The end is in sight, but this is when legislative funny business happens
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
The last deadline to move bills out of most committees was Friday, and we are at that time in the session (well, a normal session) when things start to wind down. This is anything but a normal session, though, most notably with a backlog of bills in the Joint Ways and Means Committee.
As of late last week, the committee is behind by at least 10 budget bills and 35 policy bills. With important work still to be done, education advocacy continues to be challenging, but we have innovated some new moves.
One way we found success early in the session was to organize education lobbyists into a weekly meeting that OSBA hosts, bringing together 15-20 stakeholders. We persuaded Senate Education Committee Chair Michael Dembrow to come to the weekly meeting to discuss what is going on, and we get to weigh in on bills. Dembrow, D-Portland, has been helpful and direct with us about his information.
Recently, the senator asked for our list of bills in Ways and Means that the group has consensus on. The list is extensive, because this virtual world has pushed all organizations to work together to smooth out policy differences and move legislation.
We also host the meeting with House Education Committee Chair Teresa Alonso León. As a new chair facing the hectic job of managing a committee in a virtual environment, Alonso León, D-Woodburn, has been harder to schedule. With so many people wanting some of her time, these ed lobby meetings are even more valuable.
She surprised me late last week by asking for our current service level and other information on a State School Fund budget of $9.6 billion. We scrambled to get the documents to her, and we continue to fine-tune and adjust our strategy to increase school funds.
Hundreds of policy bills a session must make an added trip to Ways and Means to see if they will be funded.
Co-Chair Rep. Dan Rayfield said the budget bills need to be worked before they will consider other policy bills. Meaning, we may see some shenanigans to get as many bills as possible out and across the finish line, such as trying to combine bills.
This last scramble will require extra vigilance from education lobbyists as well as schools’ many advocates. The public can check on bills and watch daily sessions on the Legislature’s website.
We also ask our members to watch for a possible action alert on the State School Fund sometime in the next two weeks. If the Legislature doesn’t raise school funding, we may ask you to reach out to your legislators.
Thank you all for your advocacy this session, especially in the virtual hearings, but our work is not over.