September 1, 2021

Filling the Room: API Community Showed Up and Spoke Up

The 2021 legislative long session ended on June 28, 2021. Oregon’s progressive character once again made an impression on national conversations around policies that impact us.

APANO intentionally selected to endorse bills that we knew were going to enact systemic changes that would influence our collective futures as Oregonians who are also Asian and Pacific Islander identified. Two out of three major priorities passed in 2021. This would have been impossible without you: our ever-growing APANO members and volunteers, coalition partners and leaders who made their voices heard all across Oregon.

While we have many highlights to uplift, we want to name the challenges that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) faced during this historic moment. From anti-Asian violence in our neighborhoods and across the states, to vaccination inequities disproportionately impacting BIPOC communities and essential workers, and many other issues, this particular session was truly an uphill battle. This, too, is part of what we have been working to address--and we will continue prioritizing your voices year-round.

APANO’s Priority Agenda

In 2021, the following priority bills passed:

  • Childcare Assistance Reform HB 3073 - Building a targeted universal childcare program designed with a focus on Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian-identified mothers, children, and providers by reforming the current Employment Related Day Care program and aligning all childcare programs under one agency that will ensure affordability by capping cost at 7% of family income and pay by enrollment, increase the flexibility of the program for parents to use outside of just work hours, expand to all children regardless of status, and protect eligibility for at least a year.
  • Oregon Clean Energy Opportunities:
  • HB 2842: Establishes Healthy Homes Program within the Oregon Health Authority to provide grants to entities to provide financial assistance to low income households and landlords.
  • HB 2475: Decrease utility costs for families already struggling in the economic recession by establishing a Low-Income Utility Rate Class.
  • HB 2021B: Create living-wage jobs in the renewable energy sector and invest in local energy projects that are good for communities and reduce pollution while achieving 100% clean energy as soon as possible.

Other notable victories that APANO supported:

  • Health Justice Recovery Act (SB 755)
  • Interpretation Accountability Act HB 2359: Requires health care providers to work with health care interpreters from health care interpreter registry operated by Oregon Health Authority to provide interpretation services.
  • Removing the Slavery Exception Clause in OR SJR 10: Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances.
  • COFA Tuition Equity SB 553 allows COFA citizens to pay in state tuition rate instead of out of state tuition rates once residency is established in Oregon.
  • Sanctuary Promise Act HB 3265 ensures that Oregon law enforcement and public entities cannot deny services, benefits, and other opportunities due to immigrant status or federal immigration action.
  • Youth Homelessness HB 2544 awards two-year grants to organizations that provide services to unaccompanied homeless youth and to organizations that operate host home projects for unaccompanied homeless youth.
  • Food Security for Students HB 2835 Requires each community college and public university to hire benefits navigator to assist students in determining eligibility and applying for federal, state and local benefits programs.
  • Oregon Dental Access HB 2528 supports increasing dental care access by permanently authorizing dental therapists.
  • Tenant COVID protection SB 282 extends grace period for repayment of residential rent accrued during emergency period of April 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, until February 28, 2022.
  • Building on the Student Success Act of 2019, this year’s SB 5513 strengthens the Student Success Act (delayed by COVID-19) with funding of $1.8B to create a more inclusive, equitable and racially just education system.
  • HB 2056 and SB 227

The journey continues:

  • COFA Medicaid Outreach and Education SB 706 Requires Oregon Health Authority to provide grant to organization to conduct outreach to citizens of island nations in Compact of Free Association residing in Oregon to enroll citizens of island nations in Compact of Free Association in medical assistance.
  • Ranked Choice Voting SB 791 and HB 2678 Establishes ranked choice voting as voting method for selecting winner of nomination for and election to nonpartisan state offices and county and city offices except where home rule charter applies.
  • Expansion of the Automatic Voter Registration HB 2499 Authorizes Department of Revenue to disclose address information from individual tax returns to Secretary of State to verify address of voters contained in voter record.
  • Equal Voter Access Act HB 2745 Requires voter registration cards and electronic voter registration system to include option for person to identify race, ethnicity and preferred language of person.
  • Restoration of Voting Rights SB 571 and HB 2366 Allows people convicted of felony to register to vote, update voter registration and vote in elections while incarcerated. By the end of the most recent legislative session, this bill was in a committee on the House side, and had already passed in the Senate.
  • Just Enforcement HB 2205 deputizes whistleblowers so that they can bring enforcement actions against employers that break labor laws on behalf of the state, if the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) cannot.
  • Universal Legal Representation HB 3230 would expand legal services to Oregonians at risk of deportation through use of massive collaboration through community-based lawyering and client empowerment.
  • Survivor Defendant Bill HB 2825 Requires sentencing court to consider as mitigation evidence defendant was subjected to domestic abuse that was significant factor in criminal behavior.
  • HJR 11 provides same-day voter registration.
  • Justice for All HB 2169 advocates for studying potential changes to criminal justice system directed by Racial Justice Council--approaching public safety and police accountability with a racial justice lens across all systems.

Predictably, advocating virtually was a much different endeavor than previous sessions. In any case, our APANO members showed immense compassion and strength by showing up on Zoom and making their stories heard. We met with our community in March for both a leadership training and Lobby Day of Action on Zoom. Throughout this session we collectively learned how to share our stories to legislators through oral and written testimony, and attending public hearings and lobbying individual legislators, signing numerous letters of support, sharing space in coalitions, and supporting our partners’ virtual training and lobbying efforts.

If 2020 exemplified our community’s resilience, may this year demonstrate our persistence. Legislative session 2021 is well over now, but we are just getting started.

This programming message brought to you by APANO, a 501(c)4 non-profit organization.