By State Representative Rob Nosse
By the time you read this, our country will be one step closer to ending the presidency of Donald Trump.
The Electoral College meets on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December of presidential election years. In 2020, the meeting is on December 14. Once this vote is completed, the election process is all but final, and we just have to wait for the inauguration.
I could literally feel the tension leaving my body on the morning of November 7 when the Associated Press called the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
There are unfortunately those who are actively undermining our democracy by refusing to recognize the result of the election. I am glad to see that even many of Trump’s allies are beginning to face reality and realize that the people have spoken. This excruciating presidency is almost over.
Meanwhile, many of us in Oregon had hoped to pick up the few remaining seats we needed to form majorities in our State Legislature that would make it immune from Republican walkouts. Remember when that dominated the political news in OR before COVID-19?
Unfortunately, we did not reach that goal. Democrats lost one seat in the House of Representatives and we maintained our 18-12 majority in the Senate. We retain our supermajorities for the purpose of passing taxes increases, should we need to do that and given the recessional environment we find ourselves in we may need to do that.
I was excited to see the House Democratic caucus grow in its diversity with three new people of color joining our ranks.
Measure 107 passed. Its passage allows for campaign finance reforms, including contribution limits. It also allows laws to be passed that can require a campaign to reveal who paid for their advertising.
Measure 108 passed. This measure raises taxes on tobacco and vaping products. Some of the money raised will be used for smoking cessation programs and public awareness campaigns about the dangers of smoking and vaping. Any money left over will go to fund the Oregon Health Plan, ensuring greater access to healthcare for underserved communities.
Measure 109 passed. This measure establishes a program to be administered by the Oregon Health Authority to allow the manufacture, distribution and use of psilocybin to be administered in a clinical setting that is licensed and regulated for these purposes. Measure 109 does not allow for the recreational use of psilocybin.
As a member of the House Healthcare Committee and the House Behavioral Health Committee, I will be part of the effort in the Legislature to craft appropriate statutes to implement this measure.
Measure 110 passed. This measure does two different things that move Oregon away from treating drug addiction as a criminal issue and begin to tackle it as a public health issue. Drug possession for most illicit substances will become a Class E violation. Instead of a felony or misdemeanor charge, offenders would pay a $100 fine or complete an addiction assessment by an addiction center.
This will reduce the large number of drug cases for simple possession that contribute to our overwhelmed legal system. It should also reduce the number of incarcerations in our state for minor drug possession and would positively impact communities of color and other marginalized populations who face significantly higher rates of arrest and incarceration for drug possession.
Measure 110 also changes how marijuana taxes are allocated. Currently, a sizable portion of that revenue goes to fund law enforcement programs.
Under this measure, this money would instead be re-appropriated to community-based drug treatment centers all over the state. By having law enforcement refer drug users to treatment and by using funds previously allocated for police to community-based treatment programs, Oregon will take an important step towards ending the failed and unjust War on Drugs.
In a future column, I will talk more about what I think is coming in the next legislative session and my priorities. In light of George Floyd’s murder and ongoing structural racism in Oregon, I expect to see a strong policy focus on racial justice in regard to policing, criminal justice, education and healthcare.
Lastly, I am still hopeful that we will have a Democratic Senate majority in Washington, DC, that will work with President Biden and Speaker Pelosi. Gridlock and misplaced priorities in Washington have cost us time in fighting this pandemic and the recession it created.
We desperately need more relief for states and local governments, measures to protect future elections, allow for a more equitable healthcare system, and better pathways to beat this pandemic.
I am hopeful that we can pull out two Democratic wins in the Georgia Senate races that will take place in January. Stay tuned.