June Legislative Updates

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Hello Friends,

Happy first day of summer! We’ve had a busy few weeks in our office since our last newsletter, so read on for updates on legislative work, COVID-19, and other topics!

Legislative Updates

Legislative Days

Since Oregon voters adopted annual legislative sessions in 2010, the legislature meets for a maximum of 160 days in odd numbered years and 35 days in even numbered years. The time in between sessions is called the interim. The legislature convenes periodically during the interim for “Legislative Days,” which happen approximately every eight weeks and last for four days. Legislative Days involves meetings of task forces and legislative committees – committees meet to hear from state agencies and other groups with updates on programs and preview topics that may lead to future legislative action.

The Emergency Board (E-Board) also typically meets – the E-Board is composed of members of both House and Senate chambers and can allocate funding for unanticipated, critical needs when the state legislature is not in session. As a member of the E-Board, I wanted to let you know about some of the decisions the committee made at its most recent meeting.

Stronger Schools, Early Learning and Student Mental Health

We know that students are still reeling from the challenges of the last two years – that’s why we approved significant investments to increase opportunities and support mental health services for students. The Emergency Board approved a $5.4 million grant from Project AWARE to the Oregon Department of Education to establish sustainable infrastructure for school-based mental health, promote healthy social and emotional development of school-aged youth, and prevent youth violence in school settings. This program will help Oregon students today and provide the framework to better support the next generation of scholars.

We also know the burden that the cost of childcare has on parents, especially low-income families. We need creative solutions to help provide affordable, accessible childcare, so the board approved $1 million in funding established in House Bill 5011 from the 2021 legislative session for a pilot program to provide gap financing for affordable housing projects co-located with childcare or early learning centers. This funding has the potential to fill approximately 1,000 early learning slots in Oregon, and evidence has shown that co-locating early care and education with affordable housing helps children and their families thrive.

Supporting Health Care and Behavioral Health Workforces

In 2021, the Legislature made a groundbreaking $474 million investment in behavioral health systems, but we know that to create long term, sustainable solutions, we need to continue to make timely investments to meet the needs of our workforce. With staff burnout and labor shortages across the healthcare sector, the board approved $42.5 million for the recruitment and retention of behavioral health workforces across the state, and a $30 million investment to implement the Oregon Essential Workforce Health Care Program, established through Senate Bill 800, making healthcare more affordable and accessible to healthcare workers.

Supporting Victims of Crime and Violence Prevention

In the 2022 session, the legislature made targeted investments in community-based violence prevention programs to reduce crime by addressing root causes. The board took additional action by securing more than $35 million from the Department of Justice’s Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants to provide additional services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. The board also approved more than $350,000 to create three limited-duration positions for the Oregon Department of Justice’s Crime Victim and Survivor Services Division and provide community-based violence prevention grants. There is no simple or quick solution to these issues, but these investments represent an important step in breaking cycles of violence.

Revenue Forecast

Last month, a new revenue forecast for the state of Oregon showed strong economic growth for the state – that growth is a testament to the investments we’ve made in working Oregonians and small businesses. But our job isn’t done. I know we must make sure economic recovery reaches every corner of the state. With strong budget reserves, and forecasts showing continued economic growth, I remain committed to protecting critical programs and services needed to combat inflation and drive down the cost of living for working families — including the costs of housing, health care, and childcare — so that we’re building a future where everyone has a chance to thrive.

Committee Assignments

Last week, Speaker Rayfield released updates to some of the committees that Representatives serve on. There are several committees with retiring members serving as Chairs – naming new committee Chairs now will help those new Chairs get up to speed and learn from the outgoing Chairs before the 2023 legislative session. You can read more about these changes here.

One bittersweet note for me personally is that I’m transitioning from Chair of the Housing Committee to Chair of the Rules Committee. The Majority Leader traditionally serves as Chair of the Rules Committee rather than a traditional policy or budget committee, in part because of how challenging it is to both lead the caucus and to head a key policy committee. I found my work as Housing Chair to be incredibly meaningful, and I know we still have much to do to address Oregon’s housing crisis. I still care deeply about this work and plan to be remain involved on the policy side, particularly on solutions to help increase the supply of housing in Oregon. For now, I’ll be serving as the Vice-Chair of the committee, and I’m very excited to be working with Rep. Maxine Dexter, who will be taking over as the new Chair.

Current Events

Roe v. Wade

It wasn’t surprising – but no less shocking – to read the leaked draft opinion on the fate of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court last month that would give states the power to ban abortions. There was also concerning language in the opinion that could jeopardize access to common forms of birth control – including the pill and I.U.D.s. The bottom line is that the right-wing majority on the Court is ready to turn back the clock on women’s rights and take away a constitutional right that women in the United States have had for almost fifty years. 

Women should have the right to make the most personal and private decisions that affect their lives, their health, and their families. To be clear, abortion in Oregon will remain legal, safe, and accessible. But, I believe access to abortion shouldn’t depend on who you are or where you live. 

In 2017, Oregon Democrats took action and passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA). I was proud to be a chief sponsor of RHEA, which codified the right to an abortion in state law and made the full range of reproductive health care more affordable and accessible for all Oregonians. And during the 2022 legislative session, in preparation for the possibility of a post-Roe America, the legislature established the Oregon Reproductive Health Equity Fund, a $15 million investment in abortion access that will expand provider capacity across the state and support those seeking abortion care in Oregon. I believe that, as elected leaders, we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to protect this fundamental right. 

Mass Shootings

I’m truly heartbroken over the tragic loss of life caused by senseless violent acts across the country. The mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, Southern California, and Uvalde, TX, and in other cities across America in recent months have seemingly become weekly occurrences, and the pain and fear that they have created is reigniting the discussion on how they can be prevented.

In Oregon, in the last few years we’ve passed legislation that requires background checks on private gun sales, enables public schools to prohibit all firearms on their property, creates extreme risk protection orders to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves or others, and ensures the secure storage of firearms. I know that there is more to do, and legislators are working on what further actions we could take during the 2023 legislative session to strengthen our laws to further prevent these types of tragedies from happening.

COVID-19 Update

COVID cases in Oregon have been elevated for the past several weeks – statewide, we’ve averaged more than 1,000 new cases a day since the beginning of May, and there are currently more than 300 people hospitalized. It’s still important for anyone experiencing symptoms to stay home and get tested. You can order at-home rapid tests to be delivered to your home at no cost to you at covidtests.gov – as of last month, households that have already ordered one or two sets of tests can now order a third set. If you are on Medicare, you can get 8 free at-home tests per calendar month (more info here) and private insurance is also required to reimburse you for 8 at home tests per month (more info here).

COVID Vaccine for Children

Vaccines and Boosters

Good news! Parents of children aged 6 months to 5 years will now have the option of vaccinating their kids! This past weekend, the CDC recommended Moderna or Pfizer vaccines for kids in that age range – this article from The Oregonian has a good overview with an informative FAQ section. Your child’s pediatrician office is likely the best place to start if you’d like to get them vaccinated, although other clinical settings and some pharmacies may begin to offer vaccinations as vaccines start to roll out.

In addition, children age 5 and older are now eligible for a booster shot.  Individuals 50 and older and those with compromised immune systems, are encouraged to get a second booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (these individuals are eligible for a 2nd booster 4 months after their first booster.)

Good News

Unclaimed Property

Every year, companies, nonprofits, and government agencies across the state are required to report and remit unclaimed property to the Oregon State Treasury – this includes things like uncashed checks, unreturned deposits, forgotten bank accounts, and abandoned safe deposit boxes. Last year, the Oregon State Treasury launched a new website to help return unclaimed property to Oregonians across the state. Since the program launched, more than $13.3 million has been returned to nearly 11,000 claimants. If you’d like to check to see if you have unclaimed property, visit unclaimed.oregon.gov, search for your name, and select “Claim.” One of my office staff was surprised to find they had a $75 rebate check they didn’t know about, so you never know what you might find!

Unclaimed Property

Yours truly,

Fahey signature

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1414
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-286, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: Rep.JulieFahey@oregonlegislature.gov
Website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/fahey