State Representative
Nancy Nathanson
February-March 2022
A short session is like a mad dash to the finish line. From beginning to end, Feb. 2 to March 4, every bill and budget was under a tight timeline for a hearing and a work session to get through one chamber and over to the next. Not much time for amendments, so most bills had to be largely "ready to go." Legislators had precious little time to find compromise or work out details on only a very few “big” topics such as overtime pay for agricultural workers (more below) or a major investment in child care (how to solve the problems of not enough and not affordable). I assisted with both of those behind-the-scenes while chairing the House Committee on Revenue and co-chairing the Joint (House and Senate) Legislative Committee on Information Management and Technology.

During the week I stayed overnight in Salem to maximize time available to work and minimize time and miles on the road. All in all I’m pleased with the collective outcome, found success in most of my work, and as for a couple of major disappointments, described below: I’ll keep working on it!

Now back in Eugene I’m finding that the ladybugs just woke up from winter and the hellebore are still in fine form. I've enjoyed rooting for the Ducks women basketball team. The Eugene Symphony honored music educators at their recent concert which included a work by a Ukrainian composer, and Dvořák’s New World Symphony.
NN in Chamber
(photo: in House Chamber on Oregon's Birthday, Feb. 14)

If you missed my last enews, here's the link to January 2022.
At the Capitol: The 2022 session
The 81st Legislative Assembly ended four days before the 35-day constitutional limit. I was asked, referring to deeply divided partisan politics, “Does anyone work together anymore?” Yes, we do. A few high profile issues get lots of media attention, and disagreement is expected, between and even within parties. Nevertheless, as just one illustration of collaboration, once I started developing my bill relating to testing in K-12 classrooms, I approached a colleague from “across the aisle” who is a retired teacher. We worked together: we agreed on the contents of the bill, then testified and carried the bill in the House. It passed both chambers with wide bi-partisan support. This photo of Rep. Weber and me was taken after our bill passed in the House.
The bills and the budgets: policy work and funding projects and programs

The legislature passed nearly 130 (of 271 introduced) bills in 31 days, changing statutes and revising budgets. I selected one topic to review here, K-12 education, and some of the funding actions related to our local area. A more comprehensive summary is on my website.
Stronger schools
middle school band class
The pandemic has put a strain on everyone, but our educators have been hit especially hard. This session, the legislature put an emphasis on addressing teacher burnout and educator workforce shortages, as well as investing in enrichment programs. I’d like to focus on some of those specific investments here. (I took this picture when I visited Monroe Middle School, before the pandemic.)

Summer Learning: The 2022 Summer Learning Package invests $150 million for grants to school districts and community organizations to provide summer learning programs and activities. These grants will be directed through three specific investments:
  • Summer K-8 Enrichment Grants, funding enrichment activities, academic learning, and mental health support for kids.
  • Summer High School Academic Grants, supporting summer school programs that help high school students stay on track for graduation.
  • Summer Community Activity Grants, helping community partners provide new or existing summer activities such as day camps, park programs, and tutoring.

Workforce Shortage: Oregon’s educators work tirelessly to provide our students with the best possible education. Unfortunately, schools are experiencing a severe shortage of staff, driven in part by the pandemic.

To address this shortage, funding is included to increase the number of Oregon teachers, substitutes, and other school staff. A new recruitment and retention grant program will be established to support the hiring of new school staff and address burnout. Another grant program will be established to reimburse substitute teachers and instructional assistants for the cost of their training.
My two personal bills
student taking test
Testing in public K-12 schools

My bill passed the House 49-10 and Senate 23-3 and the Governor has signed it.

For quite a few years I've been hearing from teachers, counselors, and parents concerned about "too much" testing in schools. Some tests are useful — but too many are not, with information or progress not even reported until the following year. David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University, Member, National Academy of Education, and Past President of the American Educational Research Association sent me the following succinct statement, and in a personal note added, "Good luck. Set a national trend!"

"Almost all the information obtained from any one year of testing at the school level is duplicated in the next two years of testing. Testing every third year would provide almost all the information citizens want to know about their schools’ performance, and if they want to know how their children are doing, they should ask the child’s teacher."

And a retired 4J middle school teacher says, "Without sufficient information about the scope and cost there can be no real opportunity to explore the rationale and consequential question: when is testing too much?"

The bill calls for objective data on non-state-mandated tests given in each school district, including time and cost. With that information, the Oregon Department of Education and legislators can give guidance on best practices, to reduce unnecessary and less useful testing. I’m hopeful that we can finally start moving to a balanced assessment system, where the right assessment is being used for the right purpose. Here's my floor speech, and a link to everything else about HB 4124.
Rental application fees

People looking for housing often need to submit multiple applications in the hopes of securing a rental; the repeated application fees are a financial burden. Each one can cost $50 or more for each adult in the household, and the total cost can be hundreds of dollars for people when they can least afford it. This cost burden has been a problem since well before the pandemic-related housing problems, and will remain a problem after this period has passed unless we act.

After hearing about serious problems from a constituent, and working with a local realtor and housing organizations including Springfield Eugene Tenants Association (SETA), I wrote a bill. It would have helped renters who aren’t getting fees refunded when they apply for a rental unit and their application and screening report isn’t processed. The bill passed in the House, and was stopped in the Senate. For people not familiar with how rental application fees are a serious problem: I read recently on a neighborhood social media site about someone who was "drained of resources" after paying for three deposits and three application fees, and found out that the last housing option was not available.
And my priority committee bill: Cybersecurity
For the Joint Legislative Committee on Information Management and Technology, I spearheaded a bill to meet the needs of schools, local governments, and special districts asking for our help with urgent cybersecurity concerns. That bill would have set up a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence managed by PSU, OSU, and UO to rapidly increase a trained workforce, help prevent, detect, and recover from cyber and ransomware attacks, and increase outreach and information for business and individuals. When it looked like the bill was being held up in the budget process, I delivered a Remonstrance in the House Chamber.
cyber hacker ransomware
I plan to keep working on this, with help from UO, City of Eugene, League of Oregon Cities, Association of Oregon Counties, Coalition of Oregon School Administrators, Oregon Special Districts Association, and many others who supported HB 4155.
The threat of cyber warfare and ransomware is real and not just a theoretical discussion. Attacks on public schools. Attacks on local and state governments. 4,000 unfilled cyber
jobs in Oregon. A ransomware attack on Maryland’s Department of Health in January. A ransomware attack in New Mexico affected the county jail and public schools in Albuquerque. Law enforcement personnel files in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here in Oregon, reported by Oregonlive, well known Oregon businesses including McMenamins, Yoshida Foods and Bob’s Red Mill hit by ransomware attacks ...

Over the past few months, the message the members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Information Management and Technology received in testimony from over 20 public bodies, associations, and private tech sector representatives was clear. Oregon’s regional and local governments, special districts, education service districts, and K-12 schools and libraries are at risk. They are vulnerable to cyberattack, and they cannot address the challenges they face alone.

Oregon has an opportunity to do something smart this session through HB 4155, launching a cybersecurity center of excellence jointly operated by three of Oregon’s public universities (PSU, OSU and U of O) to help local governments, school districts and other public and private entities prepare for and defend against cyberattacks. We have a unique opportunity to do something about over 4,000 unfilled, high paying cybersecurity jobs in Oregon, with proposed investments in cybersecurity workforce development programs at our public universities, community colleges, and high schools. We can allocate state matching funds required to access nearly $15 million dollars of federal funds over the next four years to help local governments. ...

This is a threat that affects every Oregonian. We must act to address these urgent needs.
Funding for local projects and programs
emergency radio
Emergency Communications Infrastructure: $5 million to upgrade critical radio infrastructure equipment affecting first responders throughout Lane County. These upgrades will have a direct impact on radio operability and reliability in both normal circumstances and in times of emergency.

Civic Park: $6 million to complete Civic Park, adding a 2,500 seat stadium. With support from local legislators, the legislature allocated $6 M in 2017 to help the Civic Alliance with the first phase, a community sports and recreation facility including a turf field and fieldhouse. Since June 2020 it has served over 158,000 athletes, children whose options for physical activity were severely limited during the past two years. Kidsports uses Civic Park to deliver quality physical activity programs to kids of all ages and backgrounds, emphasizing equity and inclusion through a robust scholarship program.

Multi-use facility at the Lane County Fairgrounds, identified by the Lane County Board of Commissioners as a legislative priority: $7.5 M to go toward the construction of a new publicly owned multi-use facility at the Lane Events Center, a potential site for Eugene Emeralds baseball, as well as concerts and other events year-round and serve emergency evacuation and shelter. The Board will consider a proposed project plan and budget and agreement with the Ems later this year.

ALERTWildfire: $4.5 million for installing about 35 more cameras for a wildfire monitoring system that uses modern communications technology to connect firefighters and federal and state agencies with real-time fire activity information. I have worked with the UO Hazards Lab for several years to secure funding for the ALERTWildfire program. ALERTWildfire is a consortium of The University of Nevada, Reno, University of California San Diego, and the University of Oregon providing fire cameras and tools to help firefighters and first responders:
  • Discover, locate, and confirm fire ignition.
  • Quickly scale fire resources up or down.
  • Monitor fire behavior during containment.
  • Help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness.
  • Observe contained fires for flare-ups.
McKenzie River drift boat model
McKenzie River Discovery Center: $3 million. This is a photo of drift boat models on display when I toured the McKenzie River Discovery Center location in 2021. Lane County formally supported the McKenzie River Discovery Center’s request for support to create “a world-class destination offering transformational experiences through educational displays of historic artifacts, interactive exhibits, interpretive nature trails and more.” The Center will feature immersive and interactive experiences for youth and adults along several story lines: river origins, fish, flora and fauna, cultural history, including the iconic drift boat culture, and more recently, environmental and economic recovery from the devastating 2020 Holiday Farm fire.
Around the state
Behavioral health and mental health crisis services

Neighborhood groups, the faith community, the Chamber of Commerce, and social networks have focused increasing attention on homelessness, recognizing that treatment for mental and behavioral health and addiction is part of the solution. It takes money, but even with more money, there's a workforce shortage in this area, too — long waits for youth and adults to see a counselor or health care provider. For several years the legislature has expanded programs and budgets in response to growing mental and behavioral health needs. Here's one specific major investment from the 2021 long legislative session that we'll see developing this year. The legislature appropriated $15 million to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to establish 988 call centers and enhance mobile crisis services.

We also directed OHA to make an implementation plan for Crisis Receiving Centers as part of the state’s behavioral health crisis system. The additional funding includes $6.5 million for mobile crisis response and stabilization services for children and $80 million to create two incentive programs to increase the capacity and diversity of Oregon’s Behavioral Health workforce.
Beginning July 16, 2022, a new three-digit phone number — 988 — will be available 24/7 for people to call when they are or someone else is having a behavioral health crisis or emergency. 988 is short and easy to remember, like 911, which people can call for all other emergencies.
Our local area
Cutting some higher ed red tape, helping LCC Titans and UO Ducks

Lane Community College and The University of Oregon have launched a new partnership that will make it easier for Titans to become Ducks, and vice versa. The agreement, formalized in a memorandum of understanding, will help identify and reduce barriers, including perceived barriers, for LCC students wanting to transition their education to the UO to earn an undergraduate degree. See more here.
Food for Lane County

In 2021 legislators were given authority to identify community needs for spending individual allotments from Oregon’s share of the American Rescue Plan (ARPA). One of the projects I identified was a warehouse renovation for Food For Lane County (FFLC), and worked with Reps. Holvey, Fahey, and Wilde and Sens. Beyer, Manning, and Prozanski to jointly fund it.

The investment will give FFLC even greater capacity to address food insecurity: their dry storage and cold storage and distribution capacity will more than double. FFLC will serve more low-income children and isolated seniors, add new community agency partners to their food distribution network, increase their ability to distribute food in the event of local and regional disasters and emergencies, and continue to develop innovative strategies to reduce hunger and help families become more self-supporting.
DMV office in Eugene

DMV's Eugene field office has moved from its west Eugene location (2870 W 10th Place) to a temporary location inside Valley River Center. The permanent location will be open after renovation, in a separate building outside of the mall at 499 Valley River Center. The expected opening date for the new location is estimated to be late August or early September.

Check ODOT's "skip the trip" page for everything you can do online without visiting a field office in person.
The Office
Samantha (on the left) helped us with the press of constituent work and last-minute research during the recent legislative session. Sam is a senior at OSU studying public health, focusing on health policy, and a minor in economics. In addition to school, she works at Oregon Health Authority and is active on OSU’s Corvallis campus, including the University Legislative Scholars Program. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, and reading. After finishing her degree, she plans to pursue work in the non-profit or health policy research sector.

The photos below show Lindsay and Lauren on the job, and Lindsay working with Jason from the House Majority Office. Jason provides policy analysis and legislative background for dozens of bills moving through the process - and helps advise for our bills, too.
Lindsay and Lauren
Lauren NN Lindsay
Jason and Lindsay