After a long and grueling session, the 2017 Legislature adjourned on July 7, 2017. While there were some big disappointments this session, there were also some impressive victories for women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants and working families. And we couldn’t be prouder of the work that our activists, organizational partners, and supporters did to show up in force and make our voices heard in the Capitol. From sharing stories, to testifying, to attending hearings and writing to legislators, we demonstrated how the debates in Salem have the potential to create real impacts on people’s lives.
The biggest disappointment this session was the Legislature’s failure to pass a revenue package to fund our most basic services, like education, health care, senior services and child care. Coming into session, we were faced with a $1.8 billion shortfall in funding programs at their the current service levels. It’s unfortunate that many Oregonians are left struggling while corporations continue to profit off low-wage, no-benefit jobs, often forcing their workers to rely on dramatically underfunded social assistance programs. All while they pay the lowest corporate tax rate in the country. We can and must do better.
Another big disappointment was the Legislature’s failure to enact a strong and inclusive paid family and medical leave program. Far too many Oregonians are financially devastated when they need to take time away from work to care for themselves or a family member’s serious medical condition or to welcome a new child. Families should not be forced into economic turmoil when they need time to care, nor should they be forced to return to work early because they cannot afford to take the time they need to recover and heal. These are critical issues that would have long term economic benefits for our entire state, and that would have dramatically positive impacts for women and families
Passing a significant revenue package and a strong paid family and medical leave program are two big issues that would have game-changing effects on the lives of every Oregonian, but are especially important for women and their families. These are critical issues, and we’re not backing down until we win. We hope you’ll continue to be involved in our efforts as we look to the 2018 legislative session and beyond.
Along with those disappointments, we also experienced some incredible victories that we can all be very proud of – the Legislature did take action to better serve women, children, low-income individuals and people of color in some meaningful ways. Highlights of the 2017 session include:
- Fair Pay for All (HB 2005) – This bill strengthens Oregon’s existing Equal Pay law by expanding it to all protected classes, not just sex. . It also strengthens penalties for violations by employers. Additionally, HB 2005 prohibits employers from asking about previous salary history when hiring new employees. The new law also includes an incentive for employers to conduct their own pay equity audits, to assess whether they are paying employees equitably.
- Reproductive Health Equity Act (HB 3391) – Ensures that all Oregonians have access to the full range of reproductive health services, including contraception and abortion, at zero out-of-pocket cost regardless of income, citizenship status, gender identity or type of insurance. HB 3391 removes financial barriers and fills gaps in access to reproductive health services to ensure every Oregonian is empowered to make decisions about whether and when to become a parent.
- Cover All Kids (SB 558)– Provides health insurance to all children in Oregon under 300% of Federal Poverty Level regardless of immigration status. SB 558 will provide 17,600 previously uninsured children access to health care in Oregon.
- End Profiling (HB 2355) – Builds on 2015 legislation to ban racial profiling to implement a structure to effectively identify, record and correct racial profiling practices by Oregon law enforcement agencies. HB 2355 also reduces sentences for low-level drug offenses and possession of small amounts of drugs.
Making your voices heard!
None of this important work could not have been done without the help and voices of our members sharing their stories, turning out for hearings and writing their legislators.
During the 2017 session, you accomplished a lot:
- Family Forward activists delivered over 150 Mothers Day cards to legislators about the bills we care about at our Mamas Day action with Forward Together;
- Over 100 Family Forward activists attended hearings, showing broad support for paid family leave, equal pay, reproductive health equity, and a broadened definition of family under state law;
- Over 85 people — mothers, fathers, people experiencing health crises in their families, employers, researchers, health practitioners and more — took a variety of actions in support of increasing state revenue — testifying at “budget road shows” and paid family and medical leave, attending rallies at the capitol, phone banking, and staging a mock funeral for all the people whose lives are threatened by budget cuts on the capitol steps. You can watch a short video from the paid family leave hearing and hear the voices of some of our activists HERE; and
- With SEIU 503, we raised the profile of caregiving through Oregon CareWorks by meeting with legislators, hosting a lobby day, and organizing Oregonians to fight for high quality, affordable care for families that also leads to good jobs and workforce development for care workers.
It was an impressive effort and we appreciate all the work our activists, members and partners did this session to make our voices heard in the Capitol. And while the session might be over, our fight continues until all Oregon families have the rights, resources, and recognition they need and deserve.
Policy Director, Family Forward Oregon