April 24, 2024


Built General Tough

Column: Education, water issues, stimulus payments | Opinion

Oregon Legislative Report

The Oregon House of Representatives has begun holding floor votes and passing legislation out of the House Chamber. On Monday, March 8, the first two bills approved and sent to the Oregon Senate dealt with re-drawing district lines in the case of three Oregon community colleges.

HB 2089: Approves transferring the northernmost portion of Lake County from Central Oregon Community College Service District to the Klamath Community College Service District. This legislation came after two years of public hearings and meetings with stakeholders which determined that Klamath Community College better meets the educational needs of the students in that Lake County area.

HB 2091-A: Changes the boundaries of the Lane Community College to bring into the district the territory of Lane County bounded by the borders of Lincoln County and Alsea School districts, which are currently not incorporated into a community college district. This action was taken after the request and subsequent petition from Lane county residents advocating for this boundary change.

Educational issues, the veteran home loan program and recycled paper bag content were issues taken up on Tuesday, March 9, in the House Chamber.

HB 2052: Requires that school districts allow students to wear Native American items of cultural significance at public school events including high school graduation. This bill was supported by the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon School Boards Association, Beaverton School District, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, and other individual educators and tribal members. HB 2052 received unanimous approval in the House Floor vote.

HB 2056: is the Access to Linguistic Inclusion bill, and expands high school diploma requirements related to dual language programs. Students have the opportunity to take math, science, language arts, in English or other languages, but currently courses taught in non-English languages are classified as “electives” and don’t meet core requirements. HB 2056 would allow school districts to grant regular credits for those core courses regardless of the language of instruction. Among the support for this legislation is Oregon Department of Education, Education Northwest, and the Beaverton and Hillsboro School districts. This educational bill was approved and moves to the Senate Chamber for consideration.

HB 2140: Reinstates explicit authority to the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs to provide certain lending activities to the maximum extent provided by law. This is a housekeeping measure that restores language that was inadvertently omitted from SB 36 which was approved in the 2019 Legislative session. All veterans have earned our respect and I joined with all other member of the Oregon House of Representatives to unanimously approve this bill.

HB 2395: Modifies the definition of “recycled paper checkout bag” to include bags that contain non-wood renewable fiber such as industrial hemp, bagasse and bamboo. This bill received bi-partisan support and now moves to the Senate.

We held our first committee work session on HB 3090 legislation to appropriate $2 million to the Department of Environmental Quality for low interest loans to repair, evaluate and replace failing septic systems.

This legislation restarts the Onsite Loan Program and aims to curb environmental pollution. More that 30% of all Oregonians relay on septic systems to treat sewage from their home or business. When these systems fail, they threaten public health and the environment, so repairing or replacing these failing systems protect homes, private property, our lakes, streams, and drinking water sources. Oregon’s affordable loan program is designed to help families and small businesses across the state to access the funds to replace a system when it fails.

This was the first bill to move out of the House Water Committee with a “do-pass” recommendation, and it did so with a unanimous vote. The legislation now moves to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means for funding.

Federal America Rescue Plan

We received news from Senator Ron Wyden’s office that Oregon is slated to receive an estimated $4.2 billion as part of the new Coronavirus fiscal relief package.

  • Eligible uses of funds include:
  • Responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency
  • Providing premium pay to essential workers
  • Offsetting lost revenues to provide essential government services
  • For water, sewer and broadband infrastructure

The funds cannot be used to supplement tax cuts enacted by legislation, regulation or administration, and does not apply to deposits into pension plans.

We should receive partial payment of the funds within 60 days of enactment of the federal legislation, but we can expect the payment in two parts, one-half within the two months, and the second-half one year later.

Summer Learning and Child Care Funding

Governor Brown has issued a back-to-school mandate to get students back into the classroom within the next few weeks. At the same time the Oregon Department of Education and the Early Learning Division has developed a multi-component plan to address the essential needs of students and children during the summer months.

The Education Subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means will be considering the $250 million funding package, which includes five specific parts:

$90 million for Summer Enrichment/Academic Program Grants for K-8. Grants will be available for all school districts who want to participate and make these enrichment activities available to all students in kindergarten through 8th grade. Districts would be required to cover at least 25% of the program costs.

$72 million for High School Summer Academic Support Grants. These will be available for all school districts who agree to participate to support a credit recovery program for students who may have failed or fallen behind in courses during the 2020-21 school year. Again a 25% match will be required.

$40 million for Summer Activity Grants. These statewide grants are for community-based activities and services for school-aged children including day camps, park program and top-specific enrichment program. These funds may be disbursed to non-profit organizations and local government service agencies.

$30 million for School Child Care Grants. This funding will go to school districts who want to cover the cost of wraparound child care services for K-8 students participating in the summer enrichment/academic programing. There is a 25% program cost match for these grants.

$13 million for Early Learning Programs, to continue their services through the summer months. The programs would use existing resources to cover the June costs, the additional funding would cover the July 1 to September 1 time period.

The Oregon Department of Education would receive $5 million for administrative-related costs for the proposed plan. Any of the $250 million in funding not spent by districts and early learning providers would be returned to the state General Fund during the 2021-23 fiscal year.

Due to the COVID-19 health protection restrictions, the Capitol building remains closed to the public, with committee work being done remotely. You can still weigh in on the bills under consideration by writing, phoning or by computer link-up.

If you have concerns or comments about a state issue, agency or proposed legislation, please contact my office, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, email is the most efficient at this time. It is my privilege to represent you in the House of Representatives as we undertake this important work together.

Rep. Brad Witt serves House District 31. He may be reached at: