2019 Long Session Recap
The 2019 Legislative session was record-breaking! We made major progress on the issues that matter to voters. We increased funding for education, expanded healthcare access, protected renters, supported housing development, and passed important pro-environmental legislation.
Education. For the last 30 years, we have cheated our children of their future by underfunding education. Since the passage of Measure 5, state support for education has not kept up with costs, leading to larger class sizes, fewer options, and less relevant instruction to the jobs of the future. This session, we added $1 billion per year to pre-kindergarten to high school, reversing that decline. Starting in the fall of 2020, you will see the impacts in reduced class sizes, better career and technical education, and improved access to early childhood education.
I’ll continue to fight to extend our work to higher education—fully funding our community colleges, universities, and need-based financial aid. As we struggled to fund our schools after Measure 5, we diverted state support for higher education to bridge the gaps in K-12 education. I look forward to reversing that trend to make sure that a college education is accessible and affordable for every Oregonian.
Healthcare. We started the session facing a $900 million shortfall in the Oregon Health Plan budget. Overcoming that challenge collaboratively, we ensured that 400,000 Oregonians, including 40,000 Lane County and 12,000 Linn County residents, will continue to have health coverage. To make sure we keep low-income Oregonians permanently insured, you will see a measure on your November 2020 ballot to increase tobacco taxes. The measure will also reduce access by children, help people stop smoking, and reduce youth access to e-cigarettes. For those who are uninsured, we also passed legislation provide access to hospital care at low or no cost.
We still need to address insurance and healthcare affordability for those who make too much to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, but still lack affordable, accessible insurance. The Governor proposed such a program, but the Senate failed to pass it. Similarly, the House passed a strong bill to make sure that schools did not become places where our children were exposed to preventable diseases, but that bill also failed to overcome resistance in the Senate.
Housing. Too many Oregonians lack stable, affordable housing. We started a rent stabilization program to eliminate large rent increases and eliminated no-cause evictions after the first year of tenancy. We also funded a variety of programs to help people stay in their homes, particularly the elderly. To take on the housing supply problem, we provided over $200 million in funds for low income and supportive housing and started requiring cities and counties to reduce barriers to new housing construction. Implementing these programs will be challenging, particularly in neighborhoods around the University. However, we need to build so that our children can afford to live here.
Environment. I worked hard to pass HB 2020, a groundbreaking clean energy bill, through the House, only to have it die in the Senate when the minority caucus walked out. We considered the views of minority party in this process, carving out agriculture and timber from the program and significantly reducing the impact on trucking. Contrary to what you may have heard, they were deeply involved in the process from start to finish. Despite this, they violated a written promise not to break quorum, a breach of trust that will be difficult to repair.
I remain committed to giving our children a planet that will let them live. We were able to pass important legislation to reduce plastics pollution, increase solar energy, and to fund a wave energy project off the Oregon Coast. I will be working on safe drinking water issues with Rep. Jack Zika over the interim, as well as on the next steps to protect Oregon from climate change. Finally, addressing the federal government’s retreat from environmental protection, we passed a law preventing the erosion of environmental standards in Oregon.
Other priorities. Everyone deserves to be able to stay home with a sick parent or to bond with a new child. We will implement one of the most generous and inclusive paid family and medical leave policies in the country. This will significantly improve the lives of workers and have a positive impact on our economy.
Oregon has the highest rate of opioid misuse in the country and some of the worst access rates to treatment. We increased the availability of life-saving naloxone in the community and took other steps to increase access to treatment. We reformed Oregon’s juvenile justice system to make sure that we never give up on a child, in honor of the late Senator Jackie Winters. Finally, one of my bills ensured that veterinarians were able to care for abused and neglected animals and recover their costs
District priorities. I was chief sponsor of a successful bill to allow Oak Hill and similarly situated schools expand to meet the needs of their students. I won other support for HD 11, including a middle school for Central Linn School District, a health facility for Lane Community College, support for construction of a new Eugene Y, and funds to keep the Leaburg Hatchery open.
Priorities for the future. We are the first generation to see the impacts of climate change and the last generation that can stop it before it irrevocably damages our state and our planet. I will fight for legislation addressing climate change every session until it passes. We may have a special session to work on climate and wildfire issues. The Governor will also be issuing executive orders and regulations to keep moving forward on environmental protection.
Regardless of party, we acknowledge that higher education funding and accountability must be a priority. We’re finally investing in CTE in our K-12 schools. That stairway to success must lead somewhere for students who want to continue into higher education. Also, we were unable to pass firearms safety and disease prevention measures to keep kids safe at home and at school. Those remain priorities for me.
We also referred tobacco taxes and campaign finance reform to the November 2020 ballot. I expect that we will also see a constitutional amendment to reduce the quorum requirement to a simple majority, like most states. A legislator shouldn’t shut down the government by walking out the door. I hope that you will consider voting for these reforms.