Government Relations Update
This update includes information about:
- Turnover in the legislature
- OSU Priorities for the 2018 short session
- November Legislative Days
- Longer term priorities leading into the 2019-21 biennial cycle
- Staffing changes in OSU Government Relations
Turnover in the legislature
Events since July have led to a number of changes in the membership of both the House and Senate. While some degree of turnover is typical between sessions, changes in the last several weeks involve leadership positions, particularly in the Senate.
Changes in the Senate
- Last week Governor Kate Brown announced that she is appointing Richard Devlin (D-Lake Oswego) and Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) to the Northwest Power Council.
The appointments are notable because Devlin co-chairs the Joint Ways & Means Committee, which writes the state budget. He has been a true friend to higher education and was instrumental in engineering the $14 million increase during the 2015 session for the OSU Statewide Public Service Programs (Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station, and Forest Research Laboratory). Throughout his tenure, he has been receptive to all of Oregon’s public universities as the Committee reviewed and approved our capital and operating budgets. Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) will name a new Senate co-chair, presumably once Devlin’s appointment to the Power Council is confirmed by the Senate in mid-November.
The Multnomah and Clackamas County Commissions will name Devlin’s replacement in the Senate. The likely successor will not come from the House, which frequently happens when a vacancy occurs in the Senate, because the lone Democrat in the House who would be eligible was just appointed to her seat in September. Rep. Julie Parrish (R-Tualatin/West Linn) represents the other half of Devlin’s district in the House, but is ineligible because the Commissioners must appoint a member from the party that currently holds the seat.
Ferrioli has led the Senate Republican caucus since 2005. The members of the caucus will vote among themselves to choose his successor as caucus leader, again, presumably after the Senate confirmation. Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) has indicated his interest in the seat which will be filled by appointment from the 11 county commissions covered by the district. Due to its population density (or lack thereof), Ferrioli’s district is the largest in the state and among the largest state legislative districts in the country. County commissioners carry a proportionate vote in replacing a legislator based on the county’s population in the district.
- Recent accusations regarding inappropriate touching and smoking in his office and in the Capitol by Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) resulted in the Senate President removing him from serving on all committees and removing the door from his office. Regardless of speculation regarding whether Kruse will ultimately be forced to resign, his sole power currently is his vote on measures that reach the Senate floor.
Changes in the House
A number of legislators have moved onto other positions, announced their intention to retire, or announced candidacy for jobs that would require them to resign.
- In July, Governor Brown named State Rep. Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego) to serve on the Clackamas County Circuit Court. In September, the Clackamas and Multnomah County Commissions appointed Andrea Salinas to fill the vacancy. Salinas served as a political consultant with Strategies 360 advocating on economic, health, and environmental issues. She has also lobbied for the Oregon Environmental Council.
- In early October, Oregon Business & Industry, announced that Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) will serve as its President and Chief Executive Officer. OBI was formed earlier this year through the merger of the Associated Oregon Industries and Oregon Business Association. The new, combined organization represents over 1,600 businesses of all sizes across the state. Johnson served for years on the House Higher Education Committee as it considered the creation of university boards, the creation of the Oregon Promise (“free community college”), and free textbooks. The Clackamas, Hood River, and Multnomah County Commissions will name his replacement.
- Although State Rep. John Huffman (R-The Dalles) announced that he would not seek re-election to the seat in 2018, he resigned his seat this week. His name has surfaced as a possible Presidential appointment to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development office in Oregon. Under the Obama administration the position was held by former State Sen. Vicki Walker who previously represented the Eugene area. The Wasco, Jefferson, Deschutes, and Wheeler County Commissions will select his replacement.
- If Bentz is appointed to fill Ferrioli’s vacancy in the Senate, his replacement in the House will need to be filled by a subset of the commissions that appointed him to the Senate.
OSU Priorities for the 2018 short session
The 2018 session will convene on Monday, February 5th and will run through Friday, March 9th. Short sessions move at light speed, which means that proponents have approximately one week to schedule bills for hearings and about two weeks to get them passed by the first chamber. Any problems that arise with a bill can mean its demise because there simply is no time for amendments.
OSU is seeking two funding measures which, if successful, would be included in an omnibus funding bill that will start in the Joint Ways & Means Committee and travel on a pre-ordained pathway near the end of the session.
Expansion of OSU-Cascades
During the 2017 legislative session, OSU sought $69.5 million in capital funding for the expansion of the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend. This included funding for site reclamation, infrastructure improvements, a second classroom building, and a student success center. While the legislature allocated $9.5 million for OSU-Cascades in the final capital budget to enable site reclamation work, this level of funding will not keep pace with expected enrollment growth from the Central Oregon region. We are working with the Governor, the Central Oregon region spearheaded by Now4 OSU-Cascades, and the Beaver Caucus to scale back our original request to $39 million. This level of funding would enable the construction of the classroom building, which would include components using engineered wood products, such as cross-laminated timber, manufactured in Oregon.
In December 2016, the US Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $35 million grant (with the potential for an increased level of funding) to OSU to design and construct the nation’s premier offshore, on-grid, wave energy test facility. This test facility will allow industry developers from all over the United States and the world to come to Oregon to test how their technology innovations integrate into the energy grid. In February, OSU will be seeking $2.3 million in state funding to serve as the required match for the federal funds. These funds will support operations for the current biennium. Ultimately, this project will provide robust educational and economic development benefits to the state, while fostering national and international development of this new carbon-free energy source. OSU is also undertaking efforts to raise philanthropic and industry funds to match the federal grant.
Maintain Funding Levels
OSU will be working with the six other public universities to maintain operating funds for university programs, including the OSU Statewides. The outcome of a special statewide election on January 23, 2018, could present legislators with at least a $200-300 million shortfall for the current biennium. The election stems from efforts to overturn a new tax on hospitals and health providers. For more information about the measure: http://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-tax-hospital-heathcare-measure-101-faq/
One benefit of the short session is that legislators are limited in the number of bills they may introduce. As a result, we do not anticipate a large volume of bills that will need tracking and possible engagement, but we will review all bills as they are introduced and considered throughout the session. If you are aware of legislation or have concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.
November Legislative Days
Legislative Committees meet quarterly when the legislature is not in session, and the next series of legislative hearings is scheduled for the week of November 13th. In anticipation of the time pressures involved with the short session, advocates will be seeking time on committee agendas ahead of the session to introduce legislators to bill concepts and other matters that will likely arise in February. Committees have yet to post their agendas for the November meetings, but we anticipate a number of hearings of interest involving OSU and higher education.
Longer term priorities leading into the 2019-21 biennial cycle
Meanwhile, the cycle for the 2019-21 biennium is already starting to turn. Oregon’s public universities are working to address the general funding challenges they face each time the state develops its budget.
University Continued Service Levels (CSL)
As we approach the next two-year cycle we will be focused on how the state considers our “Continued Service Level.” The CSL identifies the level of state support needed in the next biennium in order to support the same activities that are delivered during the current cycle. For universities this has always been problematic when it comes to managing enrollment growth because, unlike the K-12 education system which requires attendance, any increase in enrollment is not automatically rolled into our funding formula.
While resident enrollment, when spread across all seven public universities, has been relatively stable, a more pressing issue is the manner in which state budget writers consider university costs since the legislature moved universities from “state agency” status. Despite a greater level of administrative latitude and the creation of independent boards of trustees appointed by the Governor to oversee them, public universities still fall under state mandates that require participation in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and the state Public Employees’ Benefit Board (PEBB), which funds employee health insurance programs. Under recent configurations of the CSL, the full costs of PERS and PEBB have not been factored into CSL for universities.
These mandated, but uncovered, costs are a significant factor in the pressure behind tuition increases. For the OSU Statewides, which are not supported by tuition revenues, these unfunded costs contribute to continued reductions in the level of services the programs can provide. All seven of the public universities are working to establish a more equitable configuration of their base budgets for the 2019-21 biennium.
Staffing Changes in OSU Government Relations
We are pleased to announce that, after a rigorous recruitment and selection process, Claire McMorris has re-joined the OSU Government Relations Office to serve as our Coordinator. She succeeds Karli Olsen who departed in September for a teaching assistantship in Avignon, France.
Claire is a 2017 OSU Honors graduate with a BA in Political Science, minoring in music and Spanish. Among her accomplishments at OSU were her service as the Governor-appointed university student member of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission; a congressional intern with US Representative Suzanne Bonamici in Washington, DC; and her leadership of OSU’s Student Fee Committee. She also served as the legislative outreach assistant for OSU Government Relations during the 2015 legislative session. You can reach Claire directly: Claire.McMorris@oregonstate.edu
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