Oregon’s legislative session convened on January 19th. How the legislators conduct their business is heavily impacted by COVID-19. The State Capitol will remain closed until Marion County reaches OHA’s classification of low risk. All committee work will happen virtually through session, and currently, legislators are holding their constituent and lobbyist meetings solely in virtual settings.
Budgetary issues remain OSU’s top priorities for the 2021 legislative session. While several legislators recognize the need for investing in higher education, the legislative process on these budgets will begin later in the session.
The higher education budget hearings have not yet been scheduled, but are expected to take plan in late March/early April. One of the challenges with the Oregon Legislature’s virtual hearings schedule is a limitation on the number of meetings that can take place at one time. This means that the Ways & Means Subcommittees are restricted to about half the meetings they would normally hold, dramatically less time to learn about the vast amount of programing offered by Oregon higher education and specifically at OSU.
The limited time for committees makes it even more important legislators hear from OSU stakeholders and supporters. OSU Statewides Advocacy Day is planned for March 24th and OSU Day is May 6th. These traditional in-person lobby days will be moved to virtual formats. You can register for Statewides Day at this link: https://beav.es/J7c
The legislative policy committees are busy at work to meet their deadline of March 19th for scheduling bills for work sessions in their first chamber policy committees. The following OSU priorities have seen action early in the session:
Credit Transfer: The Statewide Provost Council are pursuing the establishment of common course numbering and a state Transfer Council. These concepts are under discussion in a work group led by Senate Education Chair Michael Dembrow. SB 233 is the likely bill vehicle for this concept moving forward.
Basic Needs Navigators: The House Education Committee has held a hearing on HB 2835 which funds a basic needs a navigator position on every community college and public university campus to help students access the local, state and federal benefits they are eligible for.
Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia: Representative Gomberg has introduced HB 3114 to fund research at OSU addressing ocean acidification and hypoxia. It has recently been assigned to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee and expected for a hearing in late March.
Additionally, our faculty have provided testimony on a multitude of issues including cultural competency standards, textbook affordability, water quality, meat processing and wildfire management.