We’re in week three and in the midst of a short, busy 35-day session as we sprint to get through some important priorities. The challenge, of course, is that we often don’t all agree on which priorities are most important…
Last week I congratulated our new President, Dan Rayfield. Representative Rayfield is the first new person to fill this critical position in nine years. But that’s not the only important transition underway. This week, we confirmed the last of six new lawmakers for the 2022 session in our 60-member chamber.
• Rep. Travis Nelson (D-Portland) of HD 44 was sworn in to replace Tina Kotek who resigned to run for governor.
• HD 21 rep Chris Hoy (D-Salem) has been sworn in to replace Brian Clem who stepped down to care for an ailing relative.
• HD 25 Rep. Jessica George (R-Keizer) sworn in to replace Bill Post who resigned when his wife took a new job out of state.
• Rep. Christine Goodwin (R-Roseburg) in HD 2 took over in September, replacing Gary Lief who sadly passed away.
• Representative James Hieb (R-Camby) of HD 39 was sworn in to replace Christine Drazen who resigned to run for governor.
• HD 30 Rep. Nathan Sosa (D-Hillsboro) was sworn in to replace Janeen Sollman who was appointed to the Senate.
Meeting, building relationships and learning to work together is difficult when there is such prolific turnover, courtrooms are closed for construction and we are necessarily distanced by COVID. The Senate also has three new members in its 30-member Chamber.
I was touched when new member James Hieb stopped by my office on Friday. He wanted to remind me that two years earlier he had visited the Capitol with his family and I ran into them in front of the House. With a few minutes to spare, I welcomed them, answered questions and even brought his son into the chamber and invited him to sit in my chair. I like to do this for visitors when I can. But I never imagined that one day one of these family members would have their own chair.
As you might expect, the past week has been intense with floor sessions and votes on bills every day. On Monday, I testified about SB 1567 which would begin protecting major fuel storage centers from a catastrophic earthquake. This fuel has the potential to spill, ignite and cause more damage than Deepwater Horizon. I also spent half an hour on KTIL Radio with a legislative update. Monday evening, my committee on Wildfire Recovery met until 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday I started the day with my 7am interview on KBCH. I testified about SB 1504 which would end greyhound racing betting in Oregon. Interesting, there are no dog races in Oregon. But we are one of two states that allow sites that accept online betting and facilitate racing in other countries with minimal care and security. Later, I joined the General Government Sub-Committee meeting and chaired the Transportation and Economic Development Sub-Committee.
On Wednesday, I organized witnesses and testimony for my bill, HB 4072, which would reduce fishing license fees in our inshore charter fleets. The bill was postponed to consider amendments to increase license fees for rainbow trout fishing. It is illustrative of how this session has evolved that a Democrat is proposing to lower fees and a Republican is working to similarly raise fees in the same bill – both for good reason. I also met virtually with students from across the state as part of College Lobby Day. I asked a student what life on campus was like last year. In return, he asked me what life was like “100 years ago” when I was a student. Hundred years!! I told him that his school would not receive any money this year….
On Thursday, I attended the Governor’s Commission on Services for the Elderly and spoke about the cost and shortage of care for the elderly. I met with the director of Philomath City, attended meetings of two of my committees, and was asked to preside over the chamber of the House.
On Friday, the Ways and Means Committee met to consider 15 agenda items and I introduced a bill at the start of the meeting. I have again been asked to preside over the House. My small economic development task force met in the afternoon, I zoomed in with the manager of our Oregon Coast Aquarium on the improvements going on there, and ended the day by meeting Governor’s office to discuss funding for ocean science research.
The Speaker is the Speaker of the House and usually leads meetings from the podium. When otherwise busy, the Speaker Pro Tempore presides. And this week, twice, I’ve been asked to take the hammer.
Presiding is an honor and also a heavy responsibility. With the assistance of the Chief Clerk’s staff, you hear bills, invite Members to speak, maintain decorum, manage the voting system and generally work to move the agenda forward smoothly and fairly . All of this is governed by rules, parliamentary procedures and necessary legal language. That’s a lot to follow!
You usually see pictures of the chamber and the president in the front. I thought it might be interesting to show you the view from the podium.
What you see here is the agenda, the bill being considered, a map of the house with colors to indicate who is excused and who is asking to speak, how much time they have left s they speak, and a list of MPs who have not yet voted when a vote is called. Not pictured, to the right is a large wooden hammer.
Tomorrow, Tuesday evening, the House Wildfire Committee invites survivors and those affected by the Labor Day fires to share their recovery experiences and present the challenges they continue to face. I look forward to hearing from my neighbors in northern Lincoln County who have been impacted and impacted by the Echo Mountain fires.
You must register in advance to provide oral testimony (audio and/or video) at the public hearing. There are two ways to register:
• THE INTERNET. Click on this link –https://survey.sjc1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eJ9BQFnnvQYvMR8 – and fill in your name and contact details. The system will then send you an email with a meeting link and instructions for delivering your verbal/video testimony using the Microsoft Teams platform. The registration link can also be found on the committee’s agenda on the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS) website.
• PHONE. Call toll free 833-588-4500. The phone system will provide you with a phone number and access code to call into the meeting and deliver your verbal/audio testimony.
If you would like to submit your story in writing, please email it to [email protected] Your submission will be posted on the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS) website where it can be viewed by legislators and the public.
The committee meeting can be viewed “live” online or from a recording after the meeting has ended.
• To watch the meeting in real time, go to the Oregon State Legislature homepage and search for the meeting under “Today’s Events at the Capitol”.
• To watch a recording in your spare time, please visit the Legislative Video webpage. From here, you can search for a past record by keyword in the “Recent Archives” section.
This week we also received the latest quarterly report on Oregon’s economic health and future tax revenue projections. The Oregon Constitution requires that we not spend more than we receive. These reports are therefore essential for budget planning. The Constitution also requires that if revenues exceed these estimates, the additional funds be returned to taxpayers in what we call the tax kicker. The policy reimburses taxpayers whenever personal income tax revenue exceeds initial projections by at least 2% over a two-year budget cycle.
The latest quarterly revenue forecast for Oregon shows tax revenue again beating expectations. This reflects, I believe, the strength and resilience of Oregon businesses and workers, as well as the difficulty of accurately estimating tax revenue in these unpredictable times.
From the December 2021 forecast, Oregon is expected to bring in about $800 million more in the current budget period and about $1.4 billion more in the next two budget periods. This is largely attributable to the growth in personal and corporate income taxes.
Most Oregonians are earning more and wages continue to rise. But too often, these increases are absorbed by price increases as inflation rises. Wage gains are not uniform across the state, as you have often heard me say. And too many Oregonians on fixed incomes will struggle to pay those higher prices for food, fuel and services.
State economists have warned that the positive economic trajectory could be hampered in the coming years not only by inflation, but also by a continuing shortage of housing supply and the slow return to the labor market. .
Taxpayers filing their forms this year will see the results of a kicker of $1.9 billion for 2022 and another $1 billion next year. This translates to about $850 for an average taxpayer earning around $70,000 and $420 for workers earning between $35 and $40,000. The kicker is based on income and if you are lucky enough to earn more than $200,000 per year, you can expect a credit of around $4,000. High earners will receive tens of thousands of dollars.
I don’t know too many people in this category and some of us are starting to think the kicker should be capped at around $1000 so most Oregonians get what they’re doing now everybody gets something, the balance going to schools or reserves for those future years that might not be as strong.
Is this short legislative session a slow cooker or a pressure cooker?
For a lighter view of the process, I thought I’d share this short video of the chef and representative, Dacia Graber.
And finally, today is Oregon State’s 163rd birthday, and if I may say so, she looks good for her age! There are some cool things happening virtually and around town.
• Check out the official birthday party on Saturday and join the party on the Facebook event page.
• The Legislative Assembly has put together fun resources, links and coloring pages to celebrate.
• The Oregon Historical Society is also offering free admission this weekend.
This report is even longer than my usual long updates. Thanks for reading. Please have a lovely Valentine’s Day and tune in next week for a week three review.