Oregon Blog Updates
Sine die for the Oregon legislature is on the horizon, with a target date of June 28th. Will they make it? One bellweather could be today.
The Senate is set to vote today on the education budget. This is the largest education budget in Oregon history. After 7,000 teacher layoffs the last 5 years and cuts to school days, this $1 billion dollar increase over the last school budget will be the second largest increase in state history. Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) has said he may not vote in favor of the bill, as he says that the funding for schools is still inadequate, leaving his local school district short of what it needs. If the budget doesn't pass, it's a sign that session may not finish on schedule.
Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) told on KATU on June 10 that he wasn't holding the provider tax hostage anymore. Then he later told a reporter that in fact he is holding the revenue hostage. I'm having trouble seeing how this isn't Ferrioli talking out both sides of his mouth.
Take a moment and sign the Blue Oregon Action petition (sitting in the upper right corner of this blog), to demand Republicans stop holding the provider tax hostage.
More strong economic news came out for Oregon last week as well, which could impact budget talks. Oregon is the top state for manufacturing as a share of GDP last year, and one of the top states nationwide for manufacturing, period. This is one of a series of good articles recently that have detailed good news about Oregon's speeding economic recovery.
HB 3162 moved out of Ways and Means last week, over Republican objections, and will be on the House Floor this week. This is the Toxics Disclosure Act that will put transparency around potential toxic chemicals in products in Oregon.
Finally, it was reported at the end of last week that the discovery of genetically modified wheat in a field in Eastern Oregon was costing Oregon wheat farmers, as Japan has suspended imports of Northwest wheat. Oregon legislators are looking to hold someone financially accountable for the cost to farmers and the USDA is still investigating. Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem) says if the investigation fails to find a responsible party, he will urge the attorney general to sue Monsanto, who produced the modified wheat.
Soon the 2013 Legislative Session will be history. It will have passed a passed a budget, reconstituted the form and function of several state agencies, and it will have considered thousands of policy proposals.
Between now and then we can expect a few last minute pitched fights and some endgame drama that can only occur when so many have so much time because so few are involved in the final negotiations. It is always a fun time to visit the Capitol to learn the context of battles past and present.
There will be a lot for Oregonians to talk about after Sine Die (the official end of the Session). Policy advocates will cheer or shake their heads – or both. Legislators and staff will review the Session for highlights that can be explained to a weary electorate. And agencies can take a brief pause to consider the anticipated and unanticipated consequences of the decisions made – and begin to plan the execution of a flurry of new laws.
In communities large and small there will be discussions about all the things left on the table – about things that could and should have been done before adjournment. Across the state there will be gatherings of advocates reviewing priorities and plotting new strategies for favored policies and desired outcomes.
Truth be told there were things that I had hoped would have been accomplished in 2013 that weren’t. However, the 2013 Legislature took affirmative steps to support our schools, our veterans’ and did the hard, unpopular work of reviewing public compensation structures and systems. As a citizen I am always proud of the Legislature even when I cannot understand its choices.
Here, in the United States, we have a federalist system that is far different from what was established at our origin. In Oregon, we have a state that has evolved into an amalgamation of local, regional, and state functions that struggle with the notions of liberty and life; with the roles of the individual and the community. Our inherent distrust of government bleeds over into each, every policy debate – and at times we contradict ourselves.
Such is the reality of a great, evolving, nation-state. This past weekend in observance of Flag Day, I was reminded of the value of a simple piece of colored cloth. In many ways our flag is unremarkable: three colors, stars, stripes, and a regular rectangle shape.
And yet, it is a vessel that conveys a living testament to the values and virtues of a nation that admits our failings, a nation that claims humanity is smart enough to govern ourselves and evolve as circumstances warrant. Our nation is not the result of a revolution but rather a revolution manifest – we renew the revolution through our advocacy for progress as we understand it – we are the revolution still.
For good or ill, the men that led the rebellion against the Crown in 1776 did so for their own reasons. Neither gods nor goats, the Founders were people that saw an opportunity to progress and they took it. In their shadow we now stand. An amalgamation of men and women empowered with the tools for shaping our own destiny. We are citizens of a government that can facilitate progress when we demand it.
Our Flag is a nothing less or more than a symbol of promise: promise realized – or promise unrealized – it is a symbol of what can be. Each, every generation of citizens is given custody of the promise that is our nation, state, and communities.
Here we celebrate a “citizen-legislature.” There are still a few weeks of life left in the 2013 Legislature. Time remains for those with the courage to seize the moments. And anyone that says they know what will happen – precisely – is either delusional or a liar (or both).
One of the best things about Oregon and our unique form of democratic representation is that we still have a legislative body comprised of men and women that must live in the communities they seek to govern. Though recent structural and systemic changes in the legislature make it more burdensome for citizens to serve in the body and maintain employment elsewhere, we still have a deliberative body that is grounded in the daily life of our citizenry.
Before the last frenzied chapter of this Legislative Session captures our attention and holds us hostage to our passions and/or political ideologies – take a moment and celebrate our approach to self-governance. We should recognize the gift we have been given as inheritors of a self-governed political state; we must honor that gift through commitment to making our voices heard, our preferences understood.
Loud, messy, and at times mind-numbingly frustrating our Legislature remains a relatively citizen-centric organization: our representatives and senators may not always do what we hope or want, but we have dedicated men and women that usually accomplish what we need. But they depend upon us to remind them of our priorities – they need citizens to hold them accountable for the promises and statements made to get them to the forum.
Though subject to debate, I believe that part of our national struggle is the growing schism between members of Congress: absent relationships and trust – they rely upon ideological theories and partisan expectations. Our Legislature is not perfect, nor is it likely going to become perfect. But unlike Congress, we still have a culture where political adversaries are expected to find meaningful resolution to disputes; a culture that expects progress for the few as well as the many.
These next few weeks it is imperative that advocates push even harder upon our elected leaders for the issues we care about, it is our duty to agitate for the policies, procedures, and programs we believe necessary to move our Oregon forward. Yet, even as we go about the serious work of securing these accomplishments let us remember to be “happy warriors” – advocates committed to the cause as well as the culture.
In Oregon we know the value of separating a position from a person; we recognize the importance of remaining able to disagree – passionately at times – without being disagreeable. We are always stronger when we encourage diversity of opinion and thought – and we are always better for making informed decisions in an open, public, and transparent process.
Let us encourage our leaders to approach the endgame with a renewed investment in shaping the future together – through dialogue and discussion. There will be some big choices to make and we must remind our leaders to define the circumstances and rationale for the choices made on our behalf. In the end, people will generally help support what we understand as necessary.
We are living in extraordinary times and we hold the power of charting a new course for our nation, state, and communities within our grasp. We must use both head and heart as we fulfill our responsibilities as an engaged citizenry, and we must do so with an appreciation for the opportunities inherent to living in this age – at this time.
It's hard to express how utterly tasteless, pathetic, and outrageous this is.
On December 11th, a gunman ran into Clackamas Town Center with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, killing two people and wounding another before killing himself.
Exactly six months later to the day, on June 11th, the Multnomah County Republican Party announced a fundraising effort that includes a raffle of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
OK, I get it. Assault weapon raffles have become trendy among right-wing fringe organizations. I'm sure there's a certain amount of pride they're taking in tweaking liberals that are concerned about guns. Ha ha, you're so funny. (But really, is it still funny and original when you're the gazillionth group to pull this stunt?)
But this is just offensive. No matter what you think of our gun safety laws. No matter whether you think they're fine as-is, too restrictive, or not restrictive enough. To be raising money by gleefully raffling off an AR-15 on the same exact day that two people were killed by an AR-15, that's just disrespectful to the victims and to all those that knew and loved them.
I won't name the shooter, because it's publicity they crave. These mass shooters deserve to die (or go to prison) in ignominious anonymity.
But I will name the victims. Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, and Steven Forsyth, 45, breathed their last breath inside the mall. Kristina Shevchenko, 15, was seriously injured, but survived. The lives of the victims and their families were forever changed on that day.
And for the Multnomah County GOP to turn this anniversary into some kind of sick joke -- ha ha, we're raising money and poking in the eye of the gungrabbers -- is just wrong. Period.
And they should be ashamed of themselves.
When the Great Recession struck, many Oregon families suddenly found themselves unable to put enough food on the table. And yet food insecurity rates in Oregon remained relatively unchanged.
Which do you think was primarily responsible for holding the line on food insecurity, the non-profit sector or the public sector?
The answer is not even close. A public structure, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), is the most important line of defense against hunger in Oregon, especially in times of crisis.
Oregonians can be proud of having one of the most effective food bank networks in the country. Supported by generous Oregonians, the Oregon Food Bank Network performs a vital service in communities across our state. For the families who seek help from their local food pantry, these institutions can be the difference between having a meal and going hungry.
It was SNAP, however, that kept Oregon’s rate of hunger from skyrocketing during the recession.
Consider the capacity of SNAP and the Oregon Food Bank Network to respond during recessions. In the 2002-03 fiscal year, just after the previous recession, SNAP in Oregon was nine times larger in dollar terms than Oregon Food Bank spending. By fiscal year 2009-10, following the official end of the Great Recession, SNAP dollars flowing into Oregon were 25 times larger than Oregon Food Bank expenditures.
Over that time span, after adjusting for inflation, SNAP assistance increased 135 percent, while Oregon Food Bank spending declined 17 percent.
The numbers tell the story: even with a great food pantry system under the Oregon Food Bank Network, public structures remain far-and-away the most important line of defense against hunger and food insecurity.
Sadly, efforts by U.S. House Republicans would damage those structures. Last month the House Agriculture Committee passed a Farm Bill that cuts about $21 billion from SNAP over the next decade. The full House is expected to take up the bill next week.
In effect, the bill would deny food assistance for nearly 2 million low-income people, mostly low-wage working families with children and low-income seniors. In addition, hundreds of thousands of low-income children would lose free lunch at school. And some working poor would lose SNAP because they own a modest car, even if they need it to commute their jobs.
It’s important to keep in mind that the proposed cuts to SNAP come on top of a cut already scheduled to take effect in November. That’s when a temporary increase to SNAP benefits enacted as part of the 2009 law to stimulate the economy is set to expire. A family of three, for example, will have about $20 to $25 less to spend on food each month starting this fall if Congress fails to extend that temporary economic recovery program.
Should the House Republicans’ cuts to SNAP come to pass, I’m confident that the Oregon Food Bank Network will do its best to feed Oregonians struggling to put food on the table.
But let’s not indulge in wishful thinking that Oregonians’ generosity can offset the Farm Bill cuts. The private non-profit sector cannot substitute for our public structures when it comes to addressing food insecurity and hunger.
While Oregonians who want to end to hunger and food insecurity should continue to support the Oregon Food Bank Network, they must demand that Congress and the President protect SNAP, as well.
If you own or run a small business, I'm guessing you've had moments when you want to heave after hearing the National Chamber of Commerce or NFIB or any number of ranking Republicans declare what's "good for business."
You know, more deregulation, more or bigger upper-end tax cuts, and occasionally, from the more shameless ones, proposals to stuff even more corporate goodies into the tax code. Gotta make life fat for the "job-creators" if we want them to make life better for the rest of us.
If you're looking for a different voice out there on what's good for business, meet the Main Street Alliance of Oregon. They're one of the most vibrant chapters of a national movement of business people putting forward a whole different message: businesses succeed over time if they're grounded in communities of secure people who enjoy access to good health care, good education and genuine economic opportunity.
The MSA formed during the 2008 round of health care debate because health care costs have been crippling their members' businesses. They go beyond cutting the legs out from under Big Business' bitching and moaning about Obamacare to aggressively advocating for a universal single-payer system.
They're powerfully progressive on other issues, too. They were on point in securing mandatory sick leave pay for Portland workers, and have their eyes on bigger wins going forward--all realistic, I think, as more and more progressive business folks find out about their work.
I got inspired after interviewing them for Immense Possibilities, my weekly series on Southern Oregon Public TV on cool social inventions. More and more of IP's audience is online. You can watch the Main Street Alliance episode at ImmensePossibilities.org when it streams live at 8:30 p.m. Friday night, June 14, and on-demand for a week after that.
Tell me what you think about this growing business movement.
By Vicki Dunaway of Depoe Bay, Oregon. Vicki works part-time as a substitute mail carrier and office assistant to a local nutritionist.
Being forced to pay a giant corporation for health insurance, as will be required under the Affordable Care Act, is certainly not my idea of freedom. On that I agree with the Tea Party. However, being forced to pay a giant corporation for health CARE, with or without the benefit of insurance, is not exactly the epitome of liberty, either. Nor is going deep into debt to a big bank to pay medical bills.
Face it. We no longer live in the days of big families and 40-year lifespans. In order to live long and healthy lives, we have to pay someone for medical care. Some are lucky enough to have old-fashioned employers that provide health insurance, but that group is shrinking rapidly. The rest of us are thrown out into the market jungle to fend for ourselves. After working and paying into health insurance plans for over 40 years, I had to drop my health insurance a year-and-a-half ago because the premiums for my high-deductible plan sucked up over one-third of my income; on top of that were the co-pays and deductibles, as well as the cost of helpful alternative therapies that are not covered at all.
When it comes to Obamacare, I wish I had the freedom to pay into a government-run public option insurance plan, which would have a huge base over which to spread risk, bringing premiums down. I wish that public option (and Medicare) had the freedom to negotiate lower drug prices, as any ordinary business would. Those choices were completely denied to U.S. citizens by the ‘free market’ ideologues who controlled the debate over health care reform. Advocates of single payer – Medicare for All – were never allowed a voice in the discussion because our public representatives so feared the fury that would rain down on them from our corporate overlords in the health insurance and hospital industries, not to mention Wall Street. In the land of “free speech,” single payer advocates, including doctors and nurses, were arrested and removed from hearing rooms for attempting to get a word in edgewise.
Given a real choice, I would choose Medicare for All. Like Social Security, we would all pay into it and we would all receive benefits. If I had paid into Medicare for All instead of private plans for the past 40+ years, I would still have health care coverage. Medicare for All would give us the freedom to move from job to job, or from state to state, without worrying about whether we would have health insurance. We could work part-time or start a new business without risk of losing health coverage. Some may choose to stay home with the kids until they are school age; others may decide to begin farming. We could be free of drastic increases in premiums because Medicare has no greedy shareholders demanding ever more return on investment. With our current system, this sort of freedom is unimaginable! We are slaves to the 40-hour work week for the sake of having health insurance. (A coalition of groups is working to improve our health care options: Health Care for All Oregon.)
In 1983, the "conservative" Reagan administration raised Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, which fund Social Security and Medicare, to prepare for the retirement of Baby Boomers. Those of us who were working age – the Baby Boomers – paid for our parents’ Social Security and also helped to build a huge surplus for our own retirement through that tax increase. Then, in the early 2000s, George W. Bush and his anti-tax cronies gave our surplus away, mostly in the form of tax breaks for their wealthy friends, despite intense opposition to doing so among economists and the public. Unfortunately, most people have only a vague sense that we have been robbed.
Yes, Medicare for All would mean higher taxes. But you know what? The second definition of ‘tax’ is “a burdensome charge, obligation, duty, or demand.” It’s awfully taxing to pay an insurance company $400, $500, $1000 per month without being sure of coverage, and knowing that it will all go “poof!” if you leave your job or can’t afford to pay. It’s taxing for employers, especially small businesses, to have to cover their employees with constantly rising insurance premiums. It’s taxing for doctors to be forced to hire extra staff members solely to navigate labyrinthine insurance claims systems in order to get paid. It’s taxing for society to pay for emergency room visits by people who cannot afford to see a doctor before an illness becomes urgent.
Why do we keep torturing ourselves?
By Michael Crenshaw, Genevieve Goffman, Nabeeh Mustafa, Jordan Benning, Greg Margolis, and Kari Koch. The authors are the co-founders of Housing is for Everyone (HIFE), a community network creatively organizing to directly address issues of housing, land, and community control of resources.
The banks have gotten off the foreclosure hook for illegally and fraudulently foreclosing on people's homes. In neighborhoods around the country homeowners were being run through an automated system that illegally processed foreclosures, robo-signing. Often, these families were then evicted from their homes, losing the wealth they had built in those homes.
The Oregonian reported earlier this week that five big banks have settled to pay $1.5 billion for illegally robo-signing mortgages into foreclosure. This amount is spread out nationally across nearly a million defrauded homeowners, and in Oregon amounts to $1480 per affected homeowner. Compare the settlement amount to the median price of a home in Portland at $225,000, and the average loss of wealth for each foreclosure nationally at $131,200 (PDF).
That is a net loss of $129,720 per homeowner because of “[the] lenders practice of fraudulently approving foreclosure paperwork without reviewing the case file, known as robo-signing, and other mortgage abuses common at the height of the foreclosure crisis,” as the Oregonian reported.
This settlement comes at a time when the profits of these banks are at all time highs: Wells Fargo recorded $4.9 billion in profits last year, Citi took in $7.5 billion, and JPMorgan led the way with $21.3 billion. This settlement is small change for some of the world's largest banks, and it is a cruel gesture to those who have had their homes taken out from underneath them.
This is not just money lost from families. This is money drained from our neighborhoods, which means it is critical resources drained from our tax base, schools, and the public commons. While our whole community is affected, the loss of wealth from the housing crisis disproportionately affects people of color. Historic communities of color have already experienced eviction in North and Northeast Portland, leading to vast displacement of communities, home-poaching development, and increased gentrification. This is not a problem that $1480 can solve.
The settlement price tag does not begin to heal the suffering of experiencing the foreclosure process and an unjust eviction from your home. This settlement is a slap in the face to families that are fighting to keep their homes and were evicted by armed police.
Meanwhile, the bankers that fraudulently took these homes sit in high rise offices downtown and continue to process foreclosures.
We need foreclosed homes returned to families, or if that is not possible, the full wealth of those homes returned. The mortgage industry is a mess, and while some homeowners are getting checks, many are still living in their homes but underwater, owing more than the home is worth because of bloated bank-driven prices.
To keep families in their homes, we need principal reduction on the bloated mortgages, and a moratorium on evictions until the full scope of the banks' fraud can be determined.
This settlement is too little, too late to save people's homes. These banks need to pay the real cost of poaching millions of dollars out of our neighborhoods and taking it back to Wall Street.
This is not just money lost from families. This is money drained from our communities and our neighborhoods, which means it is critical resources drained from our tax base, schools, roads, and the public commons. This settlement comes at a time when the profits of these banks are at all time highs: Wells Fargo recorded $4.9 billion in profits last year, Citi took in$7.5 billion, and JPMorgan led the way with $21.3 billion. This settlement is small change for some of the world's largest banks, and it is a cruel gesture to those who have had their homes taken out from underneath them.
The settlement price tag does not begin to measure the pain and suffering of the foreclosure process and an unjust eviction from your home. This settlement is a slap in the face to people who are fighting to keep their homes. It is an insult to families that were evicted by armed police.
Meanwhile, the bankers that fraudulently took these homes sit in high rise offices downtown and continue to process mortgages.
What we need is those homes returned to families, or if that is not possible, the full wealth of those homes returned to families. The mortgage industry is clearly a mess, and while some homeowners are getting checks, many are still living in their homes, but underwater, owing more than the home is worth because of bloated bank-driven prices.
To keep families in their homes, we need principal reduction on the bloated mortgages, and a moratorium on evictions until the full scope of the banks' fraud can be investigated.
This settlement is too little, too late to save people's homes. These banks need to pay the real cost of poaching millions of dollars out of our neighborhoods and taking it back to Wall Street.
About Housing is for Everyone (HIFE): HIFE emerged from the successful home defense and anti-eviction movement in Portland united around three principles: Everyone has a right to shelter that is safe and livable, stop foreclosure, unjust evictions, and no more empty homes in our communities. HIFE is currently working with nearly 20 families to publicly defend their homes against unjust eviction.
Following last year's report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis concerning questions over domestic coal reserves mined from public lands being purchased at remarkably low prices given their fair market value, as well as national news coverage, and calls from Senator Wyden, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, along with Ranking Member Sen. Murkowski for the Department of Interior to take a closer look at how the BLM was managing these energy resources from our public lands, the first of a number of expected federal reviews has hit the presses.
Today the national newswires are reporting the results of the DOI's review that finds taxpayers are losing out on millions of dollars to coal companies, the same coal companies who now look to magnify those profits enormously by selling American energy resources overseas, turning the Columbia River into a superhighway for carbon pollution and climate change.
These are not minor accounting errors. The report details 13 substantive process improvements needed to deliver a fair price for the public's coal reserves and takes pains to note that even a 1 cent per ton undervaluation of the sale can result in millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Like they say, a million here, a million there, and pretty soon you're talking about big money.
The report states that it appears that several of the federal leasing offices have, ahem, "overlooked" the export market value of coal. Wow. With coal export prices recently going for as much as ten times the price paid domestically, it sure sounds like coal companies have been getting a pretty sweet deal.
It gets worse.
The report finds that the BLM's coal inspection program does not even have a process for charging a penalty when served with official Notice of Noncompliance, unlike oil and gas inspectors do.
In an even more jaw-dropping finding, the report calls out that "correcting the deficiencies identified in this report will be a challenge" because of the lack oversight and the risk of inconsistent interpretation of official standards by local program managers.
Download the full report here. It's staggering.
On Thursday night, at a public event honoring the new director of the city's Office of Equity and Human Rights, Baruti Artharee has acknowledged making inappropriate comments from the stage toward Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith. Artharee is the Mayor's policy director for public safety.
You read that right. The mayor's guy on public safety used the occasion of his introduction of the new director of equity and human rights to, well, let him tell it:
"I said, 'Here's our beautiful commissioner, Loretta Smith—mmm, mmm, mmm—she looks good tonight,'" Artharee told WW.
And then, according to reports, he made some sort of "suggestive", "shimmying", "rolling", "gyrating" or "thrusting" motion with his hips. Whatever it was, lots of folks in the room found it inappropriate.
According to Commissioner Smith, and independently confirmed by WW, Artharee has made similar comments toward her on three previous instances.
After Thursday night's incident, Smith had had enough - and decided it was time to be a role model for other, less-influential women. The O's Steve Duin:
"You wouldn’t have done that to (Commissioner) Deborah Kafoury. You wouldn’t have done that to (Gov.) Barbara Roberts," Smith said. "If I don’t speak up when something happens to me, women — and young girls, in particular — won’t know it’s OK to speak up."
By Monday afternoon, nearly four days after the incident, Smith was telling reporters she was "very" disappointed not to have heard from the Mayor.
After excerpts of her interview with KGW aired during the 4 p.m. news hour, Mayor Hales finally picked up the phone to apologize to Commissioner Smith and pledge a city investigation.
Before taking on his role with Mayor Hales, Artharee had a "business consulting firm specializing in diversity and cultural competency." You read that right.
What do you think? What should the remedy be? Should he be fired? Suspended? Directed to attend a sexual harassment workshop? What action should Mayor Hales take?
It's essentially all about the budget now, as we wind our way to what is (hopefully) the last few weeks of the legislative session.
The shiny star of the week is the fact that Oregon has the third strongest economic growth in the nation from 2012. In 2012, the private sector in our state grew at 3.9%. This is a much faster growth than a whole bunch of the rest of the country is seeing. But what about government in Oregon? It actually shrank in 2012 due to budget cuts and the sequester. If there's a drag on the economy at all, it's the fact that government is shrinking and there are fewer jobs there to be had. The private sector is humming along nicely in Oregon.
To get things going on the state budget, one of the first things that needs to happen is for Republicans to quit holding the most sick and vulnerable Oregonians hostage. Sign the petition now to demand that Republicans top playing games with the state budget. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs (from almost every community in the state) are at risk.
A few weeks ago, the Governor laid out a framework to end the standoff--and since has moved the conversation away from the massive cuts to the PERS system that Republicans have demanded, to more moderate cuts and a broader revenue generation discussion.
In the meantime, the Statesman Journal has simply decided that reneging on pensions and eroding away people's retirement is just like a game of Chutes & Ladders, so let's not take it all so seriously. Because really, Oregon's economy and the ability for retired people to pay their bills is no big deal.
A couple of bills to watch in the House this week:
SB 413- this is a good and important one. Rate review. Helps keep insurance costs down, stands up for Oregon small businesses, consumers, and families. Makes insurance more transparent for consumers.
SB 841- Allows winery to be sited on land zoned for mixed farm and forest use.
Today in the Senate, they're voting on HB 2710, a civil liberties bill that puts rails on local government/law enforcement's ability to use drones. There's a lot of legal gray area on drones under current law, and HB 2710 is a first step toward ensuring use of drones protects rights and privacy.
Also today the senate will vote on HB 2536, a consumer protection bill allows tort plaintiffs who sue and win a cash award can have that paid out over time. HB 2536 gives structured settlement recipients protections against buying into a 'lump sum' offer from a vendor, which can leave them high and dry in their later years.
Another bill to watch today is HB 2158, which allows in-state tuition for veterans who would come to Oregon for college.
A vote on the K-12 budget could come as early as tomorrow. The K-12 budget includes ONE BILLION more for schools than the current budget. Keep in mind how huge this is, not just in dollar figures. For a decade, we've been cutting teachers and school days and programs. This budget actually keeps cuts from happening and may actually restore teachers and school days in many cases.
We can also expect to see a vote Tuesday on HB 3159, a bill requiring cities and counties to set maximum rates that patrol towers can charge owners of towed cars. It also requires local governments to regulate towing companies and establish a complaint resolution process. This will certainly be a relief to the many Oregonians who've been the victim of predatory towing practices by a certain former candidate for the state senate.
Ways and Means will be working on a TON of budget bills this week. They are full speed ahead with work on the 2013-2015 budget.
Somebody, somewhere, please get a message to the Obama Administration that it is time to stop playing a game they cannot win – a game America cannot afford.
By design or luck, the Republican Party has Barack Obama in a pickle.
Our progressive Democratic President is in a box: he has spent the past couple of weeks (and will likely this next as well) defending warrantless wiretaps, a Department of Justice initiative associated with ferreting out the leaker of code-word classified information, and a web surveillance program that might have made Orwell scared.
It is an impossible situation: President Obama risks losing more support from his party even as his actions strengthen the power of the likes of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mario Rubio, and the Tea Party (and the corporations that pay for it).
Within this environment the Republican Party can simultaneously play to the latent fears of the “black helicopter/tinfoil hat wearing crowd” – knowing all the while that they would be continuing the very same policies (or worse) if in power.
The “Beltway Logic” is clear: Democrats – especially – cannot risk looking “weak” on national defense, homeland security, or crime.
That logic tells us that Democratic leaders must appear to take all deliberate means in order to “protect” our nation against threats foreign as well as domestic. It justifies the incremental destruction of freedoms in pursuit of securing freedom.
The great fear inherent to this argument is this: when catastrophe strikes again (and it will) Obama and the Democrats in Congress must appear to have done everything possible or risk the righteous indignation of the not-so-loyal opposition.
This is a flawed strategy and a false dilemma: the not-so-loyal opposition will blame the Administration regardless of actions taken. There is no “win” in this current political environment. And for some reason, the folks advising the President have been content with the ongoing Catch 22.
Here’s the deal: I am tired of watching Lucy (in modern times a role played by our not-so-loyal opposition in Congress) pulling the football away from Charlie Brown (our President); I am quite certain that Obama is weary of the vicious cycle that has become a constant of our modern rhetorical landscape.
Where is it written that Homeland Security is best defined through police powers?
Where is it written that a President must whittle away at our freedoms in order to protect our freedoms?
And where is it written (or proven) that the not-so-loyal opposition has a better record of keeping our nation secure, our people safe, than us?
As a veteran of several wars I am done with the dance: it is ironic, it is an outrage that so many of the new crop of leaders claiming leadership within the Republican Party and/or the Tea Party claim credentials they have not earned – a mantle of “toughness” they do not deserve.
Simply put, serving in uniform isn’t for everyone – and it isn’t (and should never be) a litmus test for national level leadership. That said, it is always interesting to me that those of us that have served are less excited about a military structure that makes going to war so damn easy (at least for those that don’t go into Harm’s Way).
It is time we recalibrated.
It is time we remembered what the flag is supposed to mean – why the stars and stripes remain such a powerful symbol of our ideals.
We have accepted hollow definitions for long enough.
We have failed to challenge the terms of the debate.
And we have tolerated our participation in a game that plays to our “Worser angels,” rather than our “Better angels.”
Fear has governed our policies long enough; it is now time for us to lift up hope – not the naïve hope of a perfect world, but the open-eyed hope of an improved community.
We will never realize our promise as long as we remain content with public structures and systems that must operate in the shadows.
It is not who we are, more importantly – it is not who we seek to become.
Help send a message to our President, Congress, and the parties involved in making policy in America.
June 14, 2013 should be a Flag Day to remember: it should be a day we celebrate more than cloth snapping crisply in the breeze – but a day of remembrance of the ideals that make our flag a symbol of a nation that can still fulfill a mission.
Help us remind the President that National Defense is more than a military-industrial-complex, fancy weapons systems, and no-bid private contracts.
Help us remind the President that Homeland Security is more than electronic eavesdropping on our conversations and emails.
And help us remind the President that the best defense is an open, transparent offense…
Instead of focusing so much of our attention on tracking down the folks that seek to tear us apart, perhaps it is time to invest in efforts to bring us closer together – as a nation – as a community.
Homeland Security is strengthened when schools have lower class sizes, secure resources, and trained staff.
Homeland Security is strengthened when our air is clean, our land is safe, and our waterways are healthy.
Homeland Security is strengthened when our workers are prepared for the modern workplace, trained in the emergent technologies of the 21st Century, and at work.
Homeland Security is strengthened when our nation is known the world over as a partner for peace, a lifter-upper, and an honest broker in the family of nations.
And Homeland Security is strengthened when our government programming can empower a “work ethic” through providing affordable health care, housing, transportation, and a fair retirement after a life of labor.
We can continue to play the game we have been losing at lately (and historically, every time we allow ourselves to play on the grounds favored by our not-so-loyal opposition) – or we can demonstrate leadership.
Isn't it time we benched "Lucy" Boehner-McConnell and the team that has made crippling our government (through an unapologetic "war" on Obama's appointments, administrative policies, and legislative priorities) their legacy?
There was a time when our flag was an undeniable symbol of progress: our enemies feared us, our friends loved us, and everyone understood that America was a promise – a promise waiting to be realized.
We knew our nation wasn't perfect, but unlike most, we were open, transparent about our challenges and committed to making our nation, states, and communities better with each successive generation.
This Flag Day help us rekindle the spirit of our America.
It starts with reshaping the dialogue; it starts with each, every one of us.
So much for the ray of hope.
I have not changed my position on any of the gun bills being proposed; should they come to the floor of the Senate, I will still be a no.
Well, that sucks.
Johnson's stated reasoning on background checks for private sales has to do with poor reporting requirements for of adjudicated mental conditions to NICS. Frankly, that's ridiculous. Does this mean that we shouldn't have background checks AT ALL because of this? Absurd.
The fact that we can't even get a background check bill passed in our Democratically controlled legislature is shameful.
In the battle over the state budget, Oregon Senate Republicans are taking hostages. And they happen to be among the most vulnerable of our citizens.
Join NOW with Blue Oregon Action to demand that Oregon Republicans stop playing games with the state budget.
In May, the Oregon House overwhelmingly passed the health provider tax. This tax yields the Oregon budget twice as much in federal dollars as the providers pay and is crucial for balancing the state budget. Republicans have decided to hold this legislation hostage, putting billions of needed dollars for elderly and the most sick Oregonians at risk.
Let the Republicans know that it’s unacceptable to take the sick and vulnerable hostage to their agenda. Sign the petition now.
Oregon needs leadership, not obstruction. Oregon needs serious commitment to health care for our most vulnerable, not silly political games. Even the hospitals and health providers want you to pass the health provider tax. Stop using health care as a bargaining chip and get the job done.
This petition is sponsored by BlueOregon. By signing, you agree to receive email updates from BlueOregon about this petition and other critical issues. (You may always unsubscribe, of course.) Learn more.
For awhile, it started to look like any chance for the Oregon Legislature to pass meaningful, common sense legislation around guns wasn't going to happen. But a ray of hope has emerged:
Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney pulled a package of gun bills from the Senate floor last month after it was clear that Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose would not join her 15 Democratic colleagues in voting for them.
Johnson's opposition left the bills one vote short of passage as the 14 Republicans were united in opposing the measures.
But senators are continuing to talk about the issue behind the scenes, and it appears that Johnson is amenable to a compromise, particularly on what she calls, in a recent Facebook post, "reasonable gun background check legislation."
Mapes goes on to discuss the fact that with Johnson open to compromise, Republicans now see the need to talk on the issue. I've heard that the main issues holding things up have to do with the reporting around mental health issues, making it so background checks don't always capture those folks who shouldn't have access to guns. Some are arguing that these mental health reporting requirements need more teeth before we beef up background checks.
Frankly, we need this background check change in the state. It's a huge necessity. Right now in Oregon, anyone can walk into a garage sale where guns are being sold, purchase a gun without a background check, and walk out ready to shoot.
By Ben Hoyne of Portland, Oregon. Ben is a KBOO programmer, volunteer, and former board member. Previously he has been involved at community stations KBCS (Seattle), KDHX (St. Louis), KTNA (Talkeetna, AK), and WPFW (Washington, DC).
The loss of KPOJ's progressive talk format is a shining example of the power of corporate media and its ability to dictate programming regardless of what the community thinks and supports, with their ears and their wallets. I know many BlueOregon readers appreciate progressive media as much as the next person, if not more. While it might be hard to find, progressive radio still has a place in Portland.
45 years ago, KBOO Community Radio was launched as a vehicle to serve the community. The programming charter begins “KBOO shall be a model of programming, filling needs that other media do not, providing programming to unserved or underserved groups.” How many policy wonks here would argue that the progressive community in Portland is underserved if not unserved?
The beauty of KBOO is that the community, people like you and me, controls it locally. KBOO is governed by 12 members of the board of directors, who are elected solely by the membership. For the past many years, even decades, KBOO has been controlled by a shrinking number of people. In the 2012 board election, maybe 500 people voted and the leading vote getter got just over 300 votes. Three Hundred Votes. In a city the size of Portland, this would be the other 1%.
That’s how few people have been interested in exercising their democratic right to support progressive radio in Cascadia. We all know what can happen when people don’t show up at the polls. At KBOO, people have not been showing up at the polls for years and the quality of radio, along with community support, has suffered.
In addition to losing democratic participation, KBOO has been losing members annually, down to just over 5,000 presently.
Why should you care? You might think KBOO is a lost cause or only valuable for a few select parts of the week (pledge drives would indicate those times as during weekday morning Democracy Now and Saturday Bluegrass). However, we have the power to change that. What are needed are people to vote in the upcoming board election.
My goal is to get 1,000 people to pay $20 to become KBOO members and VOTE in the September board election. The ballot will be mailed to you; all you have to do is mail it back.
We need to get 1,000 people willing to place a $20 bet on progressive media, on community radio, on KBOO. Ballots will be mailed in late July, so you need to become a member soon.
If you really wanted to get involved, you could even run for the board. Board applications are due June 28th.
I’ll be posting more information in the days and weeks to come at Campaign4KBOO.org
If you’ve never had the pleasure of living in a town with a great community radio station, you’re missing out. Together, we can reshape the future of radio in this region. We won’t agree on everything, that’s impossible, but I think we can agree that KBOO needs to fulfill the needs of its community more than it has been.
Last week was the deadline for bills to get out of committee, and some real stinkers managed to die a well-deserved death:
HB 2963 - Sit Lie Revival Bill
HB 2624 - Cougar hunting with dogs
HB 2595 - Crime of Interfering with Forest Management (Protests)
On the House side this week:
The k-12 budget is moving. $1 billion more for schools, finally reinvesting after 5 years of cuts.
Republicans continue to refuse to come to the table to negotiate on the PERS/revenue compromise proposed by the Governor. They're still pushing for more cuts to PERS (which stand a good chance of being overturned in court). This appears to be the hill they're willing to die on.
HB 3194: This is a public safety bill for more money into community corrections and other programs. Final details on this have been completed. Basically, this is intended to slow the growth of spending on jail beds by investing more up front to combat crime and help keep people from re-offending. This proposal has bipartisan support.
The hostage crisis carries on: Republicans continue to block $2 billion worth of funding for senior services and health care, as well as the thousands of jobs statewide that depend on that funding.
On Wednesday, the House Rules Committee will consider HB 3390, a statewide paid sick days proposal similar to Portland's new ordinance
On the Senate side:
Floor Vote on HB 2950, which allows bereavement leave for employees
Floor Vote on HB 3400, a 'Buy Oregon' bill that allows Oregonians to see amount of contracts going to Oregon businesses
Floor Vote on HB 2801, establishing Home Energy Performance Scores
Final vote to concur w/House amendments on SB 692, home product energy efficiency standards
Senate Floor Vote on HB 2783, setting limits on animal tethering
Senate Rules Committee will consider the Treasurer's Student Opportunity Fund
Cops, Firefighters, Teachers – Public Employees All – Lend Me Your Ears
I come not to praise SB 822, but to bury it – and the false dilemma born unto Ballot Measure 5 (and its progeny – BM 47/50) – that government should be managed “like a business” and that corruption, inefficiencies, and misplaced priorities are the cause for our economic challenges.
At great sacrifice, we have settled (or should have) the PERS debate this Legislative Session. We should move forward, not backward.
PERS should not be the "poster-child" for bad government, failing policy, or any other ideological purposes - it was put into place for a purpose. It can (and has many times) been adjusted. And we have balanced the budget on the backs of our public employees long enough...
Now is the time for all of us to come together in solidarity.
Each, every person that receives a paycheck from a public body in Oregon is part of a team: a team fielded to guarantee opportunity, provide a safe environment, protect our basic freedoms, and to preserve a future - even as we make a living in the present.
With the exception of the top 1% of wealthy Oregonians, we rely upon effective public services so often, we often forget. Private enterprise depends upon consistent, fair, and sustained services - and we have kept silent about the hidden subsidies long enough.
Capped property taxes, the lack of a sales tax, and special exemptions throughout the tax code favoring particular interests - over other interests - have held our potential hostage.
Since Ballot Measure 5 the Republican Party in Oregon has become primarily a Legislative Party – unable, unwilling to win statewide elections because of a set of choices. This is not by accident, the vested interests know it is far easier to snipe at policies than to govern and lead.
First, many 21st Century Republicans believe that government is inherently bad, something that exists because of circumstance, a function that in nearly all cases can be best managed the same way private business is managed (except of course, when the structural forces involved potentially harm would-be voters in their districts).
Second, many 21st Century Republicans believe that PERS is the Holy Grail of the Oregon Democratic Party, that destruction of said system would strike a blow to the seeming immortality of Democratic electoral power – potentially making statewide office-seeking possible again.
Third, many 21st Century Republicans believe – because of previous successes – that division among public employees is the best option for success. Though counterintuitive, there is a clear division of public safety and public service employees – in terms of voting behaviors. God, guns, and the rhetoric of the Free Market have been helpful in keeping Democrats (and those that are benefitted most from Democratic policies) functionally impotent in mobilizing the latent power of the public sector.
Fourth, many 21st Century Republicans believe – because of previous successes – that forcing Democrats to make cuts will engender a return to the majority. It is critical that people understand how the Republican Party managed state debt during their tenure at the helm of the Oregon House and Senate: certificates of participation (another type of credit card style debt), tax increases (on sin taxes), and program cuts for the working poor.
Finally, many 21st Century Republicans believe that George W. Bush is a lesson in success. Whatever most believe about the explosion in government debt, the wars, and the proven incompetence of his administration – they learned that facts no longer matter… All it takes in politics today is an ability to believe what you must believe in order to win the day (regardless of the rationality – or truthfulness).
Truth be told, I consider many of the individuals serving under the Republican Party banner as friends - people are people, and experience teaches to separate the policy from the person; many of us share a common rural background. We disagree upon principle, and philosophy.
Oregon Republicans are meeting with the Governor at Mahonia Hall tomorrow to continue to try and force cuts to PERS: it is a two-fer for them: 1) push the public employees again (which makes many non-public employees feel a little better – think schadenfreude); and 2) it compels additional cuts to other state programming thereby weakening the ability of government to meet expectations.
Smaller government (especially the type of smaller government resulting from last minute cuts and/or across-the-board reductions) has a smaller range of motion: it is both means and ends for failure. Additional attacks upon PERS will help disincentivize public service and weaken the morale throughout the ranks.
We must help our leaders realize the present and future value of a secure public retirement system.
Here’s the deal: The strategy of the Republican Party – since Ronald W. Reagan has been to cut government and strengthen the private sector. This strategy empowers a downward spiral of expectations and services; it provides greater ability for the private sector to define the workplace; and it provides engaging theater for all to watch – as the rules of profitability within an emergent global economy take root.
Caesar and his followers may or may not have been a good thing for Rome. We do not know much more about the facts of that chapter of history than what the scholars (many of which had alliances) passed onto us.
What we do know is this: Caesar appeared to be popular enough that the only way for his enemies to defeat him – was to use intrigue, treachery, and his own “friends” against themselves.
The Democratic Party remains an amalgamation of aspirations, dreamers, and populists. And as a member, I can say that I (like Will Rogers before me) would probably not be a Democrat except when I consider all other alternatives.
I'm a Harry Truman Democrat: a rural Democrat in a mostly urban party. Fortunately, our party is a "big enough tent" that I can play at least a small role in moving ideas forward. For in the end, all Democrats share a belief in the value (if not the perfection) of a functional government.
21st Century Democrats believe that all Oregonians are worthy of the opportunities, skills, and training required to make a better life, if they are willing to work to make it so. And in most cases, these tools must be provided by the public sector because the private sector sees little, or no profit in the offering.
21st Century Democrats believe that the men and women protecting our streets, responding to crisis, maintaining our forests and waterways, and keeping our transportation networks functional warrant a fair salary, full value of their pensions (legally negotiated), and healthcare sufficient to care for their families.
It takes public resources to do these things, and it is about time we stop pretending otherwise.
It is time we stop allowing ideological proposals sustained through false dilemmas (and inaccurate facts) to be taken seriously.
It is time we stop allowing the over-publicized failings of a few to cast a shadow over the many; the failings of public employees are not symbolic of inherent corruption but rather easier pickings (because of public workplace laws) for invested narrators to share.
And it is time we stop rewarding the elected representatives and senators that are open and transparent about their disdain for the public sector (and the employees that spend their working careers in service to our Oregon) with added time in elective office.
Get real. PERS is neither the enemy, nor in truth a bad policy. Our economy has changed and the 21st Century Republicans must make war against PERS and the public sector because the rising tides promised so many times have yet to be realized by a less than ideal global marketplace that plays to the lowest, not highest, common denominators.
Demand a balanced approach to the endgame budget decisions. Demand accountability from the men and women promising efficient government: history is not so kind to societies that opt for efficiencies over effectiveness.
Demand a 21st Century government for a 21st Century Oregon – paid for in a progressive manner reflecting the dynamics of modernity.
I was expecting to enter an upside-down room, but it turns out I walked into Bizarro World.
What’s Bizarro World? A world in which a lobbyist argues with a straight face that, to encourage doctors to stay in practice in rural areas, the State of Oregon should be spending precious tax dollars on a hefty tax subsidy for a doctor who is married to a lawyer and who owns a vineyard and receives additional income from investments, and whose household annual income is in excess of a half-a-million bucks.
I swear, I’m not making this up. Listen (.mp3) for yourself.
Last week I blogged about how the Joint Committee on Tax Credits would be hearing a proposal this week to re-authorize (extend the sunset) a generous tax credit for rural medical providers. This week OCPP pointed out in testimony (PDF) that the tax credit currently makes the first $60,000 of a rural medical provider's taxable income (roughly the first $83,000 of adjusted gross income) tax free regardless of the medical provider's total income. These amounts of tax free household income almost double if a spouse is also a rural medical provider.
Why did I expect that to turn the room upside down? Because the Tax Credits committee last week heard once again the harsh fact that if you are at the poverty level in Oregon — you earn $15,130 for a two-person family — you pay Oregon income taxes (PDF), even after getting the Oregon Earned Income Tax Credit.
But back to how we got to Bizzaro World. The legislation before the Tax Credits committee to extend the Rural Medical Provider Tax Credit, Senate Bill 325A, was amended by the Health Committee in a number of ways earlier in the session. One of the most important amendments was to "means test" who qualifies for the $5,000 a year tax credit.
Since instituted in 1990, the Rural Medical Provider Tax Credit has had no income cap. Today, a health provider can make a million bucks or more and still qualify for the subsidy. If the legislature lets the credit sunset, the millionaire doctor could still get the credit for the next 10 years under the subsidy program's unique glide path attached to the sunset.
The amendments in SB 325A would institute an income cap — it's high, but a cap nonetheless — that would still leave in place a charitable tax credit for very well-off medical professionals. A medical professional could still get the $5,000 credit if his/her income is below $250,000 for single filers and below $500,000 for joint filers. The generous income cap saves the state some money and stops subsidizing the most extremely well-off medical professionals.
Yet, the Oregon Office of Rural Health and the Oregon Rural Health Association oppose the income cap. Part of their argument for opposing the income cap is that they think the subsidy should go to the individual, not the taxpaying unit, and that it's too hard to manage an income cap on an individual with complicated income streams such as those medical professionals can have. Never mind that tax credits are credits against taxes of the taxpaying unit.
At the Tax Credits committee hearing, Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, who supports the income cap, asked Office of Rural Health Policy executive director Scott Ekblad and Oregon Rural Health Association's Doug Barber why they think it makes sense get rid of the income cap on eligibility.
That's when the world changed from upside down to bizarre.
In response to Sen. Rosenbaum's question, Barber complained that the cap would unjustly deny the tax credit to a physician earning $150,000 who is married to an attorney and jointly owns a winery and other investments that put household income above $500,000.
Ignore that perhaps the spouse’s ability to have a good income as an attorney plus life as a winery owner and owner of other investments are what's really making the medical professional choose to practice in the rural area, not the $5,000 tax credit.
Only in Bizarro World might elected representatives think it is good public policy to spend limited tax dollars on a subsidy for a physician married to a well-to-do attorney and who owns a winery and other investments, and whose combined income tops half-a-million dollars a year.
Only in such an altered universe would lawmakers grant such a subsidy to the well-off while continuing to tax the work effort of a poor family with children.
Let’s hope this legislative session doesn’t see us get stuck in Bizarro World.
For a while there, we'd see hot-shot tech startups launch in Portland, only to get yanked down to the Bay Area.
The rap? That Portland didn't have enough tech talent. That was only partly true. It was more often the case that the venture capitalists running the show wanted the talent nearby, not up here in Portland.
Slowly but surely, that culture is changing. Companies like Urban Airship are staying put here, even as they open up operations around the world. And companies like Salesforce and Emma are opening software development outposts in Portland.
And it's all because the talent wants to live here. We've got the great outdoors, a vibrant urban lifestyle, and a much lower cost of living (and less traffic!) than all of our West Coast counterparts - especially the Bay Area.
The O's Mike Rogoway notes that:
Software employment in the state is up 10.5 percent in the past year, according to a recent analysis by the Oregon Employment Department, and Oregon venture capital had its best start to the year since the dot-com era.
So, now a bunch of those local startups have collaborated - with support from some economic development organizations - to put together a video to promote the idea that, yeah, despite what you may have heard in the past, young tech professionals really can find jobs here, in a city where they'd love to live.
What do you think?
I guess this could seem like a good idea on the surface.
A bill introduced Wednesday in the Oregon House seeks to create a new, specialty license plate to raise money for schools.
Rep. Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, said he introduced the "Invest in the Future" license plate concept at the suggestion of a Happy Valley mother with two children in public schools. House Bill 3534 proposes a $50 surcharge on the plates.
Sources at the Oregon Department of Transportation say that based on sales of the most recent specialty plate, we can expect to see revenue of about $250k-$300k per year from this program.
The "Wine Country" plate is selling about 500 units per month. The surcharge is $30 per registration cycle. Figuring a $50 surcharge and subtracting administrative costs, that's about what we can expect.
There are some mitigating factors that can affect sales. The appearance of plate and the economy, the way that the surcharge is assessed, etc. can have an impact. So we could see a little more revenue or perhaps a little less than estimates.
So basically, Hanna is working to create 3-4 teaching jobs. Tops.
He might have just as much luck holding a statewide bake sale.
I can't decide if it's worse if he actually did the math before introducing this legislation, or if he didn't.