Legislative walkout leaves education bills in limbo
House and Senate Republican legislators left the Capitol early last week in protest of a pending vote on carbon legislation.
This boycott had been looming since before the beginning of the 2020 short session. Now it is here, and education legislation is paying the price.
By walking out, Republicans in both chambers are taking advantage of the procedural requirement to have a minimum presence of legislators (40 out of 60 in the House; 20 out of 30 in the Senate) to do business. One Republican in each chamber has been present for floor sessions, Sen. Tim Knopp and Rep. Cheri Helt, both of Bend. Otherwise, the Republicans have been absent, leaving each chamber at least one legislator short of the quorum requirement.
Each session OSBA tracks and advocates for bills. The shutdown looks like it will kill nearly all the bills OSBA has supported, some of which are crucial for school district operations.
The crucial: Each of these three bills could be described as narrow, targeted or technical. They seem to be examples of the kinds of bills the Legislature envisioned when the short session was created. Failure to pass these bills will alter school district operations and could hurt students.
HB 4044: As previously covered, statutes that provide crucial, dedicated funding for small, remote and dorm schools will expire on June 30, 2020. The bill to make the funding system permanent has no known opposition and is ready for passage in the Senate.
SB 1522: The bill contains consensus technical law fixes, including crucial technical changes to the statutes created by SB 155 (2019) that address sexual conduct toward students. The bill was amended and now has no known opposition. It is supported by a number of education stakeholders and is ready for readings leading to a vote in the House.
SB 1520: An agency bill requested by the Oregon Department of Education, it would make discreet, technical changes to nutrition programs. Notably, the bill would move dates in the statutes for nutrition funding created by the Student Success Act to allow school districts to start nutrition programs this summer, rather than waiting until July 1 as required by current law. There is no known opposition, and it is ready for readings leading to a vote in the House.
The good: OSBA supports the following bills and has advocated for their ratification and funding.
HB 4039: A bill to deliver $2.5 million in targeted support for unaccompanied homeless youths, it has no known opposition and is ready for readings leading to a vote in the House.
HB 4136: A bill to deliver $1.25 million in funding for “activity bus” transportation to school districts that do not have access to a local transit district, it has no known opposition and awaits funding in the Joint Ways and Means Committee.
HB 4098: The bill, championed by legislator and Reynolds School Board member Rep. Diego Hernandez, would require ODE to create a plan to greatly expand access to computer science classes in public schools. The bill has no known opposition and awaits funding in the Joint Ways and Means Committee.
The collateral damage: OSBA was consulted on the following bills. Stakeholders addressed OSBA concerns and, after discussions and changes to proposed language, OSBA agreed to take no official position on these bills but not oppose them if asked by a legislator or stakeholder. Almost all represent targeted policy changes to or expansion of existing programs.
HB 4056: This bill would expand the boundaries of Klamath Community College’s district into parts of Deschutes and Lake counties. This bill is the result of a community process and has no known opposition. After discussion with the Oregon Community College Association, OSBA agreed that OCCA should be the primary association advocating for the bill. The bill awaits readings leading to a vote in the House.
HB 4112: An omnibus bill to deliver funding to programs associated with children’s advocacy generally, the bill passed out of the House Human Services and Housing Committee unanimously. It now awaits funding in the Joint Ways and Means Committee.
HB 4132: A bill to expand and continuously fund an optional, confidential student health survey, this bill passed out of the House Education Committee with a 7-1 vote. The bill awaits funding in the Joint Ways and Means Committee.
The survivor: One bill that OSBA supported has been approved by both chambers and signed by the governor. HB 4140 addresses “return to learn” and requires ODE to develop documentation for school districts to use when a student is returning to school after suffering a concussion or other brain injury. We thank the chief sponsor, Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, for her leadership on this issue.
- Richard Donovan
Legislative Services specialist