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PERS will be focus of Sept. 30 special session
Updated On: Sep 26, 2013
(Above) Ken Allen, Mary Botkin and Tim Woolery meet with Sen. Richard Devlin. (Below) Ralph Groener and staff rep Evan Wickersham talk about IDD wages with Rep. Greg Mathews.

Just a quick and dirty update here on Monday's special session — when that's completed, we'll kick out a fuller e-lert with det

While the Oregon Legislature hasn't been in formal session since July, lots of things percolate behind the scenes. For example, Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Ken Allen, Political Coordinator Mary Botkin and Council 75 Corrections Coordinator Tim Woolery met recently in the state capitol cafeteria with Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin), Co-Chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, to get the skinny on the Department of Corrections budget. Other AFSCME political staff — Political Director Joe Baessler and Political Coordinators Ralph Groener and Eva Rippeteau — have been meeting with other legislators on a variety of interim issues.


But right now, all eyes are on the Sept. 30 special session. As you've heard exhaustively in the media, Gov. John Kitzhaber has called lawmakers back for a one-day session to implement a package of further PERS COLA cuts for retirees in exchange for some increased revenue, mostly targeted at schools. AFSCME and the PERS Coalition fully believe these cuts, on the heels of those passed in SB 822, continue to be unfair, unnecessary and, most of all, illegal.


The bad news is that it appears a longshot that anyone will be able to derail the so-called "grand bargain" package from passing; Kitzhaber is politically savvy and wouldn't call legislators back to Salem if he didn't think he had the votes to pass the deal. The silver lining in the clouds, so to speak, is that the PERS Coalition has already filed a legal challenge over the retirees' COLA issue with the Oregon Supreme Court due to SB 822, so more of the same from the special session won't hamper or even much delay that lawsuit.


While it will be an uphill fight, we never give up and AFSCME and the other PERS Coalition unions will be out in force on Monday to try and stop the bill. We'd love for you to come help! Several AFSCME-represented PERS retirees are coming, and we can use more — both retirees and current members. (To state the obvious, if you're not retired yet you will be one day, so these changes ultimately impact you as well.)


E-mail Botkin if you'd like to come. You're on your own to get there, we can't pay you. We will feed you. Here's an outline of what the day will look like:


  • 9 a.m.                Gather in the rotunda
  • 9:30 a.m.          Briefing in Room 243 (coffee and doughnuts)
  • 10 a.m.              Divide into groups and go to every legislator's office
  • 12-noon            Box lunches in Room 243
  • 2:15 p.m.          Attend hearings on the PERS bill
  • 3 p.m.                Watch floor debate on the measures


Today (Sept. 26) an interim committee held a public hearing on the PERS pieces of the package. Kitzhaber led off testimony, explaining why he thought the legislation was necessary. The governor didn't say anything he hasn't already opined in the media. PERS Director Paul Cleary walked lawmakers through the proposal in detail and answered some technical questions, then the floor was opened for public input. Not surprisingly, business and local government management types praised the package, while unions (including Botkin on behalf of AFSCME) and a handful of others spoke against it. On Sept. 27 the committee will take up the revenue portion of the package — all in advance of further hearings/work sessions that must be done on Sept. 30 to move the proposal to the House and Senate floors for votes.


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