March 5, 2023
Friends and nieghbors,
As we approach an important deadline in the legislative calendar, the House will begin meeting Monday - Thursday to vote on legislation. While committees are already meeting daily, Floor sessions have only been held Tuesdays and Thursdays as bills have slowly trickled out of committee. For a bill to "stay alive", it must be scheduled for a committee vote before March 17th.
Last week, state economists released the revenue forecast. These quarterly updates inform legislators how much money we have for the state's next budget cycle. They also determine the Kicker, which I am committed to protecting.
They projected that Oregon taxpayers would get a $3.938 billion kicker credit on their 2023 taxes. That is $790 for the median taxpayer. However, a lot can change between now and when the Kicker is finalized toward the end of the year.
Now that we know how much money we have to work with, the budgeting process is kicking into high gear. I sit on the Education budget committee, so we will be working through various budget bills related to education in the coming weeks.
A few news stories for you:
- The Oregon Health Authority will remove the mask mandate in healthcare settings by April 3.
- A new bill introduced in the Senate would give the homeless $1,000 per month for a year with no accountability measures.
- The Senate passed legislation that would prohibit tax dollars from being spent on expensive travel reimbursements to state workers for out-of-state travel. I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation and look forward to it passing the House.
As always, please reach out to me with any questions, comments, or concerns you have!
Following Up on a Promise
I recently introduced legislation that would reinstate graduation requirements for our students. Before I was elected, the Legislature repealed the Essential Learning Skills requirement whereby students showed their math, reading, and writing proficiency. I campaigned against this change because I heard concerns from many of you about continued lower standards in Oregon schools
I came across a news article the other day about how 23 schools in Baltimore did not have a single student who was proficient in math; 20 more only had 1 or 2 students proficient at grade level. Without these standards, we won't have the data to tell us this information in Oregon schools. I believe our school system needs to be helping kids meet rigorous standards, not lowering them.
Working with the Community on Public Safety
Woodburn Police Chief Marty Pilcher
Last week I met with Woodburn Police Chief Marty Pilcher to get his insights on concerns I have received about increased crime in the community. I campaigned for safe communities and look forward to working with local law enforcement on how I can support local police at the Capitol.
Salem Fire Chief Mike Niblock
Got to chat with Salem Fire Chief Mike Niblock about the challenges the department faces with recruitment and retention. Currently, Oregon requires the most education out of all 50 states to become a paramedic, which is compounding staffing shortages.
Preparing for Emergencies
Last week, I testified before the Senate Housing and Development committee in support of SB 894. It would appropriate money to the Oregon State Fairgrounds — which are located at the southern end in House District 22 — to help them become a fully operational Regional Emergency and Evacuee Center.
During the last few years, the Fair & Expo grounds were used numerous times in emergency situations: wildfire evacuations, distribution center early on in the pandemic for personal protective equipment for farmworkers, and overflow hospital bed capacity. It became clear that the Fairgrounds and their facilities were not fully equipped to deal with all these demands, but this bill would change that.
The Housing Package is on the Move
Relevant statistics about Oregon's housing issues
This week, the Housing and Homelessness Committee advanced a big housing package, HB 2001.
This bill is now 74 pages. With any bill that large, there is some good and there is some bad. Gov. Kotek set a statewide goal of building 36,000 new housing units per year. For years, land use regulations have limited the number of housing units we produce as a state. Our housing issues, in many ways, are a simple supply and demand problem, so the governor is right to focus on boosting supply.
As amended, HB 2001 would fully fund the governor's $130 million request that accompanied her homelessness state of emergency declaration. While I think this funding will do some good, like on youth homeless services, I have doubts that this bill will fully get us to the governor's goal of building 36,000 homes per year or put us on a path to lower the long-term cost of living.
My Republican colleagues on the committee fought to include $5 million in funding for agricultural housing into HB 2001. This program could have a big impact for the agricultural workforce in House District 22 by helping agricultural producers provide safe housing to farmworkers.
I have heard concerns about the landlord/tenant provisions in the bill. I don't like them. But previous proposals were much, much worse. Some tenant groups wanted to make permanent some pandemic-era rental rules that would do severe long-term damage to the stock of affordable rental housing units in Oregon. As amended, many of the worst provisions were taken out.
The bill is currently in the Ways and Means Committee, getting a complete financial analysis.
A Big Change at the Pump
How we fill up our cars can be a touchy subject in Oregon. HB 2426 would allow gas stations in Marion County to open, at most, 50% of their pumps for self-service. The rest would remain full-service. I have experienced long lines at the gas station because several gas pumps were corded off because there weren't enough workers to staff them. This bill could ease those lines by giving drivers a choice between pumping their own gas or having someone else pump it for them. I want to hear from you. Do you support this approach? Email me at [email protected].
In some areas of Oregon, you can already fill up your own tank. But not in Marion County.
Under HB 2426, gas stations in Marion County may open up to half of their pumps for self-service. The rest will remain full-service.
Take a look at how it would break down across the state:
Speaking of Gas . . .
Speaking of gas stations, I have received many concerns about the ARCO in Woodburn charging extremely high prices at the pump without posting them. I am talking with stakeholders to understand how this could happen and what could be done about it. There have been several attempts to get in touch with the owners to understand their prices, but they have thus far not returned any phone calls.
In the meantime, if the price is not posted on a sign, the price should be listed on the pump. Make sure to ask or get out and look yourself to ensure you get the best deal.
Special shout out to a local Woodburn resident for taking action to inform the community of the prices at this station!
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1422
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-476, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: [email protected]