Capitol on Stilts – A Shaky Time
The historic portion of the Capitol remains closed, and literally on stilts, as they prop it up and begin installing seismic springs, reinforced beams and support pillars. It's unstable and uncertain – an apt description for the Capitol community as it awaits debate on the 2023-2025 budget and 3 major policy issues about to spring onto the agenda: gun control, abortion, and gender transition policies for children. It could be a wobbly few weeks in the building.
Do or Die. On top of that, one week ago was "Deadline Day" (Day of Reckoning). The list of bills still "alive" has now been finalized. With a few exceptions (Ways & Means Committee, Revenue/Finance Committees, Rules and Joint Committees), bills must have been posted on a work session schedule by Friday to still be in the mix. At least 1/3 of bills missed the cut this session and are officially "dead." Fortunately, all NWPA client bills survived, and work sessions are scheduled (or have already taken place) for each one.
Ways & Means Co-Chairs Float Budget Plan
Budget Committee chairs typically float a budget outline early in the legislative session. This year, that is coming almost at the mid-point. The proposed budget seems to suggest a slowdown in spending growth, and sends a message to individual legislators to prepare to have many of their local project funding requests rejected. It appears to leave only $325.6 million for any additional spending, including statewide crises and local housing, infrastructure, construction or other priorities.
The budget document includes:
$1 billion for the Interstate ("Columbia Crossing") bridge
$9.9 billion for K-12 (an increase from the current biennium)
$450 million for "future collective bargaining agreements, including $120 million for state employee workforce recruitment and retention."
$325.6 million for "the most critical issues facing the state, including Medicaid eligibility redeterminations due to the end of the public health emergency; bridging healthcare coverage and establishing the Basic Health Plan; Oregon’s Medicaid Waiver; the unrepresented defendant/persons crisis and the delivery of public defense services; as well as literacy, housing, behavioral health, and reproductive health initiatives. It is important to highlight that the current estimate for these investments exceeds total available funds. However, as estimates are refined, any remaining available funds will be used to support additional budget priorities, including climate resilience and justice reinvestment."
Bonding allocations (Capital Construction) will be focused on "providing financing for capital investments and infrastructure that supports budget priorities and addressing cost escalation due to inflation for previously approved projects."
The budget anticipates expenditure of $210 million for the "Semiconductor Incentive Package" as well as an upcoming "behavioral health" package being suggested by the Governor.
Keep in mind, this is a draft document and legislators are bound to be upset by the lack of resources available for individual district priorities, which proved immensely popular in the 2021 and 2022 budgets. Expect pushback on that front.
That may be intentional, and designed to encourage House and Senate members to consider supporting additional fees, revenues or proposals to hold back a portion of the "Kicker."
Final budget numbers won't be revealed until the waning day(s) of Session – around June 17th.
The "Deadline" for work sessions creates a crunch. Committee schedules are packed with last-minute hearings and multiple work sessions. This week a few Committees (including House Behavioral Health and Health Care) will meet into the evening.
If you are testifying, expect no more than 2 minutes to get your points across. See the full schedule.
Telecommuting State Workers Draw Ire of State Senate
COVID created the opportunity for workers to "stay home" and work, and for a handful of state employees, "home" became another state. Many moved to Florida and Texas. Some of these newly minted out-of-state residents billed Oregon taxpayers to fly back to Salem for their in-person meetings with state agency colleagues. Sen. Tim Knopp took notice and introduced a bill to end the practice of free round-trip tickets for out-of-state Oregon public employees. All 30 Senators sponsored the bill (a very rare occurrence), and it passed unanimously on the Senate floor.
Read the bill, testimony submitted and more on OLIS.
Homelessness Package Signed By Governor
After passage of the $200 million package designed to combat homelessness, Governor Tina Kotek has signed the package into law. The bill bucked past trends for major session issues and passed on an overwhelmingly bi-partisan basis.
Included in the bill are provisions to:
Increase funding for youth homelessness (the #1 indicator of long-term adult homelessness) by $25 million – our first "win" of the Session
Invest in innovative "modular" housing that communities could rapidly deploy
Address eviction issues and incentivize local governments to complete regular housing analyses
NWPA's 2nd Priority Bill Signed into Law
Congratulations to the Oregon Association of Independent Accountants – our second client to have a priority bill signed into law this session. HB2523 amends CPA exam requirements. We believe its passage will help speed up the time in which it takes to become a CPA, without compromising existing licensing requirements.
Beaver Resurgence: SB830
Some bills catch our eye ... and this one certainly did.
SB830 requires state agencies to re-populate beavers in Central and Eastern Oregon for "watershed" enhancements.
No word yet on whether the Beaver population was consulted on the effort. A hearing and "possible work session" is scheduled for April 3, 2023.
Senator Hansell is a friend of potatoes. As our colleagues in the Capitol Press reported:
"The potato would be designated the official Oregon state vegetable under Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, authored by Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena.
Hansell has championed the spud since coming to the Senate in 2013. But other lawmakers from agricultural areas in Oregon want the onion to receive the official designation.
The resolution is in the Senate Rules Committee and therefore exempt from Friday's deadline.
Hansell announced early this month that he would not seek re-election in 2024, ending a 40-year career in local and state politics. The Senate Rules Committee has scheduled a Thursday hearing on the measure.
Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, said the hearing means Hansell will get to see a public debate on the potato. Whether there will be a vote on the resolution remains up to the committee chair, Sen. Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton."
YOU are the best lobbyist!
You can help us advocate for your issues by:
Reviewing your bill tracking report each week (new bills are added regularly)
Making time to reach out to/meet with legislators
Preparing letters or testimony to submit on priority bills
Working to secure support from other organizations for your priorities
Find your legislator and their contact information