News

Oregon Legislature adjourns contentious 2017 session

Many big issues addressed; statements

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Legislature has adjourned the 2017 session that saw the passage of record funding for schools, a long-term transportation package, gun restrictions, cost-free abortions and health care funding for Medicaid and undocumented immigrants.

The 2017 session officially ended Friday afternoon, which was three days ahead of the constitutionally required deadline of July 10. Many lawmakers say it'll be remembered as one of the most challenging sessions in recent history.

It began in early February, but a gridlock between Democrats and Republicans over a tax hike on businesses that ultimately failed stalled the session's progress leading up to the final weeks.

While lawmakers eventually balanced the state's $21 billion operating budget and passed several major policies, changes to the state's pension system, tax structure and health care plans were delayed for another year.

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News release from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown:

Sine Die: Governor Kate Brown applauds Legislature, advocates 

Accomplishments include a balanced budget, transportation package, Cover All Kids

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today applauded the progress made for Oregon's children and families, a more efficient and transparent government, and a more sustainable transportation system.

"This legislative session was tough but rewarding. We began the year with a $1.6 billion budget deficit and the ambition to build a stronger education system, invest in our transportation system, ensure all Oregon children have access to health care, and create a safer, more equitable Oregon," Governor Brown said. "Today, we have balanced the budget and achieved these critical goals while standing up for Oregonians' values."

This year's legislative accomplishments include:

  • A $5.3 billion multimodal transportation investment package (HB 2017)
  • Cover All Kids (SB 558), expanding health coverage to 15,000 additional Oregon children
  • Protecting coverage for more than 1 million Oregonians on the Oregon Health Plan (HB 2391
  • Investments in Career Technical Education and Graduation Equity Fund, preparing young Oregonians to compete in the global economy
  • Containing costs across state government (SB 1067), saving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollar for future biennia 
  • PERS task force and additional staff to better manage long-term costs of state retirement program
  • Public records reforms (SB 106), creating the Office of Public Records Advocate and public records advisory council
"My priorities were supported by both parties because these solutions came from the Oregonians I’ve met across the state," Governor Brown said. "It took a lot of hard work to build bipartisan support and I’m proud of the Legislature for supporting transformative policy for Oregon. While the legislative session has ended, our work continues. I look forward to building on our successes and lessons learned for a brighter future in Oregon."
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News release from Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek:
 

Legislature Adjourns 2017 Legislative Session

SALEM – The Oregon House of Representatives adjourned “sine die” today, three days before the July 10 constitutional deadline for adjournment. House Speaker Tina Kotek (D – North Portland) released the following statement:

“The 2017 legislative session began in a time marked by uncertainty.

“In the aftermath of the Presidential election, many of our communities were reeling from a spike in hate crimes, harassment and bullying. The state’s budget faced a $1.8 billion deficit, and there was no clear path to resolve it.

“In the House of Representatives, nearly a quarter of our 60 members were being sworn in to their first term.

“In the face of these historic challenges, we stayed true to Oregon’s priorities. We focused on passing policies and funding programs that will improve people’s lives.

“After a year of outreach and study, we passed a package of transportation investments that will support 16,000 jobs, relieve congestion, improve safety, and make the first-ever statewide investment in public transit.

“We approved legislation that will protect working families and workers’ rights – including the strongest equal pay bill and the first fair work week law in the nation.

“We made major strides in criminal justice reform – including bills that will prioritize treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration for non-violent offenders and continue Oregon’s work to end profiling by law enforcement.

“While Congress pushed a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip coverage from millions of Americans, we passed a critical funding package to ensure health care coverage for more than one million low-income Oregonians on the Oregon Health Plan. We also expanded access to reproductive health care and made sure every child in Oregon can have health insurance.

“Of course, we didn’t succeed in everything we set out to do this session. We made strides to address Oregon’s housing crisis, but we didn’t pass sorely needed tenant protections. We fought like hell to get to a long-term budget deal so we could finally stabilize our finances and make meaningful investments in Oregon’s schools. We couldn’t get it done, but we did lay the groundwork for success in 2019. At the end of the day, we passed a balanced budget focused on education and other essential services.”

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News release from Oregon House Republican Office:

Lawmakers adjourn session of “missed opportunities”

Highlights overshadowed by lack of spending reforms, budget leadership

Salem, Ore. - Oregon lawmakers today adjourned the 2017 legislative session without taking any meaningful action to address runaway spending and to put the state on the path to a stable financial future. House Republicans consistently advocated for a balanced, three-step approach to budgeting and policymaking that would allow lawmakers to finally achieve real investments in education and other core services. In the end Democratic leaders punted on major reforms and set Oregon up for additional budget crises in future budget cycles.

“Before this session started Republicans and Democrats voiced support for revenue and spending reforms that would finally put our state on the road budget stability,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane. “Republicans specifically outlined a three-step approach that consisted of: 1) Development of a clear strategy for maintaining economic growth over the next decade. This requires agreement on a target economic growth rate and increasing good-paying jobs, and a commitment to conform state policy to those ends. 2) Delivery of structural spending reforms that result in significant savings in the long term. 3) Targeted investments in career and technical education and workforce development programs that both support economic growth and fulfill the objectives of our voters, which could be funded by new revenues as needed.”

Absent a serious effort to rein in the growth of government and curb spending, efforts to pass a multi-billion tax increase gained little traction among Republicans.

“Unfortunately, this balanced plan never received serious consideration from Democratic leaders,” continued Rep. McLane. “Instead, they relentlessly pushed for billions of dollars in new taxes that would punish Oregon employers and drive up the cost of living for working families. This approach would have asked hardworking Oregonians and the businesses that employ them to hand over more of their money to bail out our broken government, which is not a plan House Republicans were willing to support.”

House Democrats ultimately attempted to increase $667 million in new taxes on the backs of the smallest of Oregon small businesses by circumventing the Oregon Constitution's supermajority requirement for revenue raising bills. That effort was thwarted in the Senate, as Democratic leaders in the upper chamber declined to pass the bill. Several other partisan bills passed by House Democrats also met their demise in the Senate, including controversial rent control legislation and a bill establishing a national popular vote in Oregon.

Republicans and Democrats were able to come together to pass a transportation package in the closing days of the session. The package included $5.3 billion in funding for preservation and maintenance of roads and bridges as well as congestion relief projects. Republicans also secured modifications to the low-carbon fuel standard focused on protecting consumers in addition to strengthening accountability and oversight of transportation agencies.

“Passage of the transportation package was among few positive highlights this session,” concluded Rep. McLane. “In the end, the 2017 session will be remembered more for missed opportunities and our failure to get our state’s financial house in order. Soon, we will realize what a mistake it was to kick our budget problems down the road yet again.”

Following today’s adjournment, House Republicans will return to their legislative districts to engage in town halls and other discussions with their communities about the successes and failures of the 2017 session. Specific town hall details will be released in the coming days.

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Release from Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read:

Treasurer Read Statement on Sine Die

Salem - Treasurer Tobias Read issued the following statement upon the close of the 2017 legislative session:

“The Legislature took significant steps forward to improve the daily lives of Oregonians. In the absence of federal leadership on healthcare, our legislative leaders ensured continued coverage for over 200,000 Oregonians. The passage of a bipartisan transportation package means we will make critical long-term investments in moving people and goods throughout Oregon more efficiently and sustainably. And the Legislature passed policies that will improve the lives of Oregon families by better ensuring gender pay equity, by allowing parents to plan their work schedules, by protecting women’s reproductive rights, and by providing for public ownership of the Elliott State Forest.

“At the Oregon State Treasury, the Legislature approved our plan to reduce our reliance on Wall Street consulting firms, which will save millions for Oregon’s pension system. We also added an Environmental, Social, and Governance investment officer who will push for board and management diversity, and foster better corporate practices. These are wise long-run investments.

“I know there is more work to be done, and I stand ready to assist the Governor and the Legislature as they continue conversations about revenue and budget reforms so we can make needed long term investments in our state.”

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Release from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum:

SALEM—Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum today issued the following statement at the conclusion of the 2017 Oregon Legislative session.

“Despite an uncertain budget environment, the Oregon Legislature passed a series of new laws that my office took the lead on and that will have positive effects on public safety, government transparency, consumer protection, and students’ and their families’ financial circumstances. I am pleased that we were able to work closely, and on a bipartisan basis, throughout the session with legislators, task force members, and many stakeholder and advocacy groups. I look forward to participating in implementing many of these new laws. I give my sincere thanks to all our legislators for their hard work and commitment to our state."

Several of the Attorney General’s signature bills passed this year include: 

·     Profiling (HB 2355): Implements 2015 law enforcement anti-profiling laws, and provides new levels of transparency in policing in Oregon by creating a system for gathering information about pedestrian and traffic stops, providing all police officers with the training necessary to prevent profiling behaviors, and the reduction of penalties for lower level drug offenders. The bill also reduces the maximum penalty for Class A misdemeanors by one day to avoid mandatory deportation for misdemeanants. 

·     Public Records Reform (SB 481): For the first time in Oregon’s history, public bodies will now be required to acknowledge receipt of public record requests and provide them within certain time limits. The Attorney General’s Office will also create a user-friendly, publicly available catalogue of all of Oregon’s 500-plus public record exemptions.

·     Consumer Protection from Debt Buyers (HB 2356): Ensures that lawsuits filed by debt buyers against consumers are accurate and contain sufficient clarification regarding the debt owed. It also gives consumers the power to stop collection activities for 30 days until certain documents are produced. And, it requires debt buyers to obtain a license. 

·     Student Debt Transparency (SB 235): Requires Oregon colleges and universities to send students annual easy-to-understand letters explaining the scope of their federal student loans incurred thus far and expected monthly payments at time of repayment. 

·     Immigration (HB 3464): Provides our communities with the guidance they need to comply with complex and ever changing federal immigration laws while protecting the privacy of all Oregonians to the fullest extent allowed under the law.

·     Shell Corporations (HB 2191): Requires companies to reveal more information in their state filings, and gives the Attorney General, Oregon Secretary of State, and Department of Revenue more pathways for enforcement action against shell companies used for fraudulent purposes. 

·     Privacy Policies (HB 2090): Requires businesses to follow the terms of their online privacy policies that consumers agree to before downloading an app or other online tool. The law updates Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA) to cover online privacy policies so that business will be held accountable when they do not follow their own privacy rules.  

 

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Release from Oregon House Democrats:

Legislative Session Closes with Strong Progressive Victories
House Democrats lead on policies that resist Trump agenda, protect health care

Statement from House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson on the close of the 2017 Legislative Session:

We began this legislative session just days after Donald Trump was sworn in as President. By the time we held our first official committee meetings, the Trump Administration had already clearly signaled what was in store for the nation under his presidency: xenophobia, draconian budget cuts, taking away health care from working families, and handing out tax cuts for the rich.

In the six months since, Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives have shown the nation how to resist Trump by blocking his agenda at the state level and passing bills that improve the lives of everyday people. From protecting and expanding health care to fighting for education funding to ensuring Equal Pay for equal work, Democrats in the Oregon House continued working to build a future where everyone has a chance to truly thrive.

Here’s where Oregon House Democrats defied the Trump Agenda by passing laws that protect Oregonians’ values and priorities:

Health Care

Even while Trump and Congressional Republicans are drawing up plans to slash health care to more than 20 million people, House Democrats passed an innovative plan to lower premiums and preserve health care for the more than 1 million Oregonians who get their health coverage through Medicaid.

In contrast to plans by Congressional Republicans to defund or ban reproductive health access, House Democrats passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, preserving and expanding reproductive health care for all Oregonians. Cover All Kids will provide health care coverage to all Oregon children, regardless of their citizenship status.

Education

House Democrats worked for months to overhaul corporate taxes to provide more stable funding for education. While Republicans refused to come to the table on revenue reform and cost containment, we’re proud that we were able to fund K-12 schools at $8.2 billion. We’ve laid the groundwork for the corporate tax reform work we’ll pursue over the next two years. We made it easier for students to transfer college credits, and boosted funding for career and technical training to prepare students for the jobs of the future.

Protecting Working Families

This session, we continued the pioneering work we’ve done to improve the lives of Oregon workers. We passed HB 2005, creating the strongest Equal Pay law in the nation. We passed Senate Bill 828, becoming the first state to pass a Fair Work Week law to give more workers certainty and predictability in scheduling. And we passed HB 3458 to strengthen overtime laws for workers in the manufacturing sector.

The transportation funding bill, HB 2017, will create jobs and economic opportunity in every part of the state while ensuring accountability in the way taxpayer dollars are spent.

Safeguarding Civil Rights, Inclusivity

With civil right for immigrants, refugees, and communities of color under direct attack by Republican politicians in D.C. and in other states, Oregon’s House Democrats led the way in safeguarding civil rights and creating a state where everyone belongs. House Bill 3464 protects immigrants’ privacy and gives school districts and agencies more clarity on what information they can—and cannot—share with federal authorities. We passed bills that set statewide ethnic studies standards for K-12, establish curriculum about the Native American experience, and require cultural competency standards for colleges and universities. And we passed criminal justice reform and a comprehensive approach to ending racial profiling by police. Everyone is welcome in Oregon. 

Government Accountability

Despite the dangerous precedent being set by the Trump Administration to ignore ethics laws, keep the public and press in the dark, and let lobbyists run rampant, Oregon House Democrats are working to restore the public’s trust in state government. We passed HB 2577, requiring better disclosure and transparency of lobbyists, and expanded access to public records through a package of bills that speeds up responses to public records requests and creates a Sunshine Committee and a public records advocate. SB 505 reforms a key part of the justice system by finally requiring electronic recording of grand juries.

The balanced budget for 2017-19 reflects Oregonians’ values—including strong efforts to reduce the cost of delivering important services, making targeted budget cuts, and prioritizing schools and the services that families depend on. We passed a robust cost-containment package that will increase government efficiency.

The message of this legislative session is this: In Oregon, Democrats are fighting to improve the lives of everyone who calls this great state home.  

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Release from Senate Republican Office:

Republicans highlight big wins in '17 legislative session
 
SALEM, Ore.-Today, Senate Republicans noted the caucus had some big wins in the 2017 legislative session.
 
Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day released the following statement:
 
"We were consistent in our message of bipartisan collaboration and optimistic outlook. We were positive and driven, focused and vigilant, and we defended all Oregonians from a hyper-partisan agenda to defund the measures voters said to fund, and fended off a hidden sales tax resurrected this session despite voters rejecting it in the last election. Republicans have a great deal to be upset with this session, but we should be proud we were able to stop not only the hidden sales tax, but also the illegal 41 percent tax hike on small businesses, even those with less than ten employees. We should be outraged and drive toward policy change in the future over the significant assaults on our rights. Democrats voted to rob us of our referendum rights and they will be hijacking future elections with voter suppression enshrined in state law. They also passed the most extreme abortion funding law in the nation to force taxpayers to pay against their will for other people's late-term and sex-selective abortions. They also passed legislation to protect illegal aliens, even those who are criminals. Oregonians must continue to speak out against the tyranny of one-party rule."  

The caucus had success working on bipartisan compromises and solutions. These included securing funding for projects like public universities, community colleges, water projects, broadband, infrastructure and a veterans museum. Republicans support a record-high investment in K-12 education too.
 
The transportation package was brokered in large part by the leadership of state Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, which included modifications and cost containment for the hated Low Carbon Fuel Standard and accountability within the Oregon Department of Transportation.
 
Senate Republican Deputy Leader Tim Knopp, of Bend, led the charge on brokering collaborative approaches on predictive scheduling and overtime fixes, and helped spearhead with state Sen. Kathleen Tayler, D-Portland, a bipartisan path for the nationally recognized and applauded Oregon Equal Pay Act. Senate Republicans protected the rural medical provider tax credit with hard work by state Sen. Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass.
 
Senate Republicans extended protections for sex trafficking victims and strengthened state laws to punish the people who enslave men, women and children.
 
Senate Republicans expanded wildfire damage housing relief. Senate Republicans also strengthened protections for Native Americans and expanded opportunity by helping attract new businesses and increasing jobs on reservations. 
 
Senate Republicans helped schools upgrade school buses with Volkswagen settlement moneys, instead of by forcing industry to leave the state by mandating so-called "clean diesel." 
 
Senate Republicans also built on recent bipartisan success on marijuana issues by increasing integrity in the recreational market by requiring tracking on the medical side. 
 
Not only did Senate Republicans work to pass legislation and advance a culture of bipartisanship, they fought to defeat contentious legislation that would have hurt taxpayers. Senate Republicans defeated environmental mandates and an energy tax, stopped the expansion of the problematic Department of Energy, stopped the damaging attacks on industry with differing political views and stopped the reckless ban on responsible energy development through tools like hydraulic fracturing. Republicans prevented the attacks on the forestry industry and unfair GMO modifications. Notably, Republicans blocked attempts to implement damaging rent control measures which would have endangered renters.
 
Probably the most contentious amongst Democrat ranks, Republicans also defeated several Democrat tax measures including the Democrats' hidden sales tax, or Measure 97 reboot, as well as the illegal small businesses tax hike. Republicans effectively fought against out-of-control behavior and the Democrats' hostage taking to put a stop to the lawlessness unleashed this session.
 
Senate Republicans also defeated an effort to punish health care providers and reward trial lawyers by rendering non-economic damages unlimited.
 
Finally, Senate Republicans protected Oregonians Second Amendment rights by preventing any partisan gun bills from passing.
 
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News release from Oregon Senate Democrats:
 

Statement by Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick on 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die

SALEM – Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) released the following statement today regarding Sine Die of the 2017 Session of the Oregon Legislature:

“Looking back on one of the most challenging sessions in recent memory, I am proud that we were able to accomplish some monumental tasks. We balanced the budget, in spite of a $1.4 billion shortfall between available resources and the amount it would take to maintain the current service levels. We also worked across the aisle to strengthen worker protections, with sweeping bipartisan support. Our biggest accomplishment was passing a transportation package our state desperately needs. We also ensured that all Oregonians will have access to the reproductive health services they need and that all children in our state will have access to health coverage. We took steps toward ending profiling in Oregon. The Extreme Risk Protective Order bill will save lives by keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of those in crisis who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Even with those accomplishments, there were some things left on the table. We still must address revenue reform to adequately and sustainably fund state services. We still need to pass meaningful tenant protections to give families certainty about their housing, which affects all aspects of their lives. While we are proud of the things we were able to accomplish, we will begin preparing immediately to come back next session ready to achieve the things we have yet to do.”

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News release from House Speaker's Office:

Affordable Housing Crisis Dominates 2017 Legislative Session

Efforts to Prevent Homelessness, Preserve and Build Affordable Housing Win Approval, Tenant Protections Remain “Unfinished Business” for 2018

SALEM – The affordable housing crisis took center stage in the 2017 legislative session, with several significant measures now on their way to the Governor for her signature.

Key housing bills and budget allocations approved in the 2017 session include:

Homeless Services and Prevention

·       $40 million for Emergency Housing Assistance (EHA) and the State Homeless Assistance Program (SHAP) – a $20 million increase from the 2015-17 allocation.

·       Identification Replacement (HB 2402) – Establishes a grant program through which individuals who are homeless may obtain certified copies of their birth certificate at reduced cost or free of charge.

Affordable Housing Preservation

·       $25 million in lottery bonds for the preservation of affordable housing – a $20 million increase in bonding from the 2015-17 authorization.

·       Affordable Housing Preservation (HB 2002) – Provides the state or local governments with an opportunity to purchase publicly-supported housing projects that are at risk of flipping to market rate, and protects long-term affordability for units built with public dollars.

·       Manufactured Housing (HB 2008) – Increases tenant relocation fees in the event of a park closure, requires park owners to notify the state of a park sale, and allows manufactured home park co-ops to better take advantage of the federal Rural Development Program in order to preserve parks.

Increasing Housing Supply

·       $80 million in state-backed bonds for affordable housing development via the Local Innovation Fast Track Program (LIFT).

·       Removing Local Barriers to Housing Development (SB 1051) – Increases the supply of both market rate and affordable housing by removing barriers to development at the local level, including expediting permitting for affordable housing, increasing options for developing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and allowing religious organizations to build affordable housing on their property.

·       Oregon Affordable Housing Tax Credit (HB 2066) – Increases the cap from $17 million to $25 million, providing more resources for affordable housing development and preservation.

·       Land Banking (HB 2912) – Establishes an Affordable Housing Land Acquisition Revolving Loan Fund Program to make loans to eligible organizations to purchase land for affordable housing development and to provide supportive services to low-income households.

In the final days of the legislative session, it became clear that one major housing priority, House Bill 2004, did not have support to pass the Senate. The House of Representatives passed HB 2004 in April, voting to establish a just cause eviction standard and end the statewide prohibition on cities and counties implementing local rent stabilization policies. The bill was amended in the Senate, but even the weakened version of the bill was unable to get through the chamber.

“We made good progress, but we need to do more to protect renters from staggering rent spikes and no-cause evictions. In 2018, we will push to finish this session’s unfinished business on housing,” Speaker Kotek said. “The depth and breadth of Oregon’s housing crisis has finally made this issue too big to ignore. We will keep fighting to ensure all Oregonians have a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.”


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