Sausage and Laws Oregon State Legislature sent this bulletin at
07/08/2015. Oregon State Senator Doug Whitsett July 2015
newsletter, District 28
End of Session Review - Senator Doug
Whitsett and Rep Gail Whitsett
by Senator Doug Whitsett
An old political cliché says there are two things you never want
to see being made—laws and sausage. Oregon’s recently adjourned
2015 regular legislative session was an unfortunate example. In
my opinion, it was the easily the most partisan, anti-business,
anti-family values session in our State’s history.
Republicans are in the super-minority in the Senate, and
Democrats are only one vote away from having a super-majority in
the House. Despite that political disadvantage, my office and
Rep. Gail Whitsett’s office were able to work with the majority
party to help craft and pass a series of successes for rural
Many of these common-sense bills were the product of much
behind-the-scenes work. They were passed on broad bipartisan
margins in both legislative chambers. Some were bills that I
have discussed in previous newsletters. They were aimed at
solving seemingly simple problems that became complicated enough
to warrant making changes in the law.
As members of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, we
helped to secure nearly $20 million in bonding for building
projects at Klamath Community College (KCC) and Oregon Tech. We
worked with our Republican caucuses to help pass budgets that
provide the largest amount of funding in history for Oregon’s
K-12 schools, as well as nearly 30 percent funding increases for
Oregon universities and community colleges. These budget
increases will directly benefit Oregon Tech, Oregon State
University East, KCC and Central Oregon Community College.
A nearly $400 million project to seismically retrofit the State
Capitol Building with borrowed money was scuttled largely due to
strong Republican opposition. We were vocal in that dissent. The
money will instead go towards more than $300 million in bonding
capacity to seismically retrofitting and repairing school
buildings across the state.
House Bill 3329 was signed into law by Governor Brown on June 4.
Current law requires at least 1.5 percent of the total contract
price of certain public improvement contracts for construction,
reconstruction or major renovation of a public building to be
spent on “green energy,” usually solar panels. The bill modifies
the standard by which geothermal energy qualifies as a type of
green energy technology. It allows the Klamath County School
District to use the Henley geothermal well to meet that
requirement. This was a huge win for Henley Elementary School.
Governor Brown singed SB 953 into law June 16. The bill will
enable the district to obtain a clean title for the old school
gym property in Bly. The Edsall family gifted the property to
the school district over 85 years ago but it is no longer in
use. A condition of the deed was that if the property was not
used for school purposes for two years, it would revert back to
the family. But members of the family who were contacted
indicated that they did not want the property back. Specific
legislation was necessary to ensure that the district can sell
HB 2501 was signed into law June 22. It will require the Oregon
Department of Forestry to report damages to private property
caused by wildfires to the state’s Emergency Board. This will
provide a clearer picture of the true extent of the devastating
harm caused by these catastrophic events.
SB 161 was signed into law June 16. It will ensure that business
owners will not be required to pay personal property taxes that
they did not incur, but are being held liable to pay. The bill
will provide immediate relief to a small business in Grants Pass
that found itself in this situation through no fault of its own.
We worked hard to enact other bills that passed both chambers on
wide margins but that were amended as part of the process.
SB 206-A will authorize the temporary transfer of the place of
use of a water right, as well as temporary in-stream leasing of
a water right, subject to the administrative phase of the
Klamath River adjudication. It does so without endorsing either
the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement or the removal of the
Klamath River hydroelectric dams. Irrigators throughout the area
will be able to more efficiently use their remaining water due
to this piece of legislation.
HB 2392-B was sponsored by Rep. Whitsett, and will require the
Oregon State Lottery to withhold prizes of over $600 to persons
that have not repaid overpayment of certain public benefits. It
prioritizes the payment of any past-due child support before the
recovery of overpayment of prior public assistance.
Also sponsored by Rep. Whitsett was HB 2392-A. It was inspired
by a high-profile incident in Klamath Falls involving the mass
abuse of food stamp programs intended for our most needy
citizens. This bill simply requires the state Department of
Human Services to issue specific types of public assistance
through electronic benefits transfer cards. Any cards issued to
replace a lost or stolen card must display the name of the
individual to whom the card is issued.
Rep. Whitsett and I both co-sponsored HB 3148-A, which passed
the House and Senate unanimously. That bill will benefit some of
those who lost their homes in last year’s Sprague River
Also passed unanimously was SB 864-A, which I co-sponsored. This
bill will require the Department of Revenue (DOR) to recognize
natural resource tax credits on estates that are located in both
Oregon and California.
We introduced and successfully established provisions in HB
2171-A that will force the DOR to stop targeting Kingsley Field
military staff for income tax audits. Revenue auditors were
asserting that many of those who are stationed at Kingsley Field
are residents of Oregon for the purpose of income taxes. This
bill will unequivocally stop that abuse.
HB 2075-B levies a two-cent increase in jet fuel tax that will
create funding to specifically benefit our local commercial air
service in Klamath Falls.
I worked throughout the last interim and during the session to
help craft SB 55-B. This bill will greatly improve the processes
used to collect passed due debts owed to the state.
We co-sponsored and passed bills honoring Oregon Tech Basketball
Coach Danny Miles, Oregon Pioneer Abigail Scott Dunaway, Oregon
astronaut Don Pettit and MC Ranch owner Willliam “Bill Kitt"
Kittridge. Coach Miles and members of the Kittridge family were
able to be on the Senate floor to accept the Senate’s highest
honor. Oregon astronaut Pettit is a college classmate and former
study-mate of Rep. Whitsett at OSU.
The legislative session was challenging to say the least. But it
was also rewarding in many ways. In all, we were able to
overcome a very partisan environment to focus on and help to
pass at least 35 bills that will improve the lives of people
throughout rural Oregon.
Many very bad bills were enacted into law by the partisan
majority. Other bad bills that did not pass will likely return
in different forms for the upcoming February 2016 session. But
in the meantime, we are happy to be returning home after working
through a grueling legislative session.
Please remember--if we do not stand up for rural Oregon, no one
Senate District 28
Email: Sen.DougWhitsett@state.or.us I Phone: 503-986-1728
Address: 900 Court St NE, S-311, Salem, OR, 97301
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