Jobs, Housing, Health Care

Senate President Rob Wagner

Heat Wave Tapering Off

Hello Senate District 19 and beyond,

I'm glad to be coming to you today as the heat wave that overwhelmed Oregon for most of this week has begun to taper off. Those days with temperatures higher than 100 degrees are more than uncomfortable, they are outright dangerous for our neighbors who lack a home. Thank you to our local partners across the state who opened cooling shelters during the heat wave, which undoubtedly saved lives. As we continue to see the impacts of climate change, we will need to work together to keep our communities safe while moving toward a clean energy economy.

I also want to thank the firefighters across the state who are working to keep us safe as our wildfire season continues. It's a difficult, dangerous job and we owe them a great deal. If you want up-to-the-minute facts about the wildfires burning in Oregon right now, InciWeb is an incredible resource that I check frequently.

Protecting Reproductive Health Care

This newsletter is my third recounting some of our great successes from the 2023 legislative session. So far we've explored the Legislature's actions on education and health care, and this week I want to take a step back to go over some of the biggest accomplishments we had.

First, one bill I did not mention in my newsletter last week was both a health care win and one of the biggest bills of session, and it was was also signed by Governor Tina Kotek this week. That bill was the Reproductive Health and Access to Care Act, House Bill 2002.

The RHAC Act is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision that overturned 50 years of federal legal protections for abortion access. In response, Democrats passed House Bill 2002 which preserves and protects access to reproductive health care by: 

  • Keeping politicians out of the deeply personal health care decisions made between a patient and their doctor.

  • Ensuring parents and guardians who are abusive, neglectful or absent cannot deny a minor access to an abortion, clarifying Oregon law in the wake of the Dobbs decision.

  • Shielding health care providers from anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-freedom laws in other states, ensuring they can continue to care for patients in Oregon. This comes in response to increased threats Oregon providers are facing post-Dobbs.

  • Clarifying and expanding access to abortion and gender-affirming care by codifying that these medically necessary procedures are covered by insurance.

Oregon is a beacon for access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care. These medically necessary procedures are under attack nationwide by extreme politicians looking to insert themselves into the exam room. House Bill 2002 ensures that private medical decisions remain private.

Following the interim work initiated by House Speaker Dan Rayfield, this effort was spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, Senator Elizabeth Steiner, Representative Andrea Valderrama and Representative Travis Nelson.

2002 signing

Dozens of advocates joined lawmakers -- including myself, Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, Senator James Manning Jr. and Representative Travis Nelson -- at Governor Tina Kotek's signing ceremony for House Bill 2002 and House Bill 2697.

Securing Jobs for the Future

As long as we're talking about legislation that came about after actions taken in D.C., the Oregon CHIPS Act was a success born directly from an opportunity presented to us by the federal government.

Last year, President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act — authored by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden — investing $52 billion to reinvigorate domestic research, development and manufacturing of semiconductors. Semiconductors help power the modern world and are in everything from cars to credit cards to medical devices. Oregon is already a leader in the semiconductor industry — more than 15% of America's semiconductor workforce is based here in Oregon — so we were perfectly positioned to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity. We knew that a targeted yet generous investment would provide significant return and create good-paying jobs across the state for decades to come. 

Our response came in two parts. First, in Senate Bill 4 we committed $190 million in state funds to support applications by Oregon businesses for federal CHIPS money, $10 million to assist local governments to prepare sites for semiconductor industrial development and $10 million to the University Innovation Research Fund for public universities to leverage federal research grants. This bipartisan bill was led by Senator Janeen Sollman and Representative Janelle Bynum. We later expanded on this effort, bringing the total state funds we committed to more than $250 million.

We also passed House Bill 2009, which modernizes Oregon’s research and development tax credit and complements existing grants to business, local government, and universities. Senator Mark Meek and Representative Nancy Nathanson were our leads on this piece of the puzzle.

No state was as comprehensive as Oregon in responding to the opportunity created by the federal government. Already we are seeing the ramifications of our hard work, with Intel confirming a "multibillion-dollar" expansion and modernization of its facilities in Oregon. 

Responding to our Housing Crisis

Expanding affordable housing options and reducing homelessness were also key priorities for the Legislature this session. In partnership with Governor Tina Kotek we passed legislation that ramps up housing protection, gets people off the streets and into shelters and caps rent increases to keep people in their homes.

Addressing housing affordability in Oregon will take time, but these bills — which Governor Kotek has already signed — will help solve this problem.

Senate Bill 611: Provides predictability and stability for renters by limiting rent increases to no more than 10% each year, while maintaining exemptions for new construction to support housing development. There were extensive negotiations on this bill, led by Senator Wlnsvey Campos.

House Bill 5019 and House Bill 2001:  The Affordable Housing and Emergency Homelessness Response Package committed more than $200 million toward increasing our housing supply, helping rehouse and shelter people experiencing homelessness and preventing future homelessness. It fully funded the governor's homelessness state of emergency declaration, allowing the state to respond to the crisis in a coordinated and urgent manner. This was an early-session bipartisan victory led in the Senate by Senator Kayse Jama and Senator Dick Anderson.

Senate Bill 5511The budget bill for the Housing and Community Services Department, which includes $130 million for navigation centers, Project Turnkey and new shelters; $5 million in direct funding to tribes to prevent and address homelessness; $12.5 million to support homeownership for low income families; $6 million for tenant services; and more.

Town Hall September 14

I am very excited to announce that my first in-district town hall meeting of this fall will be September 14 at the Tualatin Public Library from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. I'll be joining Rep. Jules Walters, Tualatin Mayor Frank Bubenik and Durham Mayor Gery Schirado. This is our opportunity to hear directly from folks in our communities about the issues they care most about, so please come with questions and comments. 

I always have great conversations at my town halls and I'm sure this one in Washington County will be no different. There will be more town halls in other parts of Senate District 19 this year, so if you can't make it to this one, you'll have a few more chances in the near future.

Headlines from your Capitol

Statesman Journal: Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek celebrates law protecting gender-affirming care, abortion

To celebrate its passage, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek on Tuesday held a ceremonial signing of a bill protecting rights to gender-affirming care and abortion.

Oregon Public Broadcasting: Several states, including Oregon, to get federal grants to fix waterways beneath roads harmful to fish

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced nearly $200 million in federal infrastructure grants to upgrade tunnels that carry streams beneath roads but can be deadly to fish that get stuck trying to pass through.

The Oregonian: Oregon secretary of state to publish database of campaign finance violations

Oregon’s new secretary of state plans to publish a database with information about campaign finance scofflaws.

Oregon Capitol Chronicle: Kotek appoints Portland labor attorney Aruna Masih to Oregon Supreme Court

Gov. Tina Kotek has appointed labor and civil rights attorney Aruna Masih to the state Supreme Court, filling a vacancy left when former Justice Adrienne Nelson was appointed to the federal bench. 

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