The Oregon Legislature convened on February 3 for a 35-day short legislative session. This OSU Government Relations update aims to provide a mid-session review of Oregon State University’s legislative priorities for 2020.

Tensions in Salem are high, and the controversial Cap & Trade bill (SB 1530) is right in the center of it all. On Tuesday, the House Republicans refused to attend an evening floor session, stating they needed to slow the process down to give more time to read and understand the policies being pushed to floor votes. While they were back to work on Wednesday morning, the Senate Republicans consistently share that if Cap & Trade is moved to the Senate floor for a vote, they will walk again. The bill has been scheduled for a work session on Monday, Feb. 24. This has created a tumultuous and uncertain political environment for many of OSU’s legislative priorities in the short session, even though they are unrelated to SB 1530.

Capital Construction

OSU’s efforts around capital construction are aimed at funding for three capital projects:

  • OSU-Cascades Student Success Center: $12.9 million in state bonds, matched by an additional $5 million in student-approved fees (Students have already committed over $1 million in student fees for this project.)
  • Arts & Education Complex: $35 million in state bonds, matched by an additional $35 million in donor and university funds.
  • Cordley Capital Renewal: $28 million state bonds for Cordley Hall Renovation (second phase), matched by an additional $28 million in university bonds.

OSU is providing $68 million in matching funds for the $75.9 million in state bonding capacity that it is seeking – nearly doubling the state’s investments.

Negotiations around capital construction bonding for buildings on university campuses are currently on-going. The Capital Construction subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means received a presentation from HECC Director Ben Cannon last Friday, who implored the committee to fund university capital projects. The written testimony for the hearing included submissions from the Beaver Caucus, the Associated Students of Cascades Campus and the Oregon Student Association in support of OSU projects. Continued advocacy efforts around these three capital projects are very important going into the end of the legislative session.

On Wednesday Feb. 19, both OSU Cascades students and Now 4 OSU Cascades were in Salem advocating for the Student Success Center. Efforts like these and Beaver Caucus’s advocacy elevate OSU’s capital funding requests. We have been getting good feedback about the presence of OSU’s advocacy efforts in Salem this session. Thank you to those that have engaged with the legislature in support of OSU.

Policy Bills

OSU has also been pursuing a handful on policy bills during the 2020 legislative session. Here is a brief update on a few of them:

HB 4055HECC to study and develop recommendations on how community colleges and public universities can best combat food and housing insecurity among their students. A coalition of stakeholders presented at the public hearing in the House Education Committee. This bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Ways & Means and is awaiting action.

HB 4051Establishes a hemp commission. This bill passed the House and is scheduled to have a vote on the Senate floor next Monday, Feb. 24. College of Agricultural Sciences faculty, Jeff Steiner, joined hemp farmers in support of the creation of a commission to assist this growing agriculture sector.

HB 4072Updates Oregon State Plan on hemp to meet federal compliance. This bill was passed through the House Agriculture and Land Use committee and is now scheduled for a hearing in the Joint Committee on Ways & Means subcommittee on Natural Resources for Monday, Feb. 24.

SB 1501Allows collegiate athletes to earn compensation for their name, image and likeness. The bill passed the Senate Floor this week and is now headed to the House for consideration. OSU gymnast and Chair of the PAC-12 Student Athlete Leadership Team, Halli Briscoe, joined the UO Athletic Director in sharing both student and universities perspectives on this high-profile issue. Amendments are agreed upon, and OSU is neutral.

SB 1554Appropriates funding for several ocean programs including ocean acidification and hypoxia. Faculty from the Marine Studies Institute and the Sea Grant shared with the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee some of the work they are doing in these areas. This bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Ways & Means and is awaiting action.

HB 4057Prohibits gambling on college sports to protect student athletes. The base bill passed out of the House Business and Labor Committee and had a public hearing in the House Revenue committee.

Other activities of note

University Day at the Capitol was held on Thursday, Feb. 13, with over 150 students, staff, and alumni from all over the state supporting shared public university priorities. This included legislation on student food and housing insecurity, underrepresented students, student transfer and capital construction. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 18 Senator Arnie Roblan invited President Ed Ray to be his guest on the Senate floor. Besides kind remarks by Senator Roblan, Senators Courtney, Hansell and Gelser all extended courtesies to President Ray and commented on his contributions to OSU and Oregon. You can watch the floor session here.

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