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Salinas: Listening, learning, leading in my 1st session
The 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly has completed its business for the short session. We debated and passed some good bills that needed to be addressed immediately, and we let some good bills go by the wayside.
As the newest member of the House Democratic Caucus, I did a lot of listening, learned about issues I've never had to contemplate and played a leadership role to pass good legislation.
The Legislature passed several bills to keep women, children and families safe. Among this legislation were three bills for which I was the chief sponsor.
One was a "technical fix" bill to ensure that janitors who work alone at night are provided with some safeguards to avoid sexual harassment and assault at the worksite. I also led a bill to provide K-12 student victims of sexual harassment some certainty about what should happen and what resources are available when a school district conducts a sexual harassment investigation. Finally, with bipartisan, bicameral help, I led the efforts in the House to finally make domestic strangulation a felony.
I was proud that all three of these bills passed both chambers with unanimous support.
In addition to these bills, we also passed a much-needed bill to close the intimate partner loophole, which would bring convicted partners of domestic abuse under the gun law and prohibit them from purchasing firearms, just as the law is currently set out for spouses.
We didn't pass anything bold like the Hope Amendment, which would have referred to the voters a change in the Constitution to declare health care a universal right for all Oregonians. This amendment was intended to set the groundwork for the Universal Access to Care Workgroup that I am chairing over the next several months.
This workgroup is tasked with coming back to the Legislature in 2019 with policy recommendations for moving Oregon toward financially sustainable, universal and affordable health care. While we didn't necessarily need the Constitutional change to meet this charge, it would have provided the momentum to drive toward this goal.
However, we did pass an important bill, HB 4005, to provide transparency around how drug manufacturers set the average wholesale cost for prescription drugs. This is an important step toward universal access to care, as we must address the large cost drivers in health care if we wish to expand affordable, quality coverage to all Oregonians. I worked on this bill last session as an advocate, so it was incredibly meaningful to help with its passage this session.
While constituents frequently hear from the media how government and politics are more polarized than ever before, this was not my experience as a first-time legislator in Oregon. Yes, I took some votes that were split between the political parties, but I also worked with colleagues who have differing views and live in different parts of the state.
So if you thought you were going to read about the rancorous February session, I'm sorry to disappoint. You'll have to wait until next year, when the Legislature returns to pass a Clean Energy Jobs bill.
Rep. Andrea Salinas is the newest member of Oregon's House Democratic Caucus. She was appointed to the House District 38 seat last September. Her district includes Lake Oswego and Southwest Portland.
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