30th of July 2014 / Serving Oregon & Southwest Washington since 1959

CRC meets legislative goals

By Paul Haist

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“If you look at the legislative agenda and what we achieved, we were quite successful.”

That’s the assessment of Alan Tresidder of the Tresidder Co., the Lake Oswego-based government relations or lobbying firm that represents the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland at the Oregon Legislature.

He was commenting on the record of the 74th biennial session of the Oregon Legislature, which adjourned June 28. Tresidder recently reported on the legislative outcome to the federation’s Community Relations Committee, which oversees his activities.

“We were successful because we spend some time studying goals and realistic expectations, and we meet with legislators and explain those (goals and expectations) to them, and our community is involved in the legislative process,” he said.

It is helpful also, he added, that the federation partners with like-minded organizations, such as Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, in working on behalf of shared goals.

Success comes also from building relationships with legislators and their staffs, according to Tresidder, an opinion shared by Sarah Wetherson who chairs the CRC subcommittee with oversight responsibility for federation lobbying efforts.

“We have worked very hard over the last several years to build relationships with several legislators on both sides of the aisle and to have meetings with key legislators between sessions,” she said.

Setting goals, communicating with lawmakers, partnering with other groups and building relationships paid off this year with the passage of House Bill 3057, which Tresidder pointed to as a major achievement for institutions such as the Robison Jewish Home at Cedar Sinai Park, Portland’s Jewish senior living campus and care facility.

The measure, which includes language locking in for six years a 63-percent government reimbursement rate for allowable costs incurred by Medicaid patients at institutions such as Robison, represents progress, in Tresidder’s words, “toward creating a sustainable long-term care program for Oregon’s low-income seniors.”

Another key element of the measure requires that $120 million dollars of federal matching funds be invested in nursing facilities and Oregon’s long-term nursing care, where previously those funds, a federal match to a tax levied on care facilities—the so-called “bed tax”—were rolled into the Department of Human Services budget “never to be seen again,” wrote Tresidder.

Cedar Sinai Park CEO David Fuks said, “The bill was vitally important in terms of providing continued improvement for the funding of senior services.”

Especially important, he added, was the provision ensuring that the bed-tax federal matching funds go to the care facilities.

“If we are going to tax the nursing homes for this purpose, the money must stay with the nursing homes,” said Fuks, “because any revenue measure that doesn’t have this obligation clearly stated could result in funds being diverted to other uses, which would be unfair to the nursing homes and an unfair burden to those we serve.”

Fuks expressed his deep appreciation to the CRC members who traveled to Salem to lobby for this measure while he and others were making their case to legislators.

Chuck Tauman, immediate past chair of the CRC and the person who helped establish the federation’s lobbying program several years ago, also felt the presence of CRC members in Salem helped to make a difference.

“We had good participation from members of the CRC and the federation board. That’s been encouraging,” he said.

However, because of streamlined procedures and new efficiencies this session, he felt that the occasional CRC breakfasts for legislators, held in the Chinook Room in the Capitol basement, need to be revisited.

“(Legislative) committees that used to meet later were meeting earlier in the mornings, so our attendance at the breakfast sessions was not as good as before,” said Tauman. He thought they may focus on lunch meetings and more one-on-one meetings in the future.

CRC staff director Robert Horenstein singled out HB 3057 as a notable success for the lobbying efforts of the federation and all who supported the measure.

Otherwise, Horenstein was reluctant to characterize the legislative session one way or the other, underscoring that “many of the federation’s legislative goals over the years have been longer-term…(they) may take more than one or two sessions to achieve.”

Still, both Horenstein and Tresidder found several sources of satisfaction in the recent session, as well as some disappointment.

The failure of the Legislature to provide $50,000 that the federation had requested to upgrade security and disaster preparation at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center had seemed a sure thing until the very last days of the session when the funding was withdrawn.

The money would have helped provide for changes to the MJCC parking lot, including re-routing traffic, establishing a gated entry and a guard presence and would complete the security necessary to keep unwanted cars or trucks out of the parking lot at an appropriate stand-off distance from the building.

“Rep. (Mary) Nolan (D-Portland) was very up front and shared her priorities directly, and this funding did not make the cut,” Tresidder wrote in his report. “She and (Joint Ways and Means Committee) Co-Chair Sen. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) were solely responsible for the dashing of hundreds of aspirations similar to ours, citing that there simply was not adequate money to do ‘smaller’ projects.”

Both Tauman and Tresidder said the federation would employ new strategies to make their case for the security funds during the upcoming special session in February, while also possibly seeking a larger sum.

The security funds were not the sole disappointment.

Horenstein said, “The biggest disappointment, which to us was a surprise, was the failure of the Healthy Kids Initiative, which would have provided healthcare to Oregon’s 117,000 uninsured children.”

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act sought to prevent employers from refusing to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practice. It was supported in principle by the CRC, but failed in the Senate. However, CRC reservations about the bill contributed, according to Horenstein, to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy issuing an administrative rule preventing a pharmacist from denying a woman her reproductive rights based upon the pharmacist’s religious beliefs. Some pharmacists had expressed an unwillingness to fill birth-control prescriptions in contradiction of their religious beliefs.

Horenstein added, “We also backed successful legislation that bolsters the safety net for families in need, for example, support for families living in poverty as they transition into the workforce.”

There were three bills that advanced consumer protection from excessive interest rates charged by so-called payday lenders.

“These bills sailed through the House Consumer Protection Committee and House and Senate floors. It is clear that Oregon’s Legislative leadership agreed with the faith community that this was a priority,” wrote Tresidder.

Besides revisiting the security funds for the MJCC, Horenstein said that for the upcoming special session of the Legislature in February—meant to test the waters of annual instead of biennial legislative sessions in Oregon—“we’re looking at introducing legislation to require all state funds (such as the Public Employee Retirement System and the State Accident Insurance Fund) to divest from companies that are investing in Iran’s oil and natural gas sectors.”

The CRC hosted State Treasurer Randall Edwards Aug. 1 at the federation offices to explore the divestment issue.

“It’s possible that if he is fully supportive of our effort—and I think in principle he is—that we may be able to work through the Treasury rather than pursue legislation at this time,” said Horenstein.He was commenting on the record of the 74th biennial session of the Oregon Legislature, which adjourned June 28. Tresidder recently reported on the legislative outcome to the federation’s Community Relations Committee, which oversees his activities.

“We were successful because we spend some time studying goals and realistic expectations, and we meet with legislators and explain those (goals and expectations) to them, and our community is involved in the legislative process,” he said.

It is helpful also, he added, that the federation partners with like-minded organizations, such as Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, in working on behalf of shared goals.

Success comes also from building relationships with legislators and their staffs, according to Tresidder, an opinion shared by Sarah Wetherson who chairs the CRC subcommittee with oversight responsibility for federation lobbying efforts.

“We have worked very hard over the last several years to build relationships with several legislators on both sides of the aisle and to have meetings with key legislators between sessions,” she said.

Setting goals, communicating with lawmakers, partnering with other groups and building relationships paid off this year with the passage of House Bill 3057, which Tresidder pointed to as a major achievement for institutions such as the Robison Jewish Home at Cedar Sinai Park, Portland’s Jewish senior living campus and care facility.

The measure, which includes language locking in for six years a 63-percent government reimbursement rate for allowable costs incurred by Medicaid patients at institutions such as Robison, represents progress, in Tresidder’s words, “toward creating a sustainable long-term care program for Oregon’s low-income seniors.”

Another key element of the measure requires that $120 million dollars of federal matching funds be invested in nursing facilities and Oregon’s long-term nursing care, where previously those funds, a federal match to a tax levied on care facilities—the so-called “bed tax”—were rolled into the Department of Human Services budget “never to be seen again,” wrote Tresidder.

Cedar Sinai Park CEO David Fuks said, “The bill was vitally important in terms of providing continued improvement for the funding of senior services.”

Especially important, he added, was the provision ensuring that the bed-tax federal matching funds go to the care facilities.

“If we are going to tax the nursing homes for this purpose, the money must stay with the nursing homes,” said Fuks, “because any revenue measure that doesn’t have this obligation clearly stated could result in funds being diverted to other uses, which would be unfair to the nursing homes and an unfair burden to those we serve.”

Fuks expressed his deep appreciation to the CRC members who traveled to Salem to lobby for this measure while he and others were making their case to legislators.

Chuck Tauman, immediate past chair of the CRC and the person who helped establish the federation’s lobbying program several years ago, also felt the presence of CRC members in Salem helped to make a difference.

“We had good participation from members of the CRC and the federation board. That’s been encouraging,” he said.

However, because of streamlined procedures and new efficiencies this session, he felt that the occasional CRC breakfasts for legislators, held in the Chinook Room in the Capitol basement, need to be revisited.

“(Legislative) committees that used to meet later were meeting earlier in the mornings, so our attendance at the breakfast sessions was not as good as before,” said Tauman. He thought they may focus on lunch meetings and more one-on-one meetings in the future.

CRC staff director Robert Horenstein singled out HB 3057 as a notable success for the lobbying efforts of the federation and all who supported the measure.

Otherwise, Horenstein was reluctant to characterize the legislative session one way or the other, underscoring that “many of the federation’s legislative goals over the years have been longer-term…(they) may take more than one or two sessions to achieve.”

Still, both Horenstein and Tresidder found several sources of satisfaction in the recent session, as well as some disappointment.

The failure of the Legislature to provide $50,000 that the federation had requested to upgrade security and disaster preparation at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center had seemed a sure thing until the very last days of the session when the funding was withdrawn.

The money would have helped provide for changes to the MJCC parking lot, including re-routing traffic, establishing a gated entry and a guard presence and would complete the security necessary to keep unwanted cars or trucks out of the parking lot at an appropriate stand-off distance from the building.

“Rep. (Mary) Nolan (D-Portland) was very up front and shared her priorities directly, and this funding did not make the cut,” Tresidder wrote in his report. “She and (Joint Ways and Means Committee) Co-Chair Sen. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) were solely responsible for the dashing of hundreds of aspirations similar to ours, citing that there simply was not adequate money to do ‘smaller’ projects.”

Both Tauman and Tresidder said the federation would employ new strategies to make their case for the security funds during the upcoming special session in February, while also possibly seeking a larger sum.

The security funds were not the sole disappointment.

Horenstein said, “The biggest disappointment, which to us was a surprise, was the failure of the Healthy Kids Initiative, which would have provided healthcare to Oregon’s 117,000 uninsured children.”

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act sought to prevent employers from refusing to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practice. It was supported in principle by the CRC, but failed in the Senate. However, CRC reservations about the bill contributed, according to Horenstein, to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy issuing an administrative rule preventing a pharmacist from denying a woman her reproductive rights based upon the pharmacist’s religious beliefs. Some pharmacists had expressed an unwillingness to fill birth-control prescriptions in contradiction of their religious beliefs.

Horenstein added, “We also backed successful legislation that bolsters the safety net for families in need, for example, support for families living in poverty as they transition into the workforce.”

There were three bills that advanced consumer protection from excessive interest rates charged by so-called payday lenders.

“These bills sailed through the House Consumer Protection Committee and House and Senate floors. It is clear that Oregon’s Legislative leadership agreed with the faith community that this was a priority,” wrote Tresidder.

Besides revisiting the security funds for the MJCC, Horenstein said that for the upcoming special session of the Legislature in February—meant to test the waters of annual instead of biennial legislative sessions in Oregon—“we’re looking at introducing legislation to require all state funds (such as the Public Employee Retirement System and the State Accident Insurance Fund) to divest from companies that are investing in Iran’s oil and natural gas sectors.”

The CRC hosted State Treasurer Randall Edwards Aug. 1 at the federation offices to explore the divestment issue.

“It’s possible that if he is fully supportive of our effort—and I think in principle he is—that we may be able to work through the Treasury rather than pursue legislation at this time,” said Horenstein.

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