Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday announced she is rejecting new prescribing authority for psychologists while also taking aim at a southern Oregon lawmaker she implied has broken a political deal with her.
Brown issued veto notices for three bills — an action she is required to take five working days before she can actually veto the bills. Aides made it clear she intends to move ahead with the planned vetoes.
In the recently concluded session, legislators by a wide margin passed a bill to allow psychologists to prescribe medication to treat mental health conditions. Supporters said it would help many people — particularly in rural Oregon — who have difficulty obtaining treatment.
But the governor sided with psychiatrists who launched a determined effort to encourage her to veto the measure, House Bill 3355. They disputed that psychologists would be given the proper training to ensure they could safely prescribe the drugs.
“There remains a lack of evidence that psychologist prescribing will improve access or quality of care,” Brown said in a written statement. “While prescription drugs may be appropriate mental health treatment for some patients, there are also significant health risks with some drug therapies.”
Brown also said she will line-item veto three spending projects sought by Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford. They include $1.9 million for a Rogue River Valley Irrigation District canal project, $1 million for the restoration of the Holly Theater in Medford and $750,000 for improvements to the Harry and David Baseball Park in Medford.
In a statement, Brown explained her planned line-item veto of those projects by saying that: “The cornerstone of all negotiations whether they occur in a public or private arena, is the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”
That’s a reference to the fact that Esquivel cast the crucial vote needed to pass a bill containing $550 million in taxes on health care providers to help shore up Medicaid, the federal-state program providing coverage for low-income people.
After that vote, however, Esquivel joined two other Republican legislators in sponsoring a referendum asking voters to deep-six $320 million of those taxes — on insurers, hospitals and managed care providers. If they gather 59,000 signatures by Oct. 5, the issue will go before voters in January.
“I did keep my end of the bargain,” Esquivel told OPB in a phone interview, adding that he was never asked about whether he would support a referendum.
He said he decided to ask voters to reject those taxes after the Legislature subsequently moved forward on bills providing free abortion coverage as well as health coverage for children who are illegal immigrants.
The governor also said she will line-item veto $2 million in state money for improvements on Southwest Capitol Highway in Portland. She said the project should stand or fall or its own merits instead of getting special legislative treatment.
She also said she would veto a bill setting up a a new task force on a variety of housing and employment issues. She said the work can be handled by an existing commission and that the sponsors of the bill agreed to that plan.