El Hispanic News
Portland, OR — Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) summed up the short session of the 2012 Oregon Legislature in a few words. The Republican state senator called the two-month session “34 days of hell.”
Ferrioli and his Democratic counterpart Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland), speaking at a City Club luncheon at the Governor Hotel in mid-March, agreed that the session ending on Jan. 25 was too short to address all of Oregon’s problems.
Rosenbaum took a brighter look than Ferrioli of the session, calling it a success that will make a difference for people who need help.
Taking her poster achievements, she cited two cases of bad loan practices that the legislators resolved.
In the first case, a couple had lost their home after following bad advice from a bank officer. The officer told the couple that they couldn’t work out a new payback program until they stopped making payments. A few months after the couple followed this toxic advice, the bank swooped down and foreclosed on the couple.
In the second case, a man with good credit and a solid bank account was denied a home loan. The bank said they could not make a loan until he had a huge bank balance. According to Rosenbaum, the man said, “If I had that much I wouldn’t need a loan.”
Rosenbaum said that the legislature passed bills that would prevent such practices.
Ferrioli had some doubts about other factors surrounding housing. “I am not sure we’re going to see a reduction in foreclosures,” he said.
On the job front, Rosenbaum said SB-1547 will prevent employers from requiring that applicants be currently employed.
In dealing with the problems in public schools, Ferrioli said, “I think we did a remarkable job.” He said the Senate had spent a lot of time to make sure classrooms had enough books and materials.
On the other hand, Ferrioli said he was not sure if the changes would increase the percentage of students who graduate on time.
Moderator Jeff Mapes, a reporter for The Oregonian, asked the two senators if they thought that education could be improved without investing more money in schools.
Ferrioli didn’t think so. “In 40 years we haven’t made any progress [making more students go to college],” he said. During that period, he said, the percentage of students going to college has been stuck at about 30 percent.
Rosenbaum thought pay raises for teachers would help. “We haven’t done a good job of paying teachers [an adequate wage],” she asserted.
Rosenbaum agreed that schools should “insure a higher rate of graduation.”
If students are enrolled in a “failing school,” Ferrioli said, parents are now allowed to move their children to another school.
President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan has raised many legal questions. Some opponents doubt the law lies within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution when it requires people to buy healthcare programs.
Ferrioli said that the Oregon legislature is waiting to see how the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Obama’s program.
If “ObamaCare” gets swatted down by the nation‘s highest court, then Oregon will need to do something, he acknowledged. “We haven’t decided what a [Oregon] healthcare program will like,” Ferrioli said.
Whatever the high court decides, Rosenbaum emphasized the need for a better health plan. “We can’t have children showing up in emergency rooms for a toothache,” she said.
She advocated “setting up a market place to make healthcare more affordable.”
Ferrioli said that any healthcare plan will face two questions — does it have a legal standing and does it have a practical structure?
In any case, he added, Oregon is supposed to receive $500 million from the federal government for various medical programs.
Burdick weighs in
In an e-mail, State Senate President Pro-Tem Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) highlighted several other issues.
Burdick noted that HB-4150 will expand the number of small businesses eligible to receive loans from Oregon’s Credit Enhancement Fund. This will affect retail and service businesses, allowing them to apply for loan guarantees until July 1, 2015.
HB 4165 will aim to track Oregon’s youngest children to assure that they will be prepared to start learning when they enter kindergarten.