Where I stand
Black lives matter
For the past few months, my newsletters have been about the COVID-19 pandemic and
the economic downturn we are experiencing. But by now it should be obvious that America is facing two pandemics: COVID-19, which is disproportionately impacting the health and livelihoods of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities; and a generations-long pandemic of police violence, institutional racism, and oppression that is taking the lives of Black people across the nation.
I stand with the Black community against these horrible inequities and in calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Aaron Campbell, Quanice Hayes, Kendra James, Keaton Otis, and many more whose lives were ended by police violence. As a state legislator, I pledge to use my position to advocate for and vote for major transformations in policing. We cannot return to the status quo.
On June 2nd, the People of Color Caucus (POC) here in the Oregon Legislature put out a press release that offered concrete suggests to get this transformation work started in the coming “special session” of the legislature that is likely to be called by the Governor at the end of the month.
First, the POC Caucus is requesting that a bill from the last two sessions regarding law enforcement disciplinary actions that go to arbitration be taken up and included in any proposed policy bills the legislature considers. The concept has been approved twice unanimously by the Senate, as Senate Bill 383 (2019) and Senate Bill 1567 (2020). The new law would prohibit an arbitrator from reducing a disciplinary action against a law enforcement officer if the arbitrator and the law enforcement agency determine that the officer had committed misconduct. This is a change that is sought and needed in public sector collective bargaining laws here in Oregon. I voted “yes” on this bill in the House Rules Committee before the Republican walk out killed all bills in the Oregon House before they could be considered and voted on by members. I believe it would have passed in the House overwhelmingly and been enacted into law had it not been for the Republican walk out. I plan to vote yes on this bill when it comes up again.
Second, the POC Caucus is requesting a bill that would authorize and require the State Attorney General to investigate and prosecute, if the evidence dictates, any death or serious physical injury resulting from the use of force by a law enforcement officer. The POC Caucus believes that independent investigations are necessary for all cases where law enforcement kills or seriously injures civilians, and that the Oregon Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to be assigned this task. I will vote yes on this bill and I believe it will pass.
Third, the POC Caucus is requesting that the House Interim Committee on Judiciary immediately convene a bipartisan work group to recommend changes to the state’s laws regarding use of physical force or deadly physical force in making an arrest or in preventing an escape (ORS 161.235 and 161.239). This work will lead to a bill or bills for the 2021 legislative session. The Caucus believes Oregon’s standard for use of force needs to be strengthened. I will follow their work closely and be ready to support bills that the Judiciary Committee brings forward.
While acknowledging that it’s not nearly enough, I am grateful to have been a member of the Oregon Legislature during a time when we have taken steps in recent sessions to improve police accountability. The most significant actions were bills to prohibit racial profiling, track and analyze law enforcement stops, and require implicit bias training, House Bill 2002 (2015) and House Bill 2355 (2017). The legislature also established a framework for local police departments to implement the use of body cameras, House Bill 2571 (2015). I am grateful for the members of the POC Caucus who championed and carried these bills forward.
Access to health care
As Vice Chair of the House Health Care Committee, Rob cares deeply about expanding access to health care services, and making it more affordable. In 2019, he carried SB 770 during the debate on the floor of the House. This bill creates a workgroup to study how Oregon could implement single payer care in the future. Short of universal coverage, his number one legislative priority is lowering the cost of prescription drugs. HB 4005 was a bill that Rob championed in 2018 to create drug price transparency. This bill is critical in understanding the drivers behind drug price increases and helps the Legislature and state agencies understand how to tackle the spiraling costs of prescription drugs.
As a lifelong labor activist, Rob has spent his entire career fighting for working families. Rob knows that all full-time workers deserve a livable wage, good health insurance, and the right to have a union and a union contract. Rob championed Oregon’s new paid family and medical leave bill, so that working Oregonians don’t have to choose between their job and being there for a loved one.
Nearly every day Rob takes time to contact individual people in SE & NE Portland to hear about what’s on their mind, and one issue comes up more than any other: Housing. Portland is facing a housing crisis and Rob has taken action. he supported the 1st statewide rent stabilization law in the country, which helps protect tenants from price-gouging and unfair treatment, and he supported legislation to increase the stock of affordable housing in cities like Portland. But he knows we have to do more. Rob supports repealing a decades-old law preventing cities like Portland from implementing rent control and other tenant protections, and investing millions in affordable housing solutions throughout Oregon.
Rob, just like all of us, is concerned about our fellow Portlanders who are houseless. In addition to supporting more affordable housing and tenant protections, Rob has consistently fought for more funding for mental health and addiction treatment, and will continue to do so both in the legislature and at the ballot.
Rob understands that climate change is the biggest crisis facing our state, country and planet. Like many Oregonians, Rob is fighting for his children and grandchildren when he pushes for Oregon to take strong action to tackle the climate crisis. Although a small group of right-wing Republicans have prevented our state from taking bold climate action, Rob is committed to fighting for a Green New deal for Oregon. Oregon must set a price on carbon and uses that money to fund new investments in green energy projects and green tech, as well as standing up for the communities most impacted by pollution and climate change. We are running out of time to address climate change and Rob believes that Oregon must lead the nation in saving the planet for future generations.
Rob believes every woman has the right to choose. Oregon is one of the least restrictive states in the country when it comes to reproductive health, and he has fought to keep it that way. That’s why, in the 2017 session, Rob co-sponsored the Reproductive Health Equity Act, ensuring access to reproductive health for all Oregonians. Rob will also ensure that reproductive healthcare is funded, despite Donald Trump’s rollbacks in federal funding.
In 2016, the revelation that Bullseye Glass was polluting the air in the heart of Southeast Portland was a wake-up call. Since then, Rob has focused on cleaning up Oregon’s air, supporting legislation that would require increased reporting by industrial emitters, and reduce diesel emissions. Oregon has some of the nation’s highest rates of diesel pollution and asthma, and Rob believes Oregon must catch up to other states in regulation diesel emissions. That is why he sponsored HB 2007 so we would finally do something about diesel emissions. Rob is now following up on that bill by serving on the Diesel Task Force so we can find ways to help small businesses transition to cleaner engines faster.
Tax Fairness & Education Funding
Fixing Oregon’s broken revenue system has been a top priority for Rob. Continuing to shift the tax burden off of the working and middle class to large corporations that can afford to pay their fair share is one way Rob hopes to raise the revenue our state needs to invest in health care and education. In the 2019 session, Rob helped pass the Student Success Act, a one billion dollar per year tax on corporations to fund schools, the largest corporate tax increase in Oregon’s history. He also introduced a bill to crack down on offshore tax havens. In the 2020 session, property tax reform – restoring fairness to the system – will be one of his top priorities.
When Rob moved to Oregon in 1992, he joined the fight to defeat Measure 9, a ballot measure which would have required schools to teach children that being LGBTQ is “abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse.” Oregon has made great advances in securing the rights of LGBTQ people since the 1990’s, and Rob has worked hard to protect these advances from all challenges, while working to expand rights to communities that are still marginalized by current laws. In 2017, Rob passed HB 2673, making it easier for transgender and nonbinary Oregonians to change their government-issued identity documents to reflect who they are. In 2019, Rob supported Adi’s Act (SB 52), which addresses teen suicide, especially among LGBTQ youth.