Oregon’s 2017 legislative session officially adjourned on the afternoon of Friday, July 7. It was my first-ever session serving as a freshman senator, and it was a very educational and eye-opening experience.
As of early July, the attorneys in Legislative Counsel had produced 4,871 bill drafts, which resulted in 2,827 measures being introduced. Approximately 3,754 amendments were drafted for those bills, 655 of which were enrolled in the days before we ended the session.
What’s worth noting is that, contrary to popular perception, the vast majority of the bills we passed were not controversial. Many were the products of work groups or interim committees that met for months before the session with stakeholders to solve simple problems. Most were passed out of committee, the House and the Senate on unanimous, bipartisan votes, and consisted of technical fixes and other slight legal adjustments.
On one hand, it would be easy to disparage what didn’t get done in Salem over the last five months. Nothing was done to address the long-term financial shortfalls in the state’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Even though we passed an $8.2 billion education budget that was an 11 percent increase over that of the 2015-17 biennium, some school districts are having to make cuts at the local level. That is because their contributions to PERS continue to grow over time, diverting resources away from paying teachers and providing smaller class sizes for our students. This problem will only grow worse over time if we continue to not do anything about it.
I worked throughout the entire session in bipartisan fashion, with senators and representatives from both parties, on helping to craft revenue reform. Those efforts ultimately faltered, but I will continue to study this issue in the coming months and collaborate with others to try to come up with a system that is stable and adequately meets our citizens’ needs.
Funding was secured for several projects throughout the district that I represent in the Senate. They include $6 million for capital improvements at Southern Oregon University’s Central Hall, $1 million to restore Medford’s Holly Theatre, $750,000 for the Harry and David Baseball Park and $2 million for the Family Nurturing Center Rogue Valley Children’s Relief Nursery.
A comprehensive, statewide transportation package was also approved, and I supported it. Jackson County will be set to receive a total of $56 million in funds from now until 2027. The City of Ashland will receive $4.9 million in that same time period. Jacksonville’s share will be $699,100, Medford’s will be $18.7 million, Phoenix will receive just over $1 million and Talent will receive around $1.5 million.
The Legislature will not convene again until the week of Sept. 18 for a round of interim committee meetings. That will be followed by more meetings the week of November 13.
I plan to hold town hall meetings in Medford, Phoenix and Talent in the coming weeks and will announce the details as soon as they are finalized. It’s an honor serving you in the Oregon Senate.
— Sen. Alan DeBoer represents District 3 in the Oregon Senate.