2013 Legislative Summary

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Public Sector Accountability: HB 3342, the Public Dollars Accountability Act, will keep public employers from spending money to either promote or deter unions in their workplaces, as well as ensuring that our state laws around union organizing are enforced uniformly.

This bill is important since many public employers have hired union-busting law firms and consultants to interfere with their employees’ self-determination in organizing efforts.  

With the help the testimony of Deborah Green and Yvonne Braun of United Academics this bill passed the House and Senate.

Payment Parity for NPs and PAs:  HB 2902, requiring insurers to reimburse Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants the same rate as physicians when they provide the same mental health or primary care service and bill insurers using the same codes passed the legislature. This upholds an important principle--“equal pay for equal work”--and is a move against the trend of underpaying employees solely based on their job classification.

Institutional Boards:  SB 270 creates institutional boards for the University of Oregon, Portland State University, and possibly Oregon State University. It also creates a path for the technical and regional universities to create their own boards a few years down the line.

AFT-Oregon strongly advocated for representation from staff, students and faculty, but met resistance from those opposed to employees and students on boards (despite the long tradition of shared governance in higher education). We were able to ensure that each institutional board will have 1 faculty, 1 staff, and 1 student, but the voting rights for staff and faculty positions will be determined by the governor at the time of appointment for the tenure of each appointee’s term.

Deborah Olson from United Academics was able to make the trip to Salem to highlight our concerns with the legislation.

We will continue to work to convince this governor, and all future governors, to give faculty and staff full voting rights on these Boards.

The HECC Bill: HB 3120 provides the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) authority to establish policy for the Community College and Workforce Development department (removing that authority from the State Board of Education) and gives HECC oversight over the chancellor’s office.  This will be particularly beneficial for community colleges, where the opinions of our members and others concerned with education can receive more attention than on the current K-12 state board.  The post-secondary system of education will also benefit with community colleges and universities being united under a common board.  

AFT-Oregon strongly supported having 2 faculty, 2 students, and 1 staff with full voting rights on the HECC, but we were not successful and these positions will be non-voting.  

Achievement Compact Committees:  HB 3120 also requires meaningful faculty participation on achievement compact advisory committees in community colleges and universities.  Faculty participation in developing these policies is an important step towards ensuring a voice for our members in decisions on their campus, and will help ensure that the accountability goals of the compacts are implemented in a way that benefits students.

Higher Education Reporting:  HB 2152 will standardize annual reporting by the Oregon University System, individual universities, and the community colleges to the Oregon Legislature.  These reports will require universities and community colleges to report the ratios of supervisors to non-supervisory employees and administrators to students. These reports will help the state to get a better idea of university costs and provide some baselines for employment groups by campus and system wide.

Tuition Equity:  The Legislature passed HB 2787, Tuition Equity, granting undocumented youth, who have graduated from an Oregon high school and have been accepted to an Oregon public university the right to pay in-state tuition.  The passage of this bill culminates 10-years of battle by AFT-Oregon members to get this bill passed. It is a tremendous victory for our students and our state.

Pay it Forward:  HB 3472 creates a study committee that will develop a pilot program for “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back,” a system that connects student tuition to an individual long-term payroll tax.  Students at public universities and community colleges would pay no tuition when they enroll.  In exchange, they would agree to pay a percentage of their income (1.5% for community college, or 3% for a 4-year school) for 20 years to “pay forward” the cost of instruction for the next generation of students.  

AFT-Oregon has many concerns about this program, and is working with other labor unions and student groups to find ways to relieve student debt and increase funding for post-secondary education. There are strong doubts about how this scheme would be able to fund our colleges and universities in a time of austerity budgets.  We’re also extremely concerned that the state would use this program to justify the continued abdication of its responsibility to provide an affordable and accessible public education.

Contracting Out:  SB 805 would have forced school districts to adopt sound fiscal policies to understand their costs prior to contracting out.  This legislation would have clarified that cost/benefit analyses must be conducted prior to making the decision to contract for services, rather than prior to issuing a request for proposal. It would also have ensured that sale of district and contractor assets such as buses should not be considered in the cost/benefit analysis on a short-term (less than 10 year) contract. Lastly, it would have protected employees by making sure that lower employee wages and benefits cannot be the sole reason for contractor cost savings. Unfortunately, despite these common sense rules, SB 805 never even received a vote in the House or Senate.

Corporate Kicker for Community Colleges: HB 2305 would have directed any monies intended for the “kicker” refund to corporations to go to the Community College Support Fund. This measure passed the House by a vote of 46 – 16, but got stuck in the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee and was not brought up for a vote.