Advocacy and Civic Engagement Updates

Right now, the Advocacy and Civic Engagement (ACE) team is tracking close to twenty different bills including a budget proposal. Ten have already made it out of their respective committees and one step closer to passage! For these nineteen legislative priorities, the ACE team attended almost forty (so far) public hearings or work sessions and hosted sixteen private meetings with legislators or their staff, to showcase our support for these bills. Three bills at the top of our priority list are SB 1510 (Transforming Justice), SB 1579 (Equity Investment), and HB 4007 (Public Defender Loan Forgiveness).

SB 1510 Transforming Justice seeks to ensure Oregonians are treated with dignity and feel safe in their own communities by limiting unnecessary interactions with law enforcement. Specifically, when conducting a traffic stop, officers cannot only pull you over for a single headlight, taillight, or brake light, and officers must now inform individuals of their constitutional right to deny searches. SB 1510 also seeks to foster successful rehabilitation and re-entry into society for those on parole or probation by ending marijuana drug violations, expanding remote check-in options, and prohibiting workplace harassment from parole officers, except when otherwise necessary for public safety. Additionally, SB 1510 creates the Justice Reinvestment Equity Program to fund fifteen million dollars of investments in culturally specific services that will promote racial equity, address racial disparities prevalent in Oregon’s criminal justice system, and reduce prison use. Transforming Justice passed three committee votes through the Senate Judiciary, the Subcommittee on Public Safety, and Ways and Means Committee. It now faces its final hurdle in the next two weeks, where it will attempt to pass a full floor vote by both the Oregon House and Senate.

SB 1579 Equity Investment seeks to repair harm in our communities by investing in a generational wealth equity program for the communities most harmed by over-policing, the War on Drugs, and the criminal justice system. Over four decades of over-policing, discriminatory policies, and the War on Drugs have exacerbated wealth disparities for Oregon's Black, Indigenous, and Latinx (BIL) communities – SB 1579 seeks to reserve and rectify this racist and unjust trend. The Equity Investment Act will provide fifteen million dollars of general fund monies to invest in culturally responsive organizations with programs focused on entrepreneurship, workforce development, and home and land ownership. These community-based investments create a more just, stable, and prosperous Oregon for all. SB 1579 passed three committee votes through the Senate Labor and Business and the Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development, where investments were reduced from fifty million to fifteen million. It will now attempt to pass a full Ways and Means Committee vote and then hopefully proceed to a full House and Senate vote before becoming law.

HB 4007 Public Defender Loan Forgiveness seeks to support Oregon’s Justice System by addressing the shortage of public defenders. Specifically, HB 4007 attempts to rectify the financial infeasibilities of a career as a public defender by providing student loan forgiveness in the amount of $25,000 a year with a lifetime maximum of $200,000. Passage of this law would address the disparate and adverse impacts of the criminal justice system on low-income individuals who lack the resources to hire a private attorney. The Constitution mandates that everyone deserves legal representation, and this bill attempts to fulfill our nation’s promises. Public Defender Loan Forgiveness still has a long way to go until passage. It has only passed the House Judiciary Committee and currently sits in the Joint Ways and Means Committee. After the Joint Ways and Means Committee, its next challenge is passing a full House and Senate vote.

Please visit here to take action and show your support for these bills!

SB 1510 Transforming Justice:

SB 1579 Equity Investment: