“It’s critical that we have public participation in these hearings”
Oregon House Republicans are encouraging the public to participate in the process of redistricting this year to ensure accountability.
This once-a-decade procedure is required by both the U.S. and Oregon Constitutions to redraw congressional and state legislative district boundaries to reflect changes in population identified by the U.S. Census. Redistricting is mandated to ensure that legislative districts accurately represent communities of common interest for fair representation by their elected lawmakers.
“The best way for Oregonians to be represented in this process is if they contribute their voices by speaking for themselves,” said House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby.) “We need robust public engagement to better inform our work as we draw new maps. Oregon voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around.”
“It’s critical that we have public participation in these hearings,” emphasized House Redistricting Vice Chair Shelly Boshart Davis (R-Albany.) “Without concrete census data at this time, the public needs to be part of this process to add much-needed accountability to ensure appropriate representation in all of Oregon’s legislative districts.”
Oregon voters from three congressional districts are invited to participate in hearings that start this week, with more scheduled through April.
Residents can sign up to testify at these virtual hearings by visiting the Oregon Legislature’s redistricting website.
To learn how to testify by phone, dial: (833) 588-4500
Written testimony can be submitted to: Oregon.Redistricting@oregonlegislature.gov
Virtual Hearings for Individuals Residing in:
Hearing Times (click on the time to sign up to testify)
(Clatsop, Columbia, part of Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties)
Tuesday, March 9
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Saturday, March 20
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM
(Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, part of Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wasco and Wheeler counties)
Wednesday, March 10
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Saturday, March 20
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
(Part of Clackamas and part of Multnomah counties)
Thursday, March 11
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Saturday, April 10
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM
(Part of Benton, Coos, Curry, Douglas, part of Josephine, Lane and Linn counties)
Tuesday, March 16
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Saturday, April 10
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
(Part of Benton, part of Clackamas, Lincoln, Marion, part of Multnomah, Polk and Tillamook counties)
Regarding eligibility for voting, Article II of the Oregon Constitution, is pretty clear:
(1) Every citizen of the United States is entitled to vote in all elections not otherwise provided for by this Constitution if such citizen:
(a) Is 18 years of age or older;
(b) Has resided in this state during the six months immediately preceding the election, except that provision may be made by law to permit a person who has resided in this state less than 30 days immediately preceding the election, but who is otherwise qualified under this subsection, to vote in the election for candidates for nomination or election for President or Vice President of the United States or elector of President and Vice President of the United States; and
(c) Is registered not less than 20 calendar days immediately preceding any election in the manner provided by law.
SB 776, introduced by Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) looks to undermine the constitution and shift who can vote in school board of director elections. The bill would change a section of law, not the constitution, and permit individuals who are 16 or 17 years of age to cast ballots specifically in school district elections. Within the bill Section 2 reads:
(1) Notwithstanding ORS 247.016(2) or 255.005(6), an individual may vote in all school district elections, including the nomination and election of school directors, if the individual:
(a) Is 16 or 17 years of age;
(b) Has registered to vote in the manner described in ORS 247.012;
(c) Resides at an address that is within the geographic boundaries of the area eligible to cast ballots in the school district election.
What this means is, to vote in a school board election an individual only needs to be over 16 years of age, register to vote more than 20 days prior to the election, typically prior to the May Special Districts Elections, and reside within the school district boundaries.
The constitutional undermining portion of SB 776 is where it references ORS 255.005(6). This statute contains the definitions used in laws governing school board elections. Section 6 defines elector as:
(6) an individual qualified to vote under section 2, Article II, Oregon Constitution
The age in the constitution is 18. This bill is making an exception to the Oregon Constitution and changes the voting age for a specific public office.
There are also other potential consequences in the bill. In the laws that govern who is eligible to seek office as a school board member (director), it states in ORS 332.018:
(2) No person shall be eligible to serve as director unless the person is an elector of the district and has resided therein for the period of one year immediately preceding the election or appointment.
The question needs to be asked, does changing the meaning of elector in SB 776 also change the definition of elector for who is now eligible to serve as a school board member? Maybe that question will be asked and answered when the bill receives a hearing March 11th in the Senate Committee on Rules.
Recommends available federal dollars to fund the initiative
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) released the following statement regarding the Governor’s announcement of a $250 million Summer Learning and Child Care Package:
“The announcement of this investment in our children’s education is a great step forward for Oregon, but long overdue.
As I outlined in April of last year, we owe it to our students to address the education gap they’ve experienced with innovation, leadership and clarity of purpose. One critical component of my plan was a summer school program to reach students who need extra help. While we missed the opportunity to provide this in 2020, I am pleased to see the Governor’s announcement includes this proposal now.
As federal funds continue to flow to Oregon, we should prioritize one-time funding for this initiative to ensure we’re not overburdening Oregonians or the state budget.
Our students need our support, and this proposal finally provides them with the additional enrichment they deserve.”
The interior areas of three historic sites in northern Curry County will remained closed through April 2022 in response to the government mandated lockdown, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) announces.
“Out of an abundance of caution, and due to the current uncertainty, we and our partners decided to keep these facilities closed,” said Casey Nielsen, who manages both parks. “All the staff, volunteers and partners are looking forward to a time when we can safely reopen these interpretative locations and share the rich history in Curry County."
The facilities have remained closed since March 23, 2020, when the virus first hit Oregon. OPRD has kept museums, meeting halls and other indoor facilities closed in response to statewide lockdowns oredered by Governor Kate Brown.
Visitors are being told by ORPD to continue to follow health protocols while visiting state parks: limit the size of gatherings, wear face coverings, give space to others and wash hands often. For more information on what to expect while visiting state parks during the lockdown, visit the ORPD COVID-19 FAQ page.
The Hughes House and Lifeboat Station Museum are operated in partnership between OPRD and the Cape Blanco Heritage Society. OPRD operates the Cape Blanco Lighthouse in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Cape Blanco Heritage Society, Coquille Indian Tribe, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Curry County.
Klamath and Lane County Community Colleges will grow.
Reprsentative E. Werner Reschke (R-Malin) is hoping that residents of North Lake county will soon be served by Klamath Community College instead of the distant Central Oregon Community College. HB 2089 and HB 2091 passed in the House chamber today, carried by Representatives Reschke and Boomer Wright (R-Coos Bay), respectively. HB 2091 expands the district boundaries of Lane Community College.
“I am in favor of expanding the northern boundary that Klamath Community College serves in Lake County, for the simple reason that I know how capable and effective Klamath Community College has been in its efforts to reach out to communities that are not necessarily located just around the corner from its local campus. This is a win for the students and for everyone involved,” said Rep. Reschke.
Next, both bills are headed to the State Senate where they are expected to pass, and if so, then to the Governor’s office for her signature.
E. Werner Reschke is State Representative for House District 56, which encompasses southern Klamath and Lake counties.
Businesses will see their unemployment insurance tax rates go up
Editor's note: This is the third and last of a three-part series on the collapse of small business in Oregon and is reprinted with permission from the blog of Echo Alexzander She and her husband owned FIRST Corvallis, a massage therapy clinic
The National Cost
In part 1 of the series, we reviewed the financial costs and the joke that was failed federal, state, and county-level emergency funding and support for businesses that were deemed by their government non-essential, or worse, made illegal to operate like ours. Part 2 gave a glimpse into the mental health impacts and prices paid by devastated business owners trying to survive and save their life long dream and passion.
As you drive down your main street, through downtown or the historic districts, you likely can't help but see boarded-up businesses, commercial for rent or for lease signs, or just dark vacant windows where a bustling business once operated.
By May of 2020, an estimated 2% of small businesses had closed forever. The impact? Over 100,000 small businesses closed in America in just a few short months. By August of that year, the headlines escalated to state 'Small Businesses Are Dying by the Thousands — And No One Is Tracking the Carnage.' That seems concerning. Shouldn't we want to find out the impact and find ways to stop this trend as quickly as possible? One study by December estimated as many as 800 small businesses a day were permanently closing in the US.
What do those businesses and numbers mean to local communities?
The Climate of Small Business Attack
That isn't how I would like to title my segment on rebuilding small businesses in America, but it feels like the current culture we as small business owners are fighting to survive in. Surely there must be hope on the horizon, right?
Beyond the obvious issue of Walmart, Home Depot, and Costco being essential and small businesses not, what has the US political and financial climate become for businesses to rebuild themselves in?
Why are these being targeted by the IRS? Is this really where there are the most impactful corruption or fraud concerns or are these the ones not involving any important wealthy people, politicians, etc.?
When this article was discussed on a Facebook page I follow at the end of 2020, I expressed my outrage at this insanity and was reminded by another discussion participant that this is how communism starts, the loss of private sector business ownership. What do you think?
How did Oregon close out 2020 for small businesses? An increase in taxes targeted on small businesses. They shared "According to the Oregon Employment Department, about 124,000 businesses will see their unemployment insurance tax rates go up for 2021, about 85% of all businesses in the state."
How can this strategy be beneficial to rebuilding? I'll help answer that one, it isn't.
I think if more Americans understand these impacts, how these closures affect all of us, and how we can make changes in the future, we will be collectively better off. Why do I know we aren't yet there? Because of how one of our own long-standing customers responded to our situation.
By and large, the customer responses to the closure announcement of our business were of their overwhelming love, support, understanding, and empathy.
However, there were others that pointed to where we had clearly been responsible for this business failure based on our personal choices and not working hard enough, or long enough. Sadly she felt the need to reach out to us and place blame in this way: “Running a small business is a challenge. It is 24/7 - hardly a day off - especially for the first years. From your postings, I know you two like to take trips and being away from your business like that is fatal to any kind of growth.”
No. No business should run your life. Of course, there are likely to be seasons of hustle and long hours as an entrepreneur, but life is too short and precious to live this way 24/7 after eight years. This isn’t healthy or sustainable. There are ways to succeed in business and as an entrepreneur and I promise this isn’t it.
No friends, this was not the issue. In fact, it’s sad this email made no mention that there could be a health challenge or government-imposed crisis impacting our economy. That they believed their assumption about our personal lives would be our business demise is sad.
Effectively serves as an unelected member with veto power
Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) chairs the Senate Committee on Education, which is sponsoring SB 732 that requires school districts to establish an educational equity advisory committee.
The legislative session has been jam-packed with “equity” bills, but SB 732 is no ordinary handout to the underserved. The bill starts with a disclaimer, “Nothing in this section shall interfere with the duties, responsibilities and rights of duly elected school district boards.” But, then it goes on to establish at each school district an educational equity advisory committee that effectively serves as an unelected school board member with veto power.
The Equity Advisory Committee would advise the school district board and superintendent:
On the educational equity impacts of policy decisions;
Inform when a situation arises in a school of the school district that negatively impacts underrepresented students and advise on how best to handle that situation;
Create and revise the school district’s continuous improvement plan under ORS 329.095
Participate in the creation and approval of the district budget under ORS 328.452
Schools that have experienced equity teams report that they have caused students and families to leave public schools because they do not agree with their agenda. Equity teams have also caused some strife among staff members. With the addition of this type of political speech, it could further cause declines in enrollment causing families to homeschool or move to private schools.
The committee creates a shadow board that isn’t accountable to parents or the school district. It reports to the legislature taking jurisdiction from the district school boards.
Annually the Oregon Department of Education is responsible for calculating the minimum pay rates for substitute teachers in Oregon Public Schools. The daily salary is defined as “the prior year average annual salary of beginning teachers who hold a bachelor's degree divided by 190 days”.
An ODE Executive Memorandum for the 2020-2021 school year stated the following rates for substitutes:
5-day a week schools are $189.32 per day ($42,318 divided by 190 times 85%).
4-day a week schools are $212.98 per day (the 5-day rate $189.32 times 1.125).
In situations where a substitute is needed to teach for more than 8 consecutive days (4 day a week schools) or 10 consecutive days (5 day a week schools) there is an additional law guiding the calculation for long term sub rates.
Substitute teachers are paid either directly by the district or through the Educational Service District where the school in need is located. They are paid wages only and are currently not eligible for other benefits. Benefits that are collectively bargained by year-round employees of a school district. These benefits may include reimbursement for continuing education, additional pay for extra duty activities, PERS contribution rates and health insurance.
HB 3130 introduced by Representative Courtney Neron (D-Wilsonville) looks to expand some collectively bargained benefits to substitute teachers by considering them employees of school district.
A teacher employed as a substitute teacher for one or more days at a time by the same school district shall be considered an employee of the school district and eligible for retirement benefits as an employee (PERS) and eligible for health benefit plans as an eligible employee.
Substitute teachers often work for multiple districts and each of those districts typically have different collective bargaining contracts with regards to benefits. School districts and local teachers’ unions negotiate many contractual provisions, but one negotiated item is health insurance contribution rates. For example, a district may pay 100% of the benefit cost for fulltime employees and 50% for part-time employees. Those benefits are collectively bargained by the union representatives for the benefit of their members who are employees of the district. Substitute teachers are not a part of the collective bargaining units in any of the districts that they may choose to work in.
This bill falls short of addressing critical questions. First, which district pays the benefit for the substitute teacher that works one or more days in school district A and one or more days in school district B? If a substitute works in multiple districts during the year, which collective bargaining agreement applies to the substitute teacher? The bill also states that the substitute teacher, after teaching for one or more days, shall be considered an employee of the district. Are they considered a full-time employee or a part-time employee and of which district and which collective bargaining agreement?
In addition, the bill has a retroactive portion which could cause financial obligations for school districts that have not budgeted for the additional cost. The bill states:
To the extent allowed by public employees’ retirement law and health benefit plans under ORS 243.105 to 243.285, a teacher shall be eligible for any benefits that would have accrued to the teacher under ORS 342.610 (5), as amended by section 1 of this 2021 Act, between the 2017-2018 school year and the effective date of this 2021 Act.
Not only could this be costly for school districts, but it could also be extremely hard to track. For the 2017-18 school year until today, districts could have re-negotiated collective bargaining agreements. So, if there is a benefit claim for 2017-18, does the school district where the substitute worked apply the formula from the collective bargaining agreement in place during the time of the claim, or apply the agreement that is in place currently? Does the substitute teacher make claims against multiple districts if they worked in more than one school district? Healthcare benefits would be impossible to do retroactively so the assumption is that the retroactive clause in Section 2 of the bill will only be applicable to PERS contributions, but again the bill is unclear.
The bill has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Business and Labor, so maybe these questions will be answered at that point in time.
After a failure to move legislation through the 2015 Legislative Session. Oregon minimum wage proponents brought SB 1532 to the legislature during the short session of 2016. It was one of the most contentious bills of the session. The hard-fought bill was introduced as a tiered approach, but the dollar amount for the tiers was left blank. Over the next month, the bill moved though the Senate on a party line vote and then to the House where it moved out of committee to the floor of the House on another party line vote.
On February 18, 2016, demonstrators in favor of the bill chanted outside Governor Brown's office and pounded on the outer walls of the House chamber. It forced deliberations to be stopped and the State Police to barricade lawmakers inside the chamber. After nearly six hours of debate, SB 1532
The tiered approach passed into law carved the state into three zones with different glide paths to reaching close to $15 in at least one of the zones by June 30, 2023
However, a group of first term legislators believe that this glidepath is no longer good enough and instead it needs to be a steep ramp to $17.00 in all three zones. HB 3351 was introduced by Representative Wlnsvey Campos (D-Aloha).
The bill dismantles the zones and jumps everyone in all three zones to $17.00 per hour July 1, 2023. For rural parts of Oregon, this would be a 27% increase.
The bill has not been assigned to a committee but will most likely be sent to the House Business and labor Committee which is the same committee it went to in 2016. The difference between 2016 and 2021, however, is that there are only two committee members that were on that committee in 2016, Committee Chair Representative Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) and Representative Evans (D-Monmouth). In addition, of the other nine members of the committee, only three of them were in the Legislature in 2016; Representatives Post (R-Keizer), Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie), and Brian Clem (D-Salem). With the majority of the committee being new to the minimum wage conversation, it could make for a replay of the battle of 2016.
Editor's note: This is the second of a three-part series on the collapse of small business in Oregon and is reprinted with permission from the blog of Echo Alexzander She and her husband owned FIRST Corvallis, a massage therapy clinic
The Mental Health Impact
We left off in the part 1 blog with the reality of the financial impacts that 'non-essential' small businesses like ours were facing in 2020, the actual figures. Think of how you might feel if you lost your business that had been your passion for 8-10 years. What emotions might you experience as you watched your finances slip away?
As a bodyworker, how would you feel getting desperate texts and emails from your clients asking when they can see you, and knowing that it was illegal in your state for you to practice your licensed profession to be able to help them?
Confusion. Depression. A feeling of an absolute and complete loss; many of the phases of grief including denial and anger.
Mental health is a cause that we speak out on often. This is also something that has been a large focus of James' business and he has put countless hours into advocating for himself and others. From personal interviews with OSU graduate students studying PTSD, to forming community support groups under The Archangel Programs (T.A.Ps) where James built a rucking crew with over 90 members to support fitness and build community while battling mental health stigmas and supporting people, James and I will never stop speaking out to bring awareness and healing. (If you don't know about rucking I've blogged about Rucking Fitness Adventures before).
How did we as a society come to this place of inflicting this abuse onto select business owners in our free nation?
How can we define who is essential?
I was so taken by how Mike Rowe described his December 17th interview on Hannity, I had to just point to him and that post on his Facebook page. Jump over there to read it and then hurry back, we have more to talk through! I can only echo Mike's message of encouragement to all of the others in our same position:
"To those millions of Americans who have lost your livelihoods, now teetering on the edge your own metaphorical bridge, wondering if perhaps you’re worth more dead than alive, I say this:
You still matter. You are still essential to someone, even if only to yourself. Why? Because you are still a part of a great tapestry - a single tile in a mighty mosaic that connects us all. And, because you are still loved. Which is a long way of saying, don’t jump."
What if it is too late for them?
Deaths of Despair
I believe how businesses and other non-essential citizens have been treated is a significant contributor to the ‘deaths of despair’ that I wrote about in the Not My New Normal blog.
Did you know that throughout most of 2020, there were as many suicides in Oregon as COVID deaths? But I guess those lives didn’t matter since they don’t flood our local news headlines. And I guess our concern wasn't actually the health of Oregonians or Americans, only those dying of this popular new headline cause.
The final point I will make on mental health here is to please do not cast your beliefs on those who are struggling. I say that speaking from an experience of one of our long term clients. She emailed us in response to our notice of our business closure to blame us that our 'taking too much time off' and 'not working our business '24/7/365' as the cause of our downfall. Not COVID, not government shutdowns and tyranny against small businesses (remember, big businesses were always essential), but her impression of our business management. How sad, how naive, and how hurtful.
But weren't the lockdowns in states like Oregon justified by their data?
So much for following 'the science'
I will let the headlines and data speak for themselves in late January 2021: OREGON HAS 4TH FEWEST VIRUS CASES, YET AMONG STRICTEST LOCKDOWNS
Don't be misled that the low case numbers there are thanks to the lockdowns. States that never implemented lockdowns have lower cases than Oregon. Looking at actual numbers is always eye-opening.
California and New York were among the strictest on state mandates yet still had spikes months into their lockdowns and mandates and still have more cases than the other states.
South Dakota had one major spike and then a major drop in cases and no major lockdowns or mandates.
Despite differing approaches, most of these follow similar patterns.
We must be honest about the full impact here, on our children, our businesses and economies, and beyond.
As I write this blog, we have already fled our home state of Oregon where we are still making good on our long-term lease paying rent to a landlord in a state we no longer live or do business in until that space can be rented to another tenant. #BeAPersonOfYourWord
Surely now that many businesses on the EO 20-12 have been allowed to re-opened to 100% capacity, these are all things of the past right?!? No. They continue to be threatened, locked down, heavily restricted, and wholly unsupported by their state leaders.
Our business never got above 20% capacity after the initial shut down. From March until December each time there was a new shut down in any sector (even if we weren’t impacted) our clients still reacted and our volumes fell further and further to 15% and 12% of what we started. So no, just “re-opening” all business 100% won’t immediately resolve all issues, though it will be a good starting point and must be done ASAP.
How many citizens like me lost ‘disposable’ income to take advantage of services like haircuts or self-care in the form of things like acupuncture or massage?
I did. I've shared our business impact for my husband James, but my personal example has come from work as a contracted consultant in the healthcare IT industry for six and a half years. In that time, I have not been without a contract for longer than two weeks on average. In 2020, I ended a contract as anticipated on 7/31/20 and was without work for almost 27 weeks. So as the primary breadwinner, the reality became for us that I was forced to apply for unemployment for the first time in my life (and I have worked since I was 14 years old).
County officials think of grants as gift certificates
SB 395, sponsored by senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), would increase the amount required to be spent in highway projects from 1% to 5% on bike and walking paths. The discussion needs to include and recognize that the review of projects seeking grant money may be too loose.
Recently, the Oregon Department of Transportation provided transportation grant dollars for a proposed bike path in Yamhill County before the project had a masterplan or the required permits. Farmers with land adjacent to the proposed trail were forced to defend their property rights by legal means. Land Use law requires the County to seek a Conditional Use permit before continuing the concept of a bike path in EFU zones. Senior County department heads deliberately defied Land Use law. They sought and obtained grant monies, they bought land and begin construction without regard for due process. Try doing that the next time you build something.
ODOT was happy to be complicit in their actions. The matter went to the land Use Board of Appeals several times. On all five occasions LUBA told the County to stop. Neither the County nor ODOT ceased in spite of all those red flags. As long as ODOT has a sugar daddy complex and County officials think of grants as gift certificates these unfortunate incidents can and will occur.
A 1787 quote from Scottish professor and historian foretold the experience of government grants:
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.”
Last September, the Senate Committee on Education met in an informational meeting to discus Equity in Education Policy Proposals and have a panel discussion that included Kali Thorne Ladd, Executive Director of KairosPDX which describes itself as "a non-profit organization focused on delivering excellent, equitable education to underserved children, their families and their communities." It's a public charter school located in inner Northeast Portland.
During the discussion, Senator Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg) asks the panel a broad and simple question, "Are you supportive -- and the groups you're associated with -- of more school choice for parents to be able to dictate where they want their child to be educated?"
After a pause, Thorne Ladd takes up the answer.
"...Choice definitely disproportionately favors privileged children -- mostly white -- and definitely middle class. And as such, becasue the public education system is to educate all children and all children don't exercise choice, I don't think the answer is having lots of choice."
Thorne Ladd continues, clearly recognizing her own hypocrisy, and calls herself out.
"Now, I say that, recognizing that I do run a public charter. I think we found that the black children were failing at such high rates that we wanted to find an option that could yield different results."
In other words, the local public schools were failing at such high rates, so we created an alternative charter school -- school choice -- but we don't think this is the answer.
It causes one to wonder, why the negative cast on the value of choice, which most people think is generally a good thing, and specifically could be a great tool to help resolve the problem of failing inner-city schools, coupled with the defense of dollars being poured into failing inner-city schools? Could it be that the political operations of the educational-industrial complex are more important than actually helping kids? Watch this three minute video to see