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2023 Legislative Session: January 19


The current session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, which opened last week, will be driven by the need to adopt a budget, according to Rep. John Lively, who briefed the Springfield City Club on January 19. Rep. Lively said that as the session opens, it appears that the state will face a deficit of more the $500 million. While that number is somewhat artificial, because it is based on extrapolating current spending and revenue estimates, the deficit is likely to get worse because revenue estimates are based on assumed population growth and recently Oregon’s population has declined. That shift can be critical for a state like Oregon which is heavily dependent on income taxes for revenue, he said. The challenge is compounded by the fact that Oregon has a new governor: Gov. Kotek is still reviewing a draft budget and it will not be available until February 1. Already, Rep. Lively said, there are requests for billions of dollars in new funds. There are requests for $800 million in additional spending for K-12 education and higher education institutions are seeking multiple billions of dollars in new funding. While all the requests, he added, are for good things, all the need simply cannot be met. Although the legislative policy committees may seek to fund many of these alternatives, the need of the Ways and Means committees to assure that the budget is balanced may leave many of these needs unfulfilled.

The 2023 session is, for the first time in three years, being held within the Capitol building. After two years operating remotely because of the pandemic, legislators are now able to conduct hearings in person and meet in session on the floor. Even though the legislature is once again meeting at the Capitol, there is much that is new about how the public can interact. Most of the capitol is closed to the public for renovation and seismic upgrades and those who wish to participate in the legislative process must adapt to some new methods of operation. More information on that topic can be found online at the Oregon Legislative Information Service (OLIS). Two important links discuss how to submit testimony to the Legislature SUBMIT TESTIMONY. and how to attend committee meetings remotely ONLINE VERBAL TESTIMONY. Even the most minor details of changes can be important. Rep. Lively, who is now serving his sixth term in the legislature is now representing District 7, which covers much the same geographical area as did his former district 12. The significance of the detail is that even his phone number has changed. Since phone numbers are assigned based on the district number, he now can be reached at 503-986-1407.

This session has an unusually large number of new legislators. Rep. Lively said that 21 of the 60 members of the House of Representatives have never served in the Legislature and even more are not familiar with how the legislature operates in the Capitol. Rep. Lively observed that over two-thirds of the members of the Economic Development and Small Business Committee on which he serves, are new to the legislature.

The highest priority policy issues for this session will probably not come as a surprise to Oregonians according to Rep. Lively. He said that housing and homelessness is high on everyone’s agenda. Climate change has been a major issue at most sessions in the recent past and will be again. There was significant funding for behavioral health initiatives in the last session, and there will be efforts to sustain that going forward. Everyone, he said, is dissatisfied with what is happening in K-12 education. While he said the Student Success Act approved in the last session has done some good there are still difficulties in how a student’s progress is being evaluated. Expansion of broadband service will also be a priority as the Legislature works to assure that federal money becoming available is effectively applied in the state. Likewise, federal money to expand American production of semiconductors will become available this year and the legislature must develop a way to effectively use it.

Turning to his personal priorities for the session, Rep. Lively first mentioned the work he is doing to create a conversation on how to develop and implement Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities rules, an area where he is working closely with Springfield officials to develop a better solution than the one size fits all that has emerged from the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Rep. Lively also is interested in raising the threshold at which the Oregon Estate Tax begins to apply. At $1 million. It nis among the lowest in the nation. He would like to see the threshold raised so that it affects fewer people, noting that even a modest family that owns a $500,000 home (not unusual in Oregon at present) could find itself subject to the Estate tax.

In response to a question, he said he will be working to develop legislation which can ease the burden on constructing affordable homes by providing state support to encourage cities to reduce or eliminate system development charges on affordably priced homes. While he said Springfield is moving in that direction on its own, the SDC funds that are foregone are needed to assure that infrastructure can be built to support development. While the charges don’t have a major impact on higher cost homes, they can be a real impediment to developing lower cost housing.

Rep. Lively was asked about legislative steps that might be taken to deal with recent initiatives approved by the voters. On the health care initiative, he does not expect significant action. While the measure enshrines in the constitution the right to heath care, no funding was supported. He noted that Oregon actually has a fairly good system of health care but that to make it completely universal would require billions of dollars that simply do not exist.
He does expect the legislature to try to make some changes to help implement the provisions of Measure 110 which decriminalizes possession of certain substances. The roll out of the measure was less than satisfactory, and the state us still seeking a way to get people to take advantage of the o to receive treatment reduce drug dependency.

He also said that Senator Prozanski, whose district now includes Springfield, will be looking to how to implement Measure 114 in a way that is consistent with the will of the voters and the constitution, but that it is not likely that much will be finalized while current litigation is pending. The legislature will, he said, be asked to provide funding for expanded background checks.

Finally, when asked about the status of the Road User Fee project he said that the work ODOT has done has clearly demonstrated that it is a more equitable way to fund road maintenance and operations than is the fuel tax, it now remains to aid a date by which the state will require that new vehicles be subject to the charge in lieu of the fuel tax.

In this session, Rep. Lively is serving as the Chair of the Committee on Gambling Regulation and the Chair of the Committee on Higher Education, as well as serving on the Economic Development and Small Business Committee and as an alternate on the Committee on Conduct.

For those of you who missed Representative Lively’s preview of the legislative session, the video is available on Facebook at this link: WATCH VIDEO.


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