With three weeks completed, the Legislature is well on its way toward adjourning – possibly as early as next week. Both chambers are on “one hour notice” which means that the normal 24-hour notice requirement for committee work sessions has been shortened to just one hour.
On Thursday, amid a raucous protest from those who thought it should be higher, the House approved a milestone minimum wage increase that now goes to the Governor for her signature. Other major pieces of legislation aimed at housing affordability and carbon reduction are moving through the process.
A number of the items on the higher education agenda, including projects specific to Oregon State University, are also progressing. Here is a brief summary:
University Venture Development Fund Tax Credit: HB 4072 would extend the UVDF tax credit for six years, enabling donors to receive tax benefits for contributions to a fund that supports the transition of university inventions from the laboratory to the marketplace. UPDATE: On Friday, without objection, the House Revenue Committee approved the bill and sent it the House floor with a “do pass” recommendation. The bill may be considered as soon as Monday. Reps. Andy Olson (R-Albany) and Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), chief sponsors of the bill, will carry the bill on the House floor. And then we turn to the Senate, and presumably the Committee on Finance and Revenue.
Increased Funding for Universities: Universities entered the session seeking at least a portion of the additional $55 million needed to bring them to the $755 million target sought during the 2015 legislative session. UPDATE: It appears there may be no additional funding available for the remainder of the 2015-17 biennium. We continue to work with the Oregon Student Association in seeking additional funding to be targeted at reducing student debt and increasing persistence and graduation rates.
University Investments in Equities: HJR 203 is a constitutional amendment referred by the legislature for consideration on the November 2016 ballot. It would enable universities to invest funds in common stocks. UPDATE: The bill passed the House by a vote of 55-1 and it has now awaiting a hearing and a work session in the Senate Rules Committee. It may take concerted advocacy aimed at the Senate to get this bill scheduled for a work session in order for it to reach the Senate floor.
Marine Energy: Members of the bi-partisan Coastal Caucus have sent a letter to the Ways & Means Co-Chairs in support of $1.5 million for the research and development of marine energy on the Oregon coast. $1.25 million of this funding would enable OSU to compete for a $5 million federal grant. UPDATE: It is likely we may not know the status of this effort until the final days of the session when the Joint Ways & Means Committee considers the end-of-session omnibus budget bill.
Lodging Tax: HB 4146 would double the statewide “transient lodging tax” from one to two percent. In the initial years the increase would support activities associated with 2021 international track and field championships to be held in Eugene. Because of OSU’s close proximity, our track & field facilities are likely to be involved as a potential venue, and may ultimately qualify for investments that will likely be under consideration during the 2017 legislative session. UPDATE: The House Revenue Committee adopted a number of amendments to this bill designed to address a number of concerns regarding local implementation of the lodging tax. The committee approved the bill on a 7-1 vote and sent it to the floor for consideration. Because the bill raises revenues, it will require a 3/5 vote (36 ayes, vs. a simple majority of 31).
Bills of Note
SB 1540: Calls on the HECC and universities to determine the best method of increasing number of mathematics majors at Oregon universities. This bill was approved by the Senate (27-1), has been approved by the House Higher Education Committee and is awaiting a vote on the House floor.
SB 1558: Limits disclosure of records of college or university student health center, mental health center or counseling center, or records of health professional retained by college or university. The bill passed the Senate (28-0) and was approved by the House Higher Education Committee and is awaiting a vote on the House floor.
SB 1586: Requires universities to undertake a number of activities to encourage students to register to vote. The seven public universities submitted a statement in favor of the bill, with amendments. The bill is was approved on a party-line vote in the Senate Rules Committee and referred to the Joint Ways & Means Committee where it is awaiting consideration. Legislators have expressed concerns regarding provisions that require the state to carry the cost of postage paid envelopes for future ballots.
HB 4019: Requires universities to provide instate tuition to dependents of Oregon residents who leave the state to serve in public service organizations. This bill passed the House (59-0) and is scheduled for a hearing/work session in the Senate Education Committee.
HB 4021: Directs the State Treasurer to study possible refinancing mechanisms for student loans. The seven public universities submitted a statement in favor of this bill. This bill was passed by the House (54-6) and will be considered by the Senate Education Committee on Monday.
Industrial Hemp: Jay Noller, Head of OSU’s Crop and Soil Sciences Department participated in an informational hearing regarding a possible research program for industrial hemp. That program would involve approximately $150K in funding for the current biennium (as well as funding in the 2017-19 biennium in order to be completed). Funding for this study may be included in the end-of-session budget bill. To watch the hearing: http://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=fe495f64-62b6-4740-971c-f2ad4248e43d&meta_id=3ca8ee9a-569f-4cb6-8603-e80f43935266
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