Oregon has a housing affordability crisis and there are several proposals on the legislative table to alleviate the crisis. As a member of the House Committee on Human Services and Housing, I’ll get a front row seat for this debate. Before we look at solutions, I think we need to consider some of the causes, which can, in turn, guide the quest for solutions.
Since 1974, Oregon has had some of the most restrictive land use laws. Because of this policy, the supply of land that could be developed into housing is restricted by government, which drives up the price of land that can be used for development. We can have a discussion about whether or not we want to change the land use laws, but there is no doubt that these policies restrict the supply of buildable land and therefore are a price driver. Most notably — on this issue — state and local government has control of this restriction on resources and if this issue is to be taken seriously as a concern, government needs to lead the way by relaxing restrictions. Continue reading →
by Cascade Policy Institute Monday, March 27. 2017
By John A. Charles, Jr.
Oregon stopped building new highways in 1983 when I-205 was completed. Top planning officials began espousing a philosophy of spending money on rail transit rather than roads. The government also used the power of zoning to crowd more people into urban centers, in the belief that high density would lead to less reliance on cars.
The new strategy failed.
The Portland regional transit agency, TriMet, was given more than $3.6 billion to build a light rail system; yet between 1997 and 2016, TriMet’s market share of all commute trips in Portland fell from 12% to 10%. As a result, traffic congestion has become a major barrier to regional mobility.
Now a bipartisan group of legislators, led by Republican Rich Vial of Wilsonville and Democrat Brian Clem of Salem, has introduced a bill that would jump-start the highway-building process. HB 3231 would authorize cities and counties to jointly form special districts for the purpose of building and operating limited-access public highways. Continue reading →
As something that could have been simple like an Obamacare repeal instead goes down in flames because a President with an R next to his name campaigned on universal coverage and promised to keep intact the ACA’s core regulations, it’s important to remember that the occupant of the Oval Office has never been what has made America great. Life gets better, because we have people with liberating ideas, people like Fred Eckhardt. Continue reading →
Generally speaking, it is really easy to vote in Oregon. Between Motor Voter and Vote By Mail I would venture to say that voting is probably more accessible here in Oregon than in any other state. Some folks take issue with the voting system here in this state, while others are proud of the ease with which you can vote here in the Beaver State.
Recently the Oregonian wrote an editorial on the proposal in the legislature to have the state pay for postage on the envelopes used to return ballots, this go around known as Senate Bill 683. Now I remember when this bill came up during the last legislative session and I thought it was a bad idea back then, but as the state stares down the possibility of serious cuts to services or possible tax increases because of the unsustainable growth in the costs of PERS and Medicaid, as well as expenses stemming from the 2016 ballot measures, this bill seems especially tone deaf.
Make no mistake, I want every Oregonian who is eligible to vote to be able to vote, but proposals likes these appear to be solutions in search of a problem. 80.33% of all registered voters turned out to vote in 2016. Additionally 89.3% of Republicans turned out to vote and 87.9% of Democrats turned out to vote. In a world where campaigns, political parties, non-profit organizations, and volunteers all put in a great deal of effort to hunt down and turn in every ballot possible, why do we feel the need to put a financial obligation on the taxpayer?
Are there some low income folks who might have more difficulty finding the time or extra money to get a book of stamps? Sure. Are there folks with disabilities or folks in more isolated rural areas who might not have easy access to a ballot drop box? Absolutely. But the vast majority of folks have no problem getting a stamp for their ballot or taking it down to their local drop off location. If we want to help those very few who are having difficulty voting under the current system, why is the response to take a step that applies the solution to every single voter in the state? Would it be so difficult to come up with a more narrowly tailored solution to address this problem? No, of course the first response is to just throw a decent sized chunk of taxpayer money at the problem.
If there are those who legitimately need additional help voting under the current system, then we should do what we can to help them. That being said we can’t hold the hand of every voter and walk them down to the ballot drop box ourselves. At some point people have to take responsibility. Not only to find the time to get a stamp or locate the ballot box, but also take the time to flip though the voter pamphlet and look into the candidates. Voting is a right, but like every other right it is coupled with responsibility. The ability for the people to cast a ballot is a form of power, and like Uncle Ben told Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.
SALEM, Ore.–Late Monday, state Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, introduced Senate Bill 1034 to help Oregonian Millennials struggling with student debt. The “Millennial Education Act” will fix Oregon’s tax code to make student debt payments completely tax-free.
“Generations must work together to tackle the tough issues of our day. If anything, I’m hoping to push the envelope, spark a critical conversation and stand up for a generation of vivid, forward-minded future leaders,” said Thomsen. “My bill will provide graduates and our next generation of leaders with an empowering way to pay off student loans faster, while manifesting their dreams and their potential.”
All hell has broken loose amongst the OMG chorus as President Donald Trump has proposed a series of cuts, including elimination of a handful of federal programs, as an offset to needed increases in military spending. Eight years of President Barack Obama, like other progressives before him, has left the military decimated. Richard Sisk writing in the February 17 edition of Military.com noted:
Last week, I decided to attempt a small experiment. I decided to completely de-politicize one of my social networks. I chose Instagram.
I chose Instagram for several reasons. First, it was already one of the least political social networks. Second, even when it did occasionally get political, it still promoted artful photographs of politics that are (or at least feel) less staged than what I see on Facebook and Twitter.
So I unfollowed all the professional politicians and political groups (except for the ones I work on). As a result, Instagram is now a utopia of puppies and pancakes. Even when the occasional political post does appear, it’s still a nice photograph of a location or people involved in politics. That is still a significant improvement over the keyboard streetfights that often break out from even the most well-meaning people on Facebook and Twitter.
I think social media has been a net gain to politics but it certainly has its issues. Creating a happy place on one social network is a good way to help survive our new public square. I highly recommend it.
by Cascade Policy Institute Monday, March 20. 2017
By Steve Buckstein
Oregon now has the chance to become an early adopter of a universal Education Savings Account program. An ESA program allows Kindergarten through 12th grade students to use part of the state funds allocated to their local school districts for other educational expenses and services of their choice, such as private or home schools, tutors, and online courses. Funds not used by the student in a given year can be rolled over, all the way to college.
Senate Bill 437 as Introduced would allow 100 percent of the average annual state funding (currently $8,781) for disabled and low-income students, and 90 percent for all other students, to fund ESAs for any students wishing to use them. This likely would result in a $200 million fiscal impact on the state and local school districts combined. A small price to pay for educational freedom, but not likely to happen in a legislative session facing a budget shortfall.
So, the bill has been amended to virtually eliminate any negative fiscal impact. It lowers ESA accounts to $6,000 for disabled and low-income students and $4,500 for all other students. These accounts represent real money…for real educational opportunities…for every student—with no fiscal impact on the state budget. Continue reading →
We had a relatively slow week in Salem, so I thought I would change focus just this once. Thursday the Senate did a very wonderful thing during our floor session. We only heard one bill, and that was a memorial to Senator Alan Bates who passed away this last summer. We think this is the first time the Senate has taken this type of singular action, and in this case, it was totally appropriate. Alan’s family was here and quite a few Senators, including me, told stories about Alan and I thought it was a wonderful way for us to remember a colleague and friend.
Over the course of the last 16 years Alan and I worked together on a great number of issues in the area of health care. In fact, we were two of the major players in creating the pathway to what ultimately became Coordinated Care Organizations. This work started when we were both members of the House and the Republicans had the majority. It continued when we both moved to the Senate and the Democrats had the majority. The reason I mentioned these facts is because it had very little to do with the work we were able to accomplish together. Many of the issues we deal with are not divided based on political party lines, and that definitely goes for the work Senator Bates and I were able to accomplish. Whether the issue was something like scope of practice or drug addiction or any number of other topics the only thing that mattered was, “will this help people?” and, “is it the right way to do it.”
But, beyond the policy work we did together, we were also good friends. In this process one can develop good relationships with the people you serve with, even if you disagree with them on the issues. However, there are some people with whom you develop a very special relationship, and for me Alan was definitely one of those types of friendships.
I am going to keep this short, but I did want to acknowledge my friend and publicly thank him for the many great things he did both in his community and for the state of Oregon.
Senator Doctor Alan Bates will long be remembered by those of us who had the privilege of serving with him. I personally will keep him in my heart and also in my mind as we continue to move forward on the various issues we worked on together for almost two decades. Alan, you will be missed.
Note from the Editor: This was originally published in the Senator Jeff Kruse email newsletter on March 17, 2017.
Oregon Congressman Greg Walden made a strong defense of the Ryan Health Plan on Fox News. The bill is being hotly debated, criticized and lobbied from many different fronts. Watch the Fox News clip below.
Josh Lehner, the super smart protégé of Tom Potiowsky at the Oregon Department of Economic Analysis, posted an interesting fact on his agency’s blog recently. More new jobs were created producing alcoholic beverages than writing software from 2008-2016. Oregon’s software industry has been growing rapidly in the past decade, but that has gotten lots of attention over the years. Until Lehner made this contrast, Oregon’s robust array of breweries, wineries, and distilleries have largely been taken for granted. Continue reading →
A few months ago I made the mistake of signing up for Governor Kate Brown’s “Social Action Team” which coincidentally is just her campaign email list. I like to know what is going on in Oregon politically, so I figured this would be a great way to stay up to date on what our Governor is doing. Here are just a few of my experiences.
On March 14th I received an email about how “right-wing national Republicans are serving up their anti-women agenda.” The very next day March 15th I received another email about how “The health plan from national Republicans would be a major reversal for women’s rights.” and during Women’s History Month no less! Of course to fight back against those anti-woman bastards in the GOP, at the bottom of the email we were encouraged to donate $10 or more to Kate Brown’s campaign committee.
Oregon is getting some national attention from Conservative news outlets on guns. Specifically, Oregon Senate Bill 941 continues to cause controversy in the legislature as some pro-gun legislators have sought to lift some restrictions in the bill while some anti-gun legislators have sought to add additional restrictions.