced trauma.
Joint Committee on Transportation:
The committee is hearing several bills relating to tolling, congestive pricing, electric vehicle infrastructure build-out, and many other important transportation related issues. I am pleased that HB 2564, of which I am a chief sponsor, establishing the Willamette Falls Locks Authority received a unanimous vote out of committee this week. The bill now moves to the House and Senate floors for a vote.
HB 3071 — Mandatory Abuse Reporting
On February 22nd, HB 3071 received a public hearing before the House Committee On Human Services. As the bill's Chief Sponsor, I testified in support of the measure which adds local elected officials to the list of other elected officials who are designated by law as mandatory reporters of child abuse. The bill closes a gap in our mandatory reporting laws and strengthens our ability to protect Oregon's most vulnerable children. It has been an honor to work with my local CASA Director on this meaningful piece of legislation. HB 3071 is scheduled for a work session on March 22nd. I look forward to the committee's support in passing the bill to the floor for a vote.
HB 2701 — System Development Charges/Affordable Housing
The need for affordable housing throughout Oregon's communities remains high. HB 2701 aims to provide another tool to support families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. The bill received a public hearing on February 11th in the House Committee On Economic Recovery and Prosperity. A work session is set for March 18th. Though the measure has a long way to travel, given its subsequent referrals to the Housing Committee and the Joint Committee On Ways and Means, I remain hopeful that it will advance this session. I introduced this measure as a Chief Sponsor in the three previous sessions and this concept continues to garner a great deal of interest moving forward. This bill establishes a process whereby affordable multi-family housing can be built in rural communities throughout Oregon — not just in the metro area.
HB 2700 — POW/MIA Roadside Markers
This bill had its public hearing and passed out of the House Committee On Veterans and Emergency Management unanimously on March 2nd. I will be carrying the bill on the House floor for a vote on March 15th. If passed, it will then go to the Senate.
HB 2243 — Emergency Declarations
This bill is a bipartisan effort to bring balance to the Governor's sole executive authority in emergency decision-making to include the Legislature's input for extending emergency declarations. The bill remains in the House Committee On Rules. Though the Rules Committee is not subject to the same policy committee deadlines, there is growing concern that the bill will not advance this session. No one elected official should have exclusive authority in emergency situations. HB 2243 would require the Governor to convene the Legislature every 60 days in order to review and extend an emergency declaration, restoring balance that provides input from Oregonians in every part of the state. My request to the committee Chair and Vice Chairs to move this measure to the House Committee On Veterans and Emergency Management awaits a response.
Third Federal Stimulus Package
This week Congress gave final approval to a third stimulus relief package. This is a $1.9 trillion rescue package that provides payments to qualifying individuals of up to $1,400 with payments to a qualifying family of 4 of up to $5,600. Payments start to decline for an individual once adjusted gross income exceeds $75,000 and goes to zero once income hits $80,000. For married couples, the payment starts declining when income exceeds $150,000 and goes to zero when adjusted gross income reaches $160,000.
More information will soon be made available through the IRS at: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Listening Sessions on the Future of VA Health Care
This week the Oregon Department of Veteran's Affairs notified State Legislators of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs scheduled listening sessions that will be held across the country as part of a market assessment for the MISSION Act. These sessions began this week and will run through June. The session for the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Oregon is slated for Tuesday, May 4, 2021 (2:00 PM PST – 3:30 PM PST). Dial-in: 404-397-1596, Access Code:199 522 6290 Register Here / Join Online.
The VA is looking forward to robust engagement and to hearing the voices and insights of Veterans on the following topics:
- How Veterans want care to be delivered in the future
- Perception of the quality of health care at VA and VA’s community network
- Experience with the ability to get care at VA and within VA’s community network
- Satisfaction with the condition and location of VA’s facilities
- VA's role in research, education, and emergency preparedness
More information and registration can be found at: https://www.va.gov/HEALTH POLICY PLANNING/listening.asp.
While we may finally be seeing a light at the end of a very long tunnel as we work to gain control of COVID, these times remain very challenging. There is so much work to be done before us. Low income families are suffering as they try to keep their heads above water in the midst of unemployment, housing shortages, uncertainty about the full re-opening of our schools, higher costs of living and much more. Now is the time for fiscal discipline and restraint. Reckless new spending and taxes instead of a clear focus on building jobs and helping our struggling small businesses will lead us off the path of recovery. Businesses are suffering from the year-long lockdown and the slow return to re-opening, even as they are about to face increases in the cost of doing business as the Legislature works its way through the session. Tenants continue to face uncertainty as do landlords who have gone for nearly a year without rental income and may be facing the possible elimination of mortgage interest deductions currently under consideration. Now, more than ever, legislators need to find a way to work together, to implement public policies that will bridge the urban/rural divide. We must recognize that none of us have all the answers but that it will take all of us working together to find solutions.
Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter. Your thoughtful feedback is important and valued. Please don't hesitate to reach out to my office if I can be of any assistance.
House District 18
Oregon's Christmas Tree District
Previous newsletters and information can be viewed on my legislative website.
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1418
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-484, Salem, OR 97301
Email: [email protected]