Looking Forward to the 2019 Session

House Speaker Tina Kotek

Looking Forward to the 2019 Session

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Happy New Year!

The start of a new year always brings hope and possibility. I look forward to serving you again as the representative of House District 44 and the Speaker of the House. Thank you for the opportunity to serve our community and our state.

With yesterday’s release of the Labor Commissioner’s report on workplace harassment in the Capitol, it’s a good time to update you on what’s been happening and how we will move forward on this important topic. I want everyone to feel safe and welcome at the Capitol, and we have work to do.

On January 14, my colleagues and I will convene in Salem to officially organize the 80th Legislative Assembly. As in past sessions, I will be holding an early session town hall on Saturday, February 2, with Senator Lew Frederick and Representative Tawna Sanchez to share information and learn more about your priorities as we embark on the long session that goes through the end of June. Please see below for more details.

My colleagues and I are excited about taking on the challenges facing our state. Please see below for an overview of the four big issues ahead of us in the upcoming session.

Thank you for reading on.

Improving the Culture of the Capitol

I would first like to share with you an email I sent today regarding an investigation released Thursday by the outgoing Labor Commissioner.

"Dear House Colleagues and Staff,

This is a long email. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.

As the presiding officer of the Oregon House, my responsibility has been, and will continue to be, creating a State Capitol where everyone can participate in our democratic process without fear of harassment or intimidation. We are the stewards of the People’s Chamber and must strive together to make sure all are welcome.

Yesterday, the Labor Commissioner issued his determination on his investigation of workplace harassment in the Capitol. I’ve attached it for your reading. It’s a troubling summary of incidents that have been addressed, to the best of our ability, within our current reporting process.

Candidly, I strongly disagree with the Commissioner’s conclusions that I knowingly allowed workplace harassment to occur or ignored concerns that were raised through our existing process. Even prior to the investigation by the Labor Commissioner, I sincerely acknowledged that workplace harassment has occurred and that we must do better. That said, we can always be better. We must be better. Making the Capitol a model workplace free of harassment will take the attention and focus of the entire Capitol community. I remain committed to ensuring we achieve this goal.

I still have concerns about the confidentiality of victims that has been potentially compromised by the Commissioner’s public report. I will not tolerate any retaliation against anyone known to or perceived to be involved in bringing forth a complaint.

The Capitol must be a place where individuals feel safe coming forward to report inappropriate behavior. To remind you, if you would like to report any incident of workplace harassment, you have the option of contacting an outside investigator, Dian “Dee” Rubanoff.

I want to thank every person who has come forward to report incidents or concerns. I particularly want to commend Senator Sara Gelser and Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward for their courage in filing a public, formal complaint against a colleague. The facts couldn't be denied, and I was very pleased that Senator Kruse resigned. They did the right thing and contributed mightily to helping make the Capitol a better working environment.

With regard to the complaints against House members outlined in the BOLI determination, I can assure you I have taken every instance of reported inappropriate behavior seriously. My goal has been, and will continue to be, making sure that any incident of harassment is addressed to the satisfaction of the person who has experienced it. It’s essential that we resolve complaints quickly while also protecting the requested confidentiality of individuals who have come forward. As we implement improved rules and procedures, I will continue to address any future incidents with this principle in mind.

The Commissioner’s determination and surrounding media coverage might be triggering for some in the building. Please remember you have access to assistance through the Employee Assistance Program.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. Over the last year, the Senate President and I have taken the following actions to improve the Capitol workplace.

• Upgraded our workplace training to use national best practices taught by trainers from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the United States.

• Appointed an outside investigator to receive workplace complaints to provide an additional venue for reporting.

• Asked the Oregon Law Commission to study our workplace rules, policies, and procedures surrounding harassment and make recommendations by December of last year.

The Oregon Law Commission’s report is also attached. Please read it. It charts a path forward to improve the culture in the Capitol.

A few weeks ago, the Senate President and I appointed a Joint Committee on Capitol Culture for this year’s session to work on implementing the recommendations from the Commission. I am optimistic we will improve what we do. If you have feedback on the recommendations, please contact the House caucus leaders who will be leading the committee.

I want to thank the Democratic and Republican leadership in the House for their work to improve the Capitol’s culture. We share a nonpartisan focus on maintaining a safe and welcoming workplace, which is only possible if members from both sides of the aisle agree to address this issue head on. I have been encouraged on this front thus far.

Making the Capitol a model workplace free of harassment will take the attention and focus of the entire Capitol community. It’s not, ultimately, about our personnel processes. It’s about us as human beings, treating each other with respect. The trainings occurring after organizing day will begin to give us the tools to create the best workplace possible. Thank you for engaging in this important effort."

Upcoming Town Hall

Please join Senator Lew Frederick, Representative Tawna Sanchez and me for a town hall conversation about this year’s session. Bring your questions!

WHEN: Saturday, February 2nd, 10 am - 12 pm
WHERE: Portland Community College-Cascade, Student Union 204
               705 N. Killingsworth St.

The Big Four Issues

Funding our schools, tackling climate change, maintaining access to Medicaid, and making progress on the housing crisis will be the top issues in the coming months. I am committed to fighting for all of these in this year’s session. Here’s a quick preview:

Investing in Our Schools: The Joint Committee on Student Success made 55 site visits to schools throughout Oregon and will soon be making their initial recommendations on investments that can improve outcomes so all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential. New investments will only be possible with sustainable new revenue and improved accountability.

Maintaining Access to Health Care: Oregon is facing a $830 million funding gap for its Medicaid program (Oregon Health Plan), which serves 1.1 million Oregonians. Voters affirmed their desire to protect access to this care with the overwhelming passage of Measure 101 last January. Maintaining Medicaid will require passing a revenue package that will be similar to previous funding mechanisms.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: We are already suffering the health and economic impacts of climate disruption, and Oregon is not on track to meet its emission reduction targets already in law. The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction will continue its work to craft a market-based carbon pricing program (cap and invest) that could be online by 2021. Resources generated by the program will be invested to help communities adapt to climate change and move Oregon to a clean energy future.

Tackling our Housing Crisis: The lack of affordable housing is a statewide crisis that requires a range of solutions, including increasing the mix of housing inside urban growth boundaries, preserving existing affordable housing, helping communities construct additional affordable housing, protecting renters in an unpredictable market by banning no cause evictions and passing rent stabilization, and expanding emergency housing and shelter assistance funds.

Thank You

Thank you for staying involved and engaged. As always, please reach out to my office with your questions and concerns. You can reach me and my legislative assistant, AmyBeth Stevens, by email at Rep.TinaKotek@oregonlegislature.gov or by calling us in Salem at 503-986-1200 or at our district office at 503-286-0558.



Tina Kotek
State Representative
House District 44
Speaker of the House

email: Rep.TinaKotek@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1200
address: 900 Court St NE, H-269, Salem, OR 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/kotek