Capitol Update

Capitol Update 2/6

The first week of session has started in full swing for students and our priority issues. This past week, the Oregon Student Association Lobby Corps team had to balance defending attacks on students and pushing our issues forward. Here are some highlights from the last few days:

  • Informed legislative leadership about attacks on students
    • Stopping Lowering the Minimum wage for people under 21- HB 2378
    • Stopping Lowering the Minimum wage for work study students – HB 2145
    • Stopping the “Anti-Riot” Bill – SB 540
    • Stopping Mandatory E-Verify implementation at Oregon state agencies, including institutions – SB 545
  • Filed Ethnic studies bill- awaiting bill number
    • Chief Sponsors will be: Rep. Hernandez, Rep. Parrish, Rep. Doherty and Sen. Fredrick.
  • Filed Survivor Amnesty Bill – awaiting bill number
    • Chief Sponsors will be: Sen. Gelser and Sen. Taylor
  • Secured additional committee votes for End Profiling bill – HB 2355
  • Requested a Public Hearing for the Mental Health Taskforce bill – SB 231
  • Continued negotiations with Universities, Community College, and Unions on Cultural Competency
    • We are working on finalizing edits before requesting a hearing
  • Received a bill number for continued Open Educational Resources funding – HB 2927
  • Started to work with the Higher Education Coordinating Commission on edits to the Student Whistleblower bill- HB 2457
  • Worked to finalize details of the OSA Lobby day

Mid-Session Update 2016

General Update

The Oregon Student Association started off the session with a successful lobby day. Since then, Students have been in the building every day testifying and lobbying on our priority issues. This short session has been an extremely busy one, as members debate the minimum wage, housing, and balancing the budget.  There is still about two and a half weeks left of session, which means we will have a short amount of time to get the rest of our bills through! Below is an update on where our bills are at currently.

Priority 1 Bills

  •  Civic Engagement Bill (SB 1586) – At the beginning of February, Oregon Students began lobbying the legislature for full passage of SB 1586. Our Civic Engagement bill is scheduled for a work session today, Tuesday (2/16) and has the support of most of the members on the Senate Rules Committee. On Tuesday, members will also be discussing an amendment that OSA and Universities jointly developed which will put the responsibility of requesting access for nonpartisan voter engagement work on student governments. After Tuesday’s committee vote, the bill will then go to Ways and Means where they will discuss the fiscal impact of the bill before sending it to the floor for a vote.
  • Budget Ask- The state’s revenue forecast[1] that came out last week showed lower revenue than the Co-Chairs of Ways and Means expected. The forecast showed that there are additional funds that could be dedicated to Higher Education, but not at the $15 million level we were hoping for. OSA will continue to work with the Co-Chairs to ensure some of their discretionary funds go towards Higher Education.

Priority 2 bills

  • Housing (HB 4143 and HB 4001)-  Passing Housing policy is priority for legislative leadership and the Governor this session. HB 4001- Contained both Inclusionary Zoning and Tenant Protections. The Tenant Protection pieces from HB 4001 were moved to HB 4143 last week. This was done because there are members in the Senate who do not want Inclusionary Zoning to move forward this session, which meant we had to split up HB 4001 in order to preserve the tenant protections piece. HB 4001 is no longer expected to move, but HB 4143 is expected to move out of committee this week.
  •  Campaign Contribution Reform (HJR 205 – Amends OR Constitution to permit campaign contribution limits) There is currently no movement on this bill.
  •  Amending the Oregon Promise (HB 4076– Amends the Oregon Promise and allocates $2.5 million to community colleges). This bill moved out of the  House Higher Education committee and is currently in Ways and Means.
  •  Researching Student Loan refinance (HB 4021) – Passed the house with 54 ayes- 6 nays. It is now on the Senate President’s desk and is awaiting to be assigned to the Senate Education Committee.
  •  Increasing opportunities for math majors (SB 1540)- At the request of the HECC, this bill was amended to increase the number of people in math related programs. The HECC wanted more flexibility on how they conducted their research than just providing tuition waivers. SB 1540 passed through the Senate 27-1 on Monday the 15th.
  •  Expanding Student Privacy (SB 1558)- This bill passed through the Senate unanimously without one word of debate on Monday the 15th.
  •  K-12 Bullying (HB 4024)-  creates standardized systems of response, and documents cases of bullying, harassment, intimidation and cyberbullying. Passed out of committee will be moving to ways and means.
  •  Extending Profiling Task force (HB 4003) -Passed through House unanimously, and is awaiting a hearing and work session in Senate Judiciary.


  • Equities Bill (HJR 203– would allow universities to be able to invest in stocks; is a ballot measure referral to change the constitution to reflect current statute) – This ballot measure referral has passed out of the House chamber almost unanimously. HJR has a lot of support from members because they have technically already supported Universities being able to invest in stocks when they passed SB 270 in 2013. At this time because of the overwhelming support to pass this legislation in order to make the constitution mirror legislation it’s your staff’s recommendation that we do not spend any more capacity fighting this legislation.



By Mario Parker Milligan, Executive Director of the Oregon Student Association and Nikki Fisher, Executive Director of the Oregon Bus Project

[button color=”#COLOR_CODE” background=”#COLOR_CODE” size=”medium” src=”″] Contact Your Legislators and Ask Them to Support SB 1586[/button]

In Oregon, we modernized our voting system to allow for online voter registration, vote by mail, and when there are limitations, it’s been our motto to find solutions.

We did it last legislative session with Oregon Motor Voter. We know voter registration continues to be a barrier for individuals to access a ballot. We worked with then Secretary of State Kate Brown, and proposed a solution. We became the first state to proclaim:  If you are an eligible voter, and want to vote,  it is our policy to get you a ballot. From now on, when you go to the DMV, you’ll be registered to vote without any extra steps needed (unless you choose to opt out).

As leading nonprofits working to register, educate and mobilize young voters, Oregon Student Association and the Bus Project are working together to find real solutions to barriers to the ballot. This short session, we have an opportunity to pass a bill that has a real and sensible solution to an urgent problem.

The problem: Many Oregonians are excluded from the voting process because of the requirement of postage stamps on ballots.

We need to do more to ensure all young, eligible voters have access to the polls. When we ask young people if they have a postage stamp, many of them respond with a laugh, confused face, or just say no. Because technology has changed from predominately a world where we pay our bills online, bank online, and do transaction in a more digital world, it has made acquiring a postage stamp impractical. There is a barrier set up that prevents young and low income people from voting. Because post offices have been closing, many Oregonians must go out of their way to purchase a stamp in order to cast a ballot. Millennials often go to school, work multiple jobs, and are not available to go to the post office during business hours, leaving them with few options.

The Oregon Student Associations and the Bus Project have registered hundreds of thousands of Oregonians to vote over the last decade. We want to know when we register voters, that it is an easy, sensible, and empowering experience. Our organizations have a long history with making voter registration more accessible. We helped fight for pre-registration of 17 year olds, online voter registration, and Oregon Motor Voter.

Rural Oregonians who have even less opportunities to purchase postage stamps can benefit a great deal from this. Disadvantaged young people, working parents, and folks living on a fixed income would also benefit from this solution. We would also continue setting precedence for increasing access to our democracy. We think this is the best option to help equalize the playing field and give a voice to everyone. Take action today and tell your legislators to remove barriers to the ballot HERE.

A Great Session for Oregon College Students!

This has been a great legislative session for Oregon college students! We have passed ALL of our top priority policy bills! We have had huge wins and it was all because of the amazing organizing and advocacy work students did this session. Thank you for all your hard work!!

Mid-Session Policy Update 2015

Oregon Students,

The legislative session is now half way through and Oregon Students have a lot to show for it.  All of our top priority legislative policies are alive and moving, several 2nd chamber hearings are scheduled for the coming weeks and most of our 2nd priority bills are moving as well.  All of this is possible because of the amazing work students did last year to register, educate and turn out students to vote AND because students keep showing up in Salem to display authentic advocacy.  We have to have this same level of detail and intentionality to move these through to the finish line before we can really celebrate each win.  For now, please know the work you have been doing in the field (on-campus) is working in the building (the Capitol).  Keep up the phenomenal work!

In solidarity,


Below you will find an update on all of those plus an update on bills the association has come out against this session.  A thorough update on OSA’s budget priorities will be available in the coming weeks.


Top Priority Bills

New Motor Voter : HB 2177

Requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide information of eligible voters to the Secretary of State for purposes of registering to vote and/or updating existing voter registration information of individuals. This law essentially automatically registers people to vote and updates their registration information any time they update with the DMV.  This law was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Brown and is expected to add around 300,000 to the voter rolls by the 2016 general election.

Status: Signed by Governor Kate Brown 3/16/15

Cultural Competency: HB 3308

This bill would direct the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to convene a work group to develop recommendations, cost, and efficacy of cultural competency continuing education.  The first public hearing went successfully with students from various institutions sharing personal experiences they’ve faced which have negatively impacted their college careers and personal health.  Committee members expressed concern the bill didn’t go far enough and wouldn’t address the immediate needs of students.  OSA worked with the HECC to draft amendments to include 1st Generation Students in the frame work of the work group’s directives and extended the report back from Sept. 2015 to May of 2016.

Status: Passed House with bipartisan support, Hearing scheduled in Senate Committee on Education for Thursday 5/7/15 at 1pm

 Survivor – Advocate Privilege: HB 3476

This is one of two priority bills which address sexual assault and sexual violence that OSA is prioritizing this session.  This bill would grant trained advocates privileged communications between victims of sexual and domestic violence.  When passed this would create a confidential resource on and off campus for victims of sexual assault.  Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum among a large group of bipartisan legislators has spoken out loudly for this bill’s passage.  Along with the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Oregon Law Center, and the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force, OSA has made this issue a priority for legislative leadership within both chambers and both parties and is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor.

Status: Passed House unanimously, referred to Senate Judiciary, no public hearing scheduled

Campus Sexual Assault Protocols: SB 759

This bill has garnered widespread support of legislators and has been championed by Senator Sara Gelser (D –Corvallis/ Albany).  The first public hearing went very well for supporters and has helped user this bill through the Senate. OSA worked with Sen. Gelser to amend the bill completely to include all public and private post-secondary institutions based in Oregon.  The bill requires colleges and universities to provide written notification to victims of sexual assault of their legal rights to recourse on and off campus, privacy limitations they face when seeing a counselor or therapist on campus, and resources available to them on and off campus.  This bill passed Senate Education with a do pass recommendation and passed the Senate unanimously.

Status: Passed Senate unanimously, Hearing scheduled in House Committee on Higher Education, Innovation, and Workforce Development for Monday 5/4/15

LGBTQ Data Collection and Preferred 1st Name: SB 473

This is the second session OSA has worked on this issue.  We were able to pass this through the House in 2013 with then Representative Sara Gelser championing the issue.  Senator Gelser introduced this into Senate Education and worked with OSA pre-session to add the language allowing students to use a first name other than what is their legal first name on certain college documents, such as class lists, campus directories and student ID cards, as well as diplomas where not federally prohibited.  We had a great first hearing and were forced to amend the bill to ensure its survival in the Capitol. The amendments removed community colleges from the entire introduced version of the bill and created a new section directing them to work with the HECC to identify barriers to implementation and report back to the legislature by May 2016 with most low cost option to implement.    The committee adopted the amendments and passed the bill on a party line vote and sent the bill to Ways & Means due to an unforeseen fiscal impact statement of $53,000 by the HECC.  We have confirmation from the co-chairs of Ways and Means and leadership that this will be a priority to fund.

Status: Passed Senate Education, Referred to Joint Committee on Ways & Means, the fiscal attached to this will be rolled into the HECC budget and the bill sent to both chambers for a floor vote.

Access to Opportunity: SB 932

Our first hearing was a great example of under-promising and over-producing.  The coalition expected 30 people to attend the hearing and over 100 supporters showed up and filled the hearing room and most of the overflow space in the galleria.  Institutions and legislative leaders joined students and advocates to voice support for the bill that would expand eligibility of the Oregon Opportunity Grant to Tuition Equity students.  Additionally, the bill removes the requirement to enroll in university within 3 years of graduating from high school or receiving a GED and removes the 5 year period a student has to utilize Tuition Equity once enrolled in a university.  This bill received little opposition in committee and was passed to the Joint Committee on Ways & Means due to the $40,000 fiscal impact statement attached to the bill by the HECC in order to implement the Oregon Opportunity Grant Expansion.

Status: Passed Senate Education, Referred to Joint Committee on Ways & Means

2nd Priority Bills

Minimum Wage: HB 2009

This bill would increase Oregon’s minimum wage from the current $9.25 to $15 per hour in graduated steps by September 2018.  OSA joined a coalition of dozens of organizations calling on the legislature to increase Oregon’s minimum wages to something closer to a living wage.  The first hearings resulted in dozens of proponents and opponents to the change.  There are multiple proposals to increase the minimum wage; however this is the vehicle with the most momentum.  It’s unclear if legislative leadership will bring this bill to the floor for a vote.

Status: Public hearings and worksessions held in House Committee on Business and Labor, referred to House Committee on Rules.

Employment Related Day Care: HB 2015

OSA has worked with Speaker Kotek’s office to stay regularly updated on the progress of this bill and to lend support wherever is helpful. The Speaker’s office has carried most of the work on the bill so far and the outlook is positive. This bill has maintained the component that “permit[s] students enrolled in coursework and self-employed persons to receive subsidized employment-related child care.” OSA will continue to track this bill and work with the Speaker’s office.

Status: Passed House Human Services and Housing Committee and referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

Debt Collection Regulations:  HB 2252

This bill establishes requirements under which debt buyer may bring legal action to collect debt, including notice debt buyer must give to debtor. The bill makes violation unlawful collection practice. Increases time period during which debtor may bring action for unlawful collection practice and increases amount of damages court may award. Permits court to award attorney fees and costs to prevailing plaintiff. Permits award to prevailing defendant only if court finds plaintiff did not have objectively reasonable standard for bringing action. Students support this bill due to the impacts debt collection practices can have on an individual and family immediately and overtime.  Students believe this will increase accountability on debt collection agencies in Oregon.

Status: Public hearing and worksession held in House Committee on Consumer Protection and Government Effectiveness, passed out of committee without recommendation as to passage and referred to House Committee on Rules.  OSA will continue to support this bill and take direction from the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

Banning Conversion Therapy: HB 2307

OSA students testified in support of the bill and as a coalition partner recruited for public hearing days. We will continue to work will Basic Rights Oregon and other coalition partners on the bill as it now moves to the Senate. Significant organizing work has been done on this bill and the work has paid off. The outlook is positive and we will continue to work with coalition partners to pass the bill on the Senate side, including additional testimony.

Status: Passed the House, Passed Senate Committee on Human Services and Early Childhood, Referred to Senate President’s desk and awaiting a Senate Floor Vote.

Open Education Resources: HB 2871

Linked bills: HB 2513, HB 2516, these bill are no longer alive

OSA organized students to testify on Open Education resources for the public hearing on HB 2513 and 2516 on March 11th. After that public hearing members of the House Higher Education Committee formed a workgroup to take the different concepts/solutions around OERs and consolidate them into one approach. From that workgroup an amendment will be drafted to replace the language in HB 2871 with the proposed course of action that the workgroup decided on. From our conversations with workgroup members the bill will include about a $1 million allocation to the HECC to fund grants to institutions with OER programs that focus primarily on the most commonly taken courses and to hire a staff member for the HECC to coordinate and administer the OER program.

Status: Passed House Committee on Higher Education, Innovation, and Workforce Development, referred to Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

University Shared Services: HB 2611

OSA has provided support to this bill and has worked with higher education coalition partners. An amendment will be made to the bill to remove the University of Oregon from the risk management component of the shared services. OSA continues to track this bill closely.  We’ve followed the lead of our coalition partners and will continue to provide support as needed.

Status: Passed House Committee on Higher Education, Innovation, and Workforce Development with a do pass recommendation, Passed House Floor

Pay it Forward Pilot Program: HB 2662

OSA testified on this bill and submitted written testimony during the public hearing on March 6th. The organizing work to get the bill out of committee was substantial and the passage of the bill through the entire legislature is unlikely. We met recently with Sami Alloy from WFO to discuss strategy to move the bill forward. We will continue to work with the Working Families Organization (coalition lead) to track the progress of the bill and the organizing work that will be happening.

Status: Passed the House Higher Education Committee and referred to the House Revenue Committee with subsequent referral to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

Financial Aid Disbursement Contracts: HB 2832

Linked Bills: HB 2254, HB 3184, these are no longer ‘alive’ but contents were stuffed into HB 2832

OSA gave a presentation on campus debit cards and additional students testified on the Higher One bills on March 13th. After that hearing we continued to work with Representatives Holvey and Nathanson to develop amendments that bring all of the components of the three bills into a single bill. House Bill 2832 will become the vehicle for our student financial aid protection efforts. The amendments to the bill will include the requirement that contracts with third party financial aid firms are publicly available, prohibiting revenue sharing, prohibiting the $0.50 debit transaction fee, and prohibiting fees for receiving direct deposit or a paper check. The amendments will also require governing boards at public universities and community colleges to review contracts based on US Department of Education and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Standards and that the Shared Services Enterprise research methods for multiple institutions to collectively contract with a financial aid disbursement service. We are also in conversations with the lobbyist for Higher One about possible agreements.  However, OSA will need to actively work to build and maintain support for this bill and focus efforts in the Senate to build the necessary support to pass.

Status: Passed House, referred to Senate President’s desk for referral.

Affordable Baccalaureate Degree Act : HB 2973

OSA testified in support of the bill on March 9th. We have been meeting regularly with Representative Whisnant’s office and HECC staff to stay up to date on the bill and lend support where helpful. We worked with HECC to draft an amendment which changed the bill to create a HECC work group to research a fixed cost bachelor’s degree based on certain criteria and will report back during the 2016 session. OSA is supportive of participating in the work group the bill will create and will continue to track the bill in the Senate.

Status: Passed from the House Committee on Higher Education, Innovation, and Workforce Development with amendments, passed the House, Hearing scheduled in Senate Committee on Education 5/12/15.

Student Loan Interest Tax Subtraction Increase: HB 3342

OSA testified in support of this bill on March 18th and has been working with Representative Rayfield’s office to track the development and progress of the legislation.  We’ve seen both vocal supporters and opponents of this bill. There will be an amendment to the bill that raises the income cap to receive tax deduction benefits and to simultaneously lower the home mortgage interest rate deduction cap to maintain the revenue neutral nature of the bill. Moving forward OSA will continue to work with Representative Rayfield’s office on the strategy to maintain the necessary votes in the House to pass the bill and to build the necessary support in the Senate.

Status: Passed House Committee on Higher Education, Innovation, and Workforce Development, referred to House Committee on Revenue.

Student Whistleblower Protection Act: HB 3371

The bill is introduced as the “Student Whistleblower Protection Bill.” Representative Buckley has introduced the bill and Representative Holvey is championing the issue and coordinating as lead on the bill. We spoke to Rep. Holvey’s office on a separate matter and they brought this bill up and asked us to work with them on the issue. The bill has received strong bipartisan support as well as support from various institutions.

Status: Passed House with bipartisan support, Referred to Senate Committee on Judiciary

University and Community College Staffing Ratio Reports: SB 113

OSA provided testimony in support of the bill and we are continuing to work with Senator Dembrow’s office and higher education coalition partners on the bill. We’re taking lead from coalition partners and will continue to be supportive as needed.

Status: Passed Senate Committee on Education and referred to Joint Committee on Ways and Means

Good Samaritan Law: SB 839

Exempts specified persons from arrest and prosecution for certain offenses and for certain violations of terms of release or supervision if evidence of offense was obtained because emergency medical services or law enforcement agency was contacted to obtain necessary medical assistance due to drug-related overdose.

This bill is an expansion of a bill OSA worked with Rep. Doherty to pass in 2014, the Medical Amnesty for Minors Act of 2014 provided criminal exemption for people under the age of 21 seeking medical assistance in an alcohol related emergency.  This bill provides similar exemptions for individuals seeking medical assistance for another person experiencing a drug related-overdose.  This is picking up strong bipartisan support.

Status: Passed Senate with bipartisan support, referred to House Committee on Judiciary

Campaign Contributions Constitutional Amendment: SJR 5

This bill would place a measure on the 2016 general election ballot asking Oregon voters to amend the state’s constitution to give the legislature and the people of Oregon (through the initiative process) to establish campaign contributions for candidates for elected office.  Oregon’s constitution doesn’t allow for the state legislature to set limits so a constitutional amendment is required.  OSA submitted testimony in support of the joint resolution along with various organizations, a group of bipartisan legislators and Governor Brown.

Status: Hearing in Senate Committee on Rules held, no work session scheduled as of yet.


Bills Opposed

Community College Tuition Waiver: SB 81

Folks will remember this as the Free Community College bill.  This version of the free community college concept is a last-dollar-in approach, meaning that it would grant certain individuals a tuition waiver for the remaining balance of tuition and fees that weren’t covered by available Pell grants, Oregon Opportunity Grants, and scholarships.  Students debated and decided this concept wasn’t the deal students were willing to go to bat for and wouldn’t benefit the financially neediest of Oregon’s students and opposed the bill.  While there was considerable amount of opposition to the bill, no organization has backed this legislation and several legislators have spoken out against it.  Though it passed committee its apparent the funding for this concept is not a high priority for Ways and Means co-chairs.

Status: Passed Senate Committee on Education, referred to Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

Oregon Education Investment Board Sunset Removal: SB 215

Since this bill was first introduced and hearings held a workgroup was convened at the order of Senate Education Committee Chair Senator Roblan.  The work group has met nearly every week since early March to develop amendments and discuss the future of what is the Oregon Education Investment Board agency now.  Amendments included dissolve the current board, extends the sunset by 4 years on the agency (which includes 5 staff), freezes the OEIBs budget of $20M and extends the current work group convening through the summer and fall to provide additional recommendations to the legislature by February 2016.  Your Legislative Director will continue to participate and monitor the work of this work group through this process.

Status: Public Hearing and Worksession held in Senate Education, Passed Committee and Referred to Senate Committee on Rules.

Missed Opportunities: Failed Bills

These bills didn’t make the 1st chamber deadline for one reason or another, none of which is due to a lack of organizing.  However, it is recommended that student leaders consider these for future sessions.  OSA staff has already begun discussing the future of these issues with their respective chief sponsors.

  • Student Loan Interest Tax Credit: SB 530
  • Student Loan Tax Subtraction: HB 2768
  • Community College Child Care Needs Assessment: HB 3407
  • Graduate Student Seat on Institutional Boards : HB 3237


Stop The Downpour of Student Debt

Oregon students attended the Ways and Means Education Subcommittee’s university budget hearing in Salem today and the community college budget hearing last week to advocate for more accessible and affordable higher education. They asked committee members to restore funding for university and community college budgets and stop the downpour of student debt.

Students demanded increases to higher education budgets including: $755 million for universities and $560 million for community colleges. These increased budget allocations will help stabilize funding for higher education in Oregon and prevent sharp tuition increases next year.

Reinvestment in higher education is badly needed. Oregon has a steady pattern of disinvestment from higher education and it is hurting students. Between 2002 and 2012, funding per student at Oregon decreased by 32%, from $5,663 to $3,650 in inflation adjusted dollars. This disinvestment has begun pricing students out of an education and causing them to go into increasing student debt. This year, 72% of Oregon students will graduate with student debt and the average student debt in Oregon is over $27,000. Total student debt in the United States increases by $2,853.88 per second.

Even now as students continue to struggle to pay for school, the state legislature is debating budgets that will put greater hardship on Oregon’s students by hiking tuition or eliminating services.

If tuition increased by 8% next year we would see the average Oregon student pay $706 more dollars per year in tuition. That is equivalent to 6 months of groceries for the average student. Tuition hikes like those being debated by our elected officials often force students to make tough choice about continuing their education. College students shouldn’t have to drown in debt to get a good education.

Coming Out For Social Justice: We are Powerful! We are Raising our Voices!


When the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed and enforced, it was the first time that African American communities became an electoral force in the South. For the first time in US history, communities of color had a foothold in our political system. This political power quickly resulted in policy victories that have helped our communities to address institutionalized racism and challenge our political subordination. Why then, in 2014, do Voting Rights seem so important?

“Voting Rights are a real battle of our time,” says Emma Kallaway, Executive Director of the Oregon Student Association. In the West, we are lucky to have some of the strongest laws in the country protecting our right to vote. In Oregon, for example, vote by mail results in high voter participation. But we know that there are still barriers to voting especially for underrepresented communities.”

Not everyone in our communities has access to voting. Some decision makers want to limit voter participation by passing laws that exclude specific individuals or by setting up barriers that impact communities broadly. People of color, young people, LGBTQ people, people living with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, low-income families, and the formerly incarcerated are often targets of this kind of legislation.

In June of 2014, the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court. When it passed it became easier for states to pass discriminatory voting rules. In just over 3 months, 53% of the states have passed voting restrictions including ending same day registration, purging voter rolls and limiting voting hours.

While people experiencing homelessness are eligible to vote, the system remains challenging to making this a reality. Having a consistent place to call home makes voting more accessible. For members of our communities experiencing homelessness, this is a serious barrier — especially for young people, students, and LGBTQ people of color.  LGBTQ youth of color experience homelessness at a rate far higher than their peers, often because their home environment becomes unstable or unsafe after they come out.  Among homeless youth nationally, 42% are LGBTQ and 65% are people of color.

Students face barriers to voting, including LGBTQ Students of Color. Moving an average of once a year, students need to re-register annually. Jennifer Gibbons, Equal rights Organizer at OSA shares, “Students have seen ballot drop sites moved out of our neighborhoods, their ID’s rejected and a weight of history telling us our vote doesn’t matter. LGBTQ communities and communities of color are growing, and registering students to vote is an important contribution in enfranchising our communities.” Oregonians have seen the rights of LGBTQ people debated on the ballot 35 times in the past thirty years. We’ve voted on racial equity, immigrant’s rights, worker’s rights and women’s rights. With this active of a ballot, students — and especially LGBTQ students of color — cannot afford to sit any elections out.

The Oregon Student Association (OSA) is a statewide organization that is a student-led that prioritizes advocacy and organizing to represent, serve and protect the collective interests of students in post-secondary education in Oregon.  Pledge to vote here this November 4th!

[button color=”white” background=”green” size=”large” src=””] PLEDGE TO VOTE![/button]

OSA Capitol Update from Washington D.C

Senator Merkley invited our Executive Director Emma Kallaway to D.C. to testify in front of the Senate Economic Subcommittee on Banking and Housing on June 6/25. Senator Elizabeth Warren was also present to ask questions.

Here are the links to her oral and written testimony.

The hearing was picked up by Time magazine.

As a member of the panel it was Emma’s job was to discuss the long term impacts of student loan debt on the US economy, convey her personal story, and share student stories. Emma took the invitation, only after asking if they wanted a current student leader. The Senator’s office wanted someone who had graduated from a public institution.

The next morning, Emma was invited to the Oregon only meeting in D.C on 6/26, entitled “Good Morning Oregon.” Senator Merkley’s staff was in attendance and Emma took the opportunity to advertise our voter registration efforts and lobby for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Later that day Emma attended the U.S Senate hearing on “sexual assault on college campuses.” The debate was informative. The politics of this important issue often boil down to what is the role of the institution to prevent and report. OSA students should develop a clear opinion on prevention and reporting as well as solutions before moving forward with lobbying on this issue in Oregon. Everyone on the panel agreed that sexual assault is drastically under reported. Members of the panel asked that lawmakers avoid further fixes to the crime of sexual assault that victimizes a person not just once but often twice. We need real policy and cultural changes on our college campuses.

Interestingly, the Cleary Act requires disclosure of this information in an annual security report. In Oregon we should review this and make a public document comparing the reports of different schools and consider using that report to lobby elected officials.

Emma spent the remainder of her time in Washington lobbing Congresswoman Bonamici, Congressman Schrader, and Congressman Defazio’s staff. 

End of Session Update – 2014

The Oregon Student Association had one of the most robust agendas in the 77th Legislative Session and had a presence in the capitol every single day.  Students organized multiple lobby days and actions calling attention to statewide issues students care about.  Students worked on proactive policies and defended the 2013 session budgets. Below is a synopsis of the accomplishments made by students and missed opportunities by the legislature.  OSA’s full 2014 End of Session Report will be published in the coming weeks.  This work could not have been made possible without the dedication of students statewide; from universities and community colleges making up a strong statewide nonpartisan student association.


House Bill 5201[1] was the omnibus budget reconciliation bill for the 2014 Legislative Session. This piece of legislation includes 2014 session budget decisions, technical adjustments, and actions approved by the Interim Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

Aspirations to College – HB 4116[2]

OSA worked alongside community colleges to pass HB 4116; which appropriated $750,000 from the General Fund to Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (for the current biennium) to increase the number of underserved, low-income, and first-generation college-bound students who enroll in community college.  This is an impactful budget win for students in a session where we didn’t see an investment over previous years in the Oregon Opportunity Grant or any additional tuition buy downs.  It also addresses some of our core values in advocating for traditionally underrepresented communities in higher education.

Oregon Opportunity Grant (OOG)

The committee increased funding for the OOG by $2.3 million from state Lottery Funds in the Oregon Student Access Commission’s (OSAC) budget.  This amount could provide an estimated 1,150 more grants to college students for the 2013-15 biennium. The committee did not restore any of the $2,332,612 General Fund that was reduced from OSAC’s adopted budget for the 2% supplemental ending balance holdback.

Oregon University System (OUS)

The committee approved a one-time General Fund appropriation of $2 million for the four technical and regional universities and Portland State University to fund new compensation agreements for classified staff.  The committee also approved a one-time $500,000 General Fund appropriation to both Eastern Oregon University and Southern Oregon University to assist those campuses for the remainder of the biennium as they address budget shortfalls.  These appropriations wouldn’t have been prioritized by the co-chairs without the consistent advocacy of OSA throughout the duration of the session.  This win will be celebrated by students profusely.

Employment Related Day Care (ERDC)

An increase of $2.2 million was approved by the committee and should allow the Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program to reach an average monthly caseload of 8,500 families over the last 12 months of the biennium.  This one-time funding increase is available due to a higher than anticipated amount of Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) carry forward revenue from the 2011-2013 biennium.  While this budget is larger than previous years there is a recognizable higher demand than the state can meet.  The work that OSA did to highlight the needs of student parents this session elevated the need to change the eligibility requirements for the ERDC.  OSA was able to work with other advocates and the legislature to develop and adopt the following budget note.

Budget Note:

The Oregon Department of Education – Early Learning Division’s Office of Child Care and the Department of Human Services will convene a workgroup of stakeholders to develop a set of policy recommendations on how best to modify the ERDC program to provide child care subsidies to working parents enrolled in post-secondary higher education. The agencies will report these recommendations back to the Emergency Board in May 2014; the expectation is that rulemaking to implement legislatively approved changes would follow soon after. Program elements to address within the recommendations should include eligibility criteria, work hour requirements, school attendance verification, academic standing expectations, limitations on assistance, TANF leavers, families having children with special needs, program exit income limits, child care quality, data reporting, caseload priorities, and program evaluation.

Community College Child Care – HB 4084:

OSA worked closely with Representative Jason Conger on House Bill 4084[3] for the first couple weeks of the session and was able to pass the bill through the House committee on Higher Ed.  Within the 1st week of session the fiscal impact statement revealed that th necessary appropriation was too steep to pass the bill. Furthermore, the Oregon Community College Association created political barriers to its passage. It was then that OSA decided to work with Family Forward Oregon on the solution described above.

Free Community College Research Bill: SB 1524

Senator Mark Hass introduced SB 1524[4]; a bill that directs the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to research the feasibility of providing 2 years of community college free tuition for recent resident high school graduates. This concept received national attention and will be a upcoming priority for the HECC. The bill wouldn’t have garnered the attention it did had students, staff, faculty and community members elevated it through our combined advocacy.  Through the next few months OSA will work closely with the HECC to ensure planning moves ahead and possibly decreasing the ever growing debt loads our students face.

OSA’s Policy Priorities

Governance Omnibus Bill – SB 1525[5] WUE amendment

Senate Bill 1525, Senator Mark Hass’s omnibus bill, made technical changes to SB 270 and HB 3120.  OSA also was able to pass an amendment to SB 1525 that clarified a barrier which kept out of state students from registering to vote in Oregon, where they live at least 9 months of the year. Those students are no longer in jeopardy of losing your eligibility for the Western Undergraduate Exchange if they register to vote in Oregon.

SECTION 11 of SB 1525:

The act of registering to vote by a student who is attending a post-secondary institution of education has no effect in determining that student’s eligibility to participate in the Western Undergraduate Exchange coordinated by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education established under ORS. 351.780.

Medical Amnesty: HB 4094[6]

OSA worked with Representative Doherty to pass a statewide Medical Amnesty bill.  House Bill 4094 passed through both chamber unanimously due to the work of students to build bipartisan support.  The bill allows immunity to minors in possession of alcohol if they are attempting to seek medical emergency services.  This will allow persons under the age of 21 to contact emergency services or law enforcement if they or a friend are in need of medical assistance.  This is a monumental win for students. One that sets the foundation for greater protections, without fear of legal retribution, a bill that will truly save lives.

Missed opportunities

Financial Aid Protections: HB 4102[7]

HB 4102 provided increased protections for student financial aid. Creating restrictions on the types of contracts campuses signed with 3rd party financial firms like HigherOne. This bill passed through the House and failed to gain enough support in the Senate.  Financial aid protection is a hot button topic right now and OSA used that public discourse to draw the attention of Oregon legislators.  We utilized informational hearings and aggressive lobbying efforts to exhaust all options for passing this bill. In the end Higher One and some of our public higher education institutions lobbied harder and prevailed in stalling the bill.  OSA will continue to support this work on campuses and by working with the US Department of Education through their rule making process in the near future.

Student Loan Tax Benefits: HB 4097[8]

HB 4097 would have created a student loan tax subtraction, allowing individuals who attended an Oregon university or community college to subtract 100% of the interest paid on their loans from their taxable state income.  This bill failed to gain the support of House Revenue committee chair Phil Barnhart due to an unknown Revenue Impact.  We will continue to work with chief sponsor Rep. Julie Parrish in the interim to craft similar legislation for the 2015 session.

Voter Registration Access Bill: SB 1581[9]

Senate Bill 1581 was a bill that would have granted unprecedented access on campuses for students for the purpose of nonpartisan voter registration.  This bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules where it was held up for a number of weeks before being amended by Senator Close and Senator Ferrioli. It passed the senate with strong bipartisan support (20-10) and despite intense organizing by OSA and supporters inside and outside of the building, failed to secure a required public hearing and work session before Sine Die on March 7th, 2014.  This issue was not lost because students didn’t try to pass it.  We pushed the bill to the final hours gaining new supporters and educating legislators on our issue. We lost because campus administrators avidly worked against us. We also lost because in the end students were splintered off by concerns that we did not have enough time to address. A bifurcation of our organization will always be a sure fire way to kill a bill.   We should however celebrate our organizing efforts and endurance on this topic. In the interim we will gain better access on our campuses and search for champions interested in protecting the electoral engagement of students.

Governance Improvements: HB 4147[10]

HB 4147 would have made improved our higher education governance system by adding a third student to the HECC and restoring the voting rights for all student commissioners. In addition, the bill would have added a 2nd student seat to institutional boards for universities; created by Senate Bill 270.  Finally, the bill would have created some local accountability for the institutional boards by giving student and faculty a path to removing a local board member. The formal review process allowed for the removal of any institutional board member if the student and faculty senates each pass a Vote of No Confidence by a 2/3rds majority.  This issue was tough for leadership and most rank and file legislators to wrap their heads around.  House leadership believed they negotiated a better deal for students in 2013 when they successfully placed a student, with voting rights, on each institutional board – only after removing the voting rights of students from the HECC.  We will continue to work with our legislative champions and leadership to improve governance in higher education in the interim.


The January Legislative Days were packed for The Oregon Student Association. Our priorities this week were lobbying efforts on our Financial Aid Protection bill, Good Samaritan legislation, governance reform, and electoral engagement access.

Lobby Visits

OSA executed over thirty meetings with legislators and leadership staff during the 3 Interim Committee Days.  Discussing issues from the Good Samaritan legislation about how the state can help increase reporting rates of alcohol poisoning to Higher One’s excessive fees and predatory marketing.  Lots of conversations were had regarding regional university governance and student representation on the Higher Education Coordinating Commission as well as how the institutions can increase voter registration efforts on college campuses.

Students from OSU, WOU, EOU, UO, and PSU made the trip to Salem during the committee days and spent several hours in hearings for Regional University Governance, Higher Education and Consumer Protections to name a few.  The OSA Legislative Director and Executive Director spent some time gaining new co-sponsors for our priority issues as well; including the Student Loan Tax Benefit, Governance and Voter Registration.  With the bill filing deadline approaching on Tuesday January 21st – many lobbyists, advocates and organizations were in the building shopping bills and getting members to sign on to concepts.  Although this isn’t the official beginning of the legislative session the feeling amongst everyone in the capitol is clear that the legislative session is in full swing. 

Confirmation of new House of Representative Member

Representative Barbara Smith Warner was confirmed early Wednesday afternoon – replacing Michael Dembrow – who was recently appointed to the state senate.

Racial Equity Report

“Facing Race: the 2013 Oregon Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity” is a multi-issue assessment of the 2013 legislative session, evaluating lawmaker’s commitment to advancing opportunity and addressing disparities affecting Oregonians of colorThe  report card was put together by the Western States Center. The Oregon Student Association along with many other advocacy groups signed on in support earlier this year and have taken an active role in it’s creation.

Oregon Student Access Commission

The Oregon Student Access Commission (OSAC) met on Friday 1/17/2014. The commission is helping the Higher Education Coordinating Commission decide how the Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon’s only need based aid program, will be allocated moving forward. They are going to answer hard questions. For example, should the OOG be allocated to everyone regardless of how small the grant will be or should we provided a more meaningful grant to a smaller number of people. The Oregon Student Association BOD Chair and Vice Chair brought forward similar questions to OSA General Assembly to aid OSAC in their efforts to meet the needs of students.

OSAC also reported that community college students are filing for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) this year at a higher right than last year. There is increased activity from all student segments for their Oregon Opportunity Grant.  OSAC is on track to allocate $54.5-55.5 million dollars this year and about 55 million+ for 2014-15. There are 34,000 recipients in 2013-14.  

Next steps

The short legislative session is scheduled to commence on Monday February 3rd.  By the end of that week we must have public hearings scheduled for all of our priorities or they will die.  Let’s continue to prepare for the session by holding issue and lobby trainings on campus and lay the groundwork needed to be as ready as possible for the quick 45 day session.


-Mario Parker-Milligan

Oregon Student Association Legislative Director