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The stalemate is Salem is bottling up more than health care legislation

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Oregon Capital Bureau

The Oregon Senate Republican walkout, now in its seventh week, was sparked by a bill that would ensure access to abortion and other reproductive and gender-affirming health care.

But because the upper chamber can’t vote on any bill without a quorum, key legislation important to both parties is unable to move to the governor’s desk. Here’s a sample:

  • Opioids: HB 2395, which cleared the House on a 48-9 vote back in March, would increase the number of public places where naloxone kits can be stored to reverse opioid overdoses. Rep. Travis Nelson, a Democrat from Portland and a nurse, said it is one of many health-care bills that are bottled up by Senate inaction.
  • Economic development: HB 3410, which cleared the House on a 48-4 vote June 8, would set aside $32 million to develop outdoor recreation. A joint tax committee also has pending HB 2009, which proposes a $90 million tax credit for semiconductor investment, and HB 3235, which proposes a $75 million tax credit for children. The budget committee has scheduled action on a $100 million plan in HB 2010 for drought relief and water supply improvements.


“I’m here today because rural Oregon can’t wait,” said Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat from the central coast. “It’s time for the Senate to get back to work.”

  • Education workforce: SB 283, pending in the budget committee, would lead to increased pay and benefits and make it easier for retired educators to go back to work while new ones undergo training under apprenticeship and mentoring programs. “This is the legislation Senate Republicans are holding hostage. This is unacceptable,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat from Portland and chair of the Senate Education Committee. “It’s time for us to join together and do our jobs. Our kids and our future depend on it.”
  • State school fund: A Senate vote is all that stands between a $10.2 billion state school fund — which the House approved (HB 5015) on a 52-6 vote on June 7 — and Gov. Tina Kotek’s signature.


“If we do not pass a K-12 education budget by the end of the legislative session, schools may have to lay off staff,” said Rep. Hoa Nguyen, D-Portland, who sits on the David Douglas School Board and has been an attendance coach for Portland Public Schools. “Not only funding is at risk, so are bills to address educator workforce shortages, protect funding for smaller school districts, increase school safety and more.”

Danny Cage is a graduate-to-be of Grant High School and newly elected to the board of Multnomah Education Service District, which also draws money from the state school fund. “We do not have time to mess around,” he said. “These are critical investments at stake.”

  • Wildfire prevention: SB 80 would revise the process initially set out in 2021 for the Oregon Department of Forestry to map wildfire-prone areas. (SB 82, which excludes these maps for use in insurance coverage, has been signed.) SB 509 would provide grants and other incentives for community-based associations to reduce the risk of wildfires. Both are pending in the budget committee.


“Like any new huge program, it needs course correction once it hits the ground,” said Sen. Jeff Golden, a Democrat from Ashland and chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. “Like the other bills you have heard about, these are teetering on the edge. We are looking at serious damage — life and death — if we abandon these bills now. If we want a future that is not punctuated by the tragedies of Phoenix and Talent, the Santiam and McKenzie canyons, if we don’t want summers blanketed by toxic smoke over increasing expanses of this state, we have to stay the course.”

Rene Braga is a Rogue Valley community organizer for Unite Oregon. His mother was among the 2,500 who lost their homes in the Almeda fire that swept the Southern Oregon towns of Phoenix and Talent — where the largest share of 4,000 homes was lost in Oregon’s 2020 Labor Day fires. She died two months ago.

“With all the suffering and devastation she had to endure — homelessness, COVID, not enough financial resources — it was too much for her,” Braga said. “But I am here to be a voice for her and the Southern Oregon community and the hard-working Latino population still hurting.”

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