The AFSCME E-lert is our newsletter targeted to people who want updates on legislative and political issues. The e-lert is generally published every week when the Legislature is in session, and periodically otherwise. You must specifically request to be added to the e-lert distribution list — click here and send us your e-mail address if you would like to do so. AFSCME members, please give us your home e-mail address, not work.
Here is the text of the most recent e-lert:
Oregon AFSCME E-lert
Feb. 16, 2016
Edited by Don Loving,
Council 75 Communications Director
TAKE ACTION! — Oregon’s housing crisis has been well documented. Housing stability is an important issue for everyone, which is why our union is urging members to call or e-mail legislators supporting HB 4143 — the Tenant Protection Bill.
Oregon AFSCME Political Coordinator Eva Rippeteau says HB 4143 features two key components:
• Rent protection — Renters who sign new contracts would be assured they’d face no rent increase during the first year of their tenancy.
• Eviction extension — The time period for “no cause” evictions would be increased from 60 to 90 days.
“Approximately 40 percent of Oregonians are renters, and Oregon has the nation’s lowest rental vacancy rate,” says Rippeteau. “Most renters are in month-to-month contracts, and many face the real threat of homelessness if subject to a sudden rate increase or a ‘no-cause’ eviction.”
Rippeteau notes that while landlords in manufactured home parks are required to give at least 90 days notice of proposed rent increases — and have been for 30 years — those renting apartments and houses currently receive only a one-month notice.
“This is an important issue for people of all income levels, not just those with low incomes,” said Rippeteau. “Renters at any income level deserve adequate time to adjust and plan when faced with a potential rent increase. Additionally, these are good protections for our child care providers who are renters. So please, let your legislators know this is a crucial issue for all Oregonians.”
If you don’t know who your state representative and state senator are, the link above will take care of that and direct you to them based on your address.
* * *
INCLUSIONARY ZONING UPDATE — Our union is also in the thick of an inclusionary zoning fight at the state capitol this session. Inclusionary zoning, often referred to as simply “IZ,” can be a complex issue with many nuances, but the bottom line is that inclusionary zoning is a public policy that requires a given share of new construction to be affordable housing for people with low to moderate incomes.
The idea is not new.
“There are hundreds of municipal jurisdictions of various types across the United
States that have IZ laws on the books,” says Rippeteau. “In fact, Oregon and Texas are the only two state governments without an IZ policy, and we’re hoping to change that this session. However, we want to make sure what ultimately passes is right for Oregon, even if that means spilling over into the 2017 full session.”
Rippeteau says developers banned inclusionary zoning in Oregon through bad legislation passed in 1999. SB 1533, sponsored by Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), is the primary vehicle for the current IZ legislative proposal. She says SB 1533 recently passed out of the Senate Human Services and Early Childhood Committee and has been moved to Senate Finance and Revenue. It is currently scheduled for public hearing on Feb. 18.
* * *
MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE HEADED TO HOUSE FLOOR — Following testimony well into the evening hours, Monday the House Business and Labor Committee passed SB 1532, the Oregon Senate’s three-tiered minimum wage measure that quickly caught momentum in the capitol after its introduction early this session.
The committee’s party-line vote sends the bill to the House floor. Approval from the full House is all that stands between the measure and the desk of Gov. Kate Brown, who says she’ll sign it, despite earlier stumping for her own two-tiered proposal.
SB 1532 would create three wage tiers: $14.75 in the Portland area, $13.50 in semi-urban areas (including Bend, Eugene, Medford and the central and northern Oregon coast areas), and $12.50 for sparsely populated areas. Raises would begin this June, when wages would rise to $9.75 for the first two tiers and $9.50 in the third. Oregon's current minimum wage is $9.25; the federal minimum wage is $7.25.
Oregon AFSCME Political Director Joe Baessler says our union supports a legislative solution to the minimum wage issue, rather than risk potential competing ballot measures this fall. At this writing the House floor vote on SB 1532 has yet to be scheduled.
* * *
WAITING GAME — We are waiting to hear what happens next for HB 4011, the measure to move employees of the Oregon State Hospital into the enhanced tier of PERS. As reported last week, HB 4011 would include members of Local 3295, the registered nurses at OSH, as well as our OSH physicians who belong to Local 3327, plus hundreds of direct care staff represented by the Service Employees International Union’s Local 503.
As anticipated, the bill passed the House Business and Labor Committee last week on a party line vote. It was sent to the Joint Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee, where its next action has yet to be scheduled.
HB 4011 is being championed by state Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem); the Oregon State Hospital is smack dab in the middle of Clem’s House District 21. The measure is patterned after our union’s successful effort in 2015 that granted enhanced PERS status to members of Local 1246 who work for the state’s Stabilization and Crisis Unit IDD group homes, which Clem also supported.
“Rep. Clem has consistently been a steadfast advocate for our state hospital employees,” says Rippeteau, who is working HB 4011 for AFSCME. “This is just the latest example of him looking out for the doctors and nurses we represent at OSH.”
Rippeteau noted that the Business and Labor Committee understood the issue well, given the nearly identical SACU bill that it moved last session. Like the SACU bill, HB 4011 would grant state hospital workers the ability to retire after 25 years and receive a slightly boosted retirement formula rate. HB 4011 is not retroactive, the enhanced benefits would only be calculated from the measure’s passage moving forward, which contains the costs.
* * *
THANK YOU POWERBALL — Oregon’s state budget received a $9 million windfall in January due to a frenzy of Powerball ticket sales when the nationwide lottery jackpot went over $1 billion. That was an interesting side note from state economist Mark McMullen in delivering the quarterly revenue forecast to legislators earlier this month.
Council 75 Political Coordinator Ralph Groener tracks revenue measures for our union. He says the current forecast projects a revenue increase of about $61 million for the current biennium. But he notes that McMullen warned a slowdown in manufacturing and the volatile stock market could be warning signs for the future.
“Things are good right now, and we’re not looking at any cuts this biennium,” said Groener. “The 2017-19 state budget will be largely driven, as always, by that May's revenue forecast; a lot can happen between now and then.”
Groener, incidentally, is working his last legislative session for our union. A union staffer since 1990, he is retiring on March 31.
# # #
Oregon AFSCME Council 75
1400 Tandem Ave NE
Salem, OR 97301
Phone: 503-370-2522 / 800-521-5954