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Governor highlighted Student Success Act during Willamette Women Democrats meeting Sept. 12

PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES  - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown pointed to the Student Success Act as something that will be 'an absolute game changer' across the state during her appearance at a Willamette Women Democrats meeting Sept. 12. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made a brief visit to Lake Oswego last week when she stopped by a monthly gathering of the Willamette Women Democrats Sept. 12 to talk about what state lawmakers were able to accomplish in 2019 and what's on the horizon.

With supermajorities in both houses of the legislature, Oregon Democrats had a landmark 2019 session, passing bills on long awaited policy and funding issues such as education, healthcare and campaign finance reform.

"This legislative session was set up very nicely because of the work you did during the 2019 election cycle. You got out onto doorsteps and really made a difference," Brown told the group.

Brown recalls running for reelection to the Oregon Senate in 1996 on a promise of stable and adequate funding for education. In 2018, Brown says, she ran for governor on that same platform and with the help of super majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, Oregon was able to pass historic legislation — HB 3247, the Student Success Act — to fund education at a level it hasn't seen in decades, raising $1 billion per year aimed at cutting down class sizes and boosting student performance.

"It is an absolute game changer in Oregon," Brown said.

Brown also touted the passage of one of the country's most all-encompassing paid family leave bills, as well as sustained funding for the Oregon Health Plan through the use of a cigarette tax, as products of a successful 2019 legislative session. That funding for OHP is contingent on voters approving the tax through a referendum in 2020 election cycle, and she made a plea to any W2D members who don't already have their hands full to get out and canvas in favor of the tax so it can bridge the funding gap for OHP.

"This raises for the next biennium essentially $364 million for the Oregon Health Plan, so it is absolutely essential that we get this passed," she said. "I look forward to working with all of you and a great coalition of folks to get this done in November (2020)."

Two other issues that Brown highlighted from the 2019 session included campaign finance reform and firearm safety.

On campaign finance, Brown said she believes Oregon has struggled in this area for a long time, being one of just five states with absolutely no regulations on campaign finance, yet also boasting a very transparent reporting system which Brown helped to craft as a state senator back in 2005.

She's encouraging the legislature to improve that system even more, but this year the assembly referred out a ballot initiative asking voters to change Oregon's constitution to allow the legislature to create laws that regulate or limit campaign contributions and expenditures by three-fourths vote.

"If you need something besides the Presidential election, (or) the cigarette tax, this campaign finance amendment is a chance for Oregon to join the rest of the country and to make sure that one person can't buy a megaphone so loud that it drowns out all other voices," Brown said.

Brown told the group that in her 20 years in Oregon politics, she's really struggled on firearm safety and getting sensible policy that helps keep all Oregonians healthy and safe.

Referencing the urban-rural divide, Brown blamed the major influence the National Rifle Association has had on federal and state lawmakers nationwide for lack of action on that front.

Invoking the memory of Oregon's most tragic event — the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg where nine were fatally shot and eight others were injured — Brown recalled the pain on the faces of those family members who lost loved ones and the pain that was brought up on UCC's community.

"I vowed I'd do anything in my power to make sure we have all the tools we can so that every Oregonian can be free from gun violence," she said. "We're going to continue to make progress. We signed legislation this past session that provides protocols for gun removal from domestic abusers, but honestly there is much more work to be done."

Brown received raucous applause upon declaration of this statement, and promised to move forward on safe storage legislation in the immediate future, as well as a ban on assault style weapons which are both tough political sells requiring "all of us working together."

On the horizon

Up first, Brown said, is the proper implementation of everything that was passed in 2019, especially the Student Success Act which will begin to see funding flow in July 2020.

"We cannot be behind the eight ball on this one, it's going to make a tremendous difference in our schools around the state. Our students feel hope, and I know that our educators are feeling really good about the significant investments we've made," Brown said.

Fiscal management will be a key part of sustaining that expected $2 billion per biennium, and Brown referenced the unstable situation between the United States and China over trade that could potentially spark another recession. The Governor said she hopes to safeguard or cushion Oregon as much as possible in the event that "chaotic trade policy" begins to have spillover effects for the state, and she plans to do that by making sound fiscal decisions that leave reserves and large ending balances to protect Oregonians, as well as the programs and services they benefit from.

For the February short legislative session, Brown said she would be focusing on the revival of cap and trade that saw Republican members of the Oregon Senate walk out to halt the progress of the Democratic supermajority in passing legislation that would regulate carbon emissions.

"This is my biggest priority for February. I think it's critically important we do everything we can to tackle global climate change. Oregon must be a leader," she said. "If we can move forward on this policy, it will help other states move forward as well."

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