|Bennett's Blog: The supplemental session and a Washington wolf?|
by 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:
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.
Several bills introduced into the Session failed to pass including:
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.
|This page was last updated on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 .|