Here is a brief review of Tuesday’s election and its implications for higher education in Oregon as we approach the 2017 legislative session.
The 2016 General Election
What happens during the 2017 legislative session will depend on how voters consider a number of measures that will likely be on the November ballot. Most noteworthy of these is IP-28, which would create a state corporate receipts tax. Proponents of the measure claim it will create revenues needed to balance the budget and improve services. Opponents claim the measure will create an unfair and unbalanced state tax structure that will place Oregon businesses in an unfavorable position. The Legislative Revenue Office presented an analysis of the measure to the House and Senate Revenue Committees last month. Proponents of the measure rebutted the analysis in a recent editorial in the Oregonian. (As a public entity, OSU does not take positions on ballot measures.)
May Committee Days
Throughout the year, legislative committees meet on a quarterly basis. Following the February 2016 short session, committees met in May. While a number of committees and task forces will meet occasionally over the summer, the next formal committee session is scheduled for the week of September 19th. Here are some highlights from the committee sessions in May:
- Upon the favorable recommendation of the Senate Rules & Executive Appointments Committee, the full Senate confirmed Governor Brown’s appointment of two new members to the OSU Board of Trustees: OSU Engineering Professor Mike Bailey, past president of the OSU Faculty Senate (filling the position of faculty trustee) and Nike executive and OSU alum Julia Brim Edwards.
- The House and Senate Committees on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness met jointly and considered possible changes in a 2015 bill that called for priority registration for veterans at Oregon’s seven public universities. Working with campus veterans groups, representatives from the seven universities plan to develop recommendations for addressing a variety of veterans-related issues and report back to the committees when they meet in September.
- Governor Kate Brown met with members of the OSU Women’s Basketball team, congratulating them on their historic 2015-16 Final Four season. Senate President Peter Courtney welcomed the team to the Senate chambers. You can see pictures from this visit on the Governor’s Twitter page and the Oregon State Women’s Basketball Facebook page.
Significant Policy and Budget Issues for the 2017-19 Biennium
Over the coming months, our efforts will be aimed at ensuring that legislators, the Governor, and stakeholders are aware of the dividends that have resulted from investments made in higher education during the 2015 legislative session. In preparation for the 2017 session, we will be highlighting how state bonds for campus capital projects and budget increases for student success initiatives and the OSU statewide public service programs (Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station, and Forest Research Laboratory) have significantly improved OSU’s ability to serve Oregonians.
These efforts will be aimed at making the case for continuing investments needed to maintain the level of student success and economic well-being that have resulted from our work during the 2015 legislative session. Here is a summary of seven significant initiatives and policy issues we will be pursuing over the coming months:
- Maintaining Operating Expenditures: All seven public universities are working together to achieve at least a $100 million (15%) increase in operating funds. This would enable universities to keep tuition increases below 5% and also preserve current financial aid and student support services. In April the seven public university presidents sent a letter to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) seeking increased funding along these lines. http://oregonstate.edu/government/sites/default/files/consolidatedfundingrequest2017-19.pdf
- Securing New and Renewed Capital for All Seven Universities: All seven presidents have also joined together in supporting $284 million in capital funding for the 2017-19 biennium. At OSU, these projects involve significant capital renewal funds for existing buildings, investments in OSU-Cascades, and a quality food and beverage initiative. http://oregonstate.edu/government/sites/default/files/consolidatedcapitalrequest2017-19.pdf
- Expanding OSU-Cascades: OSU is developing and implementing a strategy for financing the long-term capital expansion of OSU-Cascades. Currently, the state maintains a distinct funding stream for OSU-Cascades operations. We are seeking similar treatment for capital funds in order to achieve the state goal of creating a four-year campus in Central Oregon. While advocating for OSU-Cascades, we have sought to be clear that the state’s decision to establish an eighth campus in Central Oregon should not come at the expense of the existing seven public university campuses in Oregon.
- Maintaining the OSU Statewides: In 2015, the legislature allocated a $14 million increase for the OSU Statewide Public Service Programs (Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station and Forest Research Laboratory). This level of funding needs to be maintained with an appropriate “continuing service level” increase in 2017.
- Improving the Implementation of State Financial Aid Programs: All seven universities are working together to address and resolve significant shifts in financial aid resources that have occurred over the last year. In particular, we are working to understand how state investments in the Oregon Promise program (“free community college”) and changes in the Oregon Opportunity Grant program may affect state funding for low-income students who attend four-year universities.
- Investing in State Economic Development Programs: The research universities are working together to develop and implement a state Economic Development and Research Budget Strategy. These efforts may include investments in inter-connectivity among and between campuses and a re-vamping of the state’s Innovation Council.
- Continuing the Seven Public University Alliance: All seven universities are working together to be responsive and proactive on a wide variety of intricate policy issues likely to present themselves prior to and during the 2017 legislative session.
Tuesday, March 8th was the deadline for legislative candidates to file for the 2016 elections. A review of the filings, indicates that the 2017 session will include a high degree of turnover in the Oregon House and a relatively static Senate.
House Turnover: A total of 14 representatives will be retiring or seeking higher office. While 23% turnover is fairly typical from session to session, most notable is the departure of ten Democrats, including four who come from potential “swing” districts that have elected Republicans at some time in the past three election cycles. While redistricting has changed the party composition of these districts, the open-seat races below involve blue districts that could switch to red:
- District 22 (Salem, Woodburn, Gervais, Brooks), currently held by Betty Komp (D). Republican Marion County Commissioner and former state legislator Patty Milne will face Democrat Woodburn City Councilmember Teresa Leon, who also works for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
- District 30 (Hillsboro, North Plains), currently held by Joe Gallegos (D) who announced his retirement on filing day. The Republican candidate is Dan Mason, who ran unsuccessfully for both this district in 2014 and for House District 34 (Beaverton) in 2012. He is currently a community manager with Prime Group, a residential real estate firm. Democrat contender Janeen Sollman is a Hillsboro school board member.
- District 40 (Gladstone, Johnson City), currently held by Brent Barton (D). The Republican Candidate is Evon Tekorius, an Oregon City School Board member and business manager with a fire-investigation firm she started with her husband in 2003. Three Democrats are vying for the seat in the May primary, including Mark Meek, a realtor and Air Force veteran who serves on the Clackamas County Planning Commission; Terry Gibson, a Marylhurst adjunct instructor who serves on the Oak Lodge Sanitary District and Schoolyard Farms Board; and attorney and Army veteran Steven Cade, whose practice involves civil rights and disability claims.
- District 51 (SE Portland, Clackamas, Damascus, Boring, Estacada), currently held by Shemia Fagan (D) who announced her retirement as the filing deadline neared. The Republican candidate is Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a long time Happy Valley City Council member who is currently serving as Mayor of Happy Valley. Two Democrats will be vying against each other in the May primary: Janelle Bynum, a Happy Valley McDonald’s franchisee supported by Fagan; and Randy Shannon, a Damascus City Councilor.
Other races to watch in the Oregon House include:
- District 20 (West Salem, Monmouth, Independence), where first-term Democrat Paul Evans is seeking to hold on to a seat the Democrats wrested from Republican hands in the 2014 election. Evans will face Republican Laura Morett, whose participation in the CBS series Survivor is highlighted in her campaign biography.
- District 26 (Wilsonville, Sherwood, Gaston), a seat being vacated by Republican John Davis, that includes three Republicans and two Democrats vying against each other in the May primary. Republican candidates include John Boylston, Richard Vial, and embattled former Republican legislator Matt Wingard.
Senate Races: Fifteen of the 30 seats in the Senate are up for re-election in 2016, including seven seats currently held by Republicans and eight seats held by Democrats. Three seats are open due to Senators choosing to retire, but only one of the open seats is contested in the May primary, and all three of the seats are currently uncontested in the November general election. Open Senate seats include:
- District 21 (Milwaukee, Portland), a seat being vacated by Diane Rosenbaum (D). Three Democrats are vying in the primary to succeed Rosenbaum, including Rep. Kathleen Taylor, OSU alumna Kathleen O‘Brien, and John Sweeney.
- District 22 (NE Portland), where Lew Frederick (D) faces no primary or general election opponents to succeed Sen. Chip Shields (D) who is retiring.
- District 28 (Klamath Falls), where Doug Whitsett’s (R) last minute withdrawal from the race enabled a concurrent last-minute filing by Dennis Linthicum, a Klamath County Commissioner to run unopposed in the primary and general election contests. Whitsett’s decision came as a surprise to Rep. Mike McLane (R) who could have filed for that seat.
For a review of the last minute filing process see and the reactions it has created, check the Bend Bulletin.