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Bennett's Blog: The supplemental session and a Washington wolf? Print E-mail

chuck-bennettby Chuck Bennett, Director of Governmental Relations

There’s nothing like a story involving the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission (ODF&W) to clarify things at the Legislature.

The question is: Did the Oregon Legislature’s three-week meeting in February create the justification for annual legislative sessions or did the state’s top “electeds” wander into a trap – a very public practice session that fails to prove the need for yearly meetings.

Speaking of traps, have you heard the story making the rounds regarding the ODF&W employee’s phone call to a counterpart in Washington State? It was a private conversation but one reported widely among those who follow such things and those looking for way to illustrate the future of annual sessions based on this month’s performance. 

Okay, it goes like this:

An ODF&W employee calls his counterpart at the Washington State Department of Game and tells him that they have trapped a wolf they think belongs to Washington, not Oregon.

“How could you possibly tell a wolf is from Washington?” asks the puzzled Washington gamekeeper.

“Well,” the Oregonian says, “the wolf chewed off three legs and it’s still in the trap.”

Legislators have spent the last several days filing press releases and emails enough to at least convince themselves that their meeting was more than just proof that they could meet in what was planned as a four week Session and wind up business in three. Newspapers on the other hand have been filled with references to failed initiatives with just enough copy left for the successes to wrap around tire ads on the jump page.

The question for education advocates is whether the interim meeting filled a gap that could have waited until the regular Session in 2009. The answer has to be yes.

Kindergarten tuition may not have been every school district’s problem but for thousands of families, mainly in the Portland metropolitan area, speedy resolution was a very big, very big deal. The problem was a legal one created when the Department of Education asked the Attorney General if it was okay to charge tuition for the second half of a full-day kindergarten program. The AG said no.

At first legislators were skittish about the issue but after hearings leading up to the Session, they introduced  SB 1068, which redefined the second half day of a kindergarten program as “supplemental kindergarten” and then said it’s okay to charge parents for it. It made other changes including limitations on who can be charged and mandating transportation. To read the whole bill here is the web site address for it: http://www.leg.state.or.us/08ss1/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1068.en.pdf

The other bill passed the resolved an issue that really couldn’t wait for the 2009 Session was SB 1067, which extended the deadline for replacement of certain types of halide lights with a type that self extinguishes. The deadline passed after reports of staff injuries in some schools with the old type bulb, was January 2008. The new law extends it to September 2008 and limits the lights required to be replaced to those indoors or in covered outdoor areas where staff or students may gather. The bill is designed to give districts an opportunity to replace fixtures where they can’t find bulbs to replace the now banned R type halide lights and to clarify that most outdoor lights are exempt. Many districts were unable to meet the old deadline because bulbs were not available and in some cases, even under the new law, it is not clear there will be replacement bulbs in time to meet the September deadline. In other cases, districts were facing huge bills to replace outdoor bulbs on poles not owned by them but rather by power companies. You can read the bill at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/08ss1/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1067.en.pdf

During the last Session the legislature passed a bill requiring the Department of Education to enter into a contract with a testing company to test all 10th graders with a test that provides practice college entrance exams like the PSAT or ACT products. The state would pay for the tests.  It was amended in HB 3600 to allow districts that currently offer 10th grade tests through a provider not selected by the state to continue to use those tests for one year at their own expense. The legislature expects to review this new program in the 2009 Session. Here’s a copy of the bill: http://www.leg.state.or.us/08ss1/measpdf/hb3600.dir/hb3600.en.pdf

Those are the three bills that arguably support the concept of annual sessions. But, like that wolf in the trap, there are more than legs to the story.

Here are other bills that passed during the recent Session. They are reminders that when the legislature is in Session any issue can be reviewed, discussed and the law changed.

HB 3601 – Created a new job at the Department of Education to help coordinate the Farm-to-School program. The job was created but the $95 thousand it costs has to be absorbed by the existing ODE budget.  http://www.leg.state.or.us/08ss1/measpdf/hb3600.dir/hb3601.en.pdf

SB 1092 – Clarifies the information that will be provided to school districts regarding students charged with serious crime and also requires that that information be shared with staff members that would reasonably be expected to come into contact with the student. This was an OEA bill that was heavily amended after it ran into trouble with a whole range of other education groups including COSA and numerous juvenile rights organizations.  http://www.leg.state.or.us/08ss1/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1092.en.pdf

Several bills introduced into the Session failed to pass including:

SB 1059 – Would have required districts’ inter-district transfer agreements to include a one-to-one reciprocal agreement that for every student a district accepted from a district they would have to agree to allow one of their students to transfer into the other district. This stemmed from a dispute in the Molalla River School District where a family wants to transfer out of the district in violation of district polices governing transfer qualification. This bill received hearings in the Senate but failed to get out of committee. http://www.leg.state.or.us/08ss1/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1059.intro.pdf

SB 1097 – Would have created the Oregon Professional Development Initiative Commission that would oversee the creation of a statewide professional development system for teachers, administrators and educational assistants. The bill is similar to one introduced into the 2007 Session and which also failed. The bill received a hearing where it was explained that there is an interim work group that includes all education organizations working on the question of best practices in professional development. http://www.leg.state.or.us/08ss1/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1097.intro.pdf

SB 1085 – Would have included school construction or reconstruction projects as part of local urban renewal projects. The bill failed to receive a hearing. http://www.leg.state.or.us/08ss1/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1085.intro.pdf

If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comment form below.  Naturally, you may also call me (503-581-3141) or send me an e-mail.

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Early Childhood Education
written by Terri Dickens, March 11, 2008
I am wondering if COSA ever reports on early childhood education issues (special education for instance). I, and many of my colleagues are members of COSA, but have not seen anything about legislation affecting early intervention/early childhood special education. This may be incorrect, maybe you do cover these things from time to time. I am a fairly new member.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 .