The legislative session ended earlier this month, bringing a close to a challenging session that began with a $1.8 billion shortfall. During the session, Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) worked to overcome those challenges playing an integral role in developing a plan to fully fund the Oregon Health Plan, pass important legislation that will strengthen our child welfare system, protect workers’ rights, and increase voter access to information about candidates.
“This was a difficult session and the outlook was not always bright and shiny. We are very pleased and proud of what we were able to achieve when looking back at the session and the obstacles it presented,” said Rayfield.
After a rollercoaster of a legislative session, some of Rayfield’s 2017 Legislative successes include:
Safeguarding Health Care for Oregonians
As Co-Chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services, Rayfield worked to develop the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) budget. OHA started the session with a $900 million shortfall, jeopardizing more than one million Oregonians' health care. After months of deliberation, Rayfield and several of his colleagues worked with stakeholders to develop a plan to shore-up this shortfall. This work was realized with passage of a comprehensive bi-partisan plan to fully fund the Oregon Health Plan effectively guaranteeing health care to more than one million Oregonians. (HB 5026)
Increasing Investment in Child Welfare
In his role as Co-Chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services, Rayfield and his colleagues created a budgetary package aimed at improving Oregon’s child welfare and foster care programs. The final Department of Human Services budget developed in Rayfield’s committee: increases child welfare staffing levels to decrease caseloads, adds mentor/educator support staff to decrease turnover, strengthens training and professional development to ensure quality services, and incentivizes and adds support for foster care families to help alleviate the foster parent shortage. These changes will help make sure children have the safe and reliable living situations they need to thrive. (HB 5526)
Increasing Voter Access to Information about Candidates
Rayfield believes that voters should have as much information as possible led to the development of this bill aimed at reducing barriers for candidates to file a Voter Pamphlet Statement (VPS). These barriers sometimes resulted in candidates with less resources choosing not to file a VPS - the primary means to communicate with voters. Rayfield’s bill reduced these barriers by exempting money paid for a VPS from the thresholds that would require the candidate to open a bank account, find a treasurer, and navigate through a complex filing process with the Secretary of State. The sources of any money spent on a VPS will still be disclosed under existing laws, but by reducing these barriers Rayfield hopes to see an increase in the information voters receive about candidates during an election. (HB 2586)
Reducing Recidivism by Fixing Lapses in Youth Parole and Probation Services
Rep. Andy Olson (R-Albany) and Rayfield teamed up again in a bipartisan effort to expand support services for youths as they re-enter the community. This bill ensures that youth offenders will have access to essential services like food, clothing, getting an ID, temporary housing, transportation and college applications when they return to their communities. This bill will help reduce recidivism among youth offenders. (HB 2579)
The Rural Workers Protection Act – Protecting Workers’ Rights
Rayfield also worked to protect workers from laws designed to undermine their rights. The Rural Workers Protection Act preempts local entities from adopting "right-to-work" policies. This bill makes sure only state and federal law can regulate issues dealing with private labor unions. It ensures that all Oregonian workers are provided the same protections around the state. Rayfield believes it is important to support and cultivate a strong middle class by protecting employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain. (SB 1040)
Eliminating Threat of Surprise Medical Bills
About a year ago, it was brought to Rayfield’s attention the number of Oregonians facing the burden of “surprise medical bills.” These bills originate from a patient’s visit to an in-network facility for care. While at their in-network facility, they get treated by a professional who is not in their network. After they leave, they receive a large bill from this out-of-network provider even though they took all necessary steps to ensure this would not happen, by going to an in-network facility. This legislation will protect consumers that receive these surprise bills by prohibiting billing them at an out-of-network rate. (HB 2339)
Among the successes, however, there were a number of bills that passed the House with overwhelming majorities but did not make it across the finish line in the Senate. Despite these setbacks, Rayfield remains committed to passing these bills in future sessions.
Shedding Light on Influence of Special Interests in the Capitol
Increasing transparency within the legislative process was one of the issues Rayfield devoted most of his time to this session. Unfortunately, the Senate stalled his efforts this legislative session (read the article here). Rayfield believes the public deserves to know what impact money and special interests has on our legislative process. (HB 2577)
Campaign Finance Reform
Rayfield’s bill would have increased transparency, reporting, and accountability in campaign finance. It would have also closed loopholes that can be used to mislead voters and incentivize bad actors. (HB 2584)
Small Donor Matching Program
The Small Donor Match Program Rayfield introduced would have allowed candidates to win elected office by only using small donations. With this program, if a candidate agrees to only accept small donations, these donations will qualify for matching money to level the playing field against campaigns run by large donors. This program will make ordinary Oregonians as powerful as large monied interests. As a result, priorities and concerns of regular Oregonians will come first and be better reflected in public policy. (HB 2578)
Among these accomplishments, the session also had a range of impressive accomplishments including passing a comprehensive transportation package.
“We accomplished a lot this session, but I don’t think anyone should be satisfied until we fully fund education, make meaningful traction on the housing crisis, and ensure that all Oregonians have access to the services and health care they need,” said Rayfield.