Here's What Oregon’s Brand-New Democratic Supermajority Hopes to Accomplish
In a midterm election with one of the highest turnouts in the nation, Oregonians reelected Gov. Kate Brown in November and landed Democratic supermajorities in both the Oregon House and Senate. So, will the state’s upcoming legislative session be the G.O.A.T. (for liberals, at least)? As House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson sees it: “It’s going to be game-changing.” Here’s what to expect as the legislature meets this month.
One major goal, according to Williamson, is transforming public education by fixing the funding through long-term structural changes to the state’s revenue system. “Our first priority is a quality public education for every Oregonian,” she says. “That requires reforming our revenue system so we can finally make a stable investment in our schools.”
The state’s dire housing situation will be front and center. “Our housing crisis is multifaceted.... I think we’ll have a handful of policies that will address different parts,” says Williamson. Possible proposals include increasing the state’s supply of housing and bolstering tenant protections.
Last year’s proposed Clean Energy Jobs bill will make a comeback, with its cap-and-trade system aimed at limiting carbon dioxide emissions and charging polluters. (We’re looking at you, Georgia-Pacific.)
In 2018, Oregon saw a 12.6 percent increase in drug overdose deaths from the year before. Lawmakers are eyeing expanded access to substance abuse treatment and mental health care.
Criminal Justice Reform
According to Williamson, the Democratic caucus is very focused on ensuring the state’s justice system is fair for all. Efforts at reform will include legislation to ditch non-unanimous jury convictions. (Oregon is the last state where such a law—seen by many as a discriminatory throwback from the 1930s—is active.)
On this major campaign topic for Democrats, last year Williamson cochaired a work group devoted to fashioning a paid leave program that would be unique to Oregon. The committee examined statewide paid family and medical leave options. Expect the results on this year’s agenda.