Cottage Grove Sentinel – Caitlyn May
The League of Oregon Cities has announced its legislative priorities for the 2019 legislative session.
The annoucement comes weeks after the league asked cities throughout the state to weigh-in with the Cottage Grove City Council compiling a list detailing what issues the city preferred lobbying efforts focused on.
The league has chosen six of the more than dozen issues it proposed to cities: third party building inspection preservation, right-of-way and franchise fee authority preservation and broadband investment, infrastructure finance and resilience investment, homelessness and housing improvements, property tax and PERS reform and mental health investment.
All three of the priorities the Cottage Grove City Council chose in July (broadband, mental health improvements and property tax reform) made the list.
According to a statement released by the league, the priorities were established after taking into account the cities’ lists of priorities and focus on the theme, “Let Cities Work.”
Mental Health was named the number one priority.
“While the state and Oregon’s 36 counties serve as the direct providers of mental health services, service levels have not kept pace with demands. This has resulted in cities responding to an increasing number of situations in which people are in crisis,” the statement read.
“In 2015, the legislature invested in crisis intervention services, expansion of emergency access to care, rental assistance for mental health clients, and specialized training for police. The league asks that the legislature recognize the power of these investments and continue to protect them through the challenging budget process in 2019.”
Cottage Grove is currently served by South Lane Mental Health that extends its services to each of the schools in South Lane School District and has a relationship with the local police department in working to address mental health in the community.
Other stand outs on the list include revenue reform including property taxes and PERS reform. The league cites the need for a bipartisan deal in the 2019 session in regards to the budgetary issues facing local governments as well as the statewide issue.
“Cost increases are simply outpacing revenues — even in a booming economy — and there is no relief in sight. Revenue reform and cost containment are needed…” the statement read. It went on to detail the proposed reforms including a request that the state’s constitution be altered in regards to property taxes.
The proposed changes, as detailed by the league, would transition to a market-based property tax valuation system instead of the current system that allows taxing districts to calculate their own levy based on budget needs. Measure 50 created permanent rates and capped growth in assessed value to three percent.
In addressing its efforts towards PERS reform, the league wrote, “The league will seek legislation to modernize the PERS investment pool, ensure proper financial controls are adhered to, and give cities greater voice in how their monies are invested. Further, the league will advocate for legislation that calls for the risks and costs of the pension to be shared by employees, but in a manner that impacts employees through an equitable calculation.”
The league, which does not vote on legislation, will lobby on behalf of all six issues and proposed legislation during the 2019 season.