The legislature has completed two and half weeks at a quick pace. This update provides a progress report on some of the key bills and activities important to OSU and higher education.
Ways & Means Field Hearings
Over the last two weekends, members of the Joint Ways & Means Committee have conducted hearings in Salem, Portland, Hermiston and Madras to enable citizens to address concerns about possible funding reductions associated with the state’s projected $1.8 billion shortfall, as well as ways in which the state could increase revenues to close the budget gap. We deeply appreciate students and advocates who have testified in support of funding for higher education and OSU programs and encourage you to participate in the remaining hearings this month in Ashland, Eugene, and Tillamook. (See details below.) Topics relevant to OSU addressed during these hearings have so far included:
- Support for at least a $100 million increase sought by Oregon’s public universities to achieve a comparable level of funding to the current biennium and needed to avoid unaffordable tuition increases. [See a letter from university leadership across the state in support of the $100 million investment here];
- Recovery of $9.4 million in budget reductions to the OSU Statewide Public Service Programs – the Extension Service, Agricultural Experiment Station, and Forest Research Laboratory [Click here for comprehensive information regarding the advocacy effort aimed at SB 805 for the OSU Statewides];
- Investment of $69.5 million in state bonds to expand the OSU-Cascades campus [Click here for comprehensive information about the expansion of OSU-Cascades]; and
- Fully funding the Opportunity Grant – the state’s need-based student financial aid program for community college and university students.
Bills of Note
Expansion of the OSU-Cascades Campus (HB 2782)
On Thursday, 2/23, the House Higher Education Committee will consider HB 2782 which will fully fund the $69.5 million expansion of the OSU-Cascades campus as sought by the OSU Board of Trustees. Advocates from the Central Oregon community will be testifying in support of the bill and meeting with legislators throughout the day. See information regarding the campus expansion here. (OSU support for the full expansion is contingent upon full funding for the capital projects sought by all seven of Oregon’s public universities.)
Statewide Public Service Programs (SB 805)
Despite increasing revenues, the Governor recommended no funding increases for the Oregon State University Statewide Public Service Programs – OSU Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station, and Forest Research Laboratory. The proposal would erode approximately 70% of the $14 million funding increase achieved by a broad coalition of natural resource, conservation, and human service advocates during the 2015 session.
In response, a bicameral, bipartisan group of legislators has introduced SB 805 which would appropriate a $9.4 million increase for these programs in the 2017-19 biennium to enable them to operate at their continued service level.
See comprehensive information regarding the advocacy effort for the OSU Statewides here.
Open Education Resources (HB 2729)
In 2015 legislators allocated $700K to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) to work with universities and colleges to develop open education resources, also known as OERs or “free textbooks.” Despite the significant savings to students that accrue from developing and dispersing OERs, the HECC chose not to seek continued funding for this program. Legislators have introduced HB 2729 to continue funding into the 2017-19 biennium, which the House Higher Education Committee will consider on Thursday, 2/23. At play in considering future funding is the degree to which funding should go to the development of new OERs vs. encouraging faculty at community colleges and universities to use OERs that are already available. OSU faculty member Lindsay Biga is scheduled to testify on the issue on Thursday.
SB 143: Using lottery funds made available by Measure 96, which was approved by voters in the November 2016 election, this bill will provide grant funding to universities and community colleges to improve services to veteran-students. The House and Senate Veterans Committees have both held hearings on the bill and may develop a funding recommendation to be sent to the Joint Ways & Means Committee, which will ultimately consider the bill.
HB 2565: This bill makes improvements in legislation passed during the 2015 session that established a priority registration process for veterans attending public universities and community colleges. Universities and veterans worked together over the last year to develop the bill in order to ensure that veterans will receive priority when registering for classes throughout their matriculation, rather than just for the first term of attendance.
Establishment of an Independent Science Board
SB 198: This bill seeks to enact the recommendations of a task force established by legislation passed during the 2015 session. On Wednesday 2/22 OSU Associate Dean Dan Edge is slated to testify on the bill before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. The bill involves a biennial expense of approximately $1 million, which may prove problematic for its legislative future.
Last week OSU provided information to employees regarding PERS reform legislation. The Senate Workforce Committee has conducted a number of sessions considering the PERS system. For a memo outlining its proposed process and a power point overview click here. The memo outlines the criteria the committee will use to evaluate proposed reforms, including:
- Order of Magnitude in Savings
- Actuarial Soundness
- Impact on Employer Contribution Rates
- Impact on State and Local Budgets
- Impact on Public Employee Benefits
- Impact on Public Employee Workforce
- Equitability of Costs and Benefits to Public Employees
- Administrative Feasibility
- Monday, February 20th – Kathie Dello, Associate Director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, will present the Third Oregon Climate Assessment Report (2017) to the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee.
- Wednesday, February 22nd – the House Committee on Economic Development and Trade will hold a “Food Industry Overview” informational hearing, which will feature OSU’s Dave Stone discussing OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, and College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Dan Arp discussing OSU’s proposed $18 million Quality Food and Beverage capital investment – $9 million in state bonds matched by $9 million in industry and philanthropic investments. Click Here for a recent release regarding a $1.5 million contribution by the Tillamook Creamery Association toward this project.
- Wednesday, February 22nd – The Office of Economic Analysis will present the next quarterly state revenue forecast to the Senate Revenue Committee. The forecast will indicate whether revenues are on track to support state funding for the current biennium, while also providing legislators with a more current estimate of state revenues for the 2017-19 biennium. Although the analysis may show marginal changes up or down in state revenues, the structural issues – PERS and Medicaid costs among them – that significant in the forecasted $1.8 billion shortfall for the next biennium are not expected to change significantly. For access to the forecast when it is released on Wednesday, click here.
- House Higher Education committee hearings on OSU-Cascades Expansion and OERs (see above).
Remaining Ways & Means Field Hearings
Friday, February 24 — Ashland
5 to 7 p.m.
Rogue River Room
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland
Saturday, February 25 — Eugene
1 to 3 p.m.
Rooms 308-309 Building 17 (The Forum)
Lane Community College
4000 E 30th Ave, Eugene
Friday, March 3 — Tillamook
6 to 8 p.m.
Port of Tillamook Bay
6825 Officers Row, Tillamook
Beaver Caucus Day (Wednesday, March 1)
Head over to the Beaver Caucus website for more about OSU advocates meetings and a reception with legislators in Salem.
OSU Statewides Day (Thursday, March 2)
Advocates from across Oregon will be meeting with legislators throughout the day in support of SB 805, which would recover funding cuts proposed in the Governor’s Recommended Budget for the Extension Service, Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Forest Research Laboratory.
Save the Date: OSU Day at the Capitol (Thursday, April 20)
For information about OSU’s Legislative Priorities for 2017:
Other legislative issues: We have identified over 600 bills that may be of interest to the OSU community due to impacts on our education, research and outreach mission. If you would like information regarding a particular bill that may be of interest or if you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Jock Mills, Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
Karli Olsen, Coordinator: email@example.com