My View: Legislative Days bring buzz back to Salem
It was a busy week in Salem as lawmakers returned to the Capitol for Legislative Days, starting Monday, Sept. 16, to receive updates on legislation, rulemaking, budgets and to prepare for the 2020 short session.
The House Interim Committee on Economic Development heard compelling but disappointing information on Growing Capital Access for Oregon Small Business. Many people testified about the challenges of finding the money necessary to fund a startup, and that the loss of potential business in Oregon is detrimental for the overall economy.
Successful Oregon small business owners seeking capital investment to expand their operations in rural areas mentioned the difficulty of obtaining funding and are hoping the state can establish grants or another low-barrier funding tool.
Many of the small business owners testified that after the last economic downturn, the banking industry tightened its lending rules, and this has resulted in decreased Oregon charter bank investment in business startups.
We cannot depend on private venture capital investors for Oregon small businesses. Currently, 80% of all venture capital investment in the country occurs in California, New York and Massachusetts. That means the remaining 20% is split up within the other 47 states, making it extremely difficult to access funds from these so-called "angel" investors.
Because it is so incredibly important to build and invest in small businesses, Oregon needs to step up and figure out a pathway to help ease this problem. As lawmakers, we need to be mindful of the impacts of any proposed legislation on small business, we need to look at unintended consequences, and be willing to look at legislation implementation timelines, worker compensation rates, gas taxes, and anything that impacts businesses' bottom line.
I believe it is time to investigate all options going forward, because new business formation helps propel economic growth and strengthens our communities.
On Sept. 17, the Joint Committee on Transportation received an update on the "Real ID" driver's licenses. The Real ID Act of 2005 set new federal standards for issuance of state driver's licenses and ID cards. The standards include proof of identity, legal presence and address.
Oregon has been granted several extensions regarding this requirement, but as of Oct. 1, 2020, Real ID will be necessary for all commercial airline travel, and to access secure federal buildings and installations.
Currently, Oregon driver licenses do not meet the federal Real ID standards, but people can use federally issued identification, such as a passport or passport card, for travel.
The 2017 Legislative Assembly directed DMV to begin offering the option of Real ID-compliant drivers' licenses and ID cards, and those will come online in July 2020.
There are concerns from the agency that the DMV cannot serve a million Oregonians in the less than three months between July and October who could be looking to obtain a Real ID. ODOT is launching a significant communications campaign regarding the upcoming requirements.
DMV is making operational changes in anticipation of the surge of customers they are expecting beginning in July, hiring additional employees, expanding online offerings, and the expansion of the successful third-party testing program that oversees private businesses that currently conduct Class C and Commercial Driver Licensing examinations.
During the House Natural Resources Committee meeting, we heard extensive testimony about a Willamette River boating incident where a Lake Oswego Community Rowing scull broke in half after being hit by an excessive wake. The students were able to safely swim to shore, but the rowing vessel was destroyed, which is a setback to the varsity crew team.
I am impressed and gratified by the actions of the rowing team's coaches and their on-site response to get the kids safely to shore. I commend the Clackamas County Marine Patrol, who quickly responded to the scene and are keeping the investigation open to identify the party responsible for the incident due to reckless boating.
Larry Warren, director of the Oregon state Marine Board, says his agency is working with law enforcement officials on outreach and education efforts. There are so many different types of watercraft, and there needs to be an understanding of the different boating styles. Most power boaters have not operated around a crew boat and are unaware of its unique needs.
A recent addition to the Oregon Marine Board is a director who participates in many nonmotorized boating activities, and she already is helping the agency understand that unique viewpoint.
With more people enjoying all kinds of watersport activities, things are becoming more complex, and all segments of the boating community will need to work together for the safety of everyone on the water.
At 2:30 p.m. Oct. 4, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici will hold a town hall meeting to discuss federal issues at the Scappoose High School Conference Room.
Even when the Legislature is not in session, it is my honor to represent you and work on your behalf. If you have an issue or concern with a state agency, please contact my office. We check the emails and phone messages regularly and will see what we can do to help.
Brad Witt represents House District 31, including Columbia County, Sauvie Island and parts of Bethany, Rock Creek and Banks, in the Oregon Legislature. A Democrat, he lives in Clatskanie.
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