First chamber deadline finds OSBA bills in good shape
The first procedural bell tolls in policy committees today, Monday, Feb. 14.
Today is the deadline for bills to receive votes in policy committees for the 2022 session. Most bills that are not voted out of committee in their chamber of origin (Senate for SB bills; House for HB bills) are, for all practical purposes, dead. Only joint committees, revenue, and rules committees are exempt from this deadline.
OSBA has four priority bills this session and all are in good shape. All were voted out of committee last week. They are all either on their way to the next committee or chamber floor or have made it there already. The bills are:
• House Bill 4026: Funding stabilization for school communities affected by the 2020 wildfires. The 2020 wildfire season did unprecedented damage to some Oregon school districts and communities. HB 4026 would deliver additional state money to these districts to keep their enrollment-based funding at pre-fire levels through 2025. The House Committee on Revenue endorsed the bill with a 7-0 vote. The bill is now in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, and OSBA will advocate for it to be included in the end-of-session funding package.
• House Bill 4029: School board training. Oregon school board members do not currently have any professional development requirements. HB 4029 would require all boards and superintendents to complete a board-driven self-assessment every two years to identify their training needs and to implement a two-year plan for professional learning. It would also require new board members and prospective chairs and vice chairs to receive additional training. This bill received heated discussion in a public hearing in the House Education Committee, which ultimately endorsed the bill by a party-line vote of six Democratic legislators “for” and four Republican legislators “against” the measure. The bill moves to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, and OSBA will advocate for it to be included in the end-of-session funding package.
• Senate Bill 1521: Stability in school district leadership. SB 1521 would provide certain employment protections for superintendents and enact a prohibition against firing a superintendent for following federal, state or local laws. Perhaps no education bill in this session has been more contentious. After a party-line vote of three Democratic senators “for” the measure and one Republican senator “against” the measure, with an additional Republican senator excused from the vote, the Senate Education Committee moved the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. The vote was held on Thursday, Feb. 10, and contained some of the session’s most interesting dialogue. At the closure of debate, the bill passed off the Senate floor with the bare 16 “yes” votes required for passage. It moves to the House, where it will next be referred to a committee for consideration.
• Senate Bill 1546: Funded transfer of the Elliott State Forest. SB 1546 would complete the transfer of the forest from the Common School Fund to a newly established independent public agency and would deliver $120 million to the fund, in addition to $100 million previously delivered by the Legislature, to compensate for the forest’s assessed value. This bill received heated discussion in a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery. The committee ultimately endorsed the bill by a party-line vote of three Democratic legislators “for” and one Republican legislator “against” with one further Republican legislator excused. The bill moves to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, and OSBA will advocate for it to be included in the end-of-session funding package
Another bill of note is on the move. HB 4030 is a consensus bill generated by a workgroup process of education stakeholders, including OSBA and representatives of school staff, administrators, and community groups. The bill aims to address very real, very dire staffing challenges facing schools. The bill contains a number of discreet provisions, including licensure changes, grant initiatives, and a directive to create an open job portal for teachers. Sen. Michael Dembrow (D- Portland) shepherded the bill’s creation and has signaled his intent to have this be the first in a series of bills to bolster school staffing needs. The bill received strong support from education stakeholders, including the Oregon Education Association. In an unusual development, the bill was amended and moved from the House Education Committee, by 10-0 vote, to the House Committee on Rules. Statements in committee indicated this was to allow additional time for fiscal paperwork to be generated, as the Rules committee is not bound by the same procedural deadlines as the Education policy committee. While this is somewhat unusual, Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland), who beyond being a member of the House Education Committee is also the chair of the House Committee on Rules, said on the record that this was “nothing nefarious” and was due to unexpected complications of required procedural paperwork.
Finally, the House Committee on Rules held a public hearing on a bill that would require school board members to file paperwork, specifically Statements of Economic Interest, annually. That bill, HB 4114, demonstrates the difficulties of statutory regulations of local government offices. Statements of Economic Interest are required of most public officials and elected officers that have control over spending, including legislators, city council members, public school superintendents and business officials, and many others. Oregon is one of only a few states that do not require public school board members to file SEIs. However, any additional paperwork or filing requirements may deter participation in public office. And in the public hearing, held Feb. 10, both sides of this issue were raised. School board members testified in support of and against the bill. Transparency concerns and equity challenges were raised. And, while most members of the committee seemed to signal their support for the measure, the future of the bill is unclear.
- Richard Donovan
Legislative Services specialist