Two weeks in, the Oregon legislative session is underway

As week two of the Oregon legislative session comes to a close, Oregon’s state capitol building is busy with legislators, citizens, and lobbyists working on public policy and budgets.

As organizations, legislative staff members and others worked to review the more than 1,400 bills that were initially introduced, the seven public universities have identified approximately 530 bills that could impact the UO.

The UO’s top funding priority is to secure a minimum of $120 million increase over 2017-19 legislatively adopted budget for the Public University Support Fund (PUSF). This will allow the university to keep tuition increases at or below 5% for the next two years. We are also advocating for investments above 120 million that could be used to improve academic advising, enhance financial aid, and reduce student debt. We’re working closely with students, faculty, staff, community colleges, and business partners to make the case to lawmakers on increased funding in this session’s budget  is critical for college access and affordability.

Higher education policy bills

The universities evaluate and engage in policy measures on various topics. Here is a snapshot of key bills which could directly impact the UO if they are passed:

  • Requiring community colleges and public universities to establish textbook affordability plans (HB 2213)
  • Expanding tuition equity eligibility to more students (HB 2507)
  • Requiring community colleges and universities to adopt—if they have not already—a written policy on hazing as well as reporting annually to Higher Education Coordinating Commission on hazing incidents, including to high school graduates of Chemawa Indian School (HB 2519, SB 312, SB 263)
  • Providing funding for Title IX enforcement and compliance, sexual harassment prevention and gender discrimination prevention (HB 2562)
  • Making permanent the campus veteran resources grant program (SB 35)
  • Requiring universities to provide credit to each student who receives grade of four or higher on International Baccalaureate (IB) exam (SB 160)
  • Making changes to entrepreneurial ecosystem programs like RAIN Eugene, whose purpose is commercialization of university-based research (SB 418)
  • Requiring contractors with universities to employ apprentices and establish plans for outreach, recruitment and retention of women and minority individuals (SB 455)
  • Various bills related to accelerated credit programs and credit transfer policy from community colleges to public universities

It’s expected that the Legislature will also consider bills related to implementing a state-run paid family leave program, state protections to Title IX, regulation of campus safety officers, and more.

Other UO highlights in the capitol since the start of session

The House Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee has heard from UO representatives. On January 24t universities participated in an informational presentation on the Oregon Campus Resilience Consortium and their recommendation to create a Higher Education Safety and Resilience Council. Presenters included Andre LeDuc, the UO’s Chief Resilience Officer. To view the PowerPoint presentation from the hearing, click here and to view the hearing click here.

On January 29 Michael Thomas, the UO’s Veterans Programs Coordinator, testified on the value and impact of the Campus Veterans Grant Program, which the Legislature approved last session and is administered by the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. Funding for the program was only approved for a single biennium, so the Legislature must renew it this session. The UO received $54,000 last year to fund a part-time staff person in the veteran’s services office and expand support programs and services. View Michael’s testimony here.

What’s next?

In the coming weeks, we expect to see an informational hearing about the Oregon Business Development Department’s $10 million request for a University Innovation Research Fund. The program would increase university competitiveness for federal research awards, leverage federal funding and increase the number of Oregon researchers in the areas of applied research and development, technology demonstration, and deployment.

Stay tuned to the GCR Blog for more updates from your government relations team in Salem.