State Legislative Update
February 3, 2012
On Monday, February 1st, the 76th Legislative Assembly commenced its first even-year session since voter approval of a 2010 constitutional amendment enacting annual legislative sessions. Although even-year sessions are constitutionally limited to 35 days in duration, legislative leaders are targeting February 29th for adjournment.
The House, with a 30-30 split between Democrats and Republicans, continues to be led by Co-Speakers Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg) and Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay). Rep. Kevin Cameron (R-Salem) continues to serve as House Republican Leader while Rep. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) has replaced Rep. Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County) as House Democratic Leader. In the Senate, where Democrats hold a 16-14 majority, leadership remains unchanged. Sen. Peter Courtney (D-Salem), Sen. Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland), and Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) continue to serve as Senate President, Majority Leader, and Republican Leader, respectively. Both chambers have one new member. In the House, Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland) has replaced Rep. Ben Cannon, who resigned to serve as Education Policy Advisor for Governor Kitzhaber. In the Senate, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-NW Portland/Beaverton) was appointed to represent the district that had been represented by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.
Given the short timeline, leadership placed limits on the number of bills that could be introduced; a total of 279 bills have been introduced thus far. Each legislator has been limited to two bills; committees, state agencies, and the Governor have been allotted a maximum of five bills.
Legislators have already begun work in earnest as tight deadlines have been set for the movement of bills through committees. The first deadline will come on Monday, February 6th, when bills must be posted to a committee agenda in the chamber of origin to advance.
The first day of the session, legislative leaders announced agreement on a framework agreement to rebalance the state budget for the current 2011-13 biennium in light of an approximately $300 million decline in General Fund revenue since the close of the 2011 session. The agreement includes cutting 300 state middle-management and public affairs positions as well as 100 other positions and the closure of a minimum security prison. The budget agreement also includes cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Employment Related Day Care programs. Prior to announcement of the agreement, the City had communicated specific concerns to legislative budget writers. City Council urged legislators to maintain current funding levels for early childhood, K-12, and post-secondary education as well as workforce development programs. Additionally, the City met with members of Ways and Means and submitted letters from City bureaus to express concerns about potential cuts to state agencies that could impact the City operations. A revised state revenue forecast will be released next Wednesday, February 8th.
Below are highlights of the City’s major legislative activity in the first days of session.
Senior Property Tax Deferral (HB 4039) – Legislation passed during the 2011 session inadvertently disqualified homeowners with reverse mortgages from participating in the Senior Property Tax Deferral program. HB 4039 is the vehicle for legislation that would provide low-income seniors who have reverse mortgages with two years of additional eligibility for the program. The extension also includes dismissal of taxes due resulting from disqualification. A letter of support from Council was submitted at a hearing in the House Revenue Committee on Friday, February 3rd.
Private Security Professionals at Bars and Clubs (SB 1524) – The City had concerns about an initial proposal from the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA) to exempt all staff that check IDs and regulate entrance to bars and clubs from certification by the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST). In consultation with ORLA, DPSST, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) and Committee Staff, the City’s concerns have been addressed with language that delineates between private security staff, who still are required to be DPSST certified, and a bartender who occasionally checks IDs at the door. Although exempt, a bartender who responds to the unforeseen influx of patrons by checking IDs at the door is prohibited from being armed, initiating confrontational activities, seizing property, and conducting enforcement activities. The City intends to enshrine its public safety concerns that led to the agreed language through oral testimony when the bill receives a public hearing.
Ecosystem Services (SB 1511) – The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing yesterday on SB 1511, which builds on legislation passed in 2009 and recommendations of a subsequent working group to advance a state framework for ecosystem services markets. The bill expands state policy in support of ecosystem services and directs the Institute for Natural Resources to provide information to local governments and other entities to assist in the development of integrated ecosystem services methodologies. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability submitted testimony in support of the bill.