Reproductive Health Equity Act
(House Bill 3391) July 5
This 2017 Oregon bill is the one most likely to make Breitbart followers’ heads explode: The new law locks Roe v. Wade protections for legal abortion into state law.
The law extends $6.2 million in state-paid medical services to 22,873 women who are undocumented immigrants — and one of those guaranteed medical services is state-paid abortion.
Additionally, the services are free. Insurers can’t charge copays for reproductive health check-ups, and/or treatments and counseling for sexually transmitted infections, domestic violence, breastfeeding, breast cancer, contraceptives, abortion and pregnancy to include 60 days of postpartum care. Religious organization are exempted from some of the requirements; state agencies are tasked with providing coverage for women in exempted plans.
Anti-profiling/drug Defelonization Bill
(House Bill 2355) July 6
Lawmakers adopted this two-part measure to address bias in policing and the state court system — and the harm it causes to people of color.
In Oregon, black men and women make up less than 2 percent of the state’s population but nearly 10 percent of the state prison population, according to The Sentencing Project prison reform group. Drug felonies become a life sentence as ex-felons are denied jobs, housing and student loans.
The new law addresses the problem in two ways.
State and local law enforcement agencies are required to collect and report information on traffic and pedestrian stops that will allow the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to detect any pattern of bias. (Oregon outlawed profiling in 2015, but the new law creates a means of detection.)
The second part of the measure liberalizes punishment for some first-offense drug convictions involving small amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin or opioid pills.
The new law reduces punishment for certain possession offenses to misdemeanors with less than one-year imprisonment — and a lesser stigma — down from felonies carrying five- to 10-year sentences with life-long shunning to follow. The Legislature also put $7 million toward drug treatment.
Oregon Preserves Obamacare
(House Bill 2391) June 21
Going into the 2017 session, the Legislature was roughly $300 million short of state dollars needed to preserve the Medicaid expansion that had extended coverage to more than 350,000 Oregonians under the federal Affordable Care Act. Without the $300 million, the state stood to lose up to $1 billion in federal matching funds. Without a fix, hundred of thousands would lose coverage.
After months of closed-door negotiations, lawmakers, insurance company reps and hospital leaders agreed to raise the money for 2017-2019 with a 1.5 percent tax on insurers and a 0.7 percent tax increase on the state’s larger hospitals. In an additional move to stabilize the private insurance marketplace, the bill created a reinsurance pool that insurance companies could tap if they experienced a run of expensive cases.
Despite the 2017 Legislature’s approval and widespread support in the healthcare industry, three Republican lawmakers launched a referendum to repeal important parts of the bill. Oregon voters, however, sided with the Legislature, kept the fix and preserved coverage for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians.
Cover All Kids
(Senate Bill 558) July 7
The bill extended the Oregon Health Plan to 17,600 children from low-income families who are in Oregon without documents. They are among the last 3.5 percent of Oregon kids under 18 years that were left out of the state/federal Medicaid system. The bill changes qualification for children from being “lawfully present” to “residing in the state.” Lawmakers allocated $36 million to pay for the care because federal money can’t be used except for children who can prove their citizenship.
(House Bill 3464) July 6
For three decades, Oregon has been the only state in the nation with a sanctuary policy that prohibits local law enforcement from detaining people based strictly on their immigration status. The 2017 bill fortifies the law by explicitly allowing state agencies and local governments — schools, public health, courts — to withhold non-public information about people who are not accused of crimes from immigration enforcement agents.
(House Bill 5012) July 5
The 2017 Legislature quadrupled its spending on emergency housing and homeless assistance in order to put some muscle behind the “housing first” movement, which holds that it’s nearly impossible to get off drugs or find a job or preserve health when a body is on the streets.
Lane County is spending its $3.85 million allocation on overnight warming (including Egan Warming Center), safe parking, seasonal motel vouchers, rent assistance, housing counseling and other services. In addition, Gov. Kate Brown is asking the Legislature for $5 million more. Lane County is vying for a $546,000 share to help 120 families per year, including at the Family Emergency Shelter, at a recently donated south Eugene church.
(House Bill 2845) July 19
This new law requires kindergarten through 12-grade public schools to teach ethnic studies as part of the social studies curriculum. An advisory group writes the standards after examining where social studies courses fall short in recognizing “the histories, contributions and perspectives of ethnic minorities and social minorities,” according to the new law.
(House Bill 2864) June 5
This law requires public colleges and universities to establish and enforce cultural competency standards by way of institution-wide goals, training for faculty and staff, and biennial reporting to each institution’s board.
Cultural competency “means an understanding of how institutions and individuals can respond respectfully and effectively to people from all cultures, economic statuses, language backgrounds, races, ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, religions, genders, gender identifications, sexual orientations, veteran statuses and other characteristics in a manner that recognizes, affirms and values the worth, and preserves the dignity, of individuals, families and communities,” according to the new law.