Masthead 2023-24

January 2024

bird in snow

I'm writing this newsletter while still iced-in. I'm listening to the occasional car or pickup crunching through packed snow and ice past our house and the crows fussing.

For weeks my staff and I have been getting ready for the short session, planning committee agendas, and meeting in person and virtually with people representing health care organizations and providers, emergency services, and children's service nonprofit organizations. I've traveled to the Portland area to convene four committee hearings. Along with my co-chair, Sen. Lew Frederick, the subcommittee on transportation planning heard from about 100 people talking about traffic congestion, climate change, investing in roads or other projects for bikes, pedestrians, and public transit, and concerns about plans for tolling in the region. Then legislative committees met in Salem for three days last week.

In this enews you'll find sections on the next legislative session, the bill I've been working on in response to the hospital closure, Peace Village homes and the new YMCA, updates on state and local topics including free bus passes for students, and a Town Hall.


If you missed my latest e-news, here's the link to Fall 2023.

February Legislative Session

Last year was the first year of the 82nd Legislative Assembly, elected in 2022. The first year of the assembly, an odd year, is the "long session" lasting up to 160 days, or roughly 5½ months. Last year's session ended on Sunday, June 25. The even-numbered years, like 2024, allow for a "short session" lasting up to 35 days. (Five-day extensions are allowed by a two-thirds vote in both houses.)

The short session is a sprint, unlike the nearly six months marathon pace of a long session. Members can file no more than two bills and committees are limited to three, unlike the unlimited number of bills members and committees can file during the long session. Legislation needs to be "teed up" in advance. Short sessions are designed primarily to accommodate budget adjustments, handle emergencies that shouldn't wait 18 or more months (the time between long sessions), or tackle unfinished business.

Priorities for the House and Senate

Recent legislative investments are preventing homelessness and getting people into transitional housing, shelter beds, and treatment programs. Continuing to work on homelessness will be a priority for the short session. Several other topics will also attract a great deal of attention and work: increasing production of affordable housing, increasing access to addiction treatment and behavioral health support (and adjustments to Measure 110. the voter-approved drug decriminalization initiative), and improving community safety. We also anticipate bills addressing artificial intelligence and funding arts and culture projects across the state.

My two bills

NN and Chief Caven

After the University District Emergency Department closure: now what?

In my last enews I wrote about discussions focused on closure of Eugene's hospital and Emergency Department (E.D.). Since then I've been working with several local area legislators (Representatives Fahey, Conrad, and Holvey and Senator Prozanski) and city, county, and state officials. After many weeks of poring over ideas, what-ifs and specific proposals — and some would say a lot of "in the weeds" details — I've drafted a bill for the short session. Several colleagues are joining me as chief co-sponsors of what we hope will be groundbreaking legislation to bring better and more cost-effective immediate care to people. Some of those creative ideas come from professionals and emergency responders who are directly involved in emergency response and delivering care: Eugene Springfield Fire/EMS and Lane County Public Health. This photo shows Chief Heppel (left) testifying with me in Salem on a bill last year.

Our "access to care" bill includes one-time gap funding for Eugene, which has added an ambulance crew to help meet the demands of transporting all emergency patients to Springfield as the area adjusts from three to two E.D.s (Riverbend and McKenzie Willamette). Most exciting, though, is an Innovation Fund to help launch new approaches and pilot projects to add access to same-day care while decreasing long-term systems cost. Innovative ideas include a nurse call service linked to the 9-1-1 system, a Mobile Nurse Practitioner, a 24/7 nurse call line, alternative transportation to non-hospital ED locations, or flexible EMS community response units. The bill directs the Oregon Health Authority to review statues and rules getting in the way of innovative ideas. And finally, a fourth component will help address a shortage of nurses by enabling provisional licensing for nurses; this will allow employers to immediately hire nurses with up-to-date licenses in another state.

We plan to continue work on re-shaping access to immediate health care later this spring, after the session, to work on mid-range and long-term ideas including urgent care, funding models, and workforce.

Here is my testimony to the Behavioral Health and Health Care Committee last week.

Working to save community pharmacies: PBMs again

Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) are "middlemen" businesses that handle paperwork and process claims for prescriptions, between the consumer, pharmacy, and insurer. Originally designed to bring cost efficiency to the health care delivery system and savings to patients, PBMs instead are adding cost into the supply chain, for overhead and for profit.

PBMs reimburse pharmacies less than the cost of the prescription drug and literally only cents (not dollars) for the work of acquiring, processing, and dispensing the prescription to the patient, and they steer patients to PBM-owned pharmacies and to different drug brands in order to boost their profits.

Pharmacies simply cannot stay in business when they can't break even, and patients are facing higher co-pays, steered to drugs different from the one prescribed, and loss of their community pharmacy.

After the disappointing last-minute loss of the PBM bill on the last day of the 2023 legislative session, I started planning how to keep the heat on and bring back a strong proposal for 2024. I worked with colleagues and stakeholders through the fall and have a new bill designed to rein in the mighty PBMs.

So does this bill meet the test of an emergency, or unfinished business? Yes to both! Last year saw 35 more pharmacies close, and some communities have lost their only remaining pharmacy.

Here is my testimony to the Behavioral Health and Health Care Committee last week.

Good news!

Peace Village


Peace Village is open! Senator Prozanski and I toured a few of the new units at the open house on November 30. SquareOne Villages built 70 new units of resident-owned housing that will be permanently affordable to households under 60% area median income. Here's how: the land is owned in a Community Land Trust and a Limited-Equity Co-op is the legal structure for owning the residence. SquareOne retains ownership of the underlying land and as they explain, "the residents will collectively own the housing on the land as member-owners of Peace Village Co-op. The goal of this shared-equity ownership structure is to create the most accessible pathway to homeownership in Lane County reaching households with incomes as low 30% of the area median income while also preserving the long-term affordability of the housing."

This is outside-the-box thinking; it’s creative; it’s responsible; it’s compassionate. I was proud to support state investments in SquareOne during the 2021 session to acquire land for the project, and honored to receive the SquareOne Housing Advocate of 2023 award for my work sponsoring and helping pass bills to recognize LECs and give them preferential tax status, same as we do for nonprofit cooperative manufactured home communities.

YMCA ribbon cutting

The New YMCA

Hundreds of people streamed in to the new YMCA for the open house. We were "wowed" by the facilities, with spaces for fitness, crafts, classes, and meetings. This community resource serves thousands of families and individuals, and it’s not just about recreation. It provides childcare and afterschool programs to nearly 750 children in 23 schools, health and wellness programs including classes and support for people dealing with complications of cancer treatment, aging, and other disabilities, diabetes prevention, and plenty of good recreation instruction and activities for youth and adults. It does all this for families even if they have financial hardships. Each year the Y grants almost $500,000 in financial assistance to those in need of a little help accessing their services. Finally, they partner with a wide array of organizations to help meet critical needs for families. These include partnering with insurance providers to help nearly 700 seniors access the Y at no cost to the individual, with Mobility International to help ultra-abled individuals have a safe place to maintain health, and with others to help unhoused students find stability and housing.


Walking and running track above the court


Looking south from the terrace toward Spencer Butte


Lots of features incorporating local materials, history, and pride


One of the cool new murals

YMCA artist and mural

Artist and her mural


Pools and water play

Local Events

Lane County retirees

Here are a few of the people at a meeting of retirees. I spoke to them about the 2023 legislative session and my bills for 2024, answered their questions, and we talked about the political environment.

New Year's at Hult

My husband and I celebrated the New Year at the Hult Center after the Eugene Symphony New Year's Eve Concert.

Town Hall

Town Hall announcement

Sunday, Jan. 28 3:00 PM

Please join Rep. Julie Fahey, Sen. James Manning, and me for a Town Hall meeting at Harris Hall.

We'll preview the upcoming legislative session, discuss local and state issues, and answer your questions. Please fill out this form to submit a question:

Submit a question

State news

School funding

Funding for Oregon's K-12 public schools is not simple, and always the subject of much debate. The State School Fund includes both state and local revenue. State funding includes general fund (income tax), lottery fund, Student Success Act Fund, Educational Stability Fund, and a share of state marijuana tax. Local funds come from property taxes, the County School Fund, the Common School Fund, and revenue from state-managed county trust timber.

The Department of Education's School Finance and Facilities Administrator spoke to the House Committee on Revenue to explain the State School Fund (SSF) and the equalization formula, which takes into account both local and state needs and resources, and allocates funding statewide to balance them to the greatest extent possible. SSF dollars are provided to each district to make up the difference between the district's share determined by an equalization formula and its local revenue. If local revenues are high, state aid is low, and vice versa. In effect, the formula converts local school revenue resources into part of available statewide funds for all schools. Read more from the Legislative Policy and Research Office here.

New tax credit: child tax credit

The new Oregon Kids Credit is a refundable credit for low-income people with young dependent children. As a refundable credit taxpayers will get money back from the state even if they don't owe any taxes or less than the credit amount. Families with $30,000 or less in annual income can claim up to $1,000 per child, for up to five children aged five and below. I was proud to help shepherd this through the Revenue Committee and on for passage in the House and Senate.

Info from Dept of Revenue

FAQ about the Kids Credit from DOR

Oregon Kids Credit tax credit

DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants) expanded

Oregon's law was expanded in the 2023 legislative session to to include any drug taken alone or in combination with liquor, a controlled substance, inhalant, cannabis, or psilocybin that can impair the ability of a person to operate a vehicle safely. Also added in 2023: courts will be able to fine a person convicted of operating a bicycle while under the influence a minimum of $500 or a minimum of $1,000, if their blood alcohol percentage is above 0.15%.

The Kicker Pays Out: Final Report

The projected record kicker is now $5.6 billion. The average taxpayer will get about a 44% discount, or refund of about $1,030 on their taxes, per state economists. The top 1% of income earners will receive around $54,000 each, while the bottom 20% will get an average about $71. Read more about the kicker and Oregon's revenue forecast here in the latest quarterly report.

You can calculate your estimated kicker using DOR’s ‘What’s my Kicker’ tool here.

10 Things You Should Know About Oregon's $5.61 Billion Kicker - My Oregon News 

DeFazio, LaHood, and me

The Capitol shut down Friday afternoon anticipating bad road conditions. We transitioned to meeting online. I drove home from Salem to get on the computer for the Joint Transportation Committee meeting. After former Congressman Peter DeFazio and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke about federal funding for rail, I followed up with the need for big improvements in passenger rail to alleviate congestion on I-5. More, better, faster! More departure times, better on-time performance, and faster speeds. Let's not wait for a bullet train, decades away, to invest in significant improvements now.

Local news

LTD: an updated app, free student passes, rides to warming centers

LTD Umo app

Use the App! Umo, Lane Transit District’s fare payment app, has added several links to connect users to a variety of transportation providers in Lane County.

  • Plan trips with PeaceHealth Rides, Link Lane, LTD Connector, Rhody Express, and Diamond Express.
  • Get quick access to LTD’s Park & Ride locations.

Rides to warming centers. LTD offers free rides to people going to Egan Warming Centers to get warm when the overnight temperatures are forecasted to dip below 30 degrees Fahrenheit through March 31.

Student bus passes. All K-12 students in Lane County can get their free LTD Student Transit Pass from their school, using either the Umo Mobility smartphone app or tap card. This pass allows students in public, private, charter, and home schools to ride LTD buses for free. More info here

CASA: want to help kids in foster care?


From the CASA website:

Becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is an opportunity to make a profound difference in a child's life. As a CASA, you become the voice for a child in foster care, advocating for their best interests and ensuring they have the chance for a brighter future.

When you become a CASA, you're not just volunteering—you're changing a life. You're stepping in during a critical moment to provide stability, support, and hope. You're helping a child navigate through a complex system, and ensuring their needs are heard and met. Link to learn more about being a CASA.

One of our Lane County CASAs, John Helmer, says "serving as a CASA is the most rewarding thing I do. The kids definitely need help but I do it for me as well. As a CASA you are well trained and supported and have the joy of working with great people and knowing you are making a difference in the life of a young person; a kid in a difficult spot. Fewer than half the kids in foster care in Lane County have a CASA so many more volunteers are needed. Because most CASA's are women, I especially encourage men to consider serving. If you are concerned that you don't have time or aren't qualified, I'll end by saying that I started as a CASA during the most demanding part of my career, two years before retiring."

CASA volunteer
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