In this update
- A brief rundown after the first two weeks
- State Revenue Forecast
- University Lobby Day
- Bills of Note
A brief rundown after the first two weeks of the short session and a forecast for the week ahead
With the passage of the self-imposed deadline that required committees to approve bills by last Thursday, a peloton of bills has emerged from the pack that began the race just two weeks ago. Among the jerseys in the pack that crossed the first significant milepost are two bills important to higher education. One bill (HB 4141), changes the process and criteria universities and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) use to consider tuition increases. The other (HB 4053), requires universities to track and report credits granted to students who enter universities and community colleges with accelerated credits. (For details on these and other bills, see “Bills of Note” below.)
The peloton includes bills reported out by policy committees, but that have a subsequent referral to the Joint Ways & Means Committee because they have a “fiscal impact” that needs to be accounted for. If the Joint Ways & Means Committee doesn’t come through with the support vehicles needed to fund these bills, they will likely fall to the wayside. Rather than going to Ways & Means, some bills that were passed by committees last week have a subsequent referral to a holding pen in the Rules Committee which, like Ways & Means, is not subject to committee deadlines.
One high profile bill that currently resides in the Joint Ways & Means Committee is a measure passed by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources that would create a state “cap and invest” system in 2021 for carbon sequestration. A similar bill in the House was passed by the House Energy and Environment Committee and was subsequently referred to the House Rules Committee. (See SB 1507 and HB 4001 below.) HB 4053, the credit reporting bill, also awaits consideration in Ways & Means.
The peloton also includes some invisible jerseys that are not bills at all, but are requests for capital or operating funds. These requests will need to be included in an omnibus spending bill that will be among the last measures considered in the short session, which under the state’s constitution must conclude by Sunday, March 11.
OSU has two funding requests, including $39 million for a second academic building at OSU-Cascades. Governor Brown included the OSU-Cascades project in an $80 million package that includes projects at the University of Oregon and Eastern Oregon University. All three projects are scaled-down versions of HECC-approved projects sought during the 2017 session.
OSU is also seeking $4.6 million spread over two biennia to serve as a match for a $35 million federal Department of Energy grant to establish a wave energy test facility off the coast of Oregon, near Newport.
Some bills in the peloton may be important or problematic to legislative leaders. In the transactional environment that characterizes the legislative process, some of these bills or funding measures may be caught up in bargaining and could be used to either push a cyclist over the finish line or push the cyclist off the road. This interaction may be based as much on differences between the two chambers as differences between the parties and will likely not be evident to those on the course who are watching the race.
- For information about the Governor’s three university capital package, click here.
- For information about OSU’s wave energy request, click here.
- For information about the Legislative Schedule for the short session, click here.
State Revenue Forecast
On Friday, the state Office of Economic Analysis issued its quarterly economic and revenue forecast, which indicated that state revenues continue to grow. Most notable in the forecast was its consideration how changes in the federal tax code incorporated in the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” passed late last year may directly and indirectly affect state revenues:
In Oregon, the outlook remains bright as the economy continues to hit the sweet spot. Employment growth is more than enough to meet population gains and to absorb the workers coming back into the labor market. Wages are rising faster than in the typical state, as are household incomes. That said, employment and measures of economic wages have come in below expectations in the second half of 2017. From this somewhat lower starting point, the modest economic boosts provided by federal tax changes results in a relatively unchanged forecast overall.
The forecast indicates that the Joint Ways & Means Committee may be short on the support vehicles needed to aid those in the peloton who need new funding during the short session. However, bills under consideration in the legislative revenue committees that seek to react to the federal changes could add both one-time and ongoing state revenues.
For the full forecast and accompanying documents, click here.
University Lobby Day
On Thursday, February 15th, all seven public universities united forces for University Day at the Capitol. Over 140 students, faculty, and alumni met with 80 legislators over the course of the day. During the short legislative sessions, which offer a limited number of days for lobbying efforts, universities have joined together. (OSU will conduct a separate lobby day during the 2019 session.)
This year, we conveyed three important points to legislators:
- Thank you for investing an additional $70 million in public universities in 2017.
- To achieve the same goal in 2019, universities will need an increase of $130 million.
- Please increase funding for the Sports Lottery equity scholarships at the statutory 1% in 2019.
The OSU Chamber Choir performed the invocation on the Senate Floor, singing “I Have Had Singing,” a piece written by the late Ron Jeffers, long time choral director at OSU who died last year. To watch the performance, click here and advance the curser to the 10:00 mark. It is truly inspirational.
Bills of Note
HB 4035 – Scholarships for members of the National Guard: HB 4035 requires the HECC to provide tuition assistance for qualified members of Oregon National Guard to attend community colleges or public universities. The House Higher Education Committee amended and approved the bill, which now resides in the Joint Ways & Means committee for consideration. The fiscal impact statement for the bill indicates it will have an “indeterminate” impact because the bill does not specify how the financial aid will be configured.
HB 4040 – Financial Aid for Veterans: HB 4040 directs the Oregon Military Department to establish program to award scholarships to certain persons who have served in military. It establishes the Oregon Military Families Education and Workforce Preparedness Scholarship Advisory Committee to review applications for scholarships. It also establishes the Oregon Military Education and Workforce Preparedness Scholarship Program Fund in State Treasury and directs the transfer of money from the Veterans’ Services Fund, created by Measure 96 in the 2016 election, to the Oregon Military Education and Workforce Preparedness Scholarship Program Fund for the biennium beginning July 1, 2019. Last week the House Higher Education Committee approved the bill and sent it on its way to the Joint Ways & Means Committee. The fiscal impact statement for the bill identified a number of issues with the bill.
HB 4051 – Task Force on Rural Education: This bill establishes Task Force on Rural Education and charges it to evaluate state policy and laws that affect rural schools and recommend changes to support rural schools in addressing chronic absenteeism, graduation rates, student mobility, serving underrepresented students, and advancing postsecondary education. The bill directs the task force to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to an interim legislative committee by September 15, 2018. The House Education approved the bill, which has been referred to the Joint Ways & Means Committee.
HB 4053 –accelerated learning reporting: HB 4053 requires the Department of Education and Higher Education Coordinating Commission to jointly prepare an annual report on accelerated college credit programs through 2029. The bill directs the HECC to develop statewide standards related to information provided by public post-secondary institutions of higher education about accelerated college credit programs. The House Higher Education Committee amended the bill, and it now is under the consideration of the Joint Ways & Means Committee. Universities have prepared a fiscal impact statement indicating that the bill will require between .5 and 1 FTE at each campus to collect and report the information sought in the bill.
HB 4056 — Children of fallen officers: HB 4056 distributes civil forfeiture proceeds to a scholarship program for family members of deceased or disabled public safety officers. The bill was amended and passed by the House Judiciary Committee. It has an “indeterminate” fiscal impact statement but does not currently have a subsequent referral to the Joint Ways & Means Committee. It will likely be considered on the floor of the House this week. Universities testified in support of this bill.
HB 4109 – State actions for carbon sequestration: This bill directs the Department of Environmental Quality and State Forestry Department to study opportunities for state actions to promote carbon sequestration and to include in study consideration of regional approaches for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration. It also requires departments to report to interim committee of Legislative Assembly related to natural resources by September 15, 2019. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill which has a subsequent referral to the Joint Ways & Means Committee. The bill’s fiscal impact statement identifies potential increased costs for the Departments of Environmental Quality and Forestry.
HB 4141 – tuition setting: HB 4141 requires the governing boards at each public university to establish a Tuition Advisory Council to make recommendations regarding tuition and mandatory enrollment fees. The bill also requires governing boards to submit specified information and materials to HECC if board will increase tuition and mandatory enrollment fees by more than five percent, with additional information and materials required if board seeks to increase tuition and mandatory enrollment fees by more than five percent. After prolonged negotiations among the universities, the Oregon Student Association and the bill’s sponsor, the House Higher Education Committee amended the bill and sent it to the House floor for a vote. That vote is expected in the coming week.
HB 4153 – Designates EOU as Oregon’s “Rural University”: HB 4153 designates Eastern Oregon University as Oregon’s Rural University. The designation is intended to assist the university in seeking grants. The House Higher Education Committee approved the bill, and the House passed the bill by a vote of 60-0. The bill is now under the consideration of the Senate Education Committee.
HCR 206 – Celebrating OSU’s 150th: HCR 206 congratulates OSU on its 150th anniversary. The bill passed the House 60-0 during University Day with Benny Beaver and ASOSU President Simon Brundage watching from the side aisle. It has been referred to the Senate Education Committee, and we anticipate a hearing this week.
SB 1507 and HB 4001 – Carbon Cap & Invest: These high profile bills would establish a “cap and invest” carbon sequestration program through the creation of a 25,000-ton threshold applied to entities with power plants and other facilities that generate carbon dioxide. The OSU heat plant exceeds this threshold, and we sought an alternative approach that would have enabled the university to “self-invest” in campus-based carbon reduction efforts rather than participating in the market established in the bill. While the chairs of the committees that developed the bill over the months since the adjournment of the 2017 legislative session were open to this approach, the proponents of the bill preferred to exempt OSU and OHSU, the two universities currently exceeding the 25,000-ton threshold. Both institutions will continue to report their level of carbon outputs. Both bills were amended and passed out of Committee. The Senate bill resides in the Joint Ways & Means Committee; the House bill resides in the House Rules Committee.
SB 1554 – disregarding 529 plans when determining eligibility for financial aid: This bill would specify that funds in Oregon College Savings Plan 529 accounts be disregarded when determining an individual’s eligibility for public benefits. It passed the Senate with no “nay” votes and is awaiting referral to a committee in the House.
SB 1557 – rights for students called to active duty: SB 1557 requires community colleges, public universities and OHSU to provide certain rights to students ordered to federal or state active duty for 30 or fewer consecutive days. The Senate Education Committee approved this bill, and it is expected to reach the Senate Floor for a vote this week.
SB 1563 – DACA Amendments: SB 1563 removes a requirement that students who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents apply for an official federal identification document to be eligible for exemption from paying nonresident tuition at public universities. The bill also permits public universities, Oregon Health and Science University and community colleges to provide scholarships and other financial aid to students who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents. The universities support this bill. The bill passed on the Senate floor 17-10 with one Republican, Sen. Alan DeBoer of Ashland, voting in favor. It now moves onto consideration in the House.