Legislative Revenue Office 2016 Public Finance Basic Facts
The property tax in Oregon is a local tax. It funds most local services and many functions of county and city governments. Large portions of school districts’ and community college budgets also depend on property tax receipts. Taxable property includes real property, mobile homes, some tangible personal property used by business and in the cases of centrally assessed property, intangible property. Prior to the passage of the property tax limitations of Measure 50, property tax was generally based on a property’s real market value. Since 1997-98, each property has a real market as well as an assessed value. Property value assessment and taxation is conducted at the county level, except for large industrial properties and “centrally” assessed utilities, where Oregon Department of Revenue plays a major role.
Property tax rates differ across the state. The rate on any particular property depends on the tax rates approved by local voters and the limits established in the Oregon Constitution. Most properties are taxed by multiple districts, such as city, county, school, community college, port and fire districts. The total tax rate on a particular property is calculated by adding all the local taxing districts’ rates in the area. The tax on each property is computed by multiplying the total tax rate by the assessed value of the property and then (if needed) reducing the calculated tax in response to constitutional limits. Annually, the county assessor verifies the tax rates and levies submitted by each local taxing district. Collection of taxes and distribution of the funds to local districts are done by the county tax collector.
In 2014-15, the total Real Market Value (RMV) of taxable property in Oregon was $469.5 billion, an increase of 8.3% from 2013-14. The total Net Assessed Value of $343.2 billion reflects a 4.3% increase over 2013-14. Excluding $220 million in taxes imposed for Urban Renewal, taxing districts imposed $5.541 billion in 2014-15. This reflects an overall 5.1% growth rate from the prior year.
Not all properties are taxable. Major exemptions include intangible property (stocks, bonds), tangible personal property of individuals (household furnishings, sporting equipment), licensed property (cars, trucks), business inventories, government property (unless leased to a taxable business or individual), and property used for religious or charitable purposes. Electric cooperatives, rural telephone exchanges and some other property are exempt from property taxation because other taxes are paid in lieu of property tax.
Some properties are taxed at lower values. These “specially assessed” properties include some forest land, farm land, and open space land. These properties are taxed at their values in the restricted use and are subject to penalties if not continued in the use for which they are specially assessed.
Measure 5 is a tax limitation constitutional amendment approved by Oregon voters in 1990. It restricted taxes on any parcel of property per $1,000 of real market value: the education category is limited to $5 and general government to $10. Tax “compression” occurs if the tax extended on a property exceeds either of the Measure 5 limits. That is, if taxes for an individual property exceed the limits, then the taxes for that property are reduced to the limits. Local option levies are the first levy type to be reduced. General obligation bonds are not restricted by Measure 5 limits.
In May 1997 voters passed a second constitutional amendment to limit property tax. Measure 50 did not replace Measure 5, but rather established a second level of restrictions. Measure 50 gave each district a permanent tax rate which cannot be increased without a constitutional amendment. However, voters can approve local option levies for up to five years for operations, and up to the lesser of ten years or the useful life of capital projects. Local option levies, as well as general obligation bonds, must be approved by a majority vote at a general election. Prior to November 2007, a double majority (i.e., a majority of at least 50% of eligible voters) was needed to approve either a local option tax or a general obligation bond proposal.
Measure 50 also defined the concept of Assessed Value (AV). The 1997-98 Maximum Assessed Value (MAV) for each property was set at 90% of its 1995-96 real market value (RMV). If no new construction occurs on the property, then the growth in maximum assessed value is capped at 3% a year. However, assessed value cannot exceed real market value. The ratio of MAV to RMV is known as the Changed Property Ratio (CPR). Across all taxing districts, the ratio of AV:RMV was at its lowest in 2008-09 at 55.6%. In part due the recession’s impact on residential and business property values, the statewide ratio levelled off at about 78% in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and reached about 75.5% in 2014-15. Prior to the great recession, changes reflected high appreciation in real market values of property that occurred in many areas of Oregon relative to the 3% constitutionally capped growth rate in MAV.
The table on the following page breaks down 2014-15 property taxes by type of taxing district and tax source. Generally the largest portion of property tax revenues come from a district’s permanent rate. Taxes from this source totaled $4.408 billion in 2014-15, accounting for 76.5% of all taxes imposed. The 2014-15 tax revenue attributable to the permanent rate registered an annual growth rate of 5.2%. Community College districts, K-12 districts and Education Service districts increased their revenues from all sources over the prior year by 4.1%, 5.2%, and 4.9%, respectively. County taxing districts, City districts and Special Districts grew total revenues over the prior year by 4.4%, 5.3% and 5.9%, respectively.
General obligation bond revenue in 2014-15 totaled $779.7 million or 13.5% of all taxes listed in the table. Across all taxing districts these revenues increased .8% in 2014-15 relative to 2013-14, with 66.8% of the total accounted for by K-12 taxing districts. Historically these funds have been an important source of revenue for the K-12 taxing districts. Since 1999-00, the average growth in K-12 bond revenue has been 5.4%. In 2014-15, K-12 bond revenue increased 2.4% from the previous year. Since the timing of bond maturities affects the level of bond revenues in any one year, one or more years of data is needed to determine a significant trend.
Bond revenues for community colleges increased by 2.0% over the prior year. Bond revenues for cities increased 2.1% from a year ago. In 2014-15, county taxing district’s bonds decreased 26.3%1 and special district’s bond revenues decreased 0.1% from 2013-14.
Across all other taxing districts in 2014-15, local option tax revenues increased 14.3% over the prior year, totaling $352.7 million. Cities and county taxing districts accounted for 43.8% of local option tax revenue in 2014-15. The share of local option revenues generated for K-12 education was 38.0% in 2014-15. Special taxing districts accounted for 18.1% of local option taxes in 2014- 15.
Passed in 1990, Measure 5 introduced limits on taxes paid by individual properties. When a property’s taxes are reduced due to the limits, the reduction is referred to as “compression”.
Compression occurs when a property’s tax rate must be lowered so that the tax imposed on the assessed value of a single property does not exceed $10/$1,000 of the property’s real market value for non-school taxing districts and $5/$1,000 for school taxing districts. The maximum assessed value of a property is allowed to increase 3% each year, but it may not exceed a property’s real market value. Therefore, in cases where the real market value of a property grows by less than 3% annually or its real market value has declined, that property’s tax rate may have to be reduced (i.e., compressed) in order to satisfy the $5/$1,000 or $10/$1,000 requirements.
Districts are not in compression per se, rather properties located within taxing districts may be in compression. Permanent and local option levies are subject to the Measure 5 rate limits, bond levies are not.
There are two primary components that cause compression.
Foremost are tax rates. If applied tax rates are below the $5 and $10 limit thresholds then no compression will exist. Rate limitations are calculated against a property’s real market value (RMV), however, tax rates are applied to a property’s assessed value (AV).
Because of this, a property’s ratio of RMV:AV can impact whether the property is “in compression”. A widening RMV:AV ratio will decrease the overall level of compression whereas a contracting ratio will increase compression reduction. Illustrated by comparing 2006-07 with 2014-15 where compression reduction as a percent of tax extended was 1.4% as compared to 3.6% in 2014-15. This corresponded with statewide average residential CPRs of .579 and .768 respectively.
In 2014-15, many taxing districts were affected to some degree by ‘compression’ which is the difference between ‘extended’ taxes and a lesser amount that can actually be imposed on an individual property because of Oregon’s Constitutional limitations.
Appreciation of property values during Oregon’s housing market boom in the late 2000s helped lower compression reductions statewide and the subsequent recession increased them again. Compression reduction ranged from $48.8 - $53.0 million between 2005-06 and 2008-09 increasing to $188.7 million in 2014-15. Regional disparities persist with respect to the importance of compression, as measured by the dollar value of the compression reduction relative to the amount of tax imposed. In 2014-15 compression reduction statewide totaled 3.6% of taxes extended, 54.8% (totaling $103.3 million) of total loss occurred in Multnomah County. (Tax extended relating to bond levies is not included as bonds are not subject to measure 5 compression limits.)
In other counties, the dollar value of compression reduction was lower, but in relative terms, reduction in some counties was similarly significant. For example, in Morrow County, the compression reduction totaled $2.7 million but it accounted for 10.0% of this county’s property tax extended.
The fiscal significance of compression reduction also varies across taxing districts. For example, a number of counties had their Measure 50 permanent rates established at a time when the counties were receiving significant funding from federal forest timber payments. These federal forest payments have declined since the permanent rates were established and more recently have been under constant threat of being significantly reduced or eliminated. Compression may be a significant issue for the recipients of federal forest payments because it may restrict these districts’ ability to offset some portion of the lost federal revenue by raising their revenues from a voter approved local option property tax.
PROPERTY TAX RELIEF
General property tax relief began with the Property Tax Relief Act of 1929. This act imposed a personal income tax and dedicated the revenues to offset the State's property tax levy. As a result, the State has not levied a property tax since 1940.
Senior Citizens Property Tax Deferral Program
The senior deferral program was enacted in 1963. Homeowners age 62 and older may defer payment of property taxes until the owner dies or sells the property. The State pays the tax and obtains a lien on the property for the tax and accrued interest at the rate of 6% per year. At the time of enactment, the owner’s household income was required to be under $24,500 in the year prior to applying. Once in the program, a taxpayer could defer only in years when federal adjusted gross income was less than $29,000. In 1977, the Legislature expanded the program to include special assessments. Special assessment deferment was discontinued in 2011 (HB 2543).
The 1999 Legislature opened the deferral program to the disabled community and increased the initial income threshold to $27,500 in the year prior to applying and raised household income once in the program to $32,000. The 2001 Legislature raised the initial household income to match the “once in the program limit” of $32,000. These income limits are indexed to the U.S. Urban CPI. The current household income limit is $43,000 for the 2016-17 tax year.
Participation in the senior deferral program grew rapidly from the late seventies into the mid-eighties, going from 1,976 paid property tax accounts in fiscal year 1978-79 to 12,228 in 1985-86. Participation peaked in fiscal year 1989-90 at 13,165 paid senior deferral accounts. Participation then steadily declined until 2001-02 when the first group of disabled participants began receiving deferral. Participation then held relatively steady until 2008-09 when overall participation began to increase.
Nominal tax paid on behalf of deferral participants followed a relatively similar pattern. A high of $20.2 million in tax paid was reached in 1989-90 followed by a period of steady decline. In 2001-02 when disabled participants were added to the program, tax paid began to increase modestly until 2009-10 when rapid growth occurred.
Repayment of deferred balances followed a different trend. From 1978-79 to 1993-94, repayments increased rapidly before maintaining a steady annual amount ranging between $18 and $22 million per fiscal year. This dynamic required continuous appropriations to the deferral revolving account through the 1994-95 fiscal years. From 1995-96 through 2007-08, as repayments continued to outpace tax payments, the deferral account was able to appropriate out over $90 million, including payments of just over $14.5 million to Oregon Project Independence (discussed in more detail later).
Beginning in fiscal year 2007-08 a combination of factors began to occur that would reverse the cash flow of the deferral account. Annual repayments dropped below $18 million for the first time in over fifteen years while tax payments began to grow at an increasing pace. Fiscal year 2008-09 was the first fiscal year in which tax payments exceeded repayments since the 1991-92 fiscal year. Due to cash flow issues, Department of Revenue was forced to pay only two thirds of property tax account balances in November of 2010 with the remaining third being paid in May of 2011. In response to the cash flow issues, multiple changes were made to the deferral programs.
Changes are described below.
2009 - HB 3199
• Removed continuing appropriation from state General Fund to deferral revolving account in times of insufficient funds to make deferral payments
• Established authority of State Treasurer to lend moneys to the Department of Revenue in amounts needed to make deferral payments. Required repayment of funds to Treasury within five years with interest.
2011 - HB 2543
• Limited net worth (excluding value of home) for new and existing participants to $500,000
• Adjusted continuing qualification income criteria to household income rather than adjusted gross income
• Instituted home occupancy requirement of owning and living in home for at least five years prior to applying for program
• Required proof of homeowner’s insurance
• Limited qualifying properties to those at a certain percentage of the county median real market value of residential properties. Limit is dependent in part on number of years a participant (or applicant) has owned and lived in the home.
• Changed interest rate from six percent simple to six percent compound for deferred amounts on or after November 2011
• Required participant re-certification every two years
• Properties with reverse mortgages no longer allowed to participate
• Eliminated five year extension for heirs to repay deferred taxes
• New special assessment deferrals no longer accepted
• Eliminated transfer of excess funds to Oregon Project Independence. 2012 - HB 4039
• Allowed participants removed from program solely due to reverse mortgage disqualification stemming from HB 2543 (2011) changes to receive deferral in 2011 and 2012
• Changed recertification requirement to “not less than once every three years” allowing for a staggered recertification process
• Refined definition of county median RMV. 2013 - HB 2510, HB 2489
• HB 2510 allowed reverse mortgage participants brought back into deferral program by HB 4039 (2012) to remain in program in perpetuity so long as they meet all other qualification criteria
• HB 2489 created ability for participants that participated in program in 2011 and no longer qualify due to reverse mortgage or five year property requirements to reapply for deferral in the program beginning in 2014. Limited re-approval of participants to first 700 to reapply.
2014 – HB 4148
• Changed interest rate back to 6% simple rather than 6% compound. Applies interest retroactively for program participants that pay balances on or after July 1, 2016.
2015 – HB 2083
• Created exception to five-year ownership requirement for certain homesteads
• Required homesteads to be insured for fire and other casualty while allowing DOR to purchase insurance for uninsured homesteads
• Increased county median RMV qualification limits for taxpayers that have continuously owned and lived in homestead at least 21 years
• Required DOR to increase outreach to senior community if recertification is not received within 35 days following notification to homeowner.
Following the changes to the program in HB 2543 (2011), paid tax accounts in 2011-12 fell to about half the number in the previous year and overall taxes paid were about 62% of the previous year’s. Subsequent changes have allowed some of the previously eliminated participants to requalify for the program contributing to the moderate growth in the number and total tax paid. In 2015-16, 6,449 senior and disabled accounts were paid.
Operation Project Independence
In 2005, the Legislature created Oregon Project Independence (OPI) and funded it from excess balances that accumulate in the Senior Deferral Account. Excess balances accumulate if the property tax plus interest repayments are greater than the amount that the State of Oregon pays counties on behalf of the qualified seniors and disabled who are in the Senior and Disabled Deferral Program. The first payment sent in 2006 from the Deferral Account was in the amount of $250,000. No payment was made in 2007. The January 2008 payment was in the amount of $14.29 million. Funding challenges related to the Senior and Disabled Deferral Program in recent years have resulted in a loss of funding to OPI. To stabilize the program’s funds, the 2011 Legislature removed the program as a source of OPI funding in HB 2543.
Homeowners and Renters Refund Program (HARRP)
HARRP was created in 1973 and discontinued by the 1991 Legislature. Refunds were phased down in 1991 and then ended. In 1991 HARRP gave property tax refunds to homeowners and renters with household income of less than $10,000. Assets (excludes homestead, personal property and retirement plans) could not exceed $25,000 unless age 65 or older. The program refunded property taxes up to a maximum for each income group.
Property Tax Relief Program (PTR)
PTR was enacted in 1979 and repealed by the 1985 Legislature. The program, when originally enacted, refunded 30% of qualifying operating levies up to a maximum of $800 for each homeowner. Renters were refunded 4.7% of contract rent up to $400 for each renter.
Elderly Rental Assistance (ERA)
ERA was enacted in 1975. ERA makes payments to renters age 58 and older with annual household income less than $10,000. Assets (excludes homestead, personal property and retirement plans) must be less than $25,000 if under age 65. No asset limit exists for participants older than 65. Rent, fuel and utility costs must exceed 20% of participant household income for calculating a payment. The payment is gross rent (including fuel and utilities) up to the $2,100 limit less 20% of household income, such that the payment reaches the maximum of $2,100 when income is zero and a minimum payment of $100 at $10,000 income. Taxpayers must file Form 90R by July 1 of the year following the year rent was paid to apply for payment the following November. Payments are made by check in November of each year out of a single appropriation to fund this program and make payments to counties in lieu of property taxes for exempt nonprofit corporation housing for elderly persons. If the appropriation is insufficient to cover the payments, payments to both programs are prorated.
In 1992, the total cash outlay from the General Fund reached its highest level with an average refund of $711 per renter. Between 1992 and 2006, the number of participants declined by 63%; and the average refund declined by 34%. One plausible explanation is that between 2002 and 2005, mortgage interest rates declined; and the availability of financial instruments such as the ‘interest only’ mortgages may have enabled a number of former renters to purchase homes. FN1
(FN1. There are other potential reasons for this decline that worked against eligibility. First, unless a husband and wife or registered domestic partners are living apart permanently on December 31, their income must be combined to determine their household income. Second, in 2005, cost of living allowance raised the minimum social security benefits for a couple to $10,015.)
Another reason is that the income limits to participate in the program are less than the minimum Social Security benefit amount for couples established in 2005. The declining trend has continued through 2015, with 1,754 participants and an average refund of $331.
SB 296 (2015) transfers administration and funding of the ERA program from Department of Revenue (DOR) to Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) department effective July 1, 2017. DOR’s final program processing and check mailing will take place in July and November 2016. After which, OHCS will integrate the ERA program into existing rent relief programs.
Hotter-than-normal temperatures seen for next three months for "every square inch" of the country.
Actress and comedian Lily Tomlin joined Mark Twain among the immortals when she complained that “No matter how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up.”
Climate pessimists can relate, as reality consistently shows that humans have a persistent bias against seeing just how bad things have become, as this piece from Common Dreams Staff Writer Nika Knight makes clear. In an effort to avoid being tagged as “alarmist,” scientists repeatedly fail to see what the data screams: We have destabilized the Earth’s climate regulatory systems and we no longer live in a predictable climate regime – except to the extent that the prediction is for ever more extreme disrupted climate events and ever more savage consequences.
Oregon's Climate Researchers Pessimistic
Recent climate changes have caused the seasonal cycles of river and stream flows to be different than what they have been. As temperatures in the winter warm up, more rain falls and less snow falls in the winter than it did before. So less snow accumulates in the winter snow pack, and stream flow increases in the winter but decreases in the summer. The peak flow in rivers occurs earlier in the spring, and the magnitude of peak flow has changed.
There are other significant impacts. Climate change in Oregon has affected the hydrology of a watershed, the demand for water, and the size and thickness of glaciers.
Changes in availability and flow of fresh water
One of the unique features of fresh water supplies in the Pacific Northwest is that most of the water falls as snow in the winter, remains stored in the snow pack for many months, and then is released to the rivers in the summer. As the climate changes and regional temperatures rise, less snow falls, and it falls in different months of the year than it did before. In the winter, melting snow and more frequent rain are contributing to wintertime flooding, which is now more common. In the summer, there is less water in the rivers, because more water ran off earlier in the year; this leads to shortages of water (Hamlet et al 2001). In basins where rain supplies most of the water throughout the year, an increase of precipitation affects the seasonal pattern of runoff into the rivers (Franczyk and Chang 2009a).
But in high-elevation basins where snow predominates over rain, higher temperatures by themselves change the timing of runoff, even when the amount of precipitation stays the same (Graves and Chang 2007). In contrast, runoff of water may be sustained through the summer in the High Cascades, where slopes are gentle and the rocks are young and volcanic. However, groundwater supplies a larger percentage of the seasonal water flows in the High Cascades, so it’s uncertain how we should forecast water flows in that high-elevation region (Chang and Jung).
In the Willamette River basin, the complex topography and geology also affect the way that each sub-basin responds to a changing climate. In the Western Cascades, the amount of water stored seasonally in snow (known as “snow-water equivalent”) will decline and most of the runoff of water will occur earlier in the year, by the year 2080. Such changes in the timing and location of river flows will significantly affect water users and the economy, especially in the Willamette basin (Franczyk and Chang 2007). Current patterns of water use vary from place to place, and these variations need to be considered in the future management of water as climate changes (Franczyk 2009b). Land use will also change, which will affect future river runoff. All of these trends need to be included in studies of the impacts of climate change (Praskievicz and Chang 2009b).
Recent research, using sophisticated observations, climate models and Northwest US hydrological models, indicates that as much as 60% of these changes in the water cycle result from human activities. The chances for a water crisis are high in Oregon.
Changes in stream water quality
Changes in the volume of flowing water and in the temperature of the air above the stream will alter the chemistry and biology of the stream. This affects the concentration of various nutrients.
Warmer water along with diminished stream flow harms aquatic life in the river. In the Tualatin River, water temperatures have increased significantly in the last 20 years (Chang and Block 2005). While the daily high temperature of the air is still the most important thing that affects the temperature of a stream, the local geology, condition of the stream bed, size of the basin, and variations in the flow all affect the water temperature.
Changes in extreme hydrologic events
Even though the intensity of precipitation in the Willamette River basin has not changed in the winter season since 1972 (Praskievicz and Chang 2009b), the 2007 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (IPCC 2007) cautioned that extreme events, such as floods and droughts, are increasingly likely because of climate change. Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to flooding because the large area of paved surfaces does not absorb rain water, and a large number of buildings are vulnerable to high waters. In a study in Portland (Chang et al 2009), if climate does change as expected in the future, there will be more frequent major storms that now occur every 25 years or less. Flooding is likely to be more common at those road intersections with a history of chronic flooding.
Changes in water demand
Water consumption in the suburban city of Hillsboro, Oregon, was not affected by drought conditions in one study (House-Peters et al 2009). But when rainfall was low and daytime temperatures were above normal, the summertime water consumption depended more on physical qualities of the property than on socio-economic qualities of the residents. This suggests that smart urban planning could reduce water demand in seasons that are warmer than usual.
Snow and ice
Warmer temperatures have led to rapid retreat or thinning of glaciers on Mt. Hood and other places in the Pacific Northwest (Fountain 2007). The seven glaciers on Mt. Hood lost an average of 34% of their surface area between the years 1907 and 2004 (Jackson and Fountain 2007). Rising temperatures and decreased snow pack will alter the seasonal availability of water for hydroelectric power (IPCC 2007). Changing patterns of water flow throughout the year, and changing levels of lakes and reservoirs, also affect life in rivers and streams (USEPA 1998).
Availability of water from the winter snow pack, as measured by the “Spring Snow Water Equivalent,” has been declining since 1925, and especially since 1950. The Oregon Cascade mountains have experienced the largest losses of available water in the West (Mote et al 2005) as precipitation has decreased at the same time as the region has warmed.
Summary from the Oregon Climate Change Resource Institute. Full source citations at OCCRI site.
After facing community resistance, bottled beverage giant Nestlé Waters North America this week ditched its plans to extract water from a Monroe County, Penn. spring.
The plan would have seen Nestlé take 200,000 gallons of water per day from the source in Kunkletown, located in Eldred Township, and truck it away daily to a nearby plant where it would have been bottled under its Deer Park brand.
The plans for the water grab, helped by the municipality, which may have improperly adopted a corporate-friendly ordinance, had drawn the ire of many local residents, who celebrated the development.
"This entire village of Kunkletown came together and slayed the dragon, and it's something to be proud of," Eldred Township resident Donna Deihl told the Allentown Morning Call.
The change in plans was announced at a township supervisors meeting Wednesday, during which Eric Andreus, a hydrogeologist for Nestlé, said (pdf) the company faced "logistical and design challenges."
He also acknowledged local opposition, adding, "it is clear to us that the community in Eldred Township does not believe the process around this project worked the way it was intended and that many of you have concerns about this project," adding, "We have not been successful in gaining the same acceptance here in Eldred Township as we have in other communities that host our operations."
When the announcement came, "The room went crazy," Deihl said. "We clapped, we applauded, standing ovation. We cried."
The news comes less than a month after voters in Hood River County, Ore. stopped a years-long attempt by Nestlé to extract up to 100 million gallons a year of Oxbow Springs water and bottle it under the Arrowhead brand.
Indeed, as Alexis Bonogofsky previously reported, "Kunkletown residents' effort to keep Nestlé out of their community is not an isolated or parochial fight. Nestlé, which has the largest share of the bottled water market in the United States, is looking to secure and privatize water resources in the U.S. and around the world."
One such place the corporation is taking water is in drought-stricken California. Activists are gearing up for a rally outside a federal courthouse in Riverside, Calif. where a judge will consider a challenge to Nestlé's water-bottling pipeline in the San Bernardino National Forest. "Why should Nestlé — the largest food and beverage company in the U.S. — get to operate a huge bottled water operation on a permit that's been expired for 30 years during a historic drought when it's causing what used to be a perennial stream that wildlife use to go dry?" said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist and public lands deserts director at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups behind the legal challenge.
Addressing such battles, Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire last month, " If there is one element that cannot be turned over to whatever people believe market forces to be, it's water. It should never be commodified or sold off to make some investor wealthy far from the people who need it. That this ever needs to be argued is a measure of how far we've allowed corporate power to change us as a nation," he wrote.
This work by Common Dreams staff writer Andrea Germanos appeared there on 10 June 2016 and is licensed and appears in OregonPEN under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
The campaign to force deny poor women and girls access to abortion services through funding restrictions was the first initiative campaign to file a measure for the November 2018 general election. Proponents filed a proposed constitutional amendment on 27 June 2016 that would not only prohibit direct state funding for abortion services but would also prevent public funding of insurance plans that offer abortion coverage.
The proponents submitted the following as their proposed summary explanation of the amendment for the petitions to carry:
DRAFT BALLOT TITLE
The effect of these sorts of restrictions cannot be understated, as they would turn Oregon further into a two-class health care system, where poor women and girls would be even further burdened by restrictions on access to the same services that wealthy women can obtain. The Guttmacher Institute, the nation's premier researchers on reproductive health, have published an excellent summary of the forced-birth movement's campaign to use backdoor methods, such as insurance funding restrictions, to reduce access to abortions nationally. Although Oregon is currently among the states without abortion restrictions, the state level Hyde amendment proposed in this initiative would reverse that completely.
. . . old enough to know if it's unsafe to tell a parent about an abortion
Alaskan Top Court Voids Parental Notice Law for Teens Seeking Abortion
Friday, July 22, 2016 - 1:45pm -- ACLU
NEW YORK - The Alaska Supreme Court today found unconstitutional a law requiring physicians to notify a parent, guardian, or custodian of a minor seeking an abortion. Today’s decision comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt — the most significant abortion-related ruling from the Court in more than two decades.
The Alaska Supreme Court struck down the requirement, finding that there was no basis on which to distinguish between minors seeking abortion and minors carrying to term – burdening only minors seeking abortion therefore violates the equal protection guarantees of the Alaska Constitution.
“A young woman seeking an abortion doesn’t need additional hurdles. She needs a doctor,” said Joshua A. Decker, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska. “We have a responsibility to keep our daughters safe, and this law doesn’t do that. Healthy families don’t need government mandates to communicate. Instead, young women from families in crisis and young women in fear need safe, prompt, confidential health care, free of government-imposed restrictions.”
The evidence in Alaska shows that most young women seeking an abortion involve a parent. But some young women live in an abusive home, or a home where it would not be safe to disclose a pregnancy. The law would have required a young woman to go through a complicated legal process to persuade a judge to allow her to have an abortion without parental involvement — forcing abortions later in pregnancy, if the young woman could access the procedure at all.
"Today’s decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm.”
Mandatory parental involvement laws like Alaska’s are opposed by state and national medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics because they do not foster healthy communication, and in fact can be very detrimental to the health and safety of young women. In fact, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have all advocated for the need to protect minor’s access to confidential reproductive health services.
“We applaud the court for ruling to protect the health and safety of young women in Alaska,” said Christine Charbonneau, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. “We all want teens to be safe — and the sad truth is that some teens live in dangerous homes and can’t go to their parents. This law would prevent some of Alaska’s most vulnerable teens from accessing safe medical care.”
The plaintiffs in this challenge — Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, Dr. Susan Lemagie and Dr. Jan Whitefield — are represented by a team that includes attorneys from the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood. An Alaska state court judge initially upheld part of the law and eventually allowed the notification requirement to go into effect while striking down other provisions.
Three activists seek 21st-Century reboot of Oregon's system for initiatives and referendums with their "Grassroots Petitioning Initiative"
Three Willamette Valley citizen activists filed an initiative petition for the 2018 election last Monday in hopes of using the pioneering early 20th-Century "Oregon System" -- America's first state system of initiatives and referendums -- to require the state to update the system for the internet era by allowing voters who can already register to vote online to sign petitions for initiatives and referendums the same way.
"This puts the power back into the hands of the people!"
The "Grassroots Petitioning Initiative" is the first Oregon statutory initiative for 2018. (See story below for the first constitutional amendment proposal for 2018.) It is the handiwork of three Willamette Valley citizen activists: David Carlson, Ashley Bardales, and Justin Brice who seem well-suited to recognizing the need to bring the initiative and referendum system into the digital era.
Carlson is a late-20s native Oregonian and now lives in Aloha while attending Portland State to get a bachelors degree in environmental studies. Bardales describes herself as "a single mother, a licensed hair stylist and a social justice activist." She worked in the "15Now" campaign to raise the wage to $15 an hour and that succeeded in getting Oregon to blaze another trail, a sharp increase in the minimum wage in the Willamette Valley with lesser increases in more rural counties. Bardales has also been a canvasser for over a decades and has worked on campaigns to register young voters, as well as fundraising for national and local environmental organizations. Brice, from rural California, appears to be the most tech-savvy of the three; he is a geographic information systems (GIS) Technician with Conservation Biology Institute in Corvallis who holds a BS in Wildlife Conservation from Humboldt State University and minor in Geospatial Sciences.
Currently, all three are registered as Democratic Party members. Brice wanted to be a Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention; Bardales recently registered with the Democratic Party as well. Carlson, who describes himself as "currently" working with the Democratic Party is at the first rung of the ladder, having won election this year as a precinct committee person in Washington County, after having served as an intern during the 2015 legislative session for Rep. Joe Gallegos. Carlson also credits the $15 minimum wage effort as instrumental in making him an activist, and he has branched out since then into activism around housing rights and anti-racism campaigns such as Black Lives Matter.
The three describe the grassroots petitioning initiative as a response to the capture of Oregon's pioneering initiative system by monied interests which has left Oregon's democracy "stunted . . . largely due to a lack of accessibility" in Bardales's view.