My first session as the State Representative for Oregon's House District 28 has drawn to a close and I couldn't be more proud of what my team and I managed to accomplish. In a year that pushed Oregonians to their limits, we pushed ourselves to ours to ensure we did everything we could to help those hurt by the pandemic to get back on their feet.
When I was elected I made a promise to work alongside my community for a future Oregon which represents all of us, not just the few. That is why I believe equity must be more than a buzzword thrown around to draw loose conclusions regarding the injustices of opportunity in our communities. Those injustices are deeper than the inability to participate in certain spaces. They are threaded within the fabric of our communities, not always known or intentional, but ever present all the same.
When everyday Oregonians are unable to access education, living wage jobs, health care, housing, and so much more because of their economic status, racial or ethnic background, or for a myriad of other reasons — we hold up systems of inequity. That has been the status quo, the standard which has only become worse in the past year and a half.
In my first six months of office, I heard from thousands of constituents about legislation deeply personal and important to each of you, heard your advocacy and opposition to legislation that would impact day-to-day lives, and shared space with your voices. My labor, our labor, was made possible because you brought your voices to the Capitol, even amidst a global pandemic, in any way you could.
Our frontline and essential workers who have sacrificed everything to keep our economies and communities going are why Legislators were able to share space and hear the voices of our communities. Many of those workers are the same people who are subject to the systems of inequity in our communities.
That is why I prioritized legislation in my first year which would bring health equity to Oregonians: House Bill 3352, Cover All People.
Building on the incredible success of Cover All Kids, which expanded Medicaid coverage to undocumented youth under 18, I introduced Cover All People to expand Medicaid access to all qualified undocumented Oregonians. Thanks to the collaboration of countless stakeholders and community members, we successfully passed it through the legislative process. Together, Oregonians were able to expand access to health care services to their neighbors, friends and families who were previously not eligible due to immigration status.
Thanks to HB 3352, exorbitant emergency room costs paid for by tax-funded welfare programs will be curbed by providing preventive care, the relationship with and generational mistrust of government agencies can begin to heal, and support systems for our most vulnerable populations will be reinforced.
As someone who's gone without health care coverage, I know what that fear is: To have a health issue arise and to ignore it and hope it just goes away because you just can't afford to have to pay hundreds of dollars for an office visit. I also know what it is to watch loved ones struggle with serious symptoms that indicate life-threatening diseases, and wonder to yourself: How many years might they be losing from their life because they do not have access to care?
Cover All People is a critical next step for Oregon to attain equity for all of its residents. I will continue advocating for the full funding of this program in future legislative sessions because combatting inequity does not end with the passing of legislation. We must strengthen values of belonging and community every day because, for too long, we allowed the question of belonging to be made through the lens of race, which reinforces the bias of which skin color constitutes belonging.
None of what was accomplished in this legislative session would have been possible without our frontline workers, which is why I remain dedicated to advocating for and with working families. A more equitable future for Oregon is possible when we stand united.
Alongside the members of this chamber, I look forward to continuing to break down the barriers of health inequities in Oregon, to serving our most vulnerable communities, and to creating a more equitable future for all Oregonians. Thank you all for allowing me to serve you.
Pamplin Media Group asked several of the rookie lawmakers of the 2021 Oregon Legislature to write guest opinion columns on this theme: "The bill in the 2021 session that I believe had the biggest impact on equity in Oregon."
Rep. Wlnsvey Campos serves House District Aloha and portions of Beaverton.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.