New Lines and New Laws Toward a Thriving Rural Oregon

A special legislative session began this week to decide how the maps for state and federal representative districts will be drawn based on the new information from the latest census. We know that when we organize together as a state that we are mighty! We successfully took action together and passed several of our priorities in the 2021 Legislative Session that ended on June 26th (more below!) and we can show up this week to make sure that our communities are represented well!

Oregon is getting a new seat in the federal House of Representatives in Washington D.C. and the Oregon State Legislature has until September 27th to decide how the maps are drawn or Oregon’s Secretary of State Shemia Fagan will make the decision for them. Check out the maps being debated to see which one your group thinks is best and call or email your state representatives to let them know! Feel free to reach out to your friendly ROP organizer or email if you’d like to share more about how your group is taking action.

Ready to take legislative action to make sure that our communities get the support they need to go from barely surviving to thriving by doing work in your local community and advocating for change in Salem and Washington DC? Let us know what your group is excited to work on and sign up for the new Legislative Actions for a Thriving Rural Oregon email list to receive action opportunities on the policies that impact rural Oregon!

Victories from the 2021 Long Session of the Legislature

Sanctuary Promise Act (House Bill 3265): In June, we successfully won the Sanctuary Promise Act that closes loopholes in Oregon’s 30-year-old Sanctuary Law that allowed for local and state resources to go toward enforcing federal immigration policies. For years, human dignity groups and ROP have organized to end contracts between local jails and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that detained migrants and refugees across the state. Groups have met with sheriffs and police chiefs and discovered how many loopholes and gray areas ICE was exploiting to detain people. The Sanctuary Promise Act was written in collaboration with statewide partners to close the loopholes in Oregon’s Sanctuary Law to ensure that the federal government can no longer use local public resources to tear families apart, including:

  1. Banning local jails from working with ICE
  2. Banning ICE from detaining community members in and around courthouses without a judicial warrant
  3. Allows everyday Oregonians to sue local law enforcement agencies for collaborating with ICE
  4. Prevents racial profiling in jails by providing people with the opportunity to notify the consulate of their country of origin without exposing themselves to ICE surveillance

Out of the 10 policies our network prioritized this year to advance the Roadmap to a Thriving Rural Oregon, 6 were successfully signed into law, including:

Childcare for Oregon Act (House Bill 2505 / Senate Bill 239): This new law will make childcare available for every Oregon family. It will fund and reform our Employment-Related Day Care program to promote economic stability by adjusting co-pays to reflect today’s realities, income, and needs of families. 

Oregon Energy Affordability Act (House Bill 2475): This new law will make energy bills more affordable by protecting people from rate increases, especially low-income households who spend the largest portion of their income on power bills.

Drug Addiction Treatment & Recovery Act (Senate Bill 755): In November of 2020, Oregon voters made history by passing Ballot Measure 110. The new law decriminalizes personal possession of small amounts of all drugs while expanding access to addiction treatment and other health services. Decriminalization went into effect in February of 2021, but investing in addiction recovery services required the Oregon legislature to pass this new law. Now that it has passed, the state government can invest in the addiction recovery services that Oregon needs!

Navigating Pathways to Prosperity (House Bill 2835): 2 in 5 Oregon college students are eligible for assistance programs to make sure they aren’t going hungry, but many aren’t aware of the resources they qualify for. This new law requires each community college and university to hire one full-time Benefits Navigator to support students to access programs like SNAP, the SNAP Training and Education Program, rental assistance, and Oregon Health Plan.

Broadband Internet for All!: Governor Brown recommended investing $100 million in broadband internet infrastructure in her proposed state budget and, thanks to public pressure, the legislature ended up directing $120 million dollars into the Rural Broadband Capacity Program! This funding will target unserved areas and make it possible for rural communities without an internet connection to install broadband infrastructure that wouldn’t have otherwise been built. If you don’t have broadband access, contact your state elected officials to make sure your area is on the list!

While these victories mark significant headway along the road to a thriving rural Oregon, there are still areas that we are gearing up to tackle in upcoming legislative sessions including the priority bills that back a thriving rural Oregon from the last session that didn’t pass into law. Which bills did your group focus on last session and what do you plan to prioritize in the upcoming session? We’d love to hear what you took action on and how it went! Fill out our legislative action survey to tell us what you want to work on in the coming year!

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