December 2023 Newsletter

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Hello friends,

The leaves are just about gone, and the temperature is starting to drop – a sure sign that winter is right around the corner! We’re continuing to prepare for the 2024 legislative session, including another week of committee meetings during November. Read on for a recap of those meetings, a forecast on the health of Oregon’s economy, an update on the J.H. Baxter facility in West Eugene, and more!

November Legislative Day Recap

During the first week in November, legislative committees met for interim hearings to get important updates, discuss emerging issues, and provide previews of upcoming bills that will be introduced in the February session. Here are some highlights from the committees I serve on.

Committee Photo

House Interim Committee on Housing and Homelessness

Addressing housing and homelessness remains a top priority for the Legislature. Our November meeting of the Housing Committee was a great opportunity to hear from legislators, state agencies, and community leaders on new concepts as well as updates on the results of existing programs, including:

Medicaid Coverage of Housing Benefits: The Oregon Health Authority is partnering with Oregon Housing and Community Services to enact a new benefits program in early 2024 that will pay for certain housing benefits with Medicaid dollars. This program uses federal Medicaid funding to support OHP recipients who are at a high risk of homelessness with up to six months of rental assistance. Access to stable housing is essential to better overall health outcomes – the idea behind this program is that investing in stable housing for high-risk individuals covered by Medicaid will help reduce health care costs for those individuals over the long-term.

Homelessness Response Strategies:  Oregon has made major investments in recent years to support organizations that work to address homelessness and housing insecurity. During our meeting, we received a presentation from Jimmy Jones, Executive Director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA). MWVCAA is Marion-Polk County’s leading non-profit social services provider with a strong track record of innovative, evidence-based programs and a research-centric approach in the fight against poverty. Their accomplishments over the last two years (see pg. 21 of the report) have made a real difference, but it’s clear there is still much more work to be done.

Regional Homeless Services Coordination: Homelessness isn’t just affecting the Willamette Valley, it’s a challenge facing every corner of the state and it’s going to take collaboration at every level of government to solve. In 2022, I was one of the sponsors of HB 4123, which provided funding for pilot programs in eight rural counties to support a new, coordinated response to homelessness. Officials from Lincoln County shared that HB 4123 has increased their ability to engage at-risk communities and collaborate on funding new and existing projects and programs that are getting people off the streets.

Land Readiness and Infrastructure in Cities: Beyond the cost of construction, funding for infrastructure like sewage and wastewater is proving to be a major hurdle to developing housing. Representative Elmer and McMinnville Planning Director Heather Richards shared their insight on the issue, including a proposal on how the state can jumpstart the supply of workforce housing. To meet our statewide housing production targets, we’ll need investments in infrastructure in every corner of the state. 

Manufactured Housing:  More than 70,000 Oregonians live in nearly 1,000 manufactured home parks across the state – including many in House District 14. These homes fit a flexible niche for Oregonians by providing a more affordable pathway to homeownership. However, as private equity groups and corporations continue to buy parks and increase rents, many residents are struggling to stay in their homes. We heard from several advocates about how the legislation we’ve passed has helped protect parks and the residents that live there, as well as suggestions on how we can preserve this often-overlooked type of “naturally occurring” affordable housing. During my time as a legislator, this policy area has been incredibly important to me and my constituents, and I was glad to hear the perspectives the presenters shared.

House Interim Committee on Rules

Oregon County Election Staffing Research Study: Over the last few years, county clerks have been struggling with retaining and recruiting election staff, creating staffing challenges in the run-up to the 2024 election cycle. To better understand the challenges facing county election offices, I invited presenters from the Elections and Voting Information Center (EVIC) at Reed College to share their 2023 study with the committee. 

You can review their presentation here. The major challenges highlighted include: 

  • Inadequate funding – county elections offices are largely funded with local property tax revenue, which is capped by ballot measures that were passed in the 1990s
  • Problems with recruiting and retention, especially when other local industries pay better
  • Training opportunities

Unfortunately, the same week that we heard about staffing challenges in the committee, it was reported that county elections offices in Oregon were among those who were sent suspicious letters in the mail, some of which included a white powder. I'm glad no one has been harmed, but this was a shocking attempt to terrorize our election officials. Our clerks and election workers are already working under very difficult conditions — they've faced increasing threats and harassment from election deniers since Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election. They're on the frontlines of our democracy, and they deserve our support.

Revenue Forecast Statement

Four times a year, state economists present to the legislature their forecast for economic and revenue trends in Oregon. These reports help the legislature make informed decisions about the state’s budget and funding for critical programs.

In November, our state’s economists once again predicted consistent and stable growth in Oregon’s economy, with strong wage and income gains across demographics. November’s inflation report also showed that overall inflation levels in October were nearly zero – extremely good news for working families and their wallets. 

Democrats remain committed to bringing real solutions to the table on the issues we know Oregonians care about most – addressing homelessness and the cost of housing; ensuring Oregonians struggling with addiction or mental health issues can access treatment; and making sure we continue to drive down the cost of living so working families don’t have to break the bank to make ends meet. This is how we build a better, stronger Oregon.

Good News!

Oregon has been recognized as a leading state for evidence-based decision-making by Results for America, a national nonprofit advocating for evidence-based policymaking. Results for America's 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence has specifically recognized Oregon for its data-driven initiatives in the areas of:

  1. Investing in evidence-based services for young people.
  2. Using evidence-based budget targets.
  3. Prioritizing equitable outcomes, exemplified by the incorporation of racial impact assessments in budget requests.
  4. Implementing a state data strategy and ensuring transparency among state agencies.

As policymakers, I believe we have an obligation to advocate for proven solutions that actually work to solve our state’s problems over the long-term. That means looking at what other states or local governments are doing and what outcomes they have achieved with their work. This recognition underscores our commitment to using data and evidence to inform and improve our work in state government.

JH Baxter Update

The Active Bethel Community (ABC) recently organized an informational meeting with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to update the community on cleanup efforts at the J.H. Baxter wood treatment plant in West Eugene. 

Over the last three years, the EPA and DEQ have been working with the community to assess what would be needed to effectively clean up the J.H. Baxter facility and surrounding neighborhoods. While DEQ has already begun the process of cleaning up some of the most affected homes to the north of J.H. Baxter, the clean-up effort at the facility itself will be a much larger task.

The cleanup involves disposing of more than 60 chemical tanks and potentially treating more than 31 acres of soil at the facility, which is expected to be a lengthy process. The EPA and DEQ are still in the assessment phase, analyzing soil and material samples for hazardous contaminants such as dioxins. Once the data is finalized, it will be submitted to the EPA and other federal entities for potential Superfund designation.

A Superfund site is a heavily polluted area that’s been identified by the EPA for cleanup. The process is funded by the Superfund Trust, involving community input and possible accountability for responsible parties. Designating J.H. Baxter as a Superfund site would unlock critical resources to fund the jobs, equipment, and other activities that will be needed to clean up the site.

I want to extend my gratitude to ABC, Beyond Toxics, the EPA, and DEQ for all their work up to this point. I’ll be tracking the EPA’s decision closely, and I’m feeling optimistic that a Superfund designation will help the West Eugene and Bethel community finally get the support we need to deal with the damage that JH Baxter caused to our community.

JH Baxter

Aerial view of JH Baxter. Photo by Ephraim Payne/Beyond Toxics

Eugene YMCA Grand Opening

After 68 years at Patterson St. and 20th, the Eugene YMCA is moving into their brand-new Don Sathos Campus at 24th Ave and Hilyard this December! This project has been more than nine years in the making – I was proud to work with the Eugene/Springfield delegation to secure over $15 million in state investment to help make the project happen.

The campus is named for Don Sathos, a former legislator who was a chief sponsor of the Oregon Bicycle Bill in 1971. That bill designated 1 percent of highway funds to bicycle and pedestrian uses and required bike lanes on new and rebuilt roads around the state. The new YMCA is just down the road from the Amazon bike path, with accessible bike lanes coming from every direction, so I’d say it’s a fitting tribute to Don’s legacy!

I’ve been a member of the YMCA for about 14 years, and it was a bit bittersweet to take my last workout classes there this past week. I think the new facility will be an amazing addition to our community and will help the Y build on their childcare, disease prevention, youth development, and wellness programing. Community members are welcome to attend the official ribbon-cutting ceremony is on Saturday, December 16th at 10 am.


Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you need help navigating local or state government services or if you have thoughts about bills for the 2024 legislative session. Your input is valuable as I consider what to prioritize in the coming months.

Yours truly,

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Capitol Phone: 503-986-1414
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-295, Salem, Oregon 97301