TOP STORY: Legislative Update & Constituent Coffee
As you likely know, the Oregon legislature started a short legislative session on February 3. We’re almost three weeks in and, while there’s still a lot of work to be done, we’ve already had some major accomplishments that I wanted to share with you.
Earlier this week, two bills that we’ve been championing passed the House of Representatives. The first, House Bill 4143, you may have read about in The Oregonian or Willamette Week. Currently, Oregon is one of only two states where residual funds from class actions revert to the offending party. I think this is wrong and should be changed.
Under House Bill 4143, defendants who are found liable will no longer be able to retain unclaimed class action funds, and these funds will endow legal aid services in Oregon for decades to come. Oregon’s legal aid services provide civil representation for those Oregonians who are least likely to be able to fight for their own interests - seniors, children, victims of domestic violence, as well as those who live in poverty, lack access to technology, or may be living with a disability.
The other bill addresses a topic you’ve no doubt heard about from me before: sufficient and innovative infrastructure financing. House Bill 4111 is the result of months of work by a task force I’ve co-chaired: the Infrastructure Innovation Task Force.
This legislation addresses our infrastructure needs in two ways:
First, It sets up the Public Infrastructure Commission to monitor trends in the infrastructure financing field and consider policy changes that Oregon might need to make to take advantage of the best models. As part of that, the bill requires that certain large infrastructure projects be screened to determine whether they could be a good fit for alternative procurement methods.
Second, the bill formally recognizes Oregon’s participation in the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange, which will use regional best practices to address the $1 billion in infrastructure needs on the West Coast.
By taking advantage of the chance to marry private agility with public accountability - to stretch taxpayer dollars and deliver greater value - we can unleash enormous potential by ensuring the infrastructure our economy needs.
There are other bills our office will continue working to support in the next few weeks, like the Investment Modernization Act, legislation extending the state’s 911 tax to pre-paid cell phones, and the Aspirations to College Bill.
Please stay tuned for more updates as the legislative session continues. The legislature must adjourn by March 11, but it's possible we'll be able to conclude our business before then. We'll keep you posted.
As always, I welcome your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions.
Please join me this Saturday, February 22 for coffee and conversation.
The short legislative session is in full swing and I look forward to hearing your perspectives on the work we're doing down in Salem.
For those of you who attend regularly, I look forward to seeing you. If you haven't been to a constituent coffee before, please consider joining us.
I hope to see you Saturday morning.
Save the Date for the next Constituent Coffee on March 15.
Posted on February 20, 2014.