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Sausage and Laws Oregon State Legislature sent this bulletin at 07/08/2015. Oregon State Senator Doug Whitsett July 2015 newsletter, District 28

End of Session Review - Senator Doug Whitsett and Rep Gail Whitsett

by Senator Doug Whitsett

An old political cliché says there are two things you never want to see being made—laws and sausage. Oregon’s recently adjourned 2015 regular legislative session was an unfortunate example. In my opinion, it was the easily the most partisan, anti-business, anti-family values session in our State’s history.

Republicans are in the super-minority in the Senate, and Democrats are only one vote away from having a super-majority in the House. Despite that political disadvantage, my office and Rep. Gail Whitsett’s office were able to work with the majority party to help craft and pass a series of successes for rural Oregon.

Many of these common-sense bills were the product of much behind-the-scenes work. They were passed on broad bipartisan margins in both legislative chambers. Some were bills that I have discussed in previous newsletters. They were aimed at solving seemingly simple problems that became complicated enough to warrant making changes in the law.

As members of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, we helped to secure nearly $20 million in bonding for building projects at Klamath Community College (KCC) and Oregon Tech. We worked with our Republican caucuses to help pass budgets that provide the largest amount of funding in history for Oregon’s K-12 schools, as well as nearly 30 percent funding increases for Oregon universities and community colleges. These budget increases will directly benefit Oregon Tech, Oregon State University East, KCC and Central Oregon Community College.

A nearly $400 million project to seismically retrofit the State Capitol Building with borrowed money was scuttled largely due to strong Republican opposition. We were vocal in that dissent. The money will instead go towards more than $300 million in bonding capacity to seismically retrofitting and repairing school buildings across the state.

House Bill 3329 was signed into law by Governor Brown on June 4. Current law requires at least 1.5 percent of the total contract price of certain public improvement contracts for construction, reconstruction or major renovation of a public building to be spent on “green energy,” usually solar panels. The bill modifies the standard by which geothermal energy qualifies as a type of green energy technology. It allows the Klamath County School District to use the Henley geothermal well to meet that requirement. This was a huge win for Henley Elementary School.

Governor Brown singed SB 953 into law June 16. The bill will enable the district to obtain a clean title for the old school gym property in Bly. The Edsall family gifted the property to the school district over 85 years ago but it is no longer in use. A condition of the deed was that if the property was not used for school purposes for two years, it would revert back to the family. But members of the family who were contacted indicated that they did not want the property back. Specific legislation was necessary to ensure that the district can sell the property.

HB 2501 was signed into law June 22. It will require the Oregon Department of Forestry to report damages to private property caused by wildfires to the state’s Emergency Board. This will provide a clearer picture of the true extent of the devastating harm caused by these catastrophic events.

SB 161 was signed into law June 16. It will ensure that business owners will not be required to pay personal property taxes that they did not incur, but are being held liable to pay. The bill will provide immediate relief to a small business in Grants Pass that found itself in this situation through no fault of its own.

We worked hard to enact other bills that passed both chambers on wide margins but that were amended as part of the process.

SB 206-A will authorize the temporary transfer of the place of use of a water right, as well as temporary in-stream leasing of a water right, subject to the administrative phase of the Klamath River adjudication. It does so without endorsing either the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement or the removal of the Klamath River hydroelectric dams. Irrigators throughout the area will be able to more efficiently use their remaining water due to this piece of legislation.

HB 2392-B was sponsored by Rep. Whitsett, and will require the Oregon State Lottery to withhold prizes of over $600 to persons that have not repaid overpayment of certain public benefits. It prioritizes the payment of any past-due child support before the recovery of overpayment of prior public assistance.

Also sponsored by Rep. Whitsett was HB 2392-A. It was inspired by a high-profile incident in Klamath Falls involving the mass abuse of food stamp programs intended for our most needy citizens. This bill simply requires the state Department of Human Services to issue specific types of public assistance through electronic benefits transfer cards. Any cards issued to replace a lost or stolen card must display the name of the individual to whom the card is issued.

Rep. Whitsett and I both co-sponsored HB 3148-A, which passed the House and Senate unanimously. That bill will benefit some of those who lost their homes in last year’s Sprague River wildfire.

Also passed unanimously was SB 864-A, which I co-sponsored. This bill will require the Department of Revenue (DOR) to recognize natural resource tax credits on estates that are located in both Oregon and California.

We introduced and successfully established provisions in HB 2171-A that will force the DOR to stop targeting Kingsley Field military staff for income tax audits. Revenue auditors were asserting that many of those who are stationed at Kingsley Field are residents of Oregon for the purpose of income taxes. This bill will unequivocally stop that abuse.

HB 2075-B levies a two-cent increase in jet fuel tax that will create funding to specifically benefit our local commercial air service in Klamath Falls.

I worked throughout the last interim and during the session to help craft SB 55-B. This bill will greatly improve the processes used to collect passed due debts owed to the state.

We co-sponsored and passed bills honoring Oregon Tech Basketball Coach Danny Miles, Oregon Pioneer Abigail Scott Dunaway, Oregon astronaut Don Pettit and MC Ranch owner Willliam “Bill Kitt" Kittridge. Coach Miles and members of the Kittridge family were able to be on the Senate floor to accept the Senate’s highest honor. Oregon astronaut Pettit is a college classmate and former study-mate of Rep. Whitsett at OSU.

The legislative session was challenging to say the least. But it was also rewarding in many ways. In all, we were able to overcome a very partisan environment to focus on and help to pass at least 35 bills that will improve the lives of people throughout rural Oregon.

Many very bad bills were enacted into law by the partisan majority. Other bad bills that did not pass will likely return in different forms for the upcoming February 2016 session. But in the meantime, we are happy to be returning home after working through a grueling legislative session.

Please remember--if we do not stand up for rural Oregon, no one will.

Best Regards,


Senate District 28

Email: Sen.DougWhitsett@state.or.us I Phone: 503-986-1728

Address: 900 Court St NE, S-311, Salem, OR, 97301

Website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/whitsett

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