I am truly grateful for the honor of representing you in our Capitol. As you know, the 2018 Legislative Session has concluded. We built upon previous accomplishments: improving policies to expand opportunity, increase public safety, and secure a better environment for all Oregonians. Renewing Oregon’s Promise means creating good-paying jobs, investing in high-quality education for our students, strengthening our communities, taking care of our veterans, and ensuring equal justice for all. We took steps forward to increase access to affordable, quality health care and passed legislation to bring down the high cost of prescription drugs. Together we can move Oregon forward, but only together. Your ideas, opinions, and participation are critical for the work ahead.
Addressing Oregon’s Housing Crisis and Building Strong Communities:
This year we made progress in tackling Oregon’s housing crisis. We invested $ 60 million more in ongoing funding for homeless services and prevention, developing and preserving affordable housing, and providing homeownership opportunities for working families. We dedicated another $5.2 million in “emergency” housing and shelters throughout the State of Oregon. We passed House Bill 4007, which will add money to the only continuous source of funding for affordable housing, and established the “First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account,” giving more Oregonians the chance to realize the dream of homeownership. We have more work to do, but these investments will make a significant difference.
We also took action to secure the safety of Oregon’s most vulnerable children by approving a $25.5 million funding package to protect children in foster care and childcare.
Defending Our Environment and Combating Climate Change:
We must work to protect our environment and build a clean energy future that preserves our natural beauty, protects the air we breathe, and creates job opportunities across Oregon. Senate Bill 1541 instituted the Cleaner Air Oregon program to reduce the risk of toxic air contaminants. In passing House Bill 4022, we continued Oregon’s efforts to increase electric vehicles use by allowing state agencies to install as many electric vehicles charging stations on their property as needed to meet the demand. The bill also sets a price for the electricity that recovers operation costs. We also passed House Bill 4118, which expands Oregon’s ability to work proactively with the US federal government to perform forest management activities to improve forest and watershed health in Oregon’s federal forests.
Fighting for the Right to Health Care:
Every Oregonian should have access to quality, affordable health care. This session, we to strides to make that more of a reality. The legislature passed House Bill 4005, aimed at lowering prescription drug prices by disclosing consumer information, and House Bill 4018, making sure the organizations that provide health care to Oregon’s Medicaid recipients are accountable and transparent. In addition, budget allocations were made to add more than $9 million to fund mental health services and $2 million to tackle the opioid epidemic.
Fighting to Expand Access to Opportunity:
2018 was a memorable year. As chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness, it was my privilege to facilitate the passage of several pieces of legislation. Our committee is comprised of eight members (four Democrats, four Republicans). It is the only committee in the Oregon House of Representatives with equal numbers; it is the only committee to pass legislation absent a single dissenting vote. As a committee, we passed legislation that clarified state veteran’s preference (employment law), established Roseburg as the site for the third Oregon Veterans’ Home, provided additional resources for serving incarcerated veterans upon release, and enabled a study of potential sites for a State and Tribal Cemetery partnership.
Aside from committee priorities, I worked on several of our local priorities. Chief among these was Senate Bill 1536-A. This measure lifted a fifty-year statutory prohibition on employee/employer funding. With passage, our transit board aligns with our neighbors in Portland and Eugene, yielding greater funding flexibility for the future. It was supported by the Salem Chamber of Commerce, transit advocates, and the Salem-Keizer Transit Board. I also facilitated the passage of House Bill 4087. It improves consumer protections involving repair shops. This legislation resulted from a stakeholder workgroup and received widespread bipartisan support – a demonstration of the value of working in common cause. Lastly, I helped secure $250,000 for the Mike McLaren Center for Student Success, which provides college preparation, career exploration, and social supports for Salem-Keizer Students.
Investing in Quality Public Education:
A quality public education system from cradle-to-career is vital to providing our children with the opportunity and building a strong economy. House Bill 4065 enhances protections for children in childcare settings by allowing the Office of Child Care to take action against providers with significant license violations and assess civil penalties against them. House Bill 4067 protects kids who have been assessed with a developmental delay from losing needed supports when transitioning from pre-K to K-12. We were also able to secure $950,000 for school-based mental health providers to support students who need mental health supports. House Bill 4141 ensures greater student voice and transparency in the tuition-setting process. For those students who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Senate Bill 1563 levels the playing field, giving them the same in-state tuition status as every other Oregon student. Nearly $74 million will be invested in Oregon’s public universities so that they may thrive into the future. With an eye toward the 2019 legislative session, the Joint Committee on Student Success will begin work over the interim to strengthen Oregon’s public schools.
Protecting Consumers at Home and Online;
As the federal government increasingly sides with corporations at the expense of consumers, the Oregon legislature took action to protect internet freedom, private information, and personal data. With House Bill 4155, Oregon became the second state to pass legislation enshrining essential net neutrality protections that were rolled back by the Federal Communications Commission in 2017. Six months after the data breach of credit reporting agency Equifax exposed the private information of 145 million Americans, the legislature passed Senate Bill 1551, which will provide victims of data breaches additional protections.
Preventing Gun Violence:
While the rest of the nation talked about doing something, Oregon passed meaningful gun violence prevention legislation. With the passage of House Bill 4145, We closed a loophole that will prevent people convicted of stalking, domestic violence, or who are under restraining orders because of a likelihood of violence from possessing firearms. It is our duty to protect survivors of domestic violence and our responsibility to prevent it wherever, whenever possible. Oregon will also invest $250,000 to create the Portland State University/Oregon Health and Science University Center for Violence Prevention Research, Education, and Practice.
Seeking Justice and Equal Rights for All:
Every Oregonian should be afforded the same fundamental rights, regardless of race, religion, gender, age, or sexual orientation. The Oregon Legislature ensured DACA recipients could keep their drivers’ licenses even if the federal program is ended, and reformed plea agreements with House Bill 4149 so that no one is forced to give up their constitutional rights. The legislature supported veterans and active-duty military members by passing House Bill 4035, extending scholarship benefits to members of the Oregon National Guard, and House Bill 4098, which seeks to provide veterans with better access to apprenticeship opportunities. In addition, House Bill 4038 included, among other things, reentry services for incarcerated veterans, including outreach and assistance reinstating benefits.
Strengthening Our Economy:
Every Oregonian should have the ability to achieve their American dream. This session, we passed House Bill 4144, which makes it easier for small business contractors to start their own businesses. House Bill 4052 set up advisory committees that will give small business owners a bigger voice in the state’s rule-setting processes. Rural broadband also got a boost with the passage of House Bill 4023.