Final policy deadline this week but most education bills are already on the move
This Thursday, Feb. 24, marks the second chamber deadline for the 2022 legislative session. Any bill that is going to be voted out of a policy committee this session must do by the end of the day Thursday. Practically, this means many bills will be procedurally “dead.” It also means that most of the action for the remainder of session shifts to the non-policy committees that do not adhere this procedural deadline, most notably: the House and Senate Committees on Rules; the House and Senate Committees on Revenue; and the Joint Committees on Ways and Means and its attendant subcommittees.
In a typical session, many important education bills would be rushing to beat the deadline. This year is atypical for many reasons, however, and one main reason is that most OSBA priorities have already moved and are ahead of the deadline.
Three of four OSBA priority bills – HB 4026 (wildfire-affected school district support), HB 4029 (school board training), and SB 1546 (sale of the Elliott Forest out of the Common School Fund) – are already in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. There is every reason to expect that they will be scheduled for a hearing and, ultimately, endorsed by the Legislature as part of the end-of-session spending package of bills. HB 4026 and HB 4029 are both bills that were very close to becoming law in 2021, and there is broad commitment from the Legislature to enact them this session. And SB 1546 is the culmination of a four-year-long process of stakeholder discussions, of which OSBA has been a part. It seems like this year, with record revenues and a stakeholder agreement, is the year to finally decouple the Elliott from public education funding.
The other priority, SB 1521 (school board leadership continuity), is likely going to be voted out of committee today, Tuesday, Feb. 22. It is unclear if the bill will be amended, and thereby have to eventually return to the Senate for concurrence, or will pass in its current unamended form. In either case it looks like it should be moved out of committee, potentially on a party-line vote. If that happens, then it will move to the House floor, where it has strong support among majority Democrats.
Beyond these four bills, this has been a wildly busy session for school districts in Oregon. Typically in a short session a few bills are prioritized and a few more are relevant. This year we have been actively advocating in favor of our four priority bills while simultaneously lobbying and testifying on almost two dozen other bills. The topics of these bills include diesel fuel, journalist access to school district lands, public records filings for school board members, investments in summer learning, and a bill to address the increasingly grave state of employee retention and recruitment in public schools. Some of these bills could receive hundreds of millions of dollars of new funds, and some could do nothing more than make a discreet, but necessary, technical fix to statutes. But all involve schools. And in total we are tracking more than 100 of the approximately 275 bills filed this session. The workload brings both stress and excitement. There’s an expression among lobbyists and legislators about the work of the Capitol, “We play with live ammo.” Never has that been more true.
Finally, for anyone interested in the race for governor or politics generally, I cannot recommend the Oregon Bridge podcast enough. It, along with the associated newsletter, has become a genuine source of news and insight for political professionals and enthusiasts in Oregon. I would specifically draw attention to their recent episode 43, a discussion with political professional Reagan Knopp. It is the best breakdown of the current state of the governor’s race, including the kind of discussion about fringe candidates and Republican politics that is both uncommon and insightful. Even though it was recorded before the recent ruling that candidate Nick Kristof will not be permitted onto the ballot, it is a window into the kinds of discussions that occur among Oregon political professionals, regardless of party affiliation or persuasion. (Full disclosure: Ben Bowman, one of the podcast hosts, is currently a member of the Tigard-Tualatin School Board and is candidate for House District 25 in this year’s election.) It’s a good hour to listen to if you are, like me, an Oregon political nerd.
- Richard Donovan
Legislative Services specialist