2015 Session Recap – Public Safety, Education, Health and More

We completed a very successful 2015 Oregon Legislative Session, with substantial progress on issues I’ve been working on for a long time. Here’s a partial report:

Public Safety

Profiling: HB 2002 will outlaw profiling and create a process for filing complaints and compiling and analyzing data. We have been making the arguments about this issue since before I became a Representative, and this time it passed with strong bipartisan support. I want to acknowledge Salomé Chimuku and the Center for Intercultural Organizing for development and organizing on this bill, and the Speaker, Tina Kotek, for making this a priority.

Cell phone cameras. HB 2704 makes it clear that you can record audio of a police officer interacting with the public if you are doing it in the open and in a place you have a right to be.

Police officer body cameras: HB 2571 1. allows police agencies to use them, and 2. Puts limits on how the recorded video may be used, probed and stored.

Our proposal to facilitate expungement of records for marijuana offenses that will no longer be criminal was partly included in the Measure 91 implementation bills, HB 3400 and SB 844.

There is more to do on these and related subjects; these bills represent tangible progress.

Economic Opportunity

Two bills I worked on to protect the integrity of programs to meet Minority, Women and Emerging small business goals on public contracts passed into law:  HB 2716 requires a firm that uses MWESB certification in obtaining a public contract to maintain their qualification throughout the term of the contract. SB 584 authorizes agencies that detect fraud in using the MWESB program to deny subsequent contracts.

I also helped on a brownfields bill that creates a new way to pay for cleanup of small contaminated sites. HB 2734.

HB 3082 allows a local option to increase the raise the income limit for families to qualify for the Nonprofit Low Income Housing Property Tax Exemption, so that families don’t lose their qualification just as they are getting on their feet.

Mental Health:

HB 3378 requires hospitals to have written discharge policies, and makes requirements for discharge planning at the end of hospitalization. HB 2023 is specifically about discharge planning for patients hospitalized for mental health treatment or behavioral health crisis.

Education:

HB 2713 requires an audit of what I believe is an extreme focus on particular standardized test in our public schools. HB 2715 outlaws the use of public displays of a student’s performance data in order to shame them. Unfortunately, this has actually been taking place.

SB 187 protects online privacy for students. So-called “ed-tech” companies want to use educational software in the classroom to track students, to market products to them and most of all to acquire loads of personal information about them. This bill is crucial to our young people’s safety, and I am happy to report that it passed into law without the major concessions that were sought.

HB 2655 received a lot of attention both positive and negative, so here’s some more information about it.  It does two main things:

Expands and clarifies opt-out rights: Under HB 2655, a parent/guardian may excuse any Oregon public school student from statewide summative assessments for any reason without providing an explanation. Current rules allow students to opt out only for religious reasons or to meet special education needs, standards that are interpreted differently in different places. This “opt-out” section will sunset in six years, at which point we should know more about whether a universal mandate is appropriate for these tests. The future of test-based “reform” is being debated in Congress now. The whole landscape could, and probably will, change.

Improves student privacy: HB 2655 establishes and strengthens protections for student data privacy. HB 2655 clarifies that a student’s test scores belong to the student and his or her parent or guardian, and clarifies the rights of parents to limit the use and collection of student data.

Now, unfortunately some interests persist in using “poor children and children of color” as part of every rationalization, and insist that full participation in these tests is necessary for “accountability.” But there is neither popular nor professional consensus that the tests themselves are all they’re cracked up to be, and it is far from clear that what they measure is meaningful. Somebody has to be accountable for that. This bill affirms parents’ right to use their own judgment.

These are just some of the things I worked on directly. I also served as vice-chair of the House Committee on Education, and served on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Information Technology, and participated in the Environmental and Mental Health Caucuses. It was a very intense six months, and I am proud of the successes coming out of it.

The Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS) is always available to look up bills or watch recorded testimony and debates. Oregon provides one of the best systems for watching your government at work.

Posted in Blog Posts

Lew speakingvertical cropresizedLew Frederick learned the importance of public service as a young man in Atlanta during the height of the civil rights movement, where a mentor once told him “Use the talents and opportunities you have. You’re supposed to make this world better for those who come after you.”

That mentor was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those words, reinforced by his parents’ example, led Lew to a career in public service. They still influence him deeply today, always urging him to make a difference, especially for young people.

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