Recapping the 2014 Session


House Speaker Tina Kotek
D-North/NE Portland
District 44

Phone: 503-986-1444    900 Court St. NE, H-269, Salem Oregon 97301
Email:     Website:


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2014 Regular Session of the 77th Legislative Assembly adjourned on Friday, March 7.  Legislators completed the people’s business in 33 days – passing 83 bills, updating the state’s budget, and making targeted investments to strengthen the economic recovery, support public education, and shore up essential services.  While the time constraints of the “short session” did not allow for every issue to be resolved, we delivered for the people of Oregon, working together in a bipartisan way to take care of many important issues.

Here’s a summary of the session.  As always, I look forward to your feedback.

Making Government Work Better

We now have annual legislative sessions because Oregonians shouldn’t have to wait a year and a half to have urgent issues addressed.  The complexity of the state budget requires annual updates to respond to changing revenue forecasts or emerging priorities.  This year, our budget writers were able to both increase the state’s reserve funds and  support essential services to help seniors, people with mental health care needs, and those struggling to make ends meet (more below).  There will be $1.4 million per biennium more for the 9-1-1 emergency response system because we set up a way for prepaid cell phone users to contribute to the system.

We started the session with a spotlight on Cover Oregon and improving oversight of large information technology contracts.  We celebrated the success of having 145,941 more Oregonians with health insurance, but we also asked hard questions about the failed roll-out of the Cover Oregon website, holding a number of public hearings on the topic.  We passed bills that will protect people from the website’s problems, hold people accountable for the problems, and put safeguards in place to make sure contractors deliver on future projects (HB 4122, HB 4154, HB 4135 and SB 1582 ).  We focused on solutions, not politics.

Building Our Economy, Encouraging Job Creation
Every legislator knows the importance of helping small businesses grow and making sure people have the skills they need to get a job.  With last year’s improved community college and higher education budgets as a starting point, we took additional steps to:
  • Expand access to capital for small businesses by increasing loan amounts and the length of loans to small businesses. (SB 1563);
  • Improve access to technical assistance for small manufacturers through the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership by providing more state money that will result in more matching federal support;
  • Create a pathway for individuals with technical training to learn new skills to work in the bio-sciences sector (SB 1527);
  • Help first-generation college students succeed at community college (HB 4116); and
  • Improved access to funding for small and large infrastructure projects across the state.

The sale of public bonds is a significant tool the Legislature has to build local infrastructure and support statewide economic development goals.  Last year, every community college and university received authorization for bonding campus projects.  This year, we approved higher education bonding for construction projects focusing on urgent health and safety needs on campuses at the University of Oregon, Southern Oregon University, and Oregon Institute of Technology, as well as continuing to support access to higher education at Oregon State University Cascade campus and Central Oregon Community College  in in Bend.  We worked to secure $198 million in bonds to jump start a state-of-the art cancer research institute at Oregon Health and Science University.  Those bonds came with a set of expectations, including construction apprenticeship goals, minority/women/emerging small businesses contracting targets, and the development of a preferential contracting policy for Oregon-based companies.

We also issued lottery bonds to spark economic development around the state to ensure all regions are being helped.  These projects included health care facilities in Beaverton and The Dalles, a renovation of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Madras, a library and housing project in Cornelius, an economic development revolving loan fund for Eastern Oregon, and a program for home energy efficiency upgrades around the state.

All of these projects will create Oregon jobs in the short term and build Oregon’s ability to thrive in the future.

Focusing on Essential Services

An essential function of government is to help our most vulnerable neighbors.  Tax changes made in the 2013 Special Session provided new resources to help seniors and individuals with mental illness.  The budget committees reviewed proposals for these dollars and approved plans to increase access to senior and disabled transit, provide better training for caregivers, create a long term care ombudsman, prevent elder abuse, and expand access to supportive mental health housing, among other programs. 

We also continued to focus on the problem of affordable housing, approving $2.5 million in bonds to continue to maintain affordable housing units and allocating $2 million to restore cuts to homeless assistance programs. (Additionally on the housing front, we passed HB 4038, which provides additional tools to help manufactured home park residents stay in their homes when a park is up for sale.)  Working families also got a boost when we expanded the number of working families eligible for to receive help with their child care costs.   

Last year’s $1 billion investment in K-12 is reducing class sizes and increasing instructional time in school districts across the state.  With limited remaining state funds, we knew we couldn’t do a lot more, but we wanted to target help to nineteen high-need, low-performing schools.  We did that by allocating $500,000 for HB 4117 to ensure more students will have access to summer reading programs to help them succeed in the fall.  Making every dollar count for kids is good fiscal stewardship.

Three Wins for Air Quality

One of my ongoing personal priorities has been to help address air quality issues in Portland.  We did that in three ways this session.  First, we passed my priority bill, HB 4107, which expands the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Revolving Fund to allow certain types of private companies in Portland and Medford (areas of the state with high air pollution levels) to access this program.  The fund is a loan program for the purchase or conversion of alternative fuel vehicles that have lower emissions.

Second, we funded the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct air quality monitoring in the Swan Island area of North Portland.  The monitoring includes meteorology stations to provide information regarding temperature, wind direction and speed, a full spectrum air toxics monitor for a wide range of toxic pollutants, and a particulate monitor to detect levels of metals at concentrations above health benchmarks.

Lastly, the bond approval for OHSU’s construction of new buildings for its cancer institute includes an expectation that OHSU will work with DEQ to establish preference points for general contractors who use equipment with lower diesel emissions.

Issues Left Unresolved

No session comes to a close without a few bills left behind.  The discussion to resolve the safety and congestion issues of the Columbia River/I-5 Bridge impact area will have to move in a different direction now that the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project will not move forward (click HERE for my end-of-session statement on the project).

The Senate failed to pass a bill that would have clarified the intent of the Legislature in creating a limited-purpose driver’s card.  That issue will come before voters this November.  A successful bipartisan vote in the House clearly made the case that voters deserve to have an unbiased and fair description of SB 833, which passed last year.

I expect the following important bills that didn't pass to return in some form next year:

  • Expanding funding for legal aid to improve equal access to the justice system, using unclaimed awards from class action lawsuits. (Currently Oregon is one of two states in the country that sends what amounts to a refund back to corporations that have been found liable for wrongdoing.)
  • Bringing management of the Oregon Investment Council bill bringing the management of the state’s investments in-house to be managed by professional investors in Oregon instead of Wall Street bankers, estimated to save the state over $1 billion.  
  • Cracking down on exorbitant fees for-profit corporations charge college students to administer their financial aid.  
  • Ensuring the Oregon governing board that makes important education policy for the state has a defined number of education professionals who have expertise and experience in public education.  
  • Requiring disclosure of harmful toxic chemicals in children’s products.

I look forward to seeing you in the community over the coming months.  As always, it is a pleasure to represent you.


 TK sig

Tina Kotek

State Representative

House District 44

Speaker of the House