Bridgeton: one of Portland Oregon's smallest, but most unique, neighborhoods
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Follow Up To Rep. Koteks's Townhall
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We had a great turnout at our town hall meeting last Saturday.
Thank you to all of you who spent a sunny morning with Representative Lew Frederick, Senator Chip Shields, and me discussing what's happening down here at the Capitol. We had about 100 folks join us in the Moriarty Auditorium at PCC Cascade (thank you PCC for hosting us). I hope the town hall was as informative and valuable for you as it was for us.
In following up from that event, I wanted to share some information about how you can help to shape the future of Oregon through advocacy and involvement. There are lots of opportunities to get involved - whether it's attending a town hall, emailing my colleagues, or volunteering to serve on a board or commission. It's important for many voices to be heard, and it's easy to be involved at whatever level suits you and your schedule.
Update on the Human Services Budget
One of the primary responsibilities of the state legislature is to pass a balanced budget for the next two years. As a Co-Chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services, a great deal of my time and effort has been focused on this part of the state's budget. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas where the cuts are likely to be the deepest - and the one where the needs are the greatest.
Since the start of session, I have been meeting with people and organizations who would be negatively affected by proposed cuts. Here's a sampling: Over the past week, I've met with service providers for seniors and people with disabilities who face some of the deepest cuts, parents who need Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to give their kids a safe home, and state hospital workers for whom the budget determines not only the services available to the individuals they care for, but also their own safe work setting. The fact is, every one of these programs deserves state funds at a level that is simply impossible at this time. Our job is to figure out how we can govern as effectively as possible in a very tight fiscal environment.
Alex Berke in my office prepared an overview of some of the proposed cuts in the human services area. This summary will give you some idea of the challenges we face.
Speaking Up, Staying Informed
If you've heard about a bill moving forward that catches your interest, one way to get involved is to testify in front of a committee at a public hearing on the bill. You can find the committee agendas online to find out when a hearing is scheduled. If you want to support a bill, it's often helpful to contact the bill's chief sponsor to let them know you'd like to be involved, and they may have suggestions about how you could be the most effective. If you know an organization or legislator is opposing a bill, contact them for advice as well. Also, the committee administrator (whose number is listed at the top of each agenda) is a great resource for details about the hearing. The Citizen's Guide to the Oregon Legislative Processis chock full of helpful information.
Not everyone likes to speak in public - and not everyone can drive down to Salem for a public hearing. To express your opinion about a bill, you can email, call, or write a letter to the members of the committee to which it was assigned. The Legislature's website has committee membership information to help you find out who to contact. The most persuasive information involves a personal story and some good facts or data. One-line emails from non-constituents are not very effective at getting attention for your issue, so put some time into your letter to make it personalized for maximum effectiveness.
Simply want to read a bill being considered or find out where it is in the legislative process? The Legislature's websitemakes it easy to track down the information you want.
We have some very difficult budget decisions ahead of us before we adjourn in June. If there is a program or service that's important to you, please speak up and let us know what you think. At the town hall, for example, I spoke with a mother who is concerned about potential cuts to Head Start. Another person spoke about the need to protect programs that help individuals leaving prison to succeed, particularly parents. The Joint Ways and Means Committee is the final budget committee. Here are their names:
Oregon has a lot of opportunities for citizens to be appointed to special boards and commissions. In fact, there are more than 220 boards and commissions that address a huge array of issues. Most appointments require a commitment of 10 to 15 hours each month, with 2 or 4 year terms. Governor Kitzhaber is constantly filling appointments to these positions. If you are interested, you can find all the information you need at the Executive Appointments website. You can also contact Kendall Clawson, the Governor's Executive Appointments Director, with any questions: 503-378-8471 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senate Bill 766
I've heard from many people about Senate Bill 766, and we had questions about it at the town hall. In brief, the bill creates new designations for industrial projects and places with certain requirements. The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Business, Transportation, and Economic Development on April 19, and is now in Ways and Means. The committee adopted the 14th set of amendments drafted for the bill, and you can find the amended version here. I'm studying this issue carefully, and I welcome your thoughts about the bill.
As always, I welcome your feedback on the work I'm doing in Salem. Please be in touch!
P.S. Thanks to those of you who pointed out the use of "NoPo" in the header of my March 25th newsletter. Like many of you, I'm not a big fan of the term. It slipped by me while proofreading, and I'm sorry to those of you who find it problematic. But, it raises a good question: What's the best way to refer to District 44? I usually say my district is "N/NE Portland," but I'm not sure that term does it justice. I'd love to hear any suggestions, especially considering all the amazing creative resources in district!