The Oregon Legislature kicked of the 2023 session on January 17, beginning a 160-day long session that will include consideration of policy legislation as well as creating and approving the state budget for 2023-2025. The Legislature is constitutionally required to wrap up by June 25.
The new session has brought leadership changes in the Legislature. In the Senate, Sen. Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) was elected as Senate President after the retirement of former Sen. President Peter Courtney. Sen.Tim Knopp (R- Bend) will continue to serve as Senate Minority Leader and Sen. Kate Lieber (D-Beaverton) is the new Senate Majority Leader.
In the house, Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) will continue to serve as Speaker of the House, taking the helm for his first long session. Rep. Julie Fahey (D-West Eugene) will also continue to serve as House Majority Leader alongside House Minority Leader Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville).
Many new Ducks are now members of the Legislature. Newly elected House members who are also UO alums are Rep. Tom Andersen (D-Salem), Rep. Ben Bowman (D-Tigard), and Rep. Jules Walters (D- West Linn). They will be joining other Ducks reelected to the House; Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene), Rep. Jason Kropf (D-Bend,) Rep. John Lively (D-Springfield), Rep. Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene), Rep. Courtney Neron (D-Wilsonville), Rep. Andrea Valderrama (D-Portland), and Rep. Boomer Wright (R-Coos Bay). Rep. Lively is serving as the Chair of the House Committee on Higher Education.
In the Senate, Ducks Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) and Bill Hansell (R-Athena) continue to serve their districts; neither were up for re-election in 2022.
Major priorities for the UO this session include:
- Making a degree affordable for low-income students through the Oregon Opportunity Grant. Currently, Oregon lags two and a half times behind the national average for student aid programs. Oregon ranks 45th in the nation in per-student state funding of public universities, spending $5,580 per student in 2021 compared to the U.S. average of $8,859. Oregon also invests $475 per student per year in financial aid – less than half the national average of $1,138, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. An influx of more funds to the Oregon Opportunity Grant will help increase the number of Oregonians attending and finishing college.
- The UO and Oregon’s other public universities are asking for a baseline budget of $1.05 billion in the Public University Support Fund for all public universities in Oregon for the 2023–25 biennium, which is $150 million more than the 2021–23 budget. This allocation will help the UO and other public universities ensure that tuition for incoming students is as low as possible and allow campuses to continue to provide necessary wraparound services to support students.
- Oregon universities are collectively requesting the continuation of Strong Start. The summer bridge program provides targeted programs and care to students who need it the most when they first walk onto campus. This program has been proven to lead to better grades and higher retention rates for students who participate.
- Funding intercollegiate athletics and academic scholarships through the Sports Lottery positively effects enrollment, retention, and increased diversity for about 2,500 students every year at Oregon’s public universities. In the 2021–23 biennium, a full 1% of Sports Lottery provided about $15 million to athletics and graduate scholarships across the seven universities. Continuing this funding is extremely important to the University.
- In the 2023 session, UO is seeking $75.4 million from the state for a capital request to restore historic Friendly Hall. The Friendly Hall Deferred Maintenance and Renovation Project will create a modern, user-friendly home—including a comprehensive career ready center—in the heart of the campus.
- The UO will continue to advocate for funding for state service programs that address Oregon’s most pressing issues. State Service Programs contribute to local communities in all 36 Oregon counties. Programs that receive state funding at the UO include the Labor Education Research Center, the TallWood Design Institute, the Oregon Office of Community Dispute Resolution, the Clinical Legal Education Program and many others.