The Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC) endorsed a bold agenda to advance racial equity in the 2017 Legislative Session. Each bill prioritized by our members aims to address socioeconomic disparities, institutional racism and inequity in services affecting our communities. The Oregon Legislature has come a long way toward addressing racial disparities and creating more opportunities for all. In 2016, we also saw a record number of leaders of color elected by Oregonians to represent our communities in Salem. These are signs of progress. But, we still have a long way to go to overcome Oregon’s difficult history with racial inequality and exclusion.
On March 1st, over 150 advocates from communities of color met at the state capitol in Salem for CCC’s Legislative Advocacy Day. The day was an opportunity for community members to meet with their legislators to advocate for more affordable housing and tenant protections, greater investments in education, health care, protecting civil rights, and expanding economic and environmental justice. Many visited the legislature for the first time. Throughout the session, CCC members have also had the opportunity to testify in front of legislative committees on issues benefit our communities, like a bill to develop ethnic studies standards or creating a fund to invest in culturally-specific early learning. To advance racial justice for the long term, it’s imperative that we continue to work toward elevating the voices of communities of color in policy-making.
This year, the CCC is also leading the 2017 Legislative Report on Racial Equity. The 2017 report released this fall will be the fourth edition of the facing race series. It is a project of nine nonpartisan, community-based organizations dedicated to advancing racial equity through legislative advocacy. Our hope is that this report will encourage legislators to continue to engage with communities of color early and often. To be included in the report, a bill must be identified as a priority by communities of color and be explicit about addressing race, reduce or remove institutional barriers that lead to poor outcomes in communities of color, or protect against racial discrimination and violence. The following legislation was nominated for this year’s report.
- HB 2004: Prohibits landlord from terminating a tenancy without cause.
- HB 2845: Requires the Oregon Department of Education to develop statewide ethnic studies standards.
- HB 2864: Requires higher ed. institutions to provide ongoing culturally competency opportunities, create standards, and provide bi-annual reports on progress.
- HB 3066: Creates an early childhood equity fund to invest in culturally-specific early learning services.
- HB 2355: Provides a system to record and track data from officer-initiated pedestrian and traffic stops; mandates training; and reduces penalties for possessing a small amount of drugs.
- HB 3078: Improves safety and creates savings for the state by fixing the family sentencing alternative, reducing presumptive sentencing, removing mandatory minimums and reinvesting savings into supervision and treatment.
- HB 2232: Provides coverage for the full range of reproductive health services with zero out-of-pocket costs.
This session, we’ve seen significant progress on many of our priorities. The bills that require funding are just starting to be heard in the Ways and Means committee, while bills like HB 2004 and HB 2864 are on their way to the Senate floor for a final vote. With the 2017 Legislative Session wrapping up in July, our hope is that the legislature will take meaningful steps toward advancing racial justice and investing in Oregon’s future.