Wagner: Successes, surprises in Salem
It was a Frank Capra moment: walking up the steps and through the Capitol rotunda on my first day as a state senator.
I could not be prouder to represent the communities of Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tualatin, Durham, Rivergrove and Southwest Portland. Although I have been a legislative advocate for nearly 20 years — working at the state and federal levels for health care, education employees and community colleges — the feeling of stepping onto the Senate floor and taking my oath of office with my family around me was truly ineffable.
A mere 30 days later, as I reflect on my first session as your state senator, I'm pleased to report some of the biggest successes, as well as surprises.
My first lesson is that despite the acrimony we see in Washington, D.C., we are extremely bipartisan in Oregon in our approach to policymaking. Although there were some large disagreements on key priorities, the vast majority of legislation has champions from across the aisle and across the state. In true Oregonian fashion, we put our party labels aside and put the needs of the state first.
Some successes include the following:
-- In partnership with our seniors, we passed a bill providing transparency and accountability in prescription drug pricing;
-- We passed legislation providing additional resources for first-time homebuyers, as well as emergency housing assistance;
-- On the environment, with unanimous support, we passed the landmark Cleaner Air Oregon Act to reduce toxic air pollution. We also passed legislation to create an Oregon Carbon Policy Office, directing more than $1.5 million toward doing the legwork to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Bill early in 2019. This is one important step, and I am committed to returning in the 2019 session to advocate for legislation for a clean energy future with good paying jobs and healthy communities;
-- We balanced the two-year state budget and leveraged more than $100 million of one-time resources to buy down the state's PERS liability;
-- As a member of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, I was particularly proud of two bills we vetted and voted on regarding safety for our communities. With more than 55 percent of female homicides related to domestic violence, we made the crime of strangulation a felony. I'm perhaps most proud of working to pass House Bill 4145, which closes the "intimate partner" loophole to keep guns away from convicted domestic abusers and stalkers. Following the heartbreaking catastrophe in Parkland, Fla., Oregon is showing it will not wait to take action on providing sensible gun laws. It was wonderful to host more than 200 of our local high school students for the bill signing with Gov. Kate Brown; and
-- On education, we provided $950,000 to place mental health therapists in schools so that students will have additional help when they are hurting.
As I transition into civic outreach, I'll be working directly with our community to develop a legislative agenda for 2019. Already, I have heard from our community about needed legislation and resources around sexual violence prevention, continued progress toward equity of educational opportunity in our schools, pathways to careers through targeted job training and critical investments in our regional infrastructure.
There is so much we can do to drive a brighter future for Oregon, and I always want to hear your voice. Please don't hesitate to contact my office. What are your thoughts? What would you like to see for the future of Oregon?
Sen. Rob Wagner was appointed to the Senate District 19 seat in late January. He is also a member of the Lake Oswego School Board.
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