During the Oregon state Legislature's nascent session, Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, will quickly learn whether the bills she introduces will live or die.
The short session, which started Monday and runs until March 7, will progress at a brisk pace as legislators must advocate for their own bills (each legislator can propose two bills each), consider other bills and discuss legislation in committees in the span of a few weeks.
"Quickness and efficiency is going to be the name of the game in the short session," said Neron, who represents Wilsonville and the rest of House District 26.
Days before the session began, Neron was hopeful about the prospects of three pieces of legislation she is either introducing or chief sponsoring.
The first of the trio, House Bill 4140, would require the Oregon Department of Education to develop a form educators may use to help students who recently experienced concussions. The teachers wouldn't be required to undertake the accommodations listed in the form, but the law would make potential options more accessible and likely to be considered.
Neron, a former high school language teacher, noted that a student who recently experienced a concussion can suffer headaches, light and sound sensitivities and other symptoms that can make learning challenging. A few accommodations teachers could make include allowing the student extended time to complete assignments, wear sunglasses and/or a hat in class, and adjust their class schedule.
"We want to catch cycles of failure before they start," Neron said. "It provides an immediate and temporary accommodations menu for a teacher to use."
Neron also will propose House Bill 4145, which would require a person who commits the crime of threatening a school or a place of worship to receive a mental health evaluation even if the crime doesn't warrant a felony.
"We need to be doing all we can to protect our vulnerable places. They should feel safe. Whether perceived or real, oftentimes our schools don't feel like safe places," Neron said.
Finally, Neron is chief sponsor of House Bill 4131 that would dole out $650,000 to the YMCA of Greater Portland to continue the Family Preservation Project, which provides opportunities for Coffee Creek Correctional Facility adults in custody to play a role in their children's lives (whether that be through in-person sessions or other opportunities for interaction and parental education). The project was funded until the end of last year.
Neron said she is doing her best to provide information about her bills to colleagues but that the short session often revolves around bills that already have been introduced in previous sessions. Because of that, she seemed a bit more bullish about the family preservation project bill than the two she proposed.
"They've (legislators) seen the results (of the project)," Neron said. "It took a lot of people by surprise when it wasn't fully funded in the recent budget. I feel that there is a lot of momentum ready for that."
Zooming out, Neron wasn't sure what to expect from the upcoming session in terms of the general atmosphere and level of willingness for bipartisan cooperation.
"I really like working with my House colleagues and I'm hopeful all of our legislators show up with the intent to do their very best for Oregon each day. There's trust that needs to be rebuilt in our building. I'll be there and be a part of that," Neron said. "There's a lot of question marks at this point."
Neron expressed support for a cap-and-trade bill to address climate change, but noted that the Senate will be leading the work on that bill and wasn't sure if it had legs.
"Climate action could be all we talk about in the next month or could be something that dies in the first week," she said. "We really don't know what's going to happen."
The session will be Neron's final before her reelection campaign kicks into gear, and she wants Wilsonville residents and the rest of her district to know that she is working to address community concerns, also citing her push for fire safety code reform after the Villebois fire and for a pedestrian bridge designed to improve safety for students commuting to Sherwood High School.
"I hope my voters and the district are able to see me as a responsive legislator," she said.
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