The 2021 Long Session of the Legislature was the most expensive in Oregon history, approaching $30 Billion in basic spending. And that was all done behind a closed door of the Capital. Closed to the public and lobby. Committee meetings remained virtual for the entire session. Once again proving technology has come a long way but still has its challenges.
Over 2500 bills were introduced, with 600 of them making it to the floor for a vote.
There were plenty of issues grabbing headlines: wildfire prevention and recovery, housing and homelessness, behavioral health/mental health care, recycling, systemic racism, police reform and of course taxes.
Originally, I thought the session would be all about recovery; recovery from Covid-19, from the Labor Day wildfires, from the economic decline. The big question prior to the session was how we were going to trim budgets of the agencies and programs to which so many people had become accustomed. After all, we started the session with a proposed 1-2-billion-dollar reduction in available funds, then ended the session with more money, than we knew how to responsibly spend, thanks to the feds. This plus a May economic forecast of even better times in the future all leading to an unexpected increase in spendable revenue.
My biggest concern right now is for the future. We, the Legislature created new agencies, expanded responsibilities of others, added programs and projects and added hundreds of new employees. This was done primarily with the aid of “one time” federal money. However, these agencies, programs and employees will be expecting to continue into and through future biennium. I am not sure where those increased dollars will come from to support their existence since federal funds will not be there. Hang on to your wallets.
K-12 Schools: The Legislature passed 9.3 billion, but in addition, also added the summer learning and childcare packages totaling another $375 million, plus the local property taxes in the amount of four billion and from the Corporate Activity Tax another billion, all available for our schools.
Debt relief to tenants and landlords: Folks with mortgages, got protection from foreclosure and their missed payments with the opportunity to add on these payments to the end of the mortgage term. There are funds available for both landlords and tenants, however the system of getting these funds is less than friendly. Utilizing federal and state money, tenants owing rent may apply for relief of these owed payments. Funds are also available on the landlord side.
Behavioral health: Finally getting recognized with a $450 million package and trying to provide needed service for those with Mental Health issues was approved. However, I am still concerned about the lack of access to services in rural Oregon.
Wildfire relief and future prevention: $500 million, but many details are left to the rule making of several agencies.
HB 3389-Unemployment insurance tax relief: The unemployment premiums were going to skyrocket for businesses but by changing the averaging methods over several years, this should save small business over 300 million a year to re-invest back into their businesses.
We saved DOGMI (Department of Geology and Mineral Industries) from being split up and sent to other agencies.
We piled more programs onto OHA (Oregon Health Authority) even though not many have been happy with its existing operation. And why stop there, we did the same with DEQ, giving it the responsibility of a transformative recycling initiative, as if they have had a stellar year or two in managing their original mission.
A new director at Business Oregon was appointed. It is unknown what effect this will have on the small business development centers that are buried in that department and had been doing a stellar job during Covid reaching out to businesses in the community.
A new director of Dept. of Forestry will be appointed. Historically and in the future, the new forester should be versed in issues, especially coastal forests, given the potential for wildfires.
I see nothing but challenges on the horizon.
Reflecting on my own role, I am pleased that I could establish myself as “The Senator from the Coast”. This has become very clear in the Senate, along with my stance to provide a barrier for intrusion on local government from those well intended 90 elected officials in Salem. These elected officials also believe everyone in Oregon should do it the same way. However, I am very much a believer that, one policy does not fit all.
I am pleased that the Coastal Caucus where Rep. Gomberg, Rep. Wright and I could have such a positive impact of bringing dollars back to our Coastal Communities.
We have been able to aid much needed projects all through the District.
COMMUNITY INVESTMENTS ON THE COAST
Sheridan School District for CTEC West-$1,900,000
Depoe Bay Restoration of Pilings and Docks- $2,885,178
Oregon Coast Aquarium- $5,000,000
City of Newport-Dam Project-$14,000,000
East Lincoln County Fire & Rescue for Eddyville Fire Hall- $4,056,571
Greater Toledo Aquatic and Community Center-$3,048,464
Port of Toledo sanitary sewer extension to Hwy 20-$2,425,798
Siletz Tribal Arts & Heritage Society-$750,000
Lincoln City Cultural Center-$1,800,000
D River Welcome Center for Lincoln City-$2,546,796
Siletz Bay State airport, runway & electrical rehabilitation-$320,000
City of Waldport water tank project- $974,850
City of Waldport water tank seismic retrofit & recoating-$1,200,000
Oregon Ocean Science Trust-$1,060,000
Lincoln County Panther Creek septic and storm water system-$15,000,000
Lincoln County well and septic repairs-$1,225,000
Mapleton Water District-$1,140,000
City of Lakeside wastewater treatment plant replacement-$14,628,685
Port of Coos Bay purchase of GP mill site-$4,000,000
Little Theater on the Bay, Coos Bay/North Bend-$600,000
City of Coos Bay, Business Oregon Grant, Downtown Tide Gates
Levees, (60 percent for rural areas)-$15,000,000 (Reedsport)
Tillamook water line replacement – $12,000,000
Forestry department replacement of Toledo Facility – $49,196
Lincoln County from Revenue Dept. for reimbursement of lost revenue from wildfire : $208,178
Lincoln county building and planning department staffing for wildfire response – $190,000
Western Lane County fires response – $675.000 (Holvey & Prozanski ARPA)
Lane County building and planning department staffing for wildfire response – $ 755,319
Restaurant/Hospitality Industry: $6,000,000
While this far exceeds any previous efforts from Legislators prior to this session, we believe there is still so much to do. The efforts from my office and our coastal caucus played a big part in the process but it is also all the cities, counties, special districts and people that helped identify these projects and really champion them that should get a huge pat on the back.
All DMV field offices are accepting standby customers, in addition to appointments. As space and time allows, customers in the standby line are called forward and served in between those with appointments. Below is a summary of the 3 primary ways you can access DMV services. I’ll also note that there are no restrictions on which services are offered in field offices. Your constituents may bring their vehicle title and registration transactions, in addition to their driver license-related transactions.
Visit DMV2U – DMV now has over 20 online services, including driver license and ID card renewal. Visit DMV2U.oregon.gov for more information;
Make an appointment – If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, schedule an appointment at your nearest field office, by visiting DMV2U.oregon.gov, or calling 503-945-5000;
Visit a standby line – All DMV field offices are taking standby customers. Just visit your local field office and grab your place in line. We’ll call you up when it’s your turn.
What does a Senator do when the Legislature is NOT in session?
There is plenty of work that continues when we are not in session. I will continue in our committee work in the interim, we will be working on bills and budgeting for the short session in February 2022, and we are working on political redistricting with a special session already scheduled for the end of September.
With that, I plan on heading up and down the coast holding town halls, chamber meetings, speaking with constituents and figuring out what sort of policies we need to better address the needs of each community in the future. I hope to be able to meet you at one of these gatherings.