2017 Session Wrap-Up

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Representative Smith Warner

2017 Session Wrap-Up

Friends and Neighbors,

At the end of a busy, challenging, and often frustrating legislative session, I remain honored and humbled to have represented the people of District 45, and to have helped pass some truly groundbreaking policy overall. In a time of discord and uncertainty at the Federal level, the Oregon State Legislature continues to lead with our values. Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson said it best: “…Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives have shown the nation how to resist Trump by blocking his agenda at the state level and passing bills that improve the lives of everyday people. From protecting and expanding health care to fighting for education funding to ensuring Equal Pay for equal work, Democrats in the Oregon House continued working to build a future where everyone has a chance to truly thrive.”

Here's a good summary from our caucus of what we achieved this session:

Health Care

Even while Trump and Congressional Republicans are drawing up plans to slash health care to more than 20 million people, House Democrats passed an innovative plan to lower premiums and preserve health care for the more than 1 million Oregonians who get their health coverage through Medicaid.

In contrast to plans by Congressional Republicans to defund or ban reproductive health access, House Democrats passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, preserving and expanding reproductive health care for all Oregonians. Cover All Kids will provide health care coverage to all Oregon children, regardless of their citizenship status.


House Democrats worked for months to overhaul corporate taxes to provide more stable funding for education. While Republicans refused to come to the table on revenue reform and cost containment, we’re proud that we were able to fund K-12 schools at $8.2 billion. We’ve laid the groundwork for the corporate tax reform work we’ll pursue over the next two years. We made it easier for students to transfer college credits, and boosted funding for career and technical training to prepare students for the jobs of the future.

Protecting Working Families

This session, we continued the pioneering work we’ve done to improve the lives of Oregon workers. We passed HB 2005, creating the strongest Equal Pay law in the nation. We passed Senate Bill 828, becoming the first state to pass a Fair Work Week law to give more workers certainty and predictability in scheduling. And we passed HB 3458 to strengthen overtime laws for workers in the manufacturing sector.

The transportation funding bill, HB 2017, will create jobs and economic opportunity in every part of the state while ensuring accountability in the way taxpayer dollars are spent.

Safeguarding Civil Rights, Inclusivity

With civil right for immigrants, refugees, and communities of color under direct attack by Republican politicians in D.C. and in other states, Oregon’s House Democrats led the way in safeguarding civil rights and creating a state where everyone belongs. House Bill 3464 protects immigrants’ privacy and gives school districts and agencies more clarity on what information they can—and cannot—share with federal authorities. We passed bills that set statewide ethnic studies standards for K-12, establish curriculum about the Native American experience, and require cultural competency standards for colleges and universities. And we passed criminal justice reform and a comprehensive approach to ending racial profiling by police. Everyone is welcome in Oregon. 

Government Accountability

Despite the dangerous precedent being set by the Trump Administration to ignore ethics laws, keep the public and press in the dark, and let lobbyists run rampant, Oregon House Democrats are working to restore the public’s trust in state government. We passed HB 2577, requiring better disclosure and transparency of lobbyists, and expanded access to public records through a package of bills that speeds up responses to public records requests and creates a Sunshine Committee and a public records advocate. SB 505 reforms a key part of the justice system by finally requiring electronic recording of grand juries.

So despite my frustration about our inability to reform our revenue system, I am proud of the things we did accomplish. On my personal bills, it was a mixed bag. The lack of structural revenue reform meant that our summer learning pilot was not funded, but we were able to provide resources that will help more teachers obtain National Board Certification. On the Bottle Bill, we did not pass my transparency proposal, but I will be joining a work group in the interim authorized by the House Energy and Environment Committee that will examine equity and transparency issues around this Oregon icon.

My greatest disappointment of the session was the failure of HB2131, which would have provided a consistent west coast approach to planning and safety by requiring railroads that ship oil and hazardous materials to fully report their plans for safety and spill mitigation, and allow the state to establish geographic response plans for the rail lines where these trains travel. As the bill moved through the legislative process, I realized that the language on confidentiality in the final version of the bill went too far. My intention was not, as The Oregonian claimed, to “hide oil train safety plans from the public.” Rather, my goal was to make sure this legislation would be compliant with federal laws and could be supported by my colleagues across the aisle, all while protecting communities from possible oil-train disasters.

I took a risk, and sent this bill back to committee to remove the errant language. With the limited timeline, funding dependent on inclusion in other bills, and the complicated nature of railroad laws, seeds of confusion were easily sown that lead to a loss of support, specifically on the Senate side and with members who represent the Columbia Gorge, and to this bill not moving forward this session.  

As a legislator, mother, and lover of Oregon, I’m extremely frustrated, and frankly angry, to leave this session without making any progress to strengthen Oregon’s regulation of oil trains in the wake of the Mosier derailment. I stand by my decision to keep fighting for a better, more transparent version of HB 2131, despite the success of the railroads and shippers of hazardous materials in killing this bill in the final days of the session.

Stay in Touch

Check out video highlights from the 2017 session on my YouTube channel and subscribe to follow along in the interim.

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As always, stay in touch! I'm honored to represent House District 45 in Salem and look forward to spending time in the district and seeing all of you.



Representative Barbara Smith Warner
House District 45

email: Rep.BarbaraSmithWarner@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1445
address: 900 Court St NE, H-487, Salem, OR 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/smithwarner