Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An update from Rep. Tina Kotek HD44

This is from Tina Kotek our state Representative.
A section of her letter is very pertinent to us in Bridgeton floating homes and I highlighted it in RED font

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 76th Oregon Legislature convened in Salem on January 10th. We installed the first Oregon governor elected to serve three terms, selected leadership for the first-ever evenly divided House of Representatives, and organized committees in preparation to address a historic slate of challenges including a $3.5 billion budget deficit, continuing high unemployment, and essential services stretched beyond capacity.

I am honored to have been elected the Co-Speaker Pro Tempore for the House, sharing the position with my colleague Representative Andy Olson from Albany. In addition to this leadership role, I will continue to serve as Co-Chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services (sharing that role with Representative Tim Freeman from Roseburg) and a member of the full Joint Committee on Ways and Means. These committee assignments mean that I will be deeply involved in crafting the state's next two-year budget. I am committed to protecting crucial funding for education, human services, and public safety as we strive to do the work of state government differently in these cash-strapped times.

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to the 40+ people who attended my Community Conversation earlier this month. I really enjoyed the discussion. I hope you did, too.

Keeping the Focus on Our Neighborhoods

This session I will be focusing on several bills that address concerns unique to North and Northeast Portland but have statewide relevance as well. These bills reflect the conversations I've had with many you about the issues facing our communities, and I'll look to you again to work with me on these challenges in the coming months. A few of my 2011 legislative priorities include:

· Problem Bars and Taverns: I will introduce, with Senator Jackie Dingfelder, a bill to improve public safety by providing local governments the ability to suspend liquor licenses temporarily in the aftermath of a serious incident like a shooting, giving the Oregon Liquor Control Commission additional enforcement tools to address problem establishments, and adding a public safety expert to the membership of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

· Manufactured Home Rent Stability: On behalf of the Hayden Island Livability Project, I'm working on a bill that will protect residents of manufactured home, mobile home, and houseboat communities from exorbitant rent increases. These residents are in a unique position in that they own their homes, but must rent the physical space underneath. Often, they can't move their property because of the condition or age of their residence - even if they wanted to do so. The bill would allow local governments to intervene on this issue.

· Police Oversight: After the repeated tragedies of police shootings in our community, it's clear that we need to do more to ensure that our law enforcement officers are being appropriately trained in the reasonable use of deadly force and that incidents are appropriately addressed when they do occur. I'm working with Representative Lew Frederick from neighboring House District 43 on bills to respond to these recent events and to make sure we do everything possible to avoid similar incidents in the future.

· Foreclosures: I look forward to supporting "good neighbor" legislation again this session to address the problem of abandoned properties in our neighborhoods. I have signed on to House Bill 2957, which would allow local governments to take action when an abandoned foreclosed property is posing a threat to public safety and heath. I also plan to lend my support to bills that will require more accountability from banks and loan servicers, not only for people who are in foreclosure, but also their tenants, neighbors, and communities.

What Are Refund Anticipation Loans?

As tax season is upon us, many people turn to tax preparers like H&R Block and Liberty Tax Service to do their taxes. These services are popular, but can come with hidden predatory loans. Refund Anticipation Loans, also known as RALs, are short-term loans that tax preparation companies offer to filers so they can get their tax refund right away instead of waiting for the IRS to process their refund. Unfortunately, these loans come loaded with extra fees and very high interest rates - from 50 percent up to 500 percent. Families strapped for cash are pressured into these loans without being fully informed of their actual cost. In fact, in 2008, working families in Oregon lost an estimated $8 million in RAL-related fees, with lower-income families being disproportionately affected.

Tax preparation companies need to be held responsible for providing full information to consumers about the loan products they are offering and being up front with any associated fees. I'm working with advocates to introduce a bill called the Tax Preparation Transparency Act. This law would prohibit add-on fees, require all tax preparers who offer RALs to be registered with the Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners, and ban deceptive loan sales practices. It's unacceptable for these companies to continue to misrepresent the cost of their loan products to consumers.

To join the fight against RALs, visit the Economic Fairness Oregon website.To locate a free tax preparation site, check out the nonprofit CASH Oregon website.

As the session moves forward, I look forward to hearing your comments on these and other priorities - so please keep in touch!

Best wishes,

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