2007-2008 Legislative Info

The 2007 session and the 2008 supplemental session saw many accomplishments, moving forward in areas including education, health care, consumer protection, and the environment.

Here are some highlights of work I had a direct hand in through my bills and committees (Click links to get the full details!):

Improving Health Care and Human Services

I worked to shed light on health care rate increases (House Bill 3103 -Committee Testimony), and successfully advocated increased funding for seniors and foster children, and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Protecting Affordable Housing

I improved protections and opportunities for manufactured and mobile home owners facing closure of their manufactured home parks. [Committee Testimony on HB 2096]

Enhancing Public Safety

Through my work on the Ways and Means Committee I helped add a half million dollars more to Drug Courts, channeled more money into drug and alcohol treatment programs, and increased support and attention for local Public Safety Coordinating Councils.

Through actions in 2007 and 2008, we increased the State Police budget by more than a third, which will put more than 100 new State Troopers on the road to fight crime, reduce road rage, and make our highways safer. We cracked down on internet predators, and ramped up efforts to combat identity theft and credit card fraud.

Preparing for Eugene 08 Olympic Trials

I obtained State support for the “Eugene '08” US Olympic Track and Field Trials.  I am particularly proud that a portion of the funding will clean up and enhance the Willamette River corridor, along with assistance to provide a safe and attractive venue.  While the underlying goal is to improve the area for visitors and the global audience, local citizens will enjoy the benefits of a cleaner, healthier river for years to come.  I was confident that a well-presented event would bring great dividends, and we have already begun to collect them with the recent announcement that Hayward Field has been chosen to host the 2012 Trials, as well as the 2009 and 2011 USA Track and Field Championships and the 2010 NCAA Track and Field Championships. [Committee Testimony

Highlights of other significant work in the 2007 and 2008 sessions

During the recent regular session nearly 3,000 bills were introduced, and typically around 2,000 start moving through the system.  Over 1,100 were reported out of committee. Limits on our time, and the need for efficiency, prevent each state representative and senator from being involved on every bill and committee, but we each contribute through ideas, discussions, testimony,and of course through voting.  I am very pleased that together with my fellow legislators we made considerable headway in the last two years, and I hope to keep that momentum going.  [click here to see a list of the bills that I sponsored, or co-sponsored]   Here are some of the successes I would like to highlight:

Accessible and Affordable Health Care

All Oregonians now have access to a program that  takes advantage of the state's bulk purchasing power to reduce the cost of prescription medications. In the first few months, uninsured and underinsured Oregonians were saving an average of about $28 per prescription.  (For more information see the Prescription Drug Pool website.) We required insurance companies to cover prescription contraceptives, oral chemotherapy and medically-necessary orthotics and prosthetic devices, and expanded access to dental hygiene and sealants.

Improved Care for Seniors and Disabled

In 2008 we initiated work for a comprehensive plan for long term senior care, and allocated over $12 million to improve access to adult foster home care, assisted living centers, relative care, and in-home care to help seniors and disabled persons stay in their own homes, such as Oregon Project Independence.

Child Development and Protection

We closed the loophole so retailers can’t continue to sell unsafe toys that have been recalled, and worked to protect our children from 21st-century criminals who solicit minors or expose them to pornography over the Internet.  We funded community health center test projects to provide health care to children, additional staff to protect children in foster care, and improvements for the Talented and Gifted Education programs.

Sustainable Economy and Healthy Environment

Oregon has always been known for its environmental stewardship. We continued that forward-thinking trend by enacting an updated Bottle Bill, adding water bottles to the containers included in the deposit law to promote increased recycling. We enacted a statewide recycling program to prevent toxic electronic waste or “e-waste” from being improperly disposed of in our landfills, preventing further soil and ground water contamination. We initiated work to explore the potential for projects to store water from the Columbia River, Umatilla Basin and other parts of Oregon, and then use it to help increase agricultural production. We expanded a popular program that provides a credit to businesses involved in environmentally sound energy manufacturing, and put a mandate on state agencies to reduce energy use 20% by 2015.

Education

We reinvested in K-12 and early childhood education, added funds to put more teachers in the classroom and reduce class size, and initiated the “Farm to School and Garden” program that brings local produce and goods into schools to improve nutrition and well-being. We turned around the declining support for higher education, made textbooks more affordable for college students, doubled the money available for scholarships, and increased funding for community college and university programs.  These investments in education are a critical component of supporting a healthy economy, creating opportunities for students of all ages, increasing workforce development, and supporting a healthier business climate.

Homeownership

We tightened foreclosure laws to require more complete notification to homeowners facing foreclosure, ended “rescue mortgage” scams, placed restrictions on foreclosure consultants and “equity purchasers,” and put limits on mortgage loan originators.

Local Agriculture and Family Farms

We allowed for an inheritance tax credit for small family farms, fisheries and woodlots when the estate has been in natural resource production and the heirs continue to use the property in a similar way.

Government Accountability

Our first ever Rainy Day Fund was an achievement for all Oregonians, helping stabilize our economy by making sure our most important public and social services remain intact during national and regional economic downturns.  We worked to cut government waste through more stringent and aggressive audits of state agencies and tested established programs, budgets, and taxes to ensure they brought their intended results.  We developed some of the nation's toughest ethics standards to hold legislators accountable for representing you -- not deep pocketed special interests.

Disaster Relief

In response to the 2007 winter storms, we developed legislation to improve state response and help for communities affected by natural disasters.  Remedies include allowing the state to waive a one-week waiting period to provide unemployment benefits to people who lost their jobs due to natural disasters (also depends on federal waiver), and allocating $500,000 to disaster loans to help local governments rebuild.  We also wanted to protect Oregonians from the kind of suffering that Katrina victims faced, so we passed a law prohibiting price gouging for necessities during disasters and emergencies, both natural and human created.