A Final Look Back at the 2023 session

Senate President Rob Wagner

Eyes on Legislative Days

Hello Senate District 19 and beyond,

With the calendar turning over to fall, preparations for the 2024 session are well underway. Next week — September 27-29 — the Legislature will be holding its first series of committee hearings since the end of the 2023 session, an opportunity for lawmakers and community members to discuss the biggest issues facing the state.

Committee agendas are online now and can be viewed at olis.oregonlegislature.gov. All of the committee hearings are in person and the Capitol is open, so feel free to come to Salem if there is an issue you are passionate about, or just to interact with your elected representatives.

In my capacity as Senate President I am meeting with all of the Senate committee chairs as well as other legislators and advocates to identify what they are hoping to accomplish during the upcoming session.

Remember, our 2024 legislative session is a "short" session of just 35 days, which means we need to focus our efforts on the critical issues facing Oregon. We know we must continue to work toward comprehensive solutions to the fentanyl addiction crisis, both from a public safety perspective and a public health perspective. We will also continue our work making affordable housing more available and fine-tuning our budget and state policies.

As was the case during the 2023 session, I am confident we will go into next session with the vast majority of bills enjoying bipartisan support. I am excited for all we will be able to accomplish next year, and that work starts now.

hiking photo

My son Zack and I take time every summer to backpack along the Pacific Crest Trail. Here we are in the Mount Jefferson wilderness a few weeks ago.

A Final Look Back

During my newsletters this summer I recounted the victories the Oregon Legislature was able to deliver for the people of Oregon during the 2023 legislative session in some of our most critical areas of need including education, behavioral heath care, jobs, and climate change. With today being the first day of fall, this newsletter will represent the last in that series — thank you to everyone who has followed along and engaged with us. 

The Legislature passed 653 bills during the 2023 legislative session and 94% passed with bipartisan support. Many of those bills are set to go into effect on Sunday, Sept. 24 — 91 days post sine die — including bills establishing Oregon Kids’ Tax Credit, strengthening semiconductor research and development, and funding the 9-8-8 Suicide Prevention & Behavioral Health Line.

Before we fully turn our attention to 2024, I do want to highlight a few more of these bills and my colleagues who were instrumental in their passage.

It became all the more clear during the COVID-19 pandemic that we must ensure equitable access to broadband for Oregonians. We cannot have a digital divide in our state if we want to provide equal opportunity to all. With his background in technology, Senator Aaron Woods took the lead in the Senate on House Bill 3201, which positioned Oregon to optimize federal resources for broadband expansion. These expansions will boost economic growth and foster innovation statewide, particularly in rural areas.

Addressing public safety with targeted legislation was another area of focus for the legislature. With Senate Bill 615, we empowered law enforcement with new tools to deter dangerous street racing, including tougher consequences for those convicted of reckless driving. This bill was chief sponsored by Senator Chris Gorsek, a former police officer, and came after some were even killed by street racing-related crashes. 

To ensure Oregon workers have safe working conditions — especially from preventable incidents — Senate Bill 592 required more comprehensive inspections after a worker is killed at the workplace and required penalties to offending workplaces be increased. Many thanks to Senator Kathleen Taylor for her tireless efforts to protect Oregon's workers. 

Finally, I am extremely proud of two of my bills that received the governor's signature this year: Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 3.

Senate Bill 1 allows taxpayers to voluntarily self-report their race and ethnicity while filing tax returns for the purpose of generating data for later analysis of revenue policy through an equity lens. The data we gather thanks to this piece of legislation will help us better understand how our tax structure, credits, and expenditures affect different racial and ethnic groups in Oregon

Senate Bill 3 added to Oregon high school graduation requirements one half-credit of personal finance education and one half-credit of higher education and career path skills. Thanks to Senator Tim Knopp for co-chief sponsoring this bill with me. This bill will help ensure our young people are leaving school with the skills they need to make good financial decisions now and throughout their lives. Senate Bill 3 was a continuation of my work in previous sessions to require civics education for high schoolers in our state.

Town Hall Meetings

I was thrilled to be able to participate in two recent town halls, one at the Tualatin Public Library with Tualatin Mayor Frank Bubenik and the other at the West Linn Public Library with Rep. Jules Walters, Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck and West Linn Mayor Rory Bialostosky.

Thank you so much to all of my fellow Oregonians in Senate District 19 who took time out of their busy schedules to talk with me about the issues they care most about. I always say that our democracy works best when everyone is engaged, and town halls are one great way for me to hear directly from you.

But it's not the only way! As always if there is an issue you care about, please email or call.

town hall

The West Linn town hall panel included myself, Rep. Jules Walters, Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck and West Linn Mayor Rory Bialostosky at the West Linn Public Library.

community warehouse

Before my town hall in Tualatin, I was able to tour the regional furniture bank Community Warehoues with Mayor Frank Bubenik. This organization does incredible work in providing free furniture to families in need.

National Voter Registration Day

National Voter Registration Day was this week, an excellent reminder to register to vote or update your voter registration. Oregon makes it easy: it takes just minutes to register and you can do it all online.

To check your registration go to OregonVotes.gov/myvote. To register, go to OregonVotes.gov/register.

Oregon's voting system — with such innovations as automatic voter registration and vote-by-mail — is heralded as the gold standard for how states can reduce barriers to voting access. But at the end of the day, it's up to each and every one of us to stay informed on the issues and cast our votes. Stay involved and make sure you are registered to vote!

Headlines from your Capitol

Statesman Journal: Atmospheric river of rain headed to Willamette Valley this weekend

Heavy rain is expected across western Oregon beginning this weekend and turning soggiest early next week, helping cool remaining wildfires and combat the ongoing drought.

Oregon Public Broadcasting: Oregon House GOP leader stepping down

Oregon House Republicans will have a new leader going into next year’s legislative session.

Amid rumblings that she could face a challenge to her role, House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, announced Thursday she will step down as caucus leader when GOP representatives meet to elect new leadership next week.

KATU: Oregon Health Authority urges vaccinations as respiratory virus season begins

The OHA and other infectious disease experts are urging Oregonians to get vaccinated ahead of a virus season that will include the flu, COVID-19, and RSV.

Oregon Capitol Chronicle: Bonamici introduces bill to advance fentanyl awareness curriculum to schools 

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici wants to see school districts across the country have a fentanyl awareness curriculum that will help children and youth avoid the lethal, addictive drug that is cheap and easy to find.

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.

email: Sen.RobWagner@OregonLegislature.gov 
phone: 503-986-1600
address: 900 Court St NE, S-201, Salem, OR, 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/wagner