by 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.
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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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.