UCC Mainstream Online

Hanna shares legislative changes with campus

Rep. Bruce Hanna (R)
Mike Putman / Mainstream
Rep. Bruce Hanna (above) and Rep. Arnie Roblan won the 2012 Public Officials of the Year award from Governing Magazine for working together as co-speakers of the Oregon House of Representatives.

The state budget, PERS systems changes, prison and law enforcement funding, mental health care and OLIS were discussed at the town hall meeting led by State Sen. Floyd Prozanski and State Rep. Bruce Hanna, State Sen.  Jeff Kruse, Rep. Tim Freeman, County Commissioner Joe Laurence and several county school board officials Jan. 23 in the Technology Center.

For the first time in Oregon history, both parties in the House of Representatives won 30 seats in the State House of Representatives resulting in a tie in 2010. Rather than trying to find someone to switch sides, the two representatives chose to employ a never before tried system; they decided to work together as co-speakers, earning the two an award for being the 2012 Public Officials of the year from Governing Magazine for their unique approach.

Hanna also announced that Gov. John Kitzhaber, the state Senate and the House of Representatives had worked together to bring a balanced budget before the state.

Hanna then explained how the Governor, the state Senate, and the House of Representative had taken a difference approach with the 2013-2015 budget and funded the education program first with a price of $6.1 billion and stated that he hoped to push those funds up to about $6.3 billion for K though 12 education. The $6.3 billion will account for about 60 percent of the state’s budget.

Hanna then tackled the topic of PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) reform and told the attendees how they were facing a 30 percent increase in PERS costs over the next two years which could translate to a $500 per student increase in the budget just for retiring employees in the education sector. Hanna also warned that PERS is currently underfunded by $16 billion, and over the next two-year the PERS budget is looking at a projected increase in liabilities of about $900 million.

To combat PERS’ unfunded liability, some changes to the PERS system have been made. No longer will retirees who move out of state receive an annual 9 percent increase for Oregon health care costs, which would be a substantial savings to the state, explained Hanna.

Rep. Hanna then went on to explain his take on prison reform costs and how he would rather treat those with mental issues, instead of incarcerate them.

Senator Floyd Prozanski explained that he and Hanna have been repeatedly working across party lines and reminded the group that while both he and Rep. Hanna are politicians, they both also still maintain their day jobs.

Prozanski addressed the increasing cost of prisons and the projected need to add 2300 new beds over the next 10 years. Prozanski  noted that while the state pays an average of over $10,000 per student, Oregon pays about three times that for prisoners, and that both he and Rep. Hanna would much rather see the money spent on prisons be sent to local law officials to try and stop the criminal behavior before it starts.

Prozanski went on to state that currently when emergency fire and medical departments  have to call for assistants from law enforcement in domestic violence situation, which ever officer happens to be available responds to the call. Prozanski proposed that instead the emergency fire and medical departments should be able to contract with law enforcement to have an officer on duty specifically to handle those calls.

Hanna and Prozanski announced that coming Feb. 4 the new Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS) website will become available to the public. The OLIS website will allow users to look online to see what bills are being heard in what committees, what bills have passed, what bills have not, and allow people a much better idea of what the state government is doing. The website will be available via the Oregon legislature’s website at ore.leg.state.or.us.

Members of school district and board members questioned the pair over funding issues and asked when they could expect a copy of the state education budget, so they in turn could get their budgets finished. Sen. Prozanski said he hoped to see the budget in their hands sometime in March while Rep. Hanna disagreed and stated that they would be happy to see it by April 15.

Several residents of Roseburg brought up the subject of the North Columbia River crossing; the project proposes to build a new bridge across the Columbia River in Portland. The bridge would replace the current interstate-5 bridge at a project cost of $800 million. Residents asked why they should pay for it and what the gain for them locally would be. Rep Hanna replied that while building the new bridge would benefit the commuters of the Portland area greatly, the gain to the State in whole would be a drastic increase in economic throughput.

The question of agricultural jobs was raised by the audience and the lack of water to support the agricultural sector. Currently according to Hanna Washington draws about three percent of the water from the Columbia, and Oregon draws about 3/10 of a percent. Both officials were in favor of accessing more water from the Columbia River for the state to help with agricultural jobs in the state.