By State Representative Rob Nosse
These columns are always submitted a week or two in advance of the printing. Hopefully President Biden and Vice President’s Harris’ inauguration, despite the pandemic and the safety precautions that were implemented after the January 6 seizure/raid on the United States Capitol, has continued to take hold.
It is tempting to focus on how awful the Trump presidency has been for the country and for our state, but I will save that for the pundits and the historians and frankly, all of you.
It is an understatement to say I am more than happy to move on and focus this column on the state of Oregon and the 81st session of the state legislature.
As of this writing, the Democratic legislative agenda is still forming. The state of our session was delayed by two days to avoid potential protests and riots in Salem outside the Capitol.
Most of you probably remember that while we were in a special legislative session on December 21 extreme right-wing demonstrators broke into the Capitol building which, unfortunately due the pandemic and public health needs, is now temporarily closed to the public.
Despite public health and physical safety risks, one of my Republican colleagues allowed a few of these demonstrators inside the building. More about all of that for another time as well.
Yours truly is serving as the Vice Chair of the still relatively new Behavioral Health Committee. This state has many challenges and poor rankings compared to other states when it comes to mental and behavioral health access. There is much work to be done and I expect the committee to be busy.
I am serving my second term on the Joint House and Senate Ways and Means Committee (the budget committee for the legislature) where I will serve again as the one of the co-chairs for the Human Services sub-committee.
This committee’s main responsibility is developing a budget for the Oregon Department of Human Services which operates many of our state’s social service and safety net programs for children, the disabled, the abused, the elderly and of course, folks who are poor or temporarily down and out on their luck and need help.
The committee develops a budget for the Oregon Health Authority which operates a variety of state programs related to health, most notably the Oregon Health Plan, our state’s Medicaid program, as well as a host of policy functions related to health, the state hospital, and a ton of public health functions on overdrive right now due to the pandemic.
At last count, I have submitted just over 50 bills I hope to pass into laws on behalf of constituents and longtime activist organizations that I have worked with over the three decades I have lived in Oregon and during my previous three terms in office.
My bills address issues around housing and renters, public health particularly for the LGBTQ community, animal rights, fair taxation, healthcare access and behavioral healthcare access, the needs of college students and workers particularly nurses and healthcare workers, leasing concerns for small businesses, and a couple of changes to the state’s constitution I am hoping will be referred to voters.
One change would ask us to put the money that comes back to taxpayers as the “kicker” into a state savings account so we have money available for the next recession or economic downturn in the state’s economy. The other would ask that we make access to healthcare a right in our state and enshrine it in the state’s constitution. I will endeavor to keep you posted on all these issues and more.
You can follow along with how the session goes on my Facebook page or write to me and ask to be included in my e newsletter list which will come out periodically to address a variety of topics related to our state and the legislative session.
Please know that while I have my individual bills, as do many of my colleagues, we will ultimately be filtering the passage or failure of legislation through the eyes of getting through the pandemic and coming out stronger and ready to tackle the next public health crisis that comes along.
We will also be trying to set ourselves up to address climate change as it relates to our forests and wildfires.
Last but certainly not least, we’re really trying to do a better job of evaluating the impact of legislation on people of color in this state and advancing the social, economic, and political standing, and move toward greater equity for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities.
Hopefully we can do all that smoothly given that we are meeting virtually, except to vote on actual bills on the floors of the House and Senate, and we can do so despite deep political tensions that exist in our state and country.
More to come about all of that I am certain. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.