by Mitch Greenlick, State Representative, District 33
I have scheduled a town hall meeting, to be held jointly with Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, on Tuesday, January 28 at 6 pm in the Good Samaritan Hospital Auditorium 1015 NW. 22nd Ave, across the street from the main entrance to the hospital.
I am looking forward to the February 3 opening of the 2014 short session of the Legislature. I expect it will be a relatively calm session, especially since we faced more than our normal quota of drama in the recent special session. We have been instructed by the leadership of both the House and the Senate to save any contentious or complex issues for the longer 2015 session. We have been restricted to introducing no more than two bills per member and each committee has been limited to introducing only three bills. We will have a very tight schedule, designed to move us inexorably toward an adjournment on or around February 28.
My committee will introduce three bills, including one requesting OHA to study the feasibility of introducing the Basic Health Plan, one of the Affordable Care Act options for providing health insurance for low-income people who do not, for one reason or another, qualify for the Oregon Health Plan.
I will also introduce two bills. One is a housekeeping bill to make Oregon statutes governing electronic prescribing consistent with federal statutes; the other is an attempt to improve state contracting laws.
While I expect the session to be relative quiet generally, there are a few significant exceptions. A major exception is the likelihood of considering a proposal for an Oregon-led project to build a replacement for the I-5 bridge crossing the Columbia River. I managed to introduce a set of requirements in the earlier CRC authorization bill that were not met when the Washington State Legislature refused to authorize bonding authority to cover their half of the required state contribution. However, the Governor is pushing the proposal for an Oregon-only project. There are sufficient powerful forces behind the proposal to make its consideration by the legislature inevitable, probably during the short session.
The other major issues that will face this session are related to the state’s financial situation. Several unexpected events, such as the terrible forest fire season, have drained the ending balance reserved in the 2013-2015 budget to an unsafe level. Consequently some major rebalancing will need to occur. And there is a sense that the greatly improving economy will lead to a triggering of the kicker at the May 2015 final revenue report. If the actual revenue exceeds the forecast by more than 2% then any amount above the original forecast will be returned to the taxpayers. That will include some money that has already been spent based on earlier revenue forecasts.
The financial situation is also a force limiting the number of new bills that can be taken seriously during the session. It is clear that a bill with any significant general fund fiscal impact will be dead on arrival because it will have no chance to pass out of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means which controls the purse strings. An interesting request for bonding authority dollars has been floated by OHSU. They are apparently requesting $200 million of bond revenue to build a world-class cancer research facility on the south waterfront. It appears that the $200 million would count toward the $500 million the University must raise to meet the terms of a $500 million challenge grant offered by Phil Knight to support the Knight Cancer Center.
But despite these limitations, several interesting proposals will arise. There is likely to be a referral proposed that would legalize the adult use of marijuana, designed to provide an alternative to a legalization initiative that has been proposed. And labor has proposed several legislative concepts to improve transparency in state government. We should have a better handle on what will happen after the upcoming legislative committee days to be held January 15-17, when each committee will produce its initial agenda and the deadline for introducing bills that is shortly after those meetings.
Come and join Sen. Steiner Hayward and me at the town hall on January 28 to let us know what you are thinking as we get ready to move into the February session.