Oregon Human Rights and Anti-Genocide Act of 2005

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On Friday I testified before the Senate Rules Committee in support of Senate Bill 1089, which would divest all public financial holdings in corporations operating in the Sudan and prohibit public financial investment or ties with the Republic of the Sudan.

In the 1980s, millions of Americans succeeded in accomplishing a singular achievement—ending South Africa’s apartheid regime. The divestiture campaign taught Americans a valuable lesson about the influence of public investments, and brought national attention to the South African situation. It is now time to focus financial pressure on the Republic of Sudan.

The Sudanese government is waging a genocidal war against its own citizens. They silence dissent, women and girls are being raped, villages are burned. It’s all taking place because of the oil under their land. It is time for Oregon to say, ‘No more.’ We will not invest our money in companies that do business with the government of Sudan.

The state’s Public Employee Retirement System holdings totaled $46.6 billion, as of March 31. Sudan-related investments comprise an estimated 1.5 percent of the state’s portfolio. The reallocation of a small percentage of the state’s funds will have little if any impact on the state of Oregon, but it will have a major impact on the Khartoum government’s ability to wage genocide.

If the bill succeeds, Oregon will join a growing list of states that have begun to divest from Sudan. Louisiana and Illinois have enacted divestiture laws, and legislation is awaiting the signature of New Jersey’s governor. Bills have been introduced in 10 other states: Arizona, California, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Vermont.

As a chief sponsor of the bill I was grateful when the committee sent the bill with a unanimous “do pass” recommendation to the Senate floor.

The bill has broad bipartisan support, including 39 other state legislators. Oregon US Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Darlene Hooley also support the bill, as does Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

I want to thank the other chief sponsors of the bill - Senator Avel Gordly (D-Portland), Senator Margaret Carter (D-Portland), Senator Ben Westlund (R-Tumalo), and Representative Brian Boquist (R-Dallas).


July 6, 2005 by Peter Buckley
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A Simple Choice: Oregonians or Tax Giveaways?

Representative Peter Buckly is a first term legislator representing Ashland, Jacksonville, Phoenix & Talent.

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About a year ago, we had a lot of stress in our house. My oldest son had graduated from high school, and we were trying like crazy to make sure we had a financial plan for his college education that would actually work. We did what everyone does, every day, all the time. We did our best to figure out all the needs of our family and all of our resources, and we made choices.

There were some things we decided to keep focusing on, and other things we decided to drop for the simple reason that they weren't going to get us where we wanted to go.

We made choices. These kind of choices are a fact of life, and there are consequences when you make them. And my oldest son just completed his freshman year at U of O.

I bring this up because making choices is something that our state has refused to do this session and previous sessions at a very fundamental level. It's our job as legislators and as citizens to clarify the choices we face, and to understand the consequences.

We've made hundreds of small and not so small choices to get us to where we are today. Currently there is not a single budget being discussed that will adequately fund education in Oregon, from pre-K through higher ed. It's not even part of the conversation. We have the news that even at the inadequate funding levels for health services to senior citizens, the disabled, our children, our families, our businesses and our communities that we have been considering up to now, the forecast is that we are over $100 million short.

We have a choice to make. We can either continue on the path we have been down, refusing to consider all of our state's resources when we seek to address all of our state's needs, or we can roll up our sleeves, openly discuss the worth of the decisions we have made up to now, make a new choice and experience much different consequences.

We can address the $100 million-plus shortfall in Human Services by taking away resources from our kids' education or from our state police, slicing ever smaller pieces from an inadequate pie, or we can choose to open the huge book we have on tax breaks in our state, review each break to see if it is serving the majority of Oregonians or a small special interest, and make our decision from there.

This is why I wrote and sponsored House Bill 3490--to offer a different choice for where we are right now and where we want to go.

The choice is simple:

Do we fund a proven program like Oregon Project Independence that allows our senior citizens to remain safely in their own homes, or do we continue to offer tax breaks to corporations and individuals operating overseas?

Do we care for the developmentally disabled in our communities, or do we continue to provide special tax breaks for executives paid with stock options?

Do we make the attempt for every Oregonian to have access to basic vision and dental care through low cost community clinics, or do we continue to offer a tax break for companies that take out life insurance policies on their own employees and keep the benefits of the policy should an employee die?

These are choices that are directly in front of us. The Oregon Revenue Coalition has worked for many months to clarify these choices, and with a budget seen as inadequate across the board including a $100 million gap in Human Services, I'm pleased to stand with the Revenue Coalition to offer a bill that will make the choice to eliminate nine specific tax breaks that serve the few, and return $115 million of resources to the needs of our state.

Choices such as this aren't easy--every tax break has its advocates and backers--but choices like this are what we must do. My hope is that this bill will be the start for a full review of our tax expenditures, with the goal of making sure that every dollar in tax revenue is used intelligently and efficiently, for the good of all of Oregon.

The conversations around our kitchen table last year weren't always comfortable, but we knew that they were worthwhile. We knew where we wanted to go, and we made choices to make it happen. Given a clear choice, I'm confident that the vast majority of Oregon families would choose to fund the programs that help us all instead of the tax breaks that serve the chosen few.

June 15, 2005 by Peter Buckley
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Democracy for Oregon Summit Report

PeterbuckleyI had the chance to speak at the recent Democracy For Oregon Summit in Portland, and took the opportunity to present an agenda that I've been working on with the foundation I'm part of, Democracy's Edge.

In order to make progress again, we need to re-define the relationship between Oregonians and our state government. So our proposal is stated here below. Let me know what you think:

THE OREGON CONTRACT
of Responsibilities and Rights

It is the responsibility of every adult citizen of the state of Oregon
to:

--Seek and engage in productive employment, to the best of their
ability, and to contribute a portion of their earnings, on a progressive
scale, towards the overall shared needs of our state;

--And/or to actively participate in education or training for their
individual development and an increased ability to contribute to their
families, our communities, and our state as a whole;

--And/or to care for their children, their elders and our communities in
a direct and significant manner for the benefit of their families, our
communities and of our state as a whole; until the age of retirement.

It is also the responsibility of every citizen of the state of Oregon to
take care for their individual health to the best of their ability.

It is the responsibility of every business operating in the state of
Oregon to:

--Practice good citizenship in all business practices, with the impact
of business decisions considered in terms of the benefits or damage to
its employees, its community and the state of Oregon, in addition to the
potential benefits or losses to shareholders;

--Pay its fair share of its earnings towards the overall shared needs of
our state;

--Observe all environmental regulations.

In return for meeting these basic responsibilities, all citizens of the
state of Oregon have:

--The right to a good education;

--The right to earn enough in a 40 hour work week to provide adequate
food and clothing and recreation;

--The right of every business owner, large and small, to trade in an
atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by
monopolies at home or abroad;

--The right of every family to a decent home;

--The right to clean air, clean water and sustainable use of our state's
natural resources;

--The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and
enjoy good health;

--The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age,
sickness, accident, and unemployment.

--It is the responsibility of the state government of Oregon to formulate laws, policies and procedures based on this contract, and to fulfill its terms to the best of its abilities.

May 24, 2005 by Peter Buckley
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