State Representative
Nancy Nathanson
Spring 2023
NN in chamber
I really meant to send an e-news last month, but time got away from me, chairing a couple of committees, serving on a couple of others, and shepherding numerous bills though the House and Senate. My team and I have been going nonstop to get good legislation and budgets passed. That leads to me to bring you this very different update today. All of that work could come to a screeching halt due to the Senate Republican walk out. Hundreds of bills are waiting in Senate committees or Joint Committee on Ways and Means (JWM) or for a final vote in the Senate.

For now, work goes on in our office and I'm fitting in as many meetings as I can between committee hearings. Some of those meetings are virtual, but a number of constituents have come to Salem for meetings or to testify at hearings. You'll see some pictures below. We are trying to proceed as if this is business as usual.

The session is limited by the Oregon Constitution. We will stop on June 25, no matter what. So what happens if the Senate Republicans don't come back to vote? They've been out since May 3 to block bills they don't like. All the remaining work is left "on the cutting room floor." We are precluded from picking up later where we left off. Everything will start over, from scratch, with bill drafting, public hearings and work sessions, and voting. Since only some of the dozens of individual agency budgets have passed, budgets would certainly need to be considered in a special session to allow state spending to continue - like funding for education and public safety, and money that goes to community organizations to work with children, help mothers with new babies, and provide parole and probation services, and to state programs like paid leave, unemployment, and veteran services.

I know from listening to you and messages from around the state that Oregonians want the legislature to put high priority on these topics: homelessness and the supply of affordable housing; behavioral health and addiction services; stronger schools; small businesses; safer neighborhoods and communities; and a robust and fair economy that uplifts working and low-income families. Count on me to keep working on that.
 Photo above: The House at work this past week.
Senate shutdown started May 3 with Senate Republicans denying a quorum.

If you missed my last e-news, here's the link to Jan.-Feb. 2023.
At the Capitol
Capitol construction
Entering through construction, State Street (south) side
Walking from Capitol to a legislative office temporarily located in the Public Service Building on the Mall
Capitol construction
Looking at Capitol from the west, dome in the background
(north, east, and west entrances are closed)
A couple of high-profile bills passed early in the session.

IBR: I-5 Interstate Bridge Replacement

The Interstate Bridge is essential to our region’s economy and multimodal transportation. After four years of meetings on the Bi-State Bridge project, it is essential that Oregon indicate its commitment to the project by matching the funding already approved by the Washington State Legislature to apply for and receive federal funding through grants, estimated at $2.5 billion.

The existing bridge is over a hundred years old. The replacement bridge will improve safety by providing sufficient lane widths for vehicle and freight comfort, as well as adding safety shoulders in the event of emergencies. It will also include bike/pedestrian pathways and expand light rail across the river.
There are still serious disagreements about the scope of the project – how big it should be, everything else that should be included, and what kind of labor standards should be required. It’s complicated, but we have to find a way to get this work started as our partner state of Washington and the federal government wait to seal a deal and get it started.

Oregon CHIPS Act

Last year Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act, allocating $52 billion to boost domestic manufacturing of semiconductors. To capitalize on the once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand Oregon’s semiconductor chip industry, the state House and Senate came together to pass a bipartisan bill that will incentivize economic growth and address national economic security concerns.

Grants: Oregon Business Development Department will create a program to award $190 million in grants and loans to create positive incentives for the creation of semiconductor manufacturing plants. In return for this investment, applicants are required to prove their ability to meet minimum job creation or result in increased revenue. $10 million will go to local governments to prepare sites for semiconductor industrial development, and $10 million to the University Innovation Research Fund for public universities to leverage federal research grants.

Land readiness: To speed the siting of new facilities, Governor Kotek will have limited authority to bring certain plots of land into an urban growth boundary for the purpose of semiconductor or advanced manufacturing, designating up to eight sites, two of more than 500 acres in size and six less than 500 acres. Cutting-edge semiconductor fabrication plants or “fabs” are up to 900 acres in size.
But there's a walkout ... What's at stake?

The Senate shutdown is preventing plenty of legislation from moving forward including bipartisan bills. Here are examples in two important areas.

Drought relief and water security. Building off past work like the 2022 $100 million climate resilience budget and 2021 $100 million drought relief for farmers, this year's package includes programs for families, farms, fish and wildlife to leverage additional money available from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Education. State funding at $10.2 billion for K-12 schools paired with local property tax revenues means $15.3 billion, a 12.3% increase over current resources. Additional legislation that's stalled in the shutdown: quite a few bills including the Early Literacy and Success Budget to support students with reading and writing skills, and bills to address school workforce shortages, protect funding for smaller school districts, the School Emergency Notifications Act that ensures parents and guardians are electronically notified during a school emergency and are kept informed throughout the incident.

There are many other bills in jeopardy, not the high-profile bills that you see reported in the news but examples that I know people have worked on and care about and will be meaningful to Oregonians around the state. For example, Rep. Lively (Springfield) could lose HB 2258 that appropriates $40 million to the Industrial Site Loan Fund and extends the industrial site readiness program. Rep. Holvey (Eugene) could lose HB 2057 which provides stronger protections for construction industry workers from practices that hold back compensation owed to them for their work.
My bills
NN and Manning
Stalled in Senate: These bills passed the House. They passed Senate committees with bipartisan votes.

  • Early Childcare Workforce (HB 2504) immediately addresses the shortage of early childcare workers by reducing the barriers that impede international early childhood professionals from entering the early learning workforce in Oregon. I've worked closely with Relief Nursery to get this across the finish line. Waiting for final Senate vote.
  • Renter rights (HB 2680) returns fees for unused application screening. Senator Manning and I are working together to get this passed.
  • Limited Equity Co-ops (HB 2465, 2466) help build affordable longer-term low-income housing through innovative collectively owned development.
  • Urban Search and Rescue (HB 2484) to help the State Fire Marshal effectively organize response, equipment and training for specialized rescue including emergencies like collapsed structures, floods, landslides.

Waiting in Joint Ways and Means (bills with budget requirement)

  • Cybersecurity Center of Excellence to be jointly operated by PSU, OSU, and UO to grow the workforce pipeline (there are now over 7,000 unfilled, high paying cybersecurity jobs in Oregon) and help local governments, school districts and other public and private entities prepare for and defend against cyberattacks. The “teaching hospital” model of learning would allow for students to learn on the same equipment they will use after completing the program and entering the workforce. Read more about it in my Jan.-Feb. newsletter.
  • Listening to educators and parents about school accountability, this bill would broaden accountability measures from just looking at test scores, to gauging other factors that contribute to student success, including a healthy school environment.
  • Trains: funding for passenger rail planning and improvements 
  • 9-1-1 call centers, a proposal to encourage modernization and consolidation for improving statewide emergency and non-emergency call-taking

PBM team
Prescription Drugs and the PBM "middlemen"

Pharmacy Benefit Manager regulation passed out of House Rules last week, a major win to get it this far! In this photo you see me with my chief co-sponsor, Rep. Christine Goodwin (R-Canyonville), Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland), and several pharmacist advocates. A set of bills will rein in some of the predatory business practices of PBMs that put the squeeze on pharmacies leading to closures and buyouts and not passing on cost savings for customers. I'm working closely with a colleague in a bipartisan effort to shine a light on pricing and contracts and bring regulatory reform. My testimony to committee describes the problem.
NN and Rep Smith
High profile

Semiconductor industry

The Oregon Semiconductor Competitiveness Taskforce (2022) recommended a slew of actions to help Oregon hold on to its prominent position in the world of microchip R&D and manufacturing. The first package covering grants, land use and site readiness has already passed (see above). There were also a number of more general financial incentive tools, like providing tax credits for money spent on R&D and extending the Enterprise Zone and Strategic Investment programs.

The work group that I joined proposed a R&D tax credit designed to be both appropriate for Oregon, and effective on the national scene. We want it to be right for Oregon’s economy, right for building on our position as a national leader in semiconductors, and effective in growing our economy. And we emphasized the importance of leveraging Oregon dollars to attract federal CHIP Act dollars.

As chair of the Revenue Committee, I have taken a hard look at the other general investment incentive programs; they were developed more than three decades ago and have not had a comprehensive review. I've also reviewed articles written by an Oregon investigative journalist and other researchers. Recent work includes a few bills to modernize these economic incentive tools. The business community and local governments are pressing to renew the programs as they are, extending them out a dozen years to provide certainty to businesses looking to expand or locate in Oregon. I think it’s time to bring more transparency and accountability to ensure they’re a good deal for their communities and for the state. I'm encouraged by the possibility of addressing all these interests with some focused and targeted incentives. (photo: Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner and I are co-sponsoring economic incentive legislation.)
Capitol visitors you may know
Sen. Merkley
Sen. Jeff Merkley in Salem May 24
Salinas and Ruiz
Congresswoman Andrea Salinas with Rep. Ricky Ruiz (Gresham), for legislation making Aug. 4 Bracero Program Day
Eric Richardson
Eric Richardson testifying on mobile health units
Rail advocates
Jon Nuxoll (Eugene), Dan McFarling (Aloha) and Luis Moscoso (WA) representing All Aboard Washington and AORTA (see AORTA below)
Honorary Page Sarah
Sarah Palmer, from James Monroe Middle School in Eugene, age 12, working as an honorary page last week
Mayor Lucy Vinis, Betsy Schultz and Brittany Quick Warner (Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce) to discuss Eugene's budget and policy priorities
UO students
UO students here to talk about funding improvements for Friendly Hall, restoring the third oldest building on campus and bringing together the School of Global Studies and Languages
Fire chiefs
Fire District support from around the state for the USAR bill, including Tualatin Valley, Portland, and Gresham, and Eugene-Springfield Chief Heppel at center
Dan Bryant
Dan Bryant advocating in committee hearings for bills to help build affordable housing through Limited Equity Co-ops
Meetings, briefings, events
Every week I meet with constituents and people representing organizations advocating for a wide variety interests. Here's a selection of a few more.

Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group ccollege students visited in March to discuss several legislative topics including the right to repair, moving beyond single-use plastics, and student hunger. Then I told them about my long history working with OSPIRG (and for OSPIRG as a UO student!). By the way, I voted yes on their priority bill, SB 543 banning the use of polystyrene (Styrofoam) for Oregon restaurants, food trucks, and take-out orders.
LWV annual convention was in Eugene. I provided an update on what's going on in the legislature, including comments about the economic and revenue forecast, the kicker, and the history of five walkouts in the last six years, preventing work on laws and programs supported by the majority.
Passenger and Freight Trains: ORULE

The Oregon Rail Users League convened a few weeks ago at the Oregon State Library across the street from the Capitol. The group included people representing AORTA; Oregon Wheat Growers League; Class I and Class II railroads Union Pacific, BNSF, Goose Lake Railway, and Oregon Eastern Railroad; ODOT; Governor Kotek’s office, and more. We talked about the urgency to pass legislation to leverage federal money through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts (IIJA) and Federal Railroad Administration. My message to them recognized the importance of rail for Oregon's economy as a key component of intermodal commerce, for example moving bulk or container cargo by train, truck, and ship. Often improvements to sidings and separating train and vehicle traffic (one crossing under the other) improves both safety and speed.
Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates

AORTA representatives were in Salem to talk about their greater northwest rail policy recommendations: update the Amtrak Cascades long range plan, implement east-west passenger rail service, increase demand for rail instead of roads, electrify railroads, determine practical applications of ultra high-speed rail, and support freight rail.
Economic and revenue forecast
Compared to other states, Oregon has been middle of the pack in terms of growth in population and employment, but I'm concerned about the outlook for employment growth over the next decade or two. The number of people available for the workforce is critical to maintaining a robust economy, and our outlook is not so good. It's just plain demographics. The labor force participation rate will be declining due to age structure. The "population is older and retiring." Oregon's average age is increasing and the inflow of migrants (usually in their 20s-30s) is slowing. People in their 60s and 70s are working at a higher rate, and younger people are working less than they used to. Most everyone who wants a job has a job.

As the average age increases, the need for specific kinds of human service and health facilities and services will increase, and the K-12 population decline will lead to declining education employment. These economic forecasts are interesting to listen to, and the economists have a "plain language" way of explaining the situation. Here's the most recent forecast presentation.
The Kicker: it sets a record, and it's huge
If you're new to Oregon or understanding the budget and tax situation: The state budget must be balanced, and it's based on estimated revenue. Spending has to match money coming in. If the revenue forecast used to prepare the state budget underestimates revenue by more than 2%, then all income tax revenue above the estimate is returned to taxpayers, not just the amount over 2%. The estimate is made up to a couple years in advance of actual revenue received, and as you know national and global events can make a big difference. For this year's personal income tax kicker the projected amount is now $5.5 billion, up from $3.93 billion in the March forecast (Feb. 22). The exact amount will be determined in the next forecast Aug. 30, after the end of the current budget period. The final total will be rebated to taxpayers are working to calculate what the higher estimated kicker means for individual taxpayers. In March, when the total kicker was estimated at $3.93 billion, they predicted the typical taxpayer would receive about $790 back, while the top 1% of taxpayers would receive more than $42,000 back.

Corporate kicker: The projected record amount is now $1.8 billion, up from $1.55 billion in the Feb. 22 forecast. Voters decided in 2012 that excess corporate income taxes go into the state school fund.

The chart below shows kicker money returned to taxpayers since 1979. State economists announced that they have recently updated the model to account for several factors that influence estimates (federal law changes related to corporate income, wage inflation, and interest earnings).
Personal kicker amounts
Tax filing: Money you may still be eligible to claim
You can still file your tax return - and get money back! It’s not too late to file for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Lower income taxpayers (individuals and families making under $60,000) that have missed the April 15th deadline can still file their taxes. MFS CASH Oregon maintains tax clinics and tax completion support from April 18th through October 28th in person at their office in southeast Portland or through virtual filing for people across the state. Consider that the average tax refund for low-income households is $2,100, putting over $8 million back into the hands of households in tax year 2021. Benefits of filing taxes after the deadline:
  • Correct past errors on tax returns
  • File multiple tax years that were not previously filed
  • Claim up to three past years of unclaimed tax credits, including any unclaimed federal stimulus payments (after April 18th you have one year to claim these stimulus credits).
For additional information: DOR Website-Electronic Filing. Or MFS CASH Oregon: Set up an initial appointment, and volunteer opportunities (you do not need to be a tax expert) or for questions about free tax support email [email protected].

See my previous e-news (link with anchor) for more info on tax prep assistance.
LCC women in manufacturing
LCC Manufacturing Technology

This picture is from a visit LCC to learn about their Manufacturing Technology program, see the advanced technology tools like mills and lathes, and hear from faculty about the software and materials, apprenticeships, and working with local businesses.

UO gets federal funding to study wildfire smoke

Credit to Oregon Public Broadcasting for covering this story!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $800,000 to University of Oregon's new Wildfire Smoke Research and Practice Center. The work will build on research underway through a joint venture between UO and Oregon State University through the Ecosystem Workforce Program. We've all seen the sharp increase in unhealthy air quality days due to wildfire smoke. Regional fires are getting larger and more intense, with unhealthy exposure lasting days or even weeks.

from OPB: "The Wildfire Smoke Research and Practice Center will focus on community and household planning and preparation, ways to best communicate smoke risks and protective actions to the general public, and developing effective planning, preparation, and response during smoke events. One area of interest is what toxins are released when manmade structures burn, as opposed to forests. Much research has focused on smoke from burning timber and wooden structures, but less so on plastics, glass, fuels, and other synthetic materials."
The Office
Ellie is working mightily to respond to dozens of emails each week along with numerous other one-off tasks we ask her help with, like quick research on bill status. Spencer comes to Salem by train from Eugene to work Fridays in person. Here he's updating our "bill board." Sophia left a few weeks ago headed to a federal agency internship with Housing and Urban Development in Washington D.C.
Bill board