This year’s legislative session has come to a close, and there were a few controversial bills that were introduced and discussed just before the legislature adjourned. One such bill was Senate Bill 805, which was sent back to the Senate Rules Committee to be amended, and never made it to the Senate floor.
Senate Bill 805 stated that contracting agencies will be required to perform cost analyses in regards to services like busing, landscaping, and janitorial. The contracting agency would look at wages and benefits and if the cost analysis shows that it is less expensive to conduct the service in-house, then government agencies would have been forced to provide that service in-house. The law would have prohibited contracts in which the only difference between the in-house cost analysis and the private company cost analysis was the cost of wages and benefits.
PHC Northwest believes that this bill attacked service providers and state programs that work to support competitive employment for people with disabilities in the public sector. “This bill has such social impact on people with disabilities as it puts this underserved population once again at a disadvantage in competing for jobs in the real world.” says John Murphy, President & CEO at PHC Northwest. Those who desire to live independently and seek out QRF’s and nonprofits in order to accomplish this goal will find their path barred by this bill. The State of Oregon’s Qualified Rehabilitation Facilities (QRF) Program supports competitive employment through contracting opportunities in the public sector.
An Oregonian article was published recently that highlighted the effect that this bill would have had for government agencies, including schools that wanted to contract out. “If your mission is to educate kids, you should dedicate as much money as you can to that core mission, which means saving as much as possible on ancillary services.” says Oregonian staff member Erik Lukens in the comments of the article. This bill would remove those savings by forcing schools to pay government employees instead of giving these busing, landscaping, janitorial, and other ancillary jobs to people who rely on contract work as means of employment.
While this article did not focus on people with disabilities, the arguments brought forth by the Oregonian Editorial Board are even more clear and compelling with the disproportionate effect on people with disabilities, as the relationship between government agencies and schools is symbiotic. Each group has a mission to serve, and this bill would have effectively hindered both missions.
“SB 805 surreptitiously affects people with disabilities by cutting off an avenue for scarce jobs that could offer them living wages and benefits. Having these jobs breaks the reliance on tax-payers dollars in the form of government subsidy.” Says Therese Mclain, head of contracts and communication at PHC Northwest.
We are happy to announce that the bill was not put to the senate floor last week for discussion. This is because several groups, including PHC, rallied together to express our outrage. The opposition of the bill was brought to the attention of Senator Laurie Monnes-Anderson. This is a great success for the QRF program and nonprofits that help people with disabilities, and we hope that there will not be a similar bill created in the next legislative session.