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Bennett's Blog: a legislative report in the 'final days' Print E-mail

chuck-bennettby Chuck Bennett, Director of Governmental Relations

This Session of the Oregon Legislature is in its final days. It appears very likely it will adjourn prior to its June 29 goal.

There are a few outstanding issues remaining but the vast majority of issues COSA and its education coalition partners have worked on have been resolved.

Issues still unresolved include:

  • Renewal of the federal timber tax distribution formula. During a review of this formula as a result of an Oregon Association of Counties attempt to disappropriate school districts’ 25% share of those revenues, we found that the current 75-25 formula for distribution sunsets on July 1. We immediately notified appropriate committee chairs and legislative leadership of the problem. We are planning to use SB 550 to extend the formula for at least five more years. The bill is expected to be heard in Senate Revenue and Finance this week. If it is not renewed it is not clear how timber revenues would be distributed by either the state or counties. There is an estimated $33 million of local school district revenue at stake.

  • Miscellaneous proposed spending bills. The final days of the Session are when a variety of bills are acted upon that deal with proposals that usually cost money. At this point we are attempting to limit the number of proposals that are funded by dipping into the State School Fund and the School Improvement Fund. Bills like this include:

    • The Farm to School Bill that would spend $5 million of SSF funds assisting districts in purchasing local farm goods for school lunch programs.

    • Creation of six Talented and Gifted Centers and staff around the state to assist districts in developing TAG programs. It would cost $860,000 from the School Improvement Fund.

    • Passage of HB 2614 at a cost of $1.2 million to create regional centers to develop professional development collaberatives. We are working with our coalition partners and Chalkboard Project to pass this one and use state General Fund dollars to support it.

  • The final state budget reconciliation bill. This bill, commonly called the Christmas Tree Bill, is used to pick up a variety of programs that have not been funded in other spending bills. We are working with our coalition partners to have Regional Programs included in this bill. If it isn’t it will cost districts about $3.8 million to replace funding for these programs. So far, legislative leadership has been unwilling to include this program in the bill.

  • Change in the Double Majority. COSA has been part of a broad coalition of local government groups working to change the state’s double majority limitation on local funding proposals. The bill is still working its way through the legislature. At this point it looks like it will make every May and November elections simple majorities. This measure is expected to go to voters for their approval in November.

  • Construction Excise Tax. The legislature is poised to pass a bill allowing local school boards to impose a construction excise tax on new construction. The tax can be $1 per square foot for residential construction and $.50 per s/f for non residential construction. It allows districts to use the revenue stream from the tax to finance bonds. The bill is the outcome of work between the coalition and the Oregon Homebuilders Association.

  • There are a number of failed policy bills that can be revived in the final days that we monitor closely as committees begin meeting with only hourly notice. Bills can include things like bans on contracting out or various mandates on local districts for curriculum, health or other programs that would be unfunded.


Session to date review

Overall, this has been an outstanding Session for K-12 education. Both chambers have passed the state elementary and secondary education spending plan at a record $6.245 billion – up a billion dollars from last biennium. At the same time they created a meaningful state Rainy Day Fund and beefed up the lottery funded School Stabilization Fund.

A so-called golden parachute bill was passed that is substantially different from the one introduced two years ago. It limits contract buyouts to the term of the contract with no added payments beyond what would be earned. It also limits health insurance payments to age 65 after employment ends. It also prohibits purchasing district property within one year of termination.

The legislature passed an insurance pooling bill that brings all education employees under one health insurance plan administered by the state. The major effect of the bill is to eliminate the OSBA health insurance trust.

A bill passed that offers a mechanism for review of situations where districts are facing proposals to break them apart. South Umpqua faces a proposal from Canyonville to pull Canyonville out of the district and create a new school district. The bill sets up an administrative review to determine the fiscal and educational impacts on both districts before a vote can be taken on the break up. This is hoped to set a template for future district breakups coming to the legislature. In the past we have seen bills pass that create new districts without any review.

Halide lights can no longer be used after July 2009.

The legislature passed a bill setting new nutrition standards for school meals.

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This page was last updated on Monday, June 25, 2007 .