Major bills moving forward early in 2023 session

Senate President Rob Wagner

Coming to you from a snowy Salem, Oregon, hello Senate District 19!

I hope everyone is staying safe on the icy and snowy roads throughout the Willamette Valley and beyond. Stay off the roads if you can, and if you must drive, remember to pack tire chains, plan more time to get to your destination and carry emergency items in your car.

Despite the inclement weather pausing committees today, legislative work has been moving at a rapid pace over the past six weeks. This session is a bit different for me in my first session as  Senate President. It is an incredible honor to have been elected to serve as the presiding officer in the Senate.

As presiding officer, I'm focused on making sure all political parties and perspectives are included in the legislative process. Good ideas come from everywhere in the state and don't have a partisan label.

So, in addition to representing my constituents, I get the chance to guide the legislative process for all bills in the Senate this year and support the chairs of the Senate committees and their members doing the hard work of crafting legislation.

Rob Wagner speaking to OU law students

Senate President Rob Wagner speaks to students from the University of Oregon School of Law on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

Priority Legislation Making Progress

As always is the case during our “long” sessions, thousands of bills have already been introduced for consideration. Now, most of these won’t become laws, but they do represent a lot of work for staff and lawmakers.

Of all these bills, there are two that are going to be considered early and which will have an important impact on the future of Oregon when signed into law.

The first is House Bill 2001 (accompanied by its budget bill House Bill 5019), the Legislature’s major package to address the state’s housing and homelessness crisis. This package fully funds Gov. Tina Kotek’s homelessness state of emergency to the tune of $130 million, commits $25 million to expand that homelessness support statewide, relieves pressure on Oregonians facing eviction for non-payment, ramps up affordable housing production and makes building affordable housing the top priority for the state through structural changes to our land use system.

Oregonians have said loud and clear that their biggest concern for the state is our worsening housing and homelessness crisis. This bill will take a major step on the path to solving that problem long-term with increased housing supply, as well as address our current challenges with homelessness.

The other piece of priority legislation right now is Senate Bill 4, our first step toward securing the future of Oregon’s semiconductor economy. Semiconductors are in everything from toothbrushes to cell phones to missiles, and making sure they are produced domestically is important for our national security and our economic growth. This bill would commit $200 million to a fund for the issuing of grants and loans to businesses for semiconductor manufacturing, allowing those businesses to then apply to the federal government for additional support. 

The federal CHIPS and Science Act set aside $52 billion in one-time funds to support semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. Many states are interested in taking advantage of those funds, and Oregon is no different. However, Oregon has a big advantage: We already have the most robust semiconductor manufacturing infrastructure in the United States. So, while other states are scrambling to bring companies in to create what Oregon already has, Oregon will be using these federal dollars to stay ahead of the curve and compete on a global market.

SB 424 Passes Senate

I had the privilege of speaking on the Senate floor this week in support of a bill I am jointly sponsoring — Senate Bill 424. This bill bans the practice of higher education institutions refusing to provide transcript to current or former students because that student owes money to the institution.

Removing this roadblock to an individual's career or educational journey is a commonsense step. SB 424 is a bipartisan bill that came directly out of the Joint Task Force on Student Success for Underrepresented Students in Higher Education, which I served on. We heard from underrepresented students around the state about the challenges they face, and we are going to be doing a lot of work this session to respond to what they told us. We have a lot more work to do to build toward investing in postsecondary education and college affordability. Click here to listen to my remarks on the bill before it passed the Senate.

Town Hall this Sunday

Town Hall 2.26

If you happen to be in the Lake Oswego area on Sunday, Feb. 26, feel free to stop by my first town hall event of the year. It is at Lake Oswego City Hall from 1-2 p.m. with my friends Rep. Jules Walters, Rep. Daniel Nguyen and Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck. We are there to hear your questions, comments and concerns about anything happening at the local or state level, so come with something to say. It’s always a pleasure to see folks face-to-face and hear from them about the good and bad in their lives and think about where the government might be able to make a positive change.

I look forward to setting a town hall schedule from upcoming months — so stay tuned.

Headlines From Your Capitol

Statesman Journal: Oregon lawmakers propose $200M housing and homelessness package

Democratic state lawmakers remain hopeful that their $200 million homelessness and housing package can be on Gov. Tina Kotek's desk by mid-March.

Legislative housing chairs Rep. Maxine Dexter, D-Portland, Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, and Sen. Kayse Jama, D-Portland, on Wednesday went into more detail about the "urgent" proposal that would fund more housing construction, prevent evictions and provide additional funding to rural counties to address homelessness.

Portland Tribune: Legislator introduces bill to help Ukrainian refugees resettling in Oregon

Oregon state Sen. James Manning Jr., D-Eugene, introduced legislation on Monday, Feb. 20, to provide support to the thousands of Ukrainian war refugees now in Oregon.

The bill comes just ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sparked Europe’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II and displaced more than 6 million Ukrainians, according to Manning. It also came on the heels of President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv.

Oregon Capital Chronicle: Young people are speaking up in the state Legislature. Are adults listening?

Nearly half of the first state Senate committee on energy and environment meeting this session was spent listening to testimony from eight people – all of them in their teens or early 20s. 

An eighth grader spoke about the negative impacts of the meat industry on human health and the environment. A high schooler spoke about the conversations she and her peers have on the morality of having children as the climate crisis persists. A recent college graduate spoke about the inability to afford well-insulated, energy-efficient homes due to student loan debt and the rising costs of housing. 

The Oregonian: Oregon senators tweak plan to stop taxpayers from paying long-distance commuting costs of remote workers, following union objections

The Oregon Senate will soon vote on a plan to stop state agencies from sticking taxpayers with the bill when government workers living in far-flung states travel back to Oregon for mandatory meetings.

An amended version of Senate Bill 853 that passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Labor and Business Tuesday would restrict the state from covering long-distance commutes – with two key exceptions.

Oregon Public Broadcasting: Oregon taxpayers could see nearly $4 billion ‘kicker’ next year as economic outlook improves

The state of Oregon is now expected to send nearly $4 billion back to taxpayers next year, as forecast revenues continue to soar past economist’s initial expectations.

At the same time, economists said Wednesday that they’re deeply uncertain about what coming months will bring for Oregon tax collections, and that a recession remains a real possibility after years of surging revenue.

If you would like to contact the Senate President's Office, send an email or call and either myself or a staff member will assist you. If you are a constituent coming to Salem and want to arrange a meeting, I'm always happy to meet, so please let us know well in advance as my schedule fills up quickly.

phone: 503-986-1600
address: 900 Court St NE, S-201, Salem, OR, 97301