|Dear Friends and Neighbors, |
Southern Oregon families sent us to Salem for the 77th Legislative Session with a clear mission: Improve funding for education, help create good paying jobs, and improve access to higher education and job skills training. Now that we've had time to reflect on the Legislative Session, I'm proud to report that we delivered on Southern Oregon's priorities with a historic boost for K-12 funding, key investments for higher education and job training, and funding that will spur construction projects and job creation for our community. These are major victories for Southern Oregon.
For years, school districts in Southern Oregon and across the state have been forced to address budget shortfalls by shortening the length of the school year, laying off teachers, cutting art, music and after-school activities, and cramming students into larger classes. Needless to say, my number one goal this session was to increase funding for schools, and we delivered on this priority by passing a budget that reverses the trend of teacher layoffs and ballooning class sizes. The budget adds $1 billion in new resources for schools, our strongest education budget in nearly a decade.
Before the session began, I promised that I would do everything I could to support a healthy Oregon. One of my proudest moments this session was passing legislation that will lead to affordable, accessible health insurance for autistic children in Oregon. We also passed several pieces of legislation that will make the health care industry more efficient and cost effective – all good steps toward a healthier state and economy.
While working diligently on new health care policy for Oregonians, we continued to pave the way for Oregon's health care transformation. The new health insurance exchange program, Cover Oregon, will serve as a conduit for small business owners and individual consumers to save money on health insurance and take advantage of tax credits through the Affordable Care Act. The Cover Oregon website went live on October 1st, which allows Oregonians to compare and shop for insurance plans that begin coverage on January 1, 2014.
Our economy is growing slowly but steadily, and I've been working hard to pass legislation that helps small businesses grow and add good paying jobs in Southern Oregon. This session, I supported the bipartisan "Buy Oregon" bill that further encourages state agencies to buy Oregon-made products and ultimately helps create local jobs and revitalize our economy. We also saw a significant boon to Southern Oregon's economy when we were awarded an e-commerce zone designation by the State of Oregon's Business Development Department. Representative Buckley and I worked hard to gain this designation for Southern Oregon that will help e-commerce companies grow and encourage good paying jobs in Southern Oregon.
There is always more to do for Southern Oregon, but I'm proud that our added investment in education, small business, and the dramatic changes we have made in health care mean a healthier, more prosperous Oregon for the years to come.
I always like to hear your ideas, concerns and questions. Please get in touch by contacting my in-district office in Medford by phone (541) 282-6502 or by email email@example.com and visit my Facebook page for regular updates.
Dr. Alan Bates
Oregon Senate Democrats now have an external legislative blog and website where you can connect with your elected officials. Please visit us at www.orsenatemajority.org to learn more.