2011 Session Recap
I’d summarize the 2011 session this way: Some successes, some disappointments, some frustrations, and a profound and complicated learning experience.
I got a few things passed in my first full session. None followed a straightforward path from committee to floor to passage; I had to reintroduce, collaborate with other stakeholders and other members, and sometimes work around the process to find another way, but we succeeded on several issues that I introduced.
- Brownfields. This is something I’ve worked on for several years, but this time I had buy-in from the DEQ, the Port of Portland and the City of Portland to help me with research to craft the bill and make the case. We found that the small contaminated sites are in every district in the State, and this bill will make it easier for private investment to return these lands to productive use. When the time ran out on the bills I originally introduced, we found another bill available for “gut and stuff,” and it passed.
- Grooming: We proposed that DHS train foster parents in ethnic hair and skin care. Every place we talked about this we got nods of recognition. We had to do some negotiating, but in the end it also passed without opposition.
- Support for Project Clean Slate: We started with this as a bill, and it looked good to go, but then hit a road block in committee. We eventually got support for it in a budget note. Less fanfare, same result, $250,000.
- Police: I introduced four bills regarding police training and practice, including one to mandate drug testing following deadly force incidents. We didn’t get a bill passed, but we raised the profile of the issue, and to our surprise, there was major movement on this issue on the part of the Portland Police Association in their latest contract, with random testing for several drugs, including steroids, starting this year. I’ll be back with some of those proposals in 2013.
- Transparency in public contracting: I introduced a bill to mandate reporting of minority participation in projects funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It didn’t pass as a bill, but eventually we did get the data. (It didn’t look good.)
There were several things that I introduced, and pushed, but didn’t get past the committee stage. There were also many issues that I worked on that originated with other members.
- A high priority for me was the “Good Neighbor Bill,” requiring clarity as to ownership and responsibility for real property after foreclosure. There were also bills to extend some of the protections for distressed homeowners enacted in 2009, and bills to expand those protections and hold lenders and loan servicers to certain legal and ethical standards. I plan to keep working on this as long as it takes.
- At the suggestion of the Bureau of Labor and Industry, I tried to pass a bill to clarify a possible ambiguity in the Public Accommodations Law. Nothing radical, just trying to make clear that public accommodations provided by public agencies are subject to the same law as public accommodations provided by private concerns. This got nowhere despite multiple attempts.
And there were some heartbreakers. A proposal to mandate cultural competency training for health care providers came in with broad support from the industry and the public and bipartisan support in the Legislature. It failed 30-30 on partisan lines. Likewise a proposal to offer in-state tuition to resident Oregon students regardless of their documentation status.
There were also some issues that I worked against. I served on the House Education committee. We struggled with some proposals that I saw as profoundly dangerous, part of an agenda that originated in Florida, crafted by a group that seeks to privatize the public school system.
My knowledge of the history and mechanics of school funding came into play against proposals to skew funding toward charter schools at the expense of neighborhood schools. While an abundance of school options can be a good thing, I believe that neighborhood schools will remain the backbone of a strong public education system, and I want to make sure we support a rich, comprehensive curriculum in every one of them so that every child has options.
Finally, I have to say this: Despite the challenges, the Legislature passed hundreds of measures that make life better in Oregon. And I’m hoping to pick up the pace in the years ahead.