From Senator Whitsett’s July 31st Newsletter
It has become increasingly evident, over the past several years, that the Oregon Water Resources Department is no longer a friend of agriculture.
Perhaps their position was best demonstrated by the lack of support for the Department’s budget. On the day their budget was to be voted on the Senate floor, the only letter of support was from the Oregon Conservation Network. There was no letter of support from any farm, ranch, nursery, groundwater or industrial water users..... NONE!
A companion Department fee bill, HB 2259, was returned to the Senate Rules Committee from the Senate floor because there were not enough votes to pass the bill. The Committee significantly reduced the requested fee increases. Our bipartisan coalition forced that nearly unprecedented action, because we believed the fee increases were absurdly excessive and the purpose of many of the fee increases were counterproductive to Oregon’s economy.
From Senator Whitsett’s July 25th Newsletter
The past three years have been a tale of two very different legislative processes.
Following the 2010 elections, the Oregon House of Representatives was evenly divided at 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans. The Senate was nearly even at 16 Democrats and 14 Republicans.
For two years we worked together in near bipartisan harmony. Neither party had enough votes to force an issue through the legislative process. Extreme conservative and liberal issues were shelved. We focused on policy issues where broad two-party agreement was possible. Budgets were balanced with existing revenue. The most savings were set aside in recent Oregon legislative history. Oregonians were much better served by our cooperative efforts.
From Senator Whitsett’s July 17th Newsletter
The 77th Legislative Assembly mercifully adjourned Monday, July 8th. The Assembly had two primary tasks; to balance the budgets and to take meaningful action to address an unsustainable Public Employment retirement System. We failed both tests.
The only action to address PERS that was allowed by the majority party was SB 822. That bill created potential savings that directly addressed less than 25 percent of the unfunded problem. Necessary actions taken by the PERS Board this year, at the direction of their actuaries, will more than wipe out that savings.
The majority party was unable to balance the budgets without sleight of hand accounting. Even though there was $2 billion more to spend in General Fund and Lottery revenue than ever before in history, it did not satisfy their spending addiction. The majority party attempted to raise more than $200 million in additional revenue in HB 2456. When that attempt failed on the Senate floor, they searched all sources for additional money to spend.
One of this year’s worst bills passed the Senate on the last day of the Legislative session. HB 2639, which had been defeated on the Senate floor during a Sunday session, was unfortunately reconsidered and passed today by a one vote majority. The Governor is expected to sign this prejudicial bill into Oregon law.
The bill, sponsored by the House Speaker, makes significant changes in Oregon housing discrimination laws. It requires the inclusion of entitlement payments in determining a prospective tenant’s ability to make rent or lease payments.
Renting or leasing private property is much like making a loan of money. In a regular loan, a lender loans money to a borrower for a specific period of time. The borrower promises to timely-repay the money, plus interest. The borrower usually provides collateral, as security, to insure they keep their repayment promise.
The Double Crested Cormorant is a voracious fish eater. These strange looking water birds can weigh up to five and a half pounds. They have a long, sharp, hooked beak and are strong swimmers with webbed feet and powerful legs. They are very quick and mobile underwater, and are capable of diving to at least twenty five feet.
It has been estimated that cormorants can consume up to half of their body weight in fish and crustaceans each day. That body-weight to fish-consumption ratio is even higher among immature birds. The preponderance of that diet is composed of small fish.
For the past several months, the legislative Democrat leadership has been steadfast, in telling anyone who would listen, that they needed at least $275 million in new revenue, in order to balance the state budgets. The Republican Senate has been equally steadfast, in telling anyone that would listen, that meaningful restructuring of the Public Employee Retirement System is essential to balance state, school and local budgets.
At least two Republican votes are needed in the Senate to achieve the sixty percent majority vote constitutionally required to enact a tax. The same sixty percent majority votes are required to reduce or eliminate a tax deduction or a tax credit. For that reason, Republican Senators have refused to vote for any revenue increases until and unless meaningful PERS restructuring is achieved.
Last week, the Oregon state economist predicted that state revenue collection would increase by about $272 million over the next two years. This fortuitous prediction allegedly resolves the Democrat “steadfast need” for an additional $275 million in tax revenue. Political coincidences can and do occur, but one of this magnitude would certainly be rare.
On Friday, April 5th at 8:30 A.M, the Senate Judiciary Committee held public hearings on four bills relating to firearms. Many citizens and legislators alike consider all four of these measures to be both anti-gun and a challenge to our Second Amendment rights.
Several anti-gun bills were scheduled for a Friday hearing earlier in the session. At that time, the Senate Democrat leadership proposed that the Senate Rules be changed to prohibit open carry of firearms in the Capitol. The Democrat leaders withdrew that proposal when all fourteen Senate Republicans unanimously opposed that change in Rules. The initial anti-gun hearings were then postponed.
The Judiciary Committee Chair is Senator Floyd Prozanski. He is a Democrat representing much of the Eugene area. In his recent posting of the four bills for hearings and possible work sessions, he stated that “I intend to conduct a civil, orderly and respectful hearing in accordance with the Rules of the Senate”.
The “tuition equity” bill passed out of the Oregon Senate last Thursday and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Kitzhaber in the near future. All sixteen Democrat and three Republican Senators voted to pass the bill. I joined ten other Republican Senators in voting no.
HB 2787-A exempts students who are not lawful permanent residents of Oregon from paying out of state tuition at Oregon’s seven universities if they meet certain criteria:
- The student must have attended an Oregon elementary or high school for three years immediately prior to receiving a high school diploma, or prior to leaving school without receiving a diploma.
- The student must have attended a school in any state or territory during each of the five years immediately prior to receiving a high school diploma, or leaving school prior to receiving a diploma.
- The student must have received a high school diploma from an Oregon school no more than three years prior to initial enrollment in a state university.
- And, the student must demonstrate intent to become a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States.
The bill does not establish legal residency for students who are undocumented. It does not establish admission preference for students and it does not automatically enroll the student in a university. The undocumented student must meet both the legal criteria established in the new law and must be accepted academically by the university.
There is little doubt that something needs to be done to improve traffic flow on Interstate 5 across the Columbia River. The current levels of traffic congestion, delays and the number of vehicle crashes are unacceptable. The questions are what should be done and how should we pay for the Columbia River Crossing.
What’s required to be done should be left up to the traffic and construction engineers. Determining where the bridge should be built, the number of lanes of traffic needed, and its height both above the water and its total elevation should be left up to the professionals to decide. What is clear is that the design is far from being completed. In fact, I have not yet been shown a detailed drawing of the project.
HB 2800 that authorizes the construction of the Columbia River Crossing project is one of Governor Kitzhaber’s highest priorities and has now passed both the House and the Senate. A number of legislators have worked very hard to make substantial improvements in the original bill. Among those improvements are five “triggers” that discontinue funding for the project if certain performance targets are not timely met. I greatly appreciate their significant efforts.
Oregonians should carefully evaluate Governor Kitzhaber’s recently released draft Ten Year Energy Plan. The Plan aggressively mandates energy conservation, further development of green renewable energy and the rapid phasing out of the use of fossil fuels.
The Plan calls for no-net increase in statewide energy use for the next decade. The goal is stated: “Maximum energy efficiency and conservation to meet 100% of new electrical load growth”. At best, the Plan appears to cap future energy availability at current levels. At worst, it will actually reduce energy availability in the likely event that energy efficiency and conservation methods are inadequate to compensate for increased demand. Neither the methods to be used for efficiency and conservation nor their inherent costs are fully described or quantified. Further, the increased competitive costs that always occur when energy demands exceed energy supplies do not appear to be addressed.
Oregon has the most aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard in the nation. Oregon law articulates the aspirational goals of reducing fossil fuel usage by 30 percent by 2020 and by at least 80 percent by 2050. Actions taken in the attempt to achieve the Standard are already forcing the change from reliable low-cost hydropower and coal generation to much higher-cost wind and solar renewables. The draft Plan appears to dismiss low-cost, reliable and relatively clean electrical generation from abundant natural gas primarily because natural gas is a fossil fuel.