Kitchen Table Activism (KTA) is a monthly activity by the Rural Organizing Project. The idea is that small actions can lead to powerful collective results when groups of people gather to complete the same action across the state of Oregon. ROP works to keep each KTA easily achievable so that groups with other projects or groups with limited immediate energy can still manage to complete the KTA each month.
WHY THIS ACTIVITY?
Oregon’s 2023 long legislative session started on January 17th. The long session lasts up to 160 days, and our elected officials are making critical decisions and passing laws that deeply impact our communities! We believe rural Oregonians should have a seat at the table in state politics and now is a great time to participate in advancing democracy and making sure your representatives know that you are paying attention to how they are voting.
WHAT IS THE ACTIVITY?
Make a plan for how your group will make sure your state senators and representatives know how you and your neighbors want them to vote. Check out the list of bills below that we’ve heard about and talk with your team about what bills you are most excited to show your support for. Are there bills you are excited about that aren’t on this list? Want support making your group’s plan for how to participate? Send us your ideas, and questions to email@example.com!
HOW TO COMPLETE THE ACTIVITY:
1. Get together with your team and decide what bills you want to prioritize in this session. Check out the list below, or focus on one particular policy. We’d love to hear what your group is focusing on! Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Make a plan for how you want to support your priority bill(s) over the next five months. This could include:
- Organizing a group meeting with your legislator virtually or in person in Salem. Tip: Look up their contact info here and check out this sample agenda to plan ahead.
- Collecting postcards from your neighbors addressed to your elected officials! Tip: Before you mail the postcards, be sure to capture their contact information for future events or action opportunities.
- Hosting a call party to invite and support your neighbors in speaking directly with your state senator and representative!
- Submitting Letters to the Editor to your local paper. Tip: As a group, you can create a schedule so one person writes a letter about important bills each week of the session. Elected officials read the local paper and many of your neighbors do too!
- Have another idea or want support getting your plan together? Reach out to Sidra at email@example.com!
3. Make your voices heard! Whether you have 10 minutes to call your representative or 10 hours to coordinate a meeting, we can all play a role in our democracy!
4. Report back to tell us how it went so we can share your experiences with folks across rural Oregon. Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear from you!
2023 Bills That Advance Democracy
Here is a list of bills, broken down by the four principles of democracy. What issues are you excited about focusing on this legislative session? How will you take action this session? Send us your ideas and questions to email@example.com!
A reasonable standard of living
Rural Oregon has been hit particularly hard by our current eviction crisis. If passed, these bills would help stop evictions and displacement. They are particularly focused on limiting the 14.6% rent increase that many are facing right now. This package includes rent assistance to help people who need it; eviction reform to stop fast-track evictions, provide a short safe harbor period, and prevent landlords from refusing payments when people can afford to pay; rent price limits so that people can afford their housing; and a plan for compiling rental market data so we know more about property owners and housing availability. While we believe that rent increases should be limited even further than the 8% that SB 611 outlines, we know that we need all the support we can get when it comes to the housing crisis.
2. Oregon Kids’ Credit (HB 2811)
If passed, this bill would create a refundable tax credit similar to the federal Child Tax Credit to invest in the future of Oregon’s children and families. This program would put cash into the pockets of families who qualify for the federal child tax credit in regular installments throughout the year. Such a policy would address rising costs across rural communities and particularly benefit Black, Indigenous, and other families of color, who qualify for the child tax credit at higher rates than white families.
3. Natural Climate Solutions (SB 530)
If passed, this bill would provide funding and training opportunities to forest landowners, ranchers, and farmers for voluntary techniques that not only take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground but also improve production from working lands through reduced water needs, healthier crops, more fire-resilient forests, and more. It is designed to make the most of federal funding and private investments in natural climate solutions to move Oregon closer toward both its climate pollution and resilience goals.
4. Climate Resilience Hubs (HB 2990)
Rural communities do not have enough resources to respond to crises, whether that’s wildfires, ice storms, mass shootings, or the COVID-19 pandemic. If passed, this bill would direct the Oregon Health Authority to develop and implement a grant program to support resource/service hubs and networks in Oregon to address climate preparedness, emergency response, community building, and disaster recovery. This could look like creating a new space where none exists, or deepening the ability of existing spaces to respond to the needs of their community.
Inclusion of all; equality for all
Our partners at Pueblo Unido are leading a campaign to prioritize Indigenous language justice by paying interpreters living wages, making it easier for Indigenous language speakers to directly influence policy solutions, and developing language proficiency evaluations so that interpreters can gain recognition for their skills. This bill will make it easier for Indigenous language speakers to participate in Oregon politics and access public resources such as driver’s licenses and housing support.
2. Food for All Oregonians (SB 610)
If passed, this bill would create a state-funded program to make food assistance available to all Oregonians who are currently excluded due to immigration status. It would provide families with money for groceries that matches federal SNAP food assistance benefits through community navigation and outreach. This plan will make the program truly accessible, including to people who don’t speak English!
3. Reproductive Health and Access to Care (Bill number coming soon)
House Speaker Dan Rayfield convened the Reproductive Health and Access to Care workgroup this past summer, and they recently made recommendations to the state legislature on how to prioritize reproductive justice, given that 27 of Oregon’s 36 counties have no abortion provider and full reproductive health care is very difficult to access. The full report from the workgroup outlines a whole host of necessary reforms including protecting doctors who provide abortions and gender-affirming care from lawsuits, training health workers, and updating online resources with information on reproductive rights and options for accessing care. It also calls for expanding coverage and increasing enforcement of insurance mandates because many insurance providers are not fully covering abortion, screenings, and contraception despite state requirements to do so. You can read more in this article!
Majority rule and minority rights
1. In Defense of Humanity(SB 413)
If passed, this bill will make sure that people have their constitutional right to legal representation fulfilled. The champions of this bill are calling for alternative forms of sentencing for low-level crimes, student loan forgiveness for public defenders, and more to fix the system of public defenders that is currently not meeting the needs of Oregonians.
2. Right to Rest Act (HB 3501)
If passed, this bill would protect the rights of unhoused people while also preserving public funds currently wasted on “clean-up” initiatives that ultimately push people further into poverty. This bill would prevent officials from taking or destroying unhoused people’s possessions, and would prohibit law enforcement and others from limiting people’s ability to sit, stand, and sleep; to eat and share food; to occupy a legally parked vehicle; and to use and move freely in public spaces.
Well-educated and well-informed people who participate in the democratic process
3. Ranked Choice Voting (HB 2004)
If passed, this bill would create a ranked-choice voting system in elections for state and national offices. This method would make our elections fairer by allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the least number of first-choice votes is eliminated and the second-choice votes of those voters are added to the remaining candidates. This process continues to the third choice and so on until a winner is decided. This system would boost democratic participation because voters can have a say in which candidate is elected even if their top choice is eliminated.
4. Guaranteeing the Right to Vote (SB 579)
The right to vote is crucial to a working democracy, but many Oregonians held in prison are currently denied the right to vote. This contributes to low-income, Black, Indigenous, and people of color being disproportionately cut out of the democratic process. If passed, this bill would give voting rights to people currently in prison with a felony conviction, the only Oregon citizens without voting rights in our state.