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  • NW Policy Advocates

Oregon Legislative Update – Busy Interim in Full Swing

Updated: May 27

The Most Important Time . . .

The "short" session is over. The all important "interim" has begun.

Capitol insiders frequently note how important the time between sessions is to success during the next session.

Why? Because sessions tend to be harried, rushed, hectic and unpredictable. Meetings with legislators are often interrupted or canceled by caucus meetings, floor sessions, and unexpected events (like walk-outs and protests). Meetings often last only 10 or 15 minutes. Attention spans are fleeting.

The interim, by contrast, offers a chance for more relaxed and in-depth discussions. Maybe even a chance for a legislator to visit your office/facility/site in person. Or an opportunity to sit down for coffee for 45 minutes or an hour.

Now is the time to get to know your own State Representative and State Senator (or the candidates running for an open seat) personally. Ask about their priorities, and share a few of yours. Follow up with a thank you note, and stay in touch. Effective "advocacy" is not a one and done type of activity. Send them a periodic update or article you saw in the local paper. Ask them back for a Zoom update as the 2025 Legislative Session approaches. Participate in their townhalls.

And, if you're inclined, write them a campaign check. A personal $50 or $100 check (which you can get back on your next tax return) is one more way to get involved. (Contact us to learn how).

If you're really motivated, drive to Salem for interim hearings. The next time the Legislature meets will be for Legislative Days on May 29-31. Expect to see committee agendas in early-to-mid-May.

Now is the time to get your agenda on their plate.

The State of Oregon House Races

Even with more than 120 candidates running for 60 seats in the House, only a few races are competitive. Currently, Democrats hold 35 seats, while Republicans hold 25.

Notable candidates include former House Minority Leader, Christine Drazan, who was also the recent Republican gubernatorial nominee. Drazen unexpectedly jumped into the primary against Marine Veteran and Child Care Center owner James Hieb. The race has already split Republicans in the tight knit community around Canby. Reports indicate that Hieb learned of fellow Republican Drazen's candidacy from news reports.

Other targeted races are in Salem, Woodburn, Tillamook, Gladstone, Portland, Troutdale, Gresham, Hood River and Bend/Redmond.

Key Democratic primaries are anticipated in districts of Eugene's 8th, Corvallis' 16th, Portland's 33rd, Beaverton's 35th, West Linn's 37th, and Portland's 46th. On the Republican side, challenges are expected in districts of Canby's 51st and Columbia City's 31st.

According to the Capital Chronicle, "The overall balance of power in the state House isn’t likely to shift following November’s elections, but Democratic wins could give the caucus the three-fifths majority needed to pass tax increases without Republican support."

Read the full Capital Chronicle article here.

(DRAMA in) Oregon Senate Races

In the upcoming Senate elections, half of the seats are in contention, with at least six new Senators anticipated due to retirements and the "10 unexcused absences" rule that voters approved in 2022. Democrats currently hold the majority with 17 seats in the 30-member Senate, one short of a supermajority.

The Capital Chronicle recently noted that, "Most Senate districts up for election this year are strongly Democratic or Republican and aren’t likely to change hands. However, Democrats have their eyes on the coastal 5th District and the Bend-based 27th District, while Republicans are optimistic about flipping the 25th District in east Multnomah County."

Primary challenges feature incumbent Republican Sen. David Brock Smith facing multiple opponents in the 1st Senate District. This race includes slanderous (and false) allegations slapped on huge billboards that Brock-Smith is somehow connected to the Chinese Communist leadership.

"A Republican state senator in a hotly contested primary race on Monday threatened to sue a House candidate and a former conservative radio host over statements suggesting he’s connected to the Chinese Communist Party." - read the full Capital Chronicle article here.

The district next door isn't any more serene, as Rep. Christine Goodwin is competing against Noah Robinson in the 2nd Senate District. Robinson, the adult son of retiring Senator Art Robinson, has been attached to his father's hip for the past two sessions, sitting next to him in every Committee hearing and on the Senate floor, speaking on his behalf while testifying and dressing identically each day. Noah's campaign team has sued Goodwin twice claiming that she doesn't actually reside in the district. So much for Ronald Reagan's "11th Commandment: Thou shall speak no ill of a fellow Republican."

In the drama free Yamhill/Polk County Senate seat, former Republican legislator Bruce Starr is vying for a return in the 12th Senate District, as Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas is disqualified by the walkout. Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber faces opposition from Republican Shane Bolton in the 14th Senate District.

Read the full Capital Chronicle article here.


Top Kotek Staff Abruptly Leave

"Three high-level staffers in Gov. Tina Kotek’s office will depart in the next two weeks, her office said recently.

Chief of Staff Andrea Cooper will leave Kotek’s office effective March 29, Kotek’s office announced in a press release Friday morning. Cooper previously served as deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Kate Brown and managed Brown’s 2018 reelection campaign. Prior to that, she worked for Service Employees International Union Local 503."

Read the Oregonian article here.


OHA Gets New Director

Physician Sejal Hathi moved to Oregon to head the Health Authority. She's embarked on a statewide listening tour, including to NWPA client La Clinica in Medford.

Read about her background and experience in the Salem Reporter.

NWPA Helps Secure Funding for Sobering Center in Salem

Change is coming to the mid-Willamette Valley!

NWPA's partner (Bridgeway Community Health) lobbied for, and Oregon legislators allocated, $11.5 million to address substance abuse issues in Salem, including establishing a sobering center and doubling the number of residential drug treatment beds for adults. Bridgeway, a NW Policy client based in Salem, will utilize the funds to purchase two houses for residential drug treatment homes and construct a new detox and sobering center adjacent to its downtown clinic.

Salem lawmakers, among them Rep. Kevin Mannix and Sen. Deb Patterson, pushed for the initiative's funding, as it aligns with the state's focus on treatment and re-entry elements of recovery, as outlined in HB 4002. The sobering center, long advocated for by city leaders and health providers, aims to provide an alternative to jail or emergency room options for individuals under the influence. Bridgeway's comprehensive approach, funded partially through the drug decriminalization law Measure 110, emphasizes combining sobering and detox services to encourage enrollment in treatment programs.

Read the full Salem Reporter article here.

Amid Drought, Oregon's New Water "Strategy" is Light on Strategy, Undermines Regional Partnerships

The Oregon Water Resources Department is barreling ahead with a one-size-fits-all groundwater policy which seems to ignore unique basin characteristics and local partnerships formed over many years. The basis of the recommendations appear likely to be approved by the Water Resources Commission in August.

The 200-page draft document, released earlier this month by the Oregon Water Resources Department, delves into water challenges the state faces. The underlying message: "there’s too much demand for too little water." But will this dramatic shift in state policy actually fix the problem? Critics say "no." And will the Governor and Legislature go along with the 180 degree shift in policy?

Read the full Capital Chronicle article here.


YOU Are the Best Lobbyist!

You can help us advocate for your issues by:

  1. Thanking and meeting with local delegations

  2. Spending time getting to know current members and candidates

  3. Identifying potential 2025 issues

  4. Working with Governor/agencies and regional/local partners

  5. Participating in interim legislative hearings

Find your legislators and their contact information.

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