Watch Out; Predictions for the 2024 Short Session

Excerpts from Rep. Scharf’s newsletter on 1-31-24…

Measure 110 Plan: 
The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response released a framework  on Jan. 23rd in respond to soaring overdose deaths and widespread open-air drug use on Oregon streets. However, it fell short of delivering on what voters are saying in every poll – Recriminalize drugs.   (Willamette Week).

The Democrat framework has:

  • No ban on public use and no protections for innocent children waiting in public confined spaces, like MAX stops, for public transit.
  • No escalation penalties for drug dealers who reoffend or for drug dealers who deliver drugs and it results in the death of an individual.
  • The proposal says it recriminalizes the possession of hard drugs, but it doesn’t.  It makes the offense a Class C misdemeanor. That is the equivalent of shoplifting.  In addition, local jurisdictions are prohibited from prosecuting the ticket unless they have a “Deflection Program” in place. A new program that has no current funding path and is just like the current M110 “E-Ticket”. It will result in the same thing we have today which is cite and release.
  • The framework proposes additional burdens for our ever-dwindling pharmacies. At a time when pharmacies around the state are closing on a daily basis, and rural communities are disproportionately affected by those closures, this is the last thing they need. The framework allows pharmacists to prescribe and dispense emergency refills of medication to treat opioid addiction and then requires health insurance plans to reimburse the cost.  Hours of paperwork and the elimination of actual engagement with substance abuse specialists is not a solution.

If the framework is any indication of what will be in the actual bill it is not a solution. It does not provide law enforcement with clear, meaningful solutions to this crisis. It does not protect communities from the continuation of hazardous public drug use. It does not incentivize addicts to seek treatment or face actual consequences. The Democrats “Deflection Plan” is a denial of the crisis and a death sentence for addicts who need help.

The ongoing lies from state agencies:

‘Hush-Hush’ Tax Study: 
This month, members of a legislatively mandated task force on alcohol prices and addiction BEGAN meeting to study the cost of alcoholism in Oregon and to look for ways the state could improve prevention and treatment services. One mandate of the task force is to examine the benefits and drawbacks of increasing taxes on wine and beer. Increasing the beer and wine tax was a goal of Rep. Sanchez (D-Portland) during the 2021 Session, whom introduced a bill that would have increased beer, wine and cider tax by ~27 times the current rate. The intent to be to curb alcohol sales.

However, the Oregon Health Authority already knows the answer – but it’s kept the findings of a $60,000 study it commissioned hush hush. The agency never publicly released the 2021 ECONorthwest study, which had clear findings indicating that raising alcohol taxes would do little to curb heavy drinking and its impacts (The Oregonian).

I find it ironic that we want to increase alcohol taxes to try to curb alcohol abuse, yet still allow small amounts of methamphetamine to be used publicly.

Graduation Rates:
Oregon’s high school graduation rate plateaued in the pandemic’s wake, new data released Jan. 25 from the Oregon Department of Education shows. The 81.3% of the class of 2023 who graduated on time is identical to the rate posted by the class of 2022, which was Oregon’s second highest graduation rate (The Oregonian).  However, in 2023 the Oregon Department of Education decided to continue the 2020 pause on the requirement that  graduating seniors demonstrate basic mastery of reading, writing or math in order to graduate from high school.  Then plan to continue the pause until at least 2029.

So, the question is are the graduation rates really that good are is Oregon just graduating kids into the world without the skills necessary to be successful?

Money Problems  

The main goal of a short session is to balance the state’s budget, although the last several short sessions, this has not been the case. While recent revenue forecasts have continued to show upward momentum and a stabilizing economy, legislators are preparing for a tightening financial reality. We’ll know more after the the Feb. 7th revenue forecast is revealed, but here is what we know now:

Hidden Fees Ahead warning sign

  • ODOT does not have enough funding for winter road maintenance and is seeking an additional $19 million in funds.
  • OHCS has no way of tracking where the $426 million of pandemic rent relief went according to a recent audit by the Secretary of State. Agencies should be held accountable and taxpayer dollars should not go missing.
  • ODFW needs more money to fight wildland fires and some legislators want to increase your annual fees if you own property.
  • SB 1537 (the housing bill mentioned above) requires an additional $500 million!
  • M110 legislation will of course cost more dollars, but that is to be determined by what legislation is passed and the ending fiscal amount.

Where is all of this money going to come from?

Other Political moves to watch for during session:

House Speaker:
House Speaker Dan Rayfield, Corvallis, has filed to run for Attorney General.  However, he has so far committed to remaining Speaker of the House through the 2024 Short Session.

The Democrats are not wasting time in teeing up a successor. They met January 22, as a caucus and nominated Rep. Julie Fahey, Eugene to succeed Rep. Dan Rayfield as the next Oregon House speaker (The Oregonian). However, this change of leadership still requires a vote of all 60 members of the House. That vote will most likely be the last order of business for the 2024 session.

Political talking points: 
The other thing to watch for is political race talking points. This will happen on both sides of the aisle but specifically from the gamut of elected officials who are running for offices outside the Oregon State Legislature:

  • Senator Steiner (D-Porland) is running for State Treasurer.
  • Senator Manning (D – Eugene) is running for Secretary of State.
  • Representative Rayfield (D- Corvallis) is running for Attorney General.
  • Representative Maxine Dexter (D-Portland) is running for Congressional District 3 which is being vacated by Earl Blumenauer.
  • Representative Jannell Bynum (D – Portland) has announced but has not filled to run for Congressional District 5, currently held by Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R – Happy Valley).

Date: 2024-01-31 11:20

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Receive Email Notifications?