Legislature, Governor Come Through on Education, Health, and Jobs 

In the 2012 legislative session, Oregon legislators came together to pass significant legislation improving education, health care and economic development.

In 2011, the legislature and Governor passed landmark legislation to improve the delivery of education (SB 909) and healthcare (HB 3650, SB 99) while also passing bills and budgets to support economic development and job creation, including the Oregon Innovation Plan, increases to the Strategic Reserve Fund, and SB 766 streamlining permitting for certain industrial lands.   Read the 2011 summary of progress on the Oregon Business Plan here.

In 2012, policymakers followed up with a strong session.

Heading into the session the Oregon Business Plan Steering Committee prioritized five bills, all of which passed.  Here is a summary.

Education

Early Learning Improvements:  HB 4165  Streamlines and improves early childhood services to help more kids at risk – taking the next step to implement the vision adopted last session.

Achievement Compacts and NCLB Waiver:  SB 1581 Establishes achievement compacts to achieve Oregon waivers to the No Child Left Behind federal law and focus all Oregon school districts, universities and community colleges on moving toward the 40-40-20 goal (By 2025, 40% of Oregonians will have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher, 40% at least an associate’s or technical degree and 20% at least a high school diploma).

Health Care

Oregon Health Plan Transformation:  SB 1580 creates “Coordinated Care Organizations” that will coordinate the delivery of physical and mental health services for Medicaid patients. CCOs will be locally organized and governed according to the unique health care delivery system in each of Oregon’s communities.  The goal is to prevent expensive hospital visits, unnecessary procedures and other inefficiencies caused by the lack of care coordination among various providers for this high-risk population.

Oregon Health Insurance Exchange:  HB 4164 Creates an online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance.  Allows customers to compare plans and choose the one that is best for themselves or their family.  Makes purchasing health care easier for individuals and for small businesses.  Requires insurance companies to compete on cost and quality.

Jobs and Economic Development

Oregon Investment Act: HB 4040 Establishes Oregon Growth Fund and Oregon Growth Board to encourage investment in and availability of capital to Oregon businesses and to further economic development in Oregon.

Other Good Bills that Support the Oregon Business Plan Also Passed

In addition to the legislation above, other good economic development and jobs bills emerged during the session that support the Oregon Business Plan.  Many of them passed.  Here are a few:

Enterprise Zone Expansion: HB 4093 increases number of enterprise zones that may be designated and maximum area of rural enterprise zone.

Industrial Land Regulatory Relief for Redmond: SB 1544 Exempts City of Redmond from statewide land use planning goal related to transportation planning and administrative rules that implement goal with respect to development of Southeast Redmond Employment Site.

Data Center Tax Certainty: SB 1532 Excludes certain company that owns or leases data center in enterprise zone from central assessment during period of enterprise zone exemption.

Wetlands Permitting Improvements: SB 1582 Creates process by which person may request independent review of determinations made by Department of State Lands that are related to wetlands delineation.

Credit for all of these accomplishments goes to House Co-Speakers Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan, Senate President Courtney, Governor Kitzhaber and members of the legislature.

Dozens of groups helped develop and lobby for these pieces of legislation.  Particular credit goes to Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Association who played a pivotal role supporting the Oregon Business Plan in the legislature, particularly on the education and healthcare legislation.

Significant Work Ahead

Implementation

There is significant work ahead implementing the measures passed this year. School districts, community colleges and universities must develop the achievement compacts outlined in SB 1581, and the Governor must successfully pursue a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Local healthcare providers are still wrestling with the details of Coordinated Care Organizations, and the Governor and legislature have committed to tackling medical liability reform.  This is critical work that must be done to ensure the sustainability of CCO’s as an effective healthcare delivery model.

Two topics that fell flat this session but deserve serious attention in the interim include revenue stability and access to water for agriculture in the Columbia Basin.

Revenue Stability:  2013 or Bust

An excellent bill co-sponsored by Senators Morse and Burdick and Representatives Berger and Barnhart to stabilize the state budget with regular deposits to a reserve fund did not advance this year.  Our hope is that business, labor and other advocacy groups will coalesce in the interim around a strategy to stabilize the revenue system and garner the necessary votes in the 2013 legislature and at the ballot.

Water Access for Agriculture:  Don’t Let this Opportunity Float Away

Withdrawing an additional small fraction of the Columbia water flow could result in thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity in Northeast Oregon.  The legislature did a great service in highlighting this opportunity.  We believe that this can be done administratively.  We look forward to significant progress in the interim and if not, to a bill next session.

Oregon’s First Annual Session A Success

2012 was Oregon’s first annual legislative session.  Despite some things that didn’t happen, lawmakers accomplished a tremendous amount in just one month.  While politicians in Washington D.C. focused on scoring political points, and state legislatures around the country were gridlocked in partisan battles, Oregon leaders rolled up their sleeves and passed legislation that will improve the quality of life for Oregon citizens.  Take a moment to thank your legislator and legislative leaders for working across party lines to serve the interest of Oregonians.

Stay tuned for additional Oregon Business Plan updates throughout the year, and for opportunities to provide your input.  If you have suggestions for how to the Oregon Business Plan or these email updates, contact us.

Onward!