2019 Session Wraps Up!

House Speaker Tina Kotek

2019 Session Wraps Up!

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This past Sunday, on June 30, the 2019 legislative session adjourned, a few hours before our constitutional midnight deadline. Six months of hard work produced historic wins for our state. We kept our focus on ways to help all Oregonians be successful. We took on big challenges, and while not every important bill got finished, we saw significant progress on some longstanding issues.

This newsletter is longer than usual because of the breadth of this session’s accomplishments. I’m sure I’ll miss something important to you, so feel free to contact my office for specific follow up. You can click on the links right below to move to the section that most interests you – or you can read to the very end. Thank you for your interest in your legislature!

THE BIG FOUR – Education, Housing, Medicaid and Climate

As we headed into session back in January, Governor Brown, Senate President Courtney and I announced four big priorities for the session:
• Creating a new preK-12 education funding source;
• Addressing the state’s housing crisis;
• Stabilizing Oregon’s Medicaid program, and;
• Taking bold action to address the impacts of climate change.

Here’s a summary of how we did:

PreK-12 Education

The state has waited 30 years to create a dedicated funding source to make up the school funding gap that grew after the property tax reforms of three decades ago. Education experts also consistently told us that more resources for early childhood education is imperative if we are to help every child reach their full potential.

On May 16, Governor Brown signed House Bill 3427 into law. Known as the Student Success Act, this legislation will give all school districts the tools they’ve been lacking for far too long and give our students the education they deserve. The new investments will also come with strict accountability measures.

The law provides $1 billion per year in additional funding to make new investments, including:

• Mental and behavioral health supports
• Increased learning time
• Smaller class sizes
• Full funding of career and technical education
• More art, physical education, music, and library services
• Universal access to meals
• Bullying and suicide prevention
• Special education funding
• Expanded summer learning programs

The Student Success Act also makes substantial new investments in early childhood education, including Head Start, quality preschool, and early intervention/early childhood special education programs.

These critical new investments will be paid for by a new business tax, one that will impact less than 10% of businesses operating in Oregon. The tax rate will be 0.57% on businesses who generate more than $1 million in a year in Oregon sales. Businesses will be permitted to deduct 35% of their costs to help them manage the effects of the tax. Essentials like groceries, gasoline, and some health care costs will be exempted, and all Oregonians will see personal income tax relief. The tax changes go into effect next year and school districts will soon begin seeing critical new investments.

Complementing this effort to stabilize our schools, we passed Senate Bill 1049 to address the ever-growing contribution costs associated with the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Oregon is fortunate to have a well-run, responsible pension system for public employees. However, we also have a system burdened by past poor decisions and by the lingering impact of irresponsible Wall Street decisions that led to the Great Recession. If we did nothing, dramatic rate increases would force school districts, local governments, and other public employers to make difficult decisions about service cuts and layoffs.

The new law will blunt the growth of the contribution rate increases, protecting the pension system by supporting employers’ ability to fund the system. It will also help school districts and local governments redirect millions of dollars over the next decade to fund essential services and supporting our public workforce.


We pursued a three-pronged strategy to address the state’s housing crisis: protect renters; preserve and create more affordable housing; and reduce barriers to increasing our housing supply.

Early in session we passed Senate Bill 608, the first bill in the nation to create a statewide law against extreme rent gouging and establish a just-cause standard for evictions. This new law will provide more protections and certainty for tenants in unpredictable rental markets.

Our lead budget writers helped make sure we did as much as we could to bring additional state resources to address the housing crisis. Many of the budget items were in limbo until the very end of session. This press release expressed my concern that the Senate Republican walkout would endanger needed funding and critical legislation. Fortunately, all budget items were passed before we adjourned. Over the next two years, the state will devote more than $350 million in targeted investments to address the state’s housing crisis.

Finally, the combination of our limited statewide housing supply and our growing population required us to do more within our land use system to address housing affordability. Two keys bills passed on the final day to meet this goal. House Bill 2001 re-legalizes “missing middle” housing, such as duplexes, triplexes and townhomes, to allow construction in residential areas where these types of housing choices are currently banned. House Bill 2003 gives local jurisdictions additional direction and resources to plan for their housing needs. These bills maintain our statewide land use framework while providing local flexibility to make sure more people will have a place to call home.


Health care access for our most vulnerable neighbors was in question as we entered the session. Oregon faced nearly a billion-dollar shortfall in future funding for the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program. Extensive pre-session work helped us pass House Bill 2010 in February. This new law extends an assessment on hospitals and insurers to create a six-year funding stream for the Oregon Health Plan and allows the state to get significant federal matching funds.

This Medicaid funding package protects health care for Oregon’s most vulnerable individuals and families – including 400,000 children and seniors and people with disabilities. The law is projected to generate $335 million for the 2019-21 biennium and more than $1.8 billion for the 2021-23 biennium.

Additionally, House Bill 2270 passed the Senate on the final day of the session. The bill sends a tax increase on tobacco products to voters on the November 2020 general election ballot. If implemented, officials estimate the tax would raise approximately $340 million for the 2021-23 biennium. The new money would be distributed on a 90/10 split, with 90% of it going to fund the Oregon Health Plan, especially mental health services, and 10% of it would fund tobacco cessation and prevention programs. If passed by voters, it would also create a new tax on vaping products like e-cigarettes.

This would have the dual benefit of funding health care and discouraging Oregonians, specifically teens and young adults, from smoking, which studies show would also reduce overall health care costs.


Oregon has been grappling with how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate disruption since 2007. Over the last four years, as the worst impacts of climate change have become even more apparent, legislators and stakeholders have been working to put together a comprehensive approach to charge big polluters for their emissions, use those resources to adapt to climate disruption, and help the state get ahead economically during the transition to a clean energy future.

On June 17, after more than a year of public process, the House passed House Bill 2020 to establish the Oregon Climate Action Program, a “cap and invest” market-based approach to pricing carbon emissions. The bill never came up for a vote in the Senate.

Despite this disappointment, this discussion will continue and a similar bill will be on the near horizon. The science is clear that we are facing a shrinking time window to take strong action to do our part to fight climate disruption. Every community, particularly those heavily dependent on natural resource industries, are at risk if we don’t take bold action soon. I remain committed to fighting for this in the coming months to address crisis of our lifetime.

Budget Highlights

In addition to renewing current budgets, new investments for the 2019-21 biennium are focused on areas of immediate need. This includes additional funding for:

• Higher education, including increases in college financial assistance (Oregon Opportunity Grant) and community college and university base budgets to help stave off significant tuition increases (in addition to a new billion-dollar-per-year investment in the preK-12 education system from the Student Success Act).
• Housing, including homelessness prevention, affordable housing preservation, and increasing our housing supply.
• Child welfare, including additional caseworkers and increased support for foster care.
• Mental health services, including more help to divert people from jail, behavioral health workforce support, and suicide prevention.

The Legislature is directing 2% of its ending fund balance to reserves, giving the state a total of $1.8 billion in emergency reserves to protect services in case the economy softens over the next two years. Typically, the Legislature holds back 1% for reserves.

Click here for more highlights of the 2019-21 budget.

Protecting Workers, Helping Families

Oregon workers will have access to paid family and medical leave insurance on January 1, 2023 under House Bill 2005, which passed on the last day of the session. In discussion for many years, this new insurance benefit will allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for or bond with a child during the first year after birth, adoption or foster placement; care for oneself or a family member with a serious health condition; or to be off the job because of a domestic violence situation. An additional two weeks of paid leave would be available to those experiencing pregnancy complications. Employers and employees will share the cost of the system through payroll deductions and self-employed individuals can opt-in.

We also passed a comprehensive new law to do more to help people facing discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Senate Bill 726, the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act, gives worker more time to file a civil lawsuit against their employer (going from one year to five years), requires the development of a model policy for employers to use to address workplace harassment, and prohibits employers from requiring workers to sign nondisclosure agreements that can hide what’s happening in their workplaces.

Oregonians will also have safer roads and a simpler way to drive legally. Under House Bill 2015, Oregon residents who pass written and driving tests, pay the fees, and provide proof of identity and residency will be able to get a standard driver’s license. This change is part of the state’s transition to providing enhanced security licenses as required by the federal government under REAL ID. The bill includes anti-discrimination language for those with standard licenses or ID cards and explicitly states that they are not evidence of the holder’s citizenship or immigration status.

Health Care

As previously mentioned, stabilizing funding for the Oregon Health Plan was the top priority this session. The health care committees worked on lots of bills, though, and two bills that started on the House side are worth highlighting.

After several sessions of work, we set new guidelines for hospitals to provide community benefit and qualify for nonprofit tax-exempt status. House Bill 3076, known as the “charity care” bill, will require the Oregon Health Authority to work with hospitals to create a minimum requirement for community benefit and charity care, as well as establish reasonable limits to medical debt collection and establish written financial assistance policies in commonly spoken languages for patients below 400% of the federal poverty line.

On the cost of prescription drugs, we wanted to give consumers more advanced notice when the price of their drugs might be changing. House Bill 2658 will require pharmaceutical manufacturers to report to the state at least 60 days before a planned price increase to a prescription drug.

Oregonians should not have to fear the economic costs of going to the hospital or paying for prescription drugs. These bills will provide stronger protections as we continue to improve our health care system.

Reforming Our Justice System

As a nation that values fair access to justice in our courts, it’s important to examine regularly how our legal system is working and to make sure it’s working for everyone. There was notable progress in this area, and there is more work to do going forward.

Senate Bill 1008 is a comprehensive bill that was the result of a year-long work group on reforming the juvenile justice system. The bill ensures that youth charged with mandatory minimum Measure 11 crimes will not automatically receive life sentences and will have greater access to “second look” hearings halfway through their sentences. Furthermore, the bill requires additional steps to allow prosecutors to put a youth offender into the adult prison system.

With the legalization of adult recreational use of marijuana, it has become imperative to review the past criminalization of this activity. Senate Bill 420 will now make it easier to expunge a previous marijuana offense. Under the bill, a person convicted of marijuana possession, delivery, and manufacturing offenses that are no longer crimes under current law can apply to have their conviction set aside. Eligible offenses must have occurred before July 1, 2015. The bill removes fees and other procedural barriers to expunging a criminal record.

Oregon needs to do more to make sure the system that provides a public defender to anyone who can’t afford one is adequate and constitutional. A report by the national Sixth Amendment Center showed that Oregon has a complex bureaucracy that lacks accountability and is itself a barrier to providing effective indigent defense. House Bill 3145, a bill to establish next steps for improving the system, did not move forward. However, the Legislature has set aside $20 million in a special purpose appropriation to dedicate to system reform over the next two years. We will be working on this topic further between now and next year’s session.

Finally, two other important bills that passed the House did not get all the way through. House Bill 2014 would have restored the right to have a jury award damages for survivors of abuse or negligent actions. The bill failed on the Senate floor. House Joint Resolution 10 would have sent a referral to voters next year to change the Oregon Constitution to require that criminal jury verdicts be unanimous. The resolution did not come up for a vote in the Senate. A case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court might make this resolution unnecessary, so we will continue monitoring this priority.

Campaign Finance Reform

The last two days of the session saw major progress on campaign finance reform.

The biggest among them, Senate Joint Resolution 18, will allow voters to decide in November 2020 whether to amend the Oregon Constitution to allow for campaign contribution limits. A bill to establish a comprehensive approach to establishing contribution limits, House Bill 2714, passed the House but got stuck in the Senate. We expect to revisit this issue next session.

Two transparency bills will help voters better understand who is involved in campaigns. House Bill 2983 will require more transparency in reporting from 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofit organizations that contribute to partisan political activity. Currently, these groups can contribute virtually unlimited and oftentimes unreportable money to campaign activity. House Bill 2716 will require political advertisements to disclose who has paid for the advertisement.

District 44 Priorities – Diesel Pollution, Auto Dismantlers, and Oil Trains

Every big piece of legislation – from school funding to housing – is important to North and Northeast Portland residents. This session I was particularly focused on three additional environmental priorities for my constituents: diesel pollution, “bad actor” auto dismantlers, and trains that transport hazardous materials.

After many years of work, the Legislature will make significant progress on diesel pollution with the passage of House Bill 2007, which I co-sponsored with Representatives Karin Power and Rob Nosse. The bill sets deadlines for older, dirtier trucks to be retrofitted, repowered, or replaced within the Metro tri-county area. It also establishes “clean contracting” requirements for publicly funded construction projects within the Metro area. The bill also directs the use of $53 million in Volkswagen Settlement Fund dollars to help with this transition.

After last year’s destructive fire at NW Metals in the Cully neighborhood in Northeast Portland, Senator Lew Frederick and I worked together to improve oversight of companies that dismantle automobiles. Senate Bill 792 creates additional fees, safety planning, liability requirements, tire storage permitting, and review of auto dismantling facilities. The bill also allows the state to shut down operators who are not complying with clean up plans after an incident.

Four years ago, we made some progress on improving emergency response planning and training for oil or hazardous material spills from train accidents. Then the derailment in Mosier happened, and we needed to keep pushing. House Bill 2209 will now require railroads that own or operate “high hazard train routes” to do contingency planning for approval by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, like what California and Washington require. Railroads will need to verify financial responsibility to cover costs associated with worst-case spills and they will be assessed new fees to help pay for this additional oversight. The state will also develop geographic response plans along high hazard train routes and coordinate regular response training.

Capitol Culture

The year started out with increased attention on how we do our work in the Capitol, and it brought to light serious concerns about harassment and discrimination. Fortunately, we had lengthy recommendations from the Oregon Law Commission on how best to strengthen our workplace harassment policies and procedures to ensure a safe and supportive work environment.

Senate President Courtney and I appointed the Joint Committee on Capitol Culture, a bicameral, evenly-split bipartisan group of legislators to consider these recommendations and take action. They produced House Concurrent Resolution 20 and House Bill 3377, which will create a new structure for the Legislature to receive complaints and provide clarity on how different types of complaints should be processed. We will also establish a Legislative Equity Office that will be a nonpartisan, independent office that will oversee training and monitor progress through regular conduct culture and climate surveys.

I believe this new structure and personnel rules will allow us to move forward in a way that will restore confidence in the Legislature’s ability to provide a safe and supportive work environment. This was a strong process and resulted in legislation that I believe will make Oregon a model workplace for other state legislatures around the nation.

Thank you for reading to the end! Have a great summer, and I look forward to reconnecting with everyone in the fall.



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