2019 Town Hall, Legislative Days Review, Reflections on Ferguson

House Speaker Tina Kotek

2019 Town Hall, Legislative Days Review, Reflections on Ferguson

2019 Fall Town Hall

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you will all join me at my town hall on Saturday, October 26th. I always appreciate the conversations!

Legislators recently concluded the first of three “Legislative Days” that take place during the interim between the constitutionally-required legislative sessions. Legislative Days are an opportunity for lawmakers to hear testimony from topic experts, state agencies, and everyday Oregonians about ongoing or emerging issues. Following this year’s historic session where we saw significant progress on some longstanding issues, these committee days provide a great opportunity for legislators to reconnect in Salem, check up on the status of ongoing state projects and have early discussions about priorities for the 2020 session.

Last month, for example, several committees highlighted the scope of the challenges caused by the climate crisis and the opportunities for innovation and investment to address this emergency. While many important policies made it across the finish line in the 2019 session, the Legislature must come back next year to take strong action to reduce Oregon’s carbon emissions.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and future generations to set the table for a clean energy future and prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Accordingly, committees learned about the human and economic cost of this crisis in Oregon during Legislative Days, ranging from the rise of more frequent and more intense wildfires to the public health impacts of extreme heat that disproportionately impact children, older adults, low-income communities, communities of color and the homeless.

Climate Change Risks

But the future doesn’t have to be gloomy if we stay committed to taking action. The new Water Committee heard testimony about the opportunities to invest in modern irrigation infrastructure and the Energy and Environment Committee discussed the growing accessibility of electric vehicles.

I’m committed to doing everything I can to pass strong carbon reduction legislation in next year’s session. Future generations are counting on us!

To learn more about the work of the House committees, continue reading below.

Reflections on Ferguson, Five Years Later

This past August marked five years since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Like many around the country, I was shocked, saddened, and disgusted by his death and the lack of accountability that followed. The images of what happened in Ferguson have stayed with me. And, tragically, more black men and boys have been killed since Ferguson, such as Tamir Rice, Walter Scott and Philando Castile.

I was in my first term as Speaker when Michael Brown was killed. It was clear Oregon needed to do more to be part of the solution to stop police violence and make sure everyone could feel safe when interacting with the police. I took notice of the ideas promoted by Campaign Zero. I knew that state government had a limited role in local law enforcement, but we needed to do our part.

Five years later? Oregon has made modest progress. The Legislature took on racial profiling (HB 2002, 2015 and HB 2355, 2017). We established a framework for local police departments to implement the use of body cameras (HB 2571, 2015). We have worked hard to bring more evidence-based and equitable practices to sentencing and incarceration (HB 3194, 2013, HB 3078, 2017 and SB 1008, 2019). We are on a path to make sure we have a public defense system that protects the constitutional right to a fair trial and ensures everyone has equal access to quality representation.

But even the successes need monitoring. What is the data we are collecting telling us about profiling? Why can many police departments, both small and large, now manage to use body cameras but Portland Police seems years away from universally adopting the practice? Is the state agency that certifies police officers doing enough to hold them accountable?

We can certainly do more to prevent tragedy by supporting the use of mental health response teams in crisis situations instead of police interventions. And we need more progress on civilian oversight structures, better standards on the use of deadly force, increasing the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve, and other solutions.

I look forward to working with many others to continue the journey that Ferguson has set us on. We must keep moving forward and there is much more work to be done.

Legislative Days Committee Highlights

Click on the bullet points below to link directly the committee you want to read about.

Agriculture and Land Use

  • The impact of federal tariffs
    As the Trump administration has moved forward with its trade wars, there have been broad, negative consequences across Oregon. The Oregon Cattleman’s Association testified about the devastating impact of on our state’s beef exports. Further testimony from the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, as well as wheat and hazelnut producers, highlighted additional Oregon businesses that have either seen exports decrease or fear risk to future sales.

Business and Labor

  • Sports betting and problem gambling
    Oregon will soon join the growing list of states that have legalized sports betting for those who are 21 and older. An Oregon Lottery representative heard questions and concerns about implementing sports betting, which will be available by mobile app later this fall. The Oregon Health Authority presented about “Problem Gambling” and how expanded access to mobile gaming may exacerbate this problem. Currently, 1% of lottery revenues are distributed to problem gambling services through the OHA and it’s important we continue providing resources and support for those struggling with gambling addiction, particularly as sports betting comes to Oregon.

Economic Development

  • Growing Capital Access for Oregon Small Businesses
    Oregon business leaders and entrepreneurs testified about the need to increase the amount of capital available for small business owners. While Oregon has seen great economic growth since the Great Recession, there are many who are still struggling. Housing costs have been an ongoing issue for new entrepreneurs, as has banking industry consolidation. We must look for ways to open up more small business opportunities, especially women and people of color.


  • Student Success Act implementation
    The Student Success Act – an annual $1 billion investment in our Pre-K-12 education system the Legislature passed last May – has provided three new accounts to the Oregon Department of Education: Early Learning, Student Investment, and Statewide Initiatives. Twenty percent of the funds go to Early Learning, which include funding to increase access to high quality preschool and early childhood programs. Thirty percent of the funds go to Statewide Education Initiatives account, which include fully-funding career and technical education programs and bullying and suicide prevention. The remaining 50% of funds will go to the Student Investment Account, which will include investments in class size reduction and better mental health services. Full implementation of HB 3427 will go into effect in the 2020-21 school year and school districts across the state are hosting community input meetings for local feedback on how to spend new revenue.

Energy and Environment

  • Volkswagen Mitigation Fund Update
    Oregon has received over $70 million from the Volkswagen Fraud Settlement to improve air quality and transition old dirty engines to newer, cleaner technology. In 2017, the Legislature directed the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to prioritize the transition of old, dirty school buses. DEQ provided an update of the deployment of resources since the settlement. Currently there are 73 buses in the retrofit program; 34 of those are complete and 39 are under contract. DEQ aims to fix 115 buses every year over the next three years through a grant program. This year, I was also a chief sponsor of HB 2007, which allowed the remaining settlement money to be used to phase out dirty diesel truck engines in the metro area. Converting these engines will have immediate benefits to both our environment and public health.

Health Care

  • Oregon Health Authority - Behavioral Health System Overview
    I recently created a behavioral health subcommittee of our Health Care policy committee to ensure we are building a team of experts among our legislators to tackle this important topic. To kick off their first meeting, the subcommittee invited OHA’s behavioral health director to present an analysis of the current behavioral health system. The analysis showed that person-to-person therapeutic services are the most productive and cost-effective treatments for behavioral health. OHA will be working on ways to simplify access to care and support programs that address age, gender, culture, and other comprehensive healthcare needs.
  • Prescription Drug Transparency
    In 2018, we also passed HB 4005, the Prescription Drug Transparency Act, which established one of the nation’s first drug price transparency programs. It requires drug manufacturers and health insurance companies to report increases in drug prices to the state on a regular basis. You can learn more about the program or report any unexpected price increases on your medication by:

Email: rx.prices@oregon.gov
Call: 833-210-4560 (toll free)
Visit: dfr.oregon.gov/drugtransparency

Human Services and Housing

  • Task Force on Addressing Racial Disparities in Home Ownership
    The Task Force on Addressing Racial Disparities in Home Ownership – a bipartisan group of legislators, housing professionals, and representatives of communities of color – has been working hard for the past year on a set of initial policy recommendations for the upcoming 2020 legislative session. These preliminary recommendations include a combination of state investments, education and outreach to expand home ownership opportunities for communities of color. I look forward to seeing more work from the task force on this critical issue.
  • Independent Living Programs and Foster Youth
    A special thank you to Hanna Dekker, a constituent from House District 44 and former foster youth. She testified about Oregon Foster Youth Connection’s and Children First for Oregon’s work to secure more services and funding for foster care youth between 14-23 years old. These services would help provide stable housing and encourage independence by providing grants to pay rent, phone bills and electricity. Ultimately, these services will help decrease youth homelessness, increase financial literacy, and provide more stable pathways to college. Testimony from Hanna and constituents like her is invaluable to legislators crafting complex policy. Keep up the great work, Hanna!


  • Body cameras
    As I mentioned in my section about Ferguson, I’m particularly concerned with the implementation of body camera policies across the state. The City of Beaverton testified about the implementation of body cameras for its police force. The City of Portland also testified. While Portland lags behind as a major bureau in implementing this policy, I’m hopeful they will move forward with their two pilot projects and move swiftly to bureau-wide adoption.

Natural Resources

  • Wildfire Council update
    Oregon was fortunate this summer to have a mild wildfire season. While this comes as welcome news, the data is clear that there has been a steady rise in the frequency and intensity of these fires. Representatives from the Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response provided an update on its progress since the committee formed earlier this year. The council has since issued a preliminary report featuring a $4 billion plan to protect the state from this growing health and economic risk.


  • Tax credits
    The Legislative Revenue Office gave an update about the impact and effectiveness of tax credits in Oregon. In June, the Legislature passed House Bill 2164 to extend some important tax credits that benefit low-income Oregonians and working families, including an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. It is important for the state to ensure we are getting the best bang for our buck and that includes holding existing credits accountable to our goals and outcomes, whether that be supporting small businesses or promoting economic development on a larger scale.

Veterans and Emergency Preparedness

  • Measure 96 Veteran Services Lottery Funds
    There was an informational hearing on how Measure 96, Veteran Services Lottery Funds, are being allocated. Voters passed the measure in 2016 to dedicate 1.5% of all lottery dollars to fund services for veterans. The money has been allocated for claims and appeals assistance, training veterans service officers, special advocacy programs for women and LGBTQ and incarcerated veterans, grant program administration and outreach. Measure 96 also provides funding for college assistance, tribal services, health care and transportation in rural counties, and affordable housing for veterans.

Joint Transportation

  • Update on Real ID Licenses
    Oregon’s Real ID compliant driver’s license option will be available in July 2020. The federal compliance date for Real ID goes into effect October 1, 2020, meaning all air travelers need either a passport or a Real ID compliant license or card to board a plane. To help the process move as smoothly and quickly as possible, please check your priority in receiving a Real ID. Keep in mind that you do NOT need a Real ID license to drive. Passports, immigration papers, tribal cards, and military cards all work as Real ID. The DMV website has resources available to help you determine if you need a Real ID. You can also start the application online. Additionally, The Oregonian has helpful information on what to expect as this process moves forward.

Thank you for reading and for your engagement. I look forward to seeing you on October 26th.



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