Notes from Salem

This is Uglier Than Watching Sausage Being Made…

The 2007 Legislature is in full swing and it’s getting ugly fast for those of us who believe in individual liberty, economic opportunity and personal responsibility. One month into the session and Oregon’s Democrat-controlled government is already moving the following proposals:

Education: SB 392 requires every Oregon parent to send their child to Kindergarten”” expanding the public school system by an additional year.

The Department of Education finally admitted they will try to close Oregon Connections Academy, the state’s online charter school, in 2010. DOE could care less about the 1,500 students who already attend the charter school and love it. Supporters are trying to move a bill (HB 2037) that keeps ORCA open passed 2010 but the teachers union opposes us and expects every Democrat legislator to back them up.

At a hearing on the bill held on February 6th, I joined others in trying to defend the school. You can listen to our testimony here. The best sections are:

– Steve Buckstein from Cascade Policy Institute calls the teachers union “Luddites” for resisting online schools @ 00:57:32
– If you can stomach her lies, the OEA (teachers union) rep pretends to care about school quality when she testifies after Steve.
– Rob Kremer blasts the Department of Education for lying to his face and plotting to secretly destroy ORCA @ 1:25:52
– I testify @ 1:40:55 and describe the overwhelming demand for ORCA from Oregon parents and students.

The teachers union will also be pushing a bill this session to strangle all charter schools and force them into the union’s collective bargaining units. We’re still waiting for that bill to appear.

Legislators are moving a package of bills to give income and property tax breaks to ethanol and biofuel producers and users (HB 2210, HB 2211, HB 2212). These types of “incentives” will not likely produce the outcome the government planners desire, and they seldom do more than enrich a few business people and farmers. Last session Democrats called tax credits such as these “Tax Expenditures” and cried that they stole money from public education. This session they are important and necessary and the loss to school funding has not been mentioned. Curious.

The Governor will also be pushing a measure to require all utilities to purchase a certain amount of “Renewable Energy” (the figure will likely be 25% but hydro does not count). Since this type of energy costs more, your energy bills will be going up. This is a hidden tax on every Oregonian but it hurts the poorest families the most. The bill has not appeared yet.

Taxes: Besides all the hidden tax increases headed your way, there are a few they won’t be hiding. Since we all hate evil corporations, the legislature will be asking the voters to end the Corporate Kicker and put it into a fund for education (SJR 3 and SB 48). Plus they intend to increase the cigarette tax to pay for health insurance for every child in families earning up to $75,000 (HB 2201). Plus, five House Republicans recently announced they favor lowering the income tax and adding a sales tax in Oregon. And the hits keep coming…

Democracy: Two movements are underway at the Capitol that should give pause to anyone who supports democracy. The new Democrat majority in the Legislature is considering doing away with or greatly curtailing the ability to amend bills in committee and on the House and Senate floor. So called ‘Minority Reports” allow members to offer substitute language for bills facing a final vote before the entire membership. Without them, the process becomes far more dictatorial and less deliberative.

Secondly, the House Elections, Ethics and Rules Committee is holding hearings on how to “fix” Oregon’s initiative process. One concept being considered would require 10,000 signatures before petitioners could even receive a ballot title from the Secretary of State. That should give you a pretty good idea what they are after. Any legislation that comes from this committee’s work will be designed to cripple the initiative process. These two items are direct attacks on the very concept of democratic rule.

Public Union Expansion: Portland Senator Kate Brown has sponsored a host of bills to expand public unions by including most supervisors (SB 400, SB 401, SB 402). This is so frightening that it’s gotten the attention of the League of Oregon Cities which is not a conservative organization. There are so many bills this session to expand the scope and influence of the public employee unions that I can’t list them all here. As an example, Senator Ryan Deckert has a bill to create the Oregon Educators Benefit Board (SB 426) which would have the state providing health care packages for every teacher in the state (they are currently provided by each district).

This is only the beginning. After all, this is Oregon. Where “we love dreamers!” Stay tuned for more updates…

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