As the short legislative session hit a midpoint this week, state Rep. Ann Lininger, who represents Lake Oswego and Southwest Portland, touted bills now headed to the Senate that support top local priorities.
Lininger, who represents District 38, said those priorities include supporting creation of good family-wage jobs but protecting our quality of life, the great environment people care a lot about in our district, along with strengthening public schools and continuing to provide strong safety nets for families and seniors.
If the Great Recession has taught us anything, its that none of us is far away from needing a helping hand, she said.
So far in the session, which began Feb. 3, the House has advanced bills aiming to encourage investment in facilities that harness the power of the ocean to produce energy, to allow commercial building owners to tap private and not just public capital when making energy-efficiency improvements and to protect previously enacted renewable power standards.
The House advanced an initiative calling for more educators on the Oregon Education Investment Board. Lininger also supported efforts to enable school districts to tailor performance measurement standards to their local communities and to clarify that any prior steps taken to improve education wont diminish teachers abilities to assign homework.
My strong desire is to make sure we have more school days and we have good class sizes, Lininger added. I think there will be more work for us to do to move those goals forward, but Im excited about some of the steps weve been able to take on education this session.
On social services, Lininger said her goal is to maintain a strong safety net for fragile seniors and struggling families. One way of doing that is by preserving manufactured home parks, she said.
Its a really important source of affordable housing for many low-income seniors, people with disabilities and others, Lininger said. We supported a bill in the House that would give the tenants in those communities more opportunities to potentially buy their parks from a willing seller.
Another is by helping seniors have property taxes deferred on their homes, she noted. In addition, the House approved a program creating special advocates for senior citizens who are in guardianship or conservatorship situations, who lack a family member or close friend to advocate for their best interests.
Lininger said she was particularly pleased the House this week approved a measure funneling leftover class action lawsuit payments to legal aid programs serving low-income people dealing with injuries, evictions, domestic abuse or other mistreatment.
Today, Oregon is one of two states that gives uncollected dollars from class action cases back to the defendants required to pay them.
I was very happy that so many of my colleagues joined me in supporting legislation that would stop giving back to wrongdoers the damage awards in class action lawsuits ... and instead have that money go to provide legal services for very low-income people, Lininger said. Hopefully the Senate will agree its time for us to stop refunding those penalties to the wrongdoers and instead join other states who direct that leftover money to support legal services for fragile families and seniors.
The Houses position on some issues remained unclear as of press time this week.
It was possible that the Columbia River Crossing, the controversial Interstate 5 bridge replacement project, would go to the House floor for a vote, Lininger said. In addition, legislators were still considering regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries, including whether local communities can prohibit them or regulate the time, place and manner in which the dispensaries operate.
Lawmakers also hadnt yet decided on whether to support the a request from Oregon Health & Science University, which is seeking $200 million in general obligation bond money to help match a half billion dollars pledged for cancer research by Phil Night.
Im excited about the opportunity to potentially support a cancer research center at some level through the Knight Cancer Challenge, Lininger said.
The Legislatures session will continue through March 9.