Session wrap-up: Kitzhaber gets wins in education, health care

Session wrap-up: Kitzhaber gets wins in education, health care »Play Video
Gov. John Kitzhaber claps after signing a education bill while Legislative leaders look on during a Legislation wrap up 2012 session news conference Tuesday, March 6, 2012, at the capitol, in Salem, Ore. Lawmakers on Tuesday celebrated the end of the legislative session as they shifted their attention to upcoming elections. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALEM, Ore. – Gov. John Kitzhaber was perhaps the biggest winner of Oregon's 34-day Legislative session that ended Monday night.

He went four for four in seeing through bills that reform the state's education and health care systems.

The health care reforms are meant to cut costs and deliver better service.
 
One bill creates coordinated care organizations for Medicaid and Medicare patients in Oregon.

Health care administrators will have a financial incentive to keep patients healthy and not perform unnecessary tests or procedures. That's projected to save Oregon taxpayers $3 billion over five years.

Lawmakers also agreed to an online health insurance exchange that will make it easier for people and their employers to find the most affordable health insurance plan.

"The health exchange and the health transformation bills will change everybody's life in Oregon and make that cost curve that is just eating up all of our resources come down and hopefully flatten and eventually maybe even turn as we get people healthier and thinking about health," said Democratic Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan.

Kitzhaber also signed his two education bills Tuesday morning. One consolidates early learning programs for children up to age six. The other requires school districts, universities and colleges to agree on achievement standards in order to secure state funding.

"I just want to take this moment to congratulate the Legislature for a truly remarkable success," Kitzhaber said.

From now on state education funding will be tied to achievement compacts that set goals for school districts, colleges and universities. They are expected to help the state get out of No Child Left Behind testing requirements.

Lawmakers also revived a plan to help struggling homeowners keep their homes. The push to protect people facing foreclosure went down to the wire.

Banks now must meet with homeowners face to face if they request mediation, and Banks can’t foreclose on a family while they’re negotiating to modify their loan.

Additionally, the Legislature passed the so-called Penn State Bill. It requires all coaches, volunteers and others who deal with children to report any suspicion of abuse to law enforcement. Lawmakers passed a law requiring school employees to report harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyber-bullying. They also banned employers from advertising that unemployed people will not be considered for a job vacancy.
 
The 30 Republicans and 30 Democrats in the state House meant that neither party could ram a bill through without some support from the other side. It also meant that lawmakers were keenly aware with the elections coming up this fall that every vote might be scrutinized and both parties need to pick off just one seat to take over.

In the end there was bipartisanship and a much stronger emphasis on legislation that would not be considered overly partisan.