Rebuilding for the Future

Democrats deliver for Oregonians

By Julie Fahey

After three years of responding to crises like the pandemic and wildfires, Oregon’s 2023 legislative session was an important opportunity for lawmakers to re-group and act on critical issues facing our state. This session was not without its challenges, including a six-week Republican walkout, but I’m proud of how we got things back on track and passed legislation that will make a real difference in the lives of Oregonians.

Heading into the session, the Oregon House Democrats created a policy agenda, “Rebuilding for the Future,” that outlined a path to address the issues most important to Oregonians, including housing and homelessness, behavioral health and addiction treatment, stronger schools, climate change, community safety, reproductive rights and strengthening our democracy. Among the many policies and budgets passed this session, here are a few highlights.

Oregon’s lack of housing is driving the homelessness crisis and making housing unaffordable for too many working families. The bipartisan Affordable Housing & Emergency Homelessness Response package was the first major piece of legislation we passed — we then finished the session with a long list of additional housing policies and investments. These investments, including $15 million for shelter and services in Lane County, will help get people off the streets, connected to services and on the path out of homelessness. We also addressed the root causes of homelessness by funding eviction prevention work and youth homelessness programs as well as prioritizing significant increases in housing production across the state.

This session we improved our behavioral health system through investments to increase the number of treatment facilities, including $5 million to Lane County to fund a behavioral health stabilization center, and expand our behavioral health workforce. We also passed a lifesaving Opioid Harm Reduction Package, and made sure the 9-8-8 Suicide Prevention & Behavioral Health Crisis Line has stable funding to help Oregonians in crisis.  

Climate-fueled extreme heat, drought and wildfires are threatening our way of life. The Climate Resilience Package passed this session will increase our energy efficiency and build a more resilient energy system. The package will leverage federal funding to create jobs, protect Oregonians from extreme weather and drive down household energy costs for working families.

One of the most important duties the Legislature has is ensuring that our K-12 schools have stable and sufficient funding. Democrats delivered on that responsibility by funding the State School Fund at $10.2 billion, a 10 percent increase over the last budget cycle. We also focused on supporting the state’s educator workforce, and we passed the Early Literacy Initiative to ensure our schools have what they need to teach students to read in evidence-based ways.

To make our communities safer, we banned ghost guns — untraceable and undetectable firearms often used by gun traffickers or people legally prohibited from buying firearms. We invested in community-based violence prevention efforts that serve victims of violence and work to reduce future crime, arrests, and emergency room visits. We also protected our constitutional right to representation by making significant reforms to our state’s public defense system.

To support working families, we passed Oregon’s first-ever child tax credit. Child tax credits are a proven way to reduce poverty and bring stability to families, and this $1,000-per-child credit will put money into the hands of struggling families for essentials like groceries and rent. 

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Democrats committed to protecting and expanding access to abortion in our state. We delivered on that promise by passing the Reproductive Health & Access to Care Act, which will ensure people in Oregon maintain the rights we had under Roe, protect Oregon medical providers and clinics that provide abortion care, and close insurance gaps, including for gender-affirming care. 

At a time when our institutions are under attack and trust in government is waning, Democrats stood up for democracy. As Chair of the House Rules Committee, I shepherded a policy agenda through the legislature focused on ensuring free and fair elections, expanding access to the ballot, and instituting key ethics and accountability reforms in government. We asked voters to approve two constitutional amendments: one to create an independent Salary Commission so politicians can’t increase their own salaries, and a second to establish an impeachment process for executive branch elected officials, creating a new tool to hold politicians accountable. 

Despite Senate Republicans’ attempts to shut down our government and block all progress, Democrats stayed the course and delivered. What we achieved this session will make Oregon a better place to live, work, and raise a family in the years to come.

Oregon House Majority Leader Julie Fahey represents West Eugene and Veneta.