State Rep. Brad Witt

State Rep. Brad Witt speaking at the Columbia City 2019 Memorial Day Ceremony.

The 2019 Legislative Session finished up Sunday night, June 30, with lawmakers approving the next biennial budget. 

Oregon’s Constitution requires that the Legislature approve a balanced budget, so it was critical that Senate Republicans returned to Salem to vote on budget bills to avoid an expensive special session. The eleven Republican Senators were protesting HB 2020, the Cap and Trade Carbon bill, also know as the Clean Energy Jobs bill. 

Some of the bills that were approved in the final days included: 

SB 688 which will benefit military families, by allowing temporary professional certification or licensing for spouses or domestic partners of members of the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in Oregon. In order to be approved, the applicant would need to have out-of-state professional certification, be in good standing with that out-of-state licensing board and demonstrate competency. This would apply in areas of cosmetology, dental hygiene, massage therapy, mental health counseling, occupational therapy and real estate sales. I voted in favor of this bill to help the family members of active military transition into their new communities when their government assignment brings them to Oregon. 

HCR 38 limits the number of bills introduced by legislators during the 2020 regular session of the 80th Legislative Assembly. This House Concurrent Resolution will allow each Representative to introduce two bills, and each Senator to introduce one bill. Interim Committees will be able to introduce 3 bills. While the 2020 regular session is a short six weeks, and that is not a lot of time to work through the legislative process, I still voted against this measure, because I believe it puts limits on democracy and the ability of the Legislature to meet the needs of our constituents. 

SB 770 establishes the Universal Health Care Commission which will make recommendations for the design of the “All Oregon Plan” to provide publicly funded, equitable, affordable, comprehensive and high-quality health care for all Oregon residents. Health insurance coverage represents a mix of public programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE, employer-sponsored and individual insurance options. Nearly 94 percent of Oregonians do have health insurance, those in the coverage gap disproportionately affect minorities, low-income residents and young adults. SB 770 is an opportunity for a Heath Care Commission to evaluate the best methods to provide insurance for all. 

Voters will get to decide if Oregon’s tobacco tax will be raised by $2 per pack to match Washington and California’s rates, generating money for health programs while discouraging young people from starting the habit. They’ll also weigh in on whether to allow campaign finance limits that courts have said violate free speech rights. And it’s likely that voters will also weigh in on the corporate tax imposed under HB 3427 the Student Success Act. 

The 2019 Legislative Session was unlike any other I have experienced. The extended Senate Republican walk-out, and the largest grassroots rally that Salem has ever seen. I spent many hours during that rally meeting with loggers and other constituents to discuss their issues, and our shared concerns. 

Minimum Wage increase 

Oregon’s minimum wage increased 50 cents per hour on July 1. For those working in the Portland’s tri-county urban growth boundary area the rate is $12.50 per hour, all other areas in House District 31 earn $11.25 per hour. These pay adjustments are due to SB 1532 which was approved in 2016, increasing minimum wage on July 1 annually through 2020. 

I’m looking forward to spending time with family, friends and constituents back in the district during the summer. I’ll soon report on some of the successful legislation I introduced this session. 

State Rep. Brad Witt may be reached at 503-986-1431, or at Rep.BradWitt@oregonlegislature.gov. 

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