Legislative “End Game” Negotiations in Full Swing

This week in Salem started off tense, as the final revenue forecast before the end of session was released on Tuesday. Although the budget deficit is projected to shrink, the Legislature still anticipates a $1.4 billion gap. This sets the scene for the final end-of-session negotiations. Democrats are hoping for additional tax revenue, generally through corporate tax increases. Most Republicans will begrudgingly say that revenue needs to be on the table, but are holding out for additional concessions. Key among those concessions is an effort to undertake additional PERS “reforms” that ORCOPS has been tracking. The good news is that the most draconian PERS bills have been halted…for now. The bad news is that there are still “live” bills that may be considered, such as SB 559 (lowering the final average salary calculation) and SB 560 (redirecting IAP contributions). Both measures are sponsored by Senator Tim Knopp (R – Bend), who sits on the Senate Workforce Committee. The labor-driven “PERS Coalition,” including ORCOPS, is meeting regularly to coordinate strategy in addressing these measures.

Now that the “end game” negotiations are in full swing, the latest plan, put forth by Senator Mark Hass (D – Beaverton) includes corporate tax increases on sales volume and offsets to mitigate that effect on consumers with tax breaks on personal income tax. Governor Kate Brown (D) has asked for a panel to be assembled to make recommendations on PERS legislation for the 2018 legislative session (presumably in lieu of passing anything PERS-related this session). She has already indicated an interest in exploring pension obligation borrowing (which was somewhat successful in past low-interest-rate environments), additional employee contributions, and in-sourcing of State Treasury investment functions.

As for law enforcement-specific policies, we will see several items coming up in the next few weeks before session ends. ORCOPS continues to lobby the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Public Safety to amend SB 496 to afford law enforcement officers in front of a grand jury the same rights and privileges as any other person. Currently, the measure provides additional public release provisions in the event that an officer is the target of a grand jury. Aside from being unfair, these provisions add unnecessary expenses to an already expensive piece of legislation (in a cash-strapped budget environment, mind you).

ORCOPS’ lobbyists have also reached out to the Oregon State Police to inquire about the rulemaking process around personal purchases of firearms. Currently, law enforcement officers are required to register with their home address, rather than use the address of their precinct (like when registering a personal vehicle). We are hopeful that we can change this without requiring legislation.

Stay safe out there this weekend and enjoy the sun!

Daryl Turner, President

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Legislative Session Update

The Capitol Building in Salem is aligning itself for the end-of-session deal making.

With many legislative deadlines behind us, legislators and lobbyists alike are now waiting eagerly for next week’s Revenue Forecast (to be issued Tuesday). As the final forecast before the end of session, this report will inform on what details have yet to be worked out at top levels of legislative leadership in order to negotiate an end to the session (an agreement on balancing revenue with the state’s budget is key to ending the session, which must end by July 10). This will also have effects on issues ORCOPS is following, such as our advocacy for east county gang enforcement funding (which is not its own bill but a line item in the larger public safety budget) and the financial cost of some measures which ORCOPS supports… and some we oppose.

This past week, ORCOPS had several meetings with legislators on the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee regarding the possible recording of Grand Jury proceedings. ORCOPS is opposing the legislation, in most part due to a provision that essentially makes the recording a public record when the target of a grand jury is a police officer. Luckily, this is an issue ORCOPS specifically discussed with candidates during the 2016 election cycle, so we have commitments from a number of legislators to oppose such a provision.

Although some other ORCOPS-supported measures, such as a PERS fix for OHSU officers, were not able to beat the initial session deadlines, ORCOPS is waiting for an opportunity to amend these concepts into broader pieces of legislation. It is not uncommon for the last weeks of the legislative session to see “omnibus” bills that contain a number of different elements as a result of last-minute deals.

Lastly, even though the bulk of the ill-intentioned PERS “reform” measures did not pass, we remain cautious because they, too, might be resurrected as amendments if we’re not vigilant. We should not count on the Supreme Court to protect our pension agreements, so we have been holding the line in the Capitol alongside other public sector employees.

Look for things to pick up after next week once the revenue forecast is set!

Stay safe out there.

Daryl Turner, President

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