The 82nd Oregon Legislative Assembly convened on February 5 to kick off the 2024 Legislative Session. In this condensed session, which concludes on March 10, legislators will consider legislation and budget adjustments.
Addressing the drug addiction crisis and housing shortage are top concerns for the session. Lawmakers will also consider bills on many other topics including health care, voting rights, climate change, child care, and school funding over the next 35 days. Governor Tina Kotek has unveiled a $500 million plan aimed at increasing housing production. This comprehensive proposal is intended to catalyze increased home building, recognizing the disparity between the current availability of housing and the soaring demand, as well as increasing capacity of homeless shelters and providing rental assistance. Oregon legislators also hope to address the fentanyl crisis in this short session by making some changes to Measure 110, the Drug Addiction and Recovery Act, passed by voters in November 2020.
The University of Oregon’s 2024 policy agenda aligns with the priorities of the other public universities in Oregon. More than 200 students, faculty, and staff from all seven institutions will gather on February 8 for University Lobby Day to meet with legislators and advocate for four main agenda items:
- $6 million in renewed funding for programming to help first-year students enter the academic year successfully with wrap-around support, mentoring, and cohorting by academic area. This Strong Start program was initially created to make up for learning loss following the pandemic, but has continuously proven to increase GPAs and retention rates.
- HB 4162 , the 2024 Students Need Package, will allocate $5 million to strengthen student basic needs programs on campus and $1 million in emergency funding for the Open Educational Resources program giving students access to low and no-cost resources on campus.
- HB 4154 will provide $30 million of strategic investments to increase the workforce and research needs in the semiconductor industry. These investments will include STEM education and work-based learning, community college workforce training, investments for advanced research and degrees, and allocation of funds to universities and community colleges in the effort to kickstart efforts to expand semiconductor talent programs.
- Each campus is pursuing proposals to increase the behavioral health workforce and services. HB 4151 will increase resources within the youth behavioral health field, allowing the workforce to grow and benefit Oregon K-12 students and teachers and is supported by the University of Oregon’s Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health.