There are a lot of bills moving around the Capitol every session. In the past several years, we’ve seen an increase in mental-health-related bills and a favorable response by our legislators to address some of our most difficult challenges.
Every other year, the Oregon Legislative Session opens at the beginning of February and lasts until mid-July. In even-numbered years, there is a “short” session which is much shorter and addresses fewer bills. During these times, there are different committees made up of our elected Senate and House Representatives. These elected officials participate in hearings where many different people share their ideas about bills being considered. Lots of things can happen to bills at this time, like being amended, “killed,” or passed along to the next step. At a certain point, bills will move out of committee and be presented to the full Senate or House of Representative, depending on where each was first introduced (HB# means it started out in the House, SB# means it started in the Senate). The bills are voted on and if they pass, they are moved to the other side to be voted on there. If they pass both the House and the Senate, they go to the Governor to be signed into law. Remember School House Rock and Bill? Yeah, it’s like that. Click Bill up above to hear that catchy tune!
Once Bills are passed and the Governor signs them, they become law (“statute”) and will be assigned an ORS (Oregon Revised Statutes) number. For many, the next step will be to have “rules” developed (these can be found in the OARs (Oregon Administrative Rules). This is the place where more details are added that “operationalize” the law in practice.
Ways you can participate:
Tracking Bills and Committee Hearings – OLIS is the Oregon Legislative Information System and has a tremendous amount of information and guidance. You can subscribe to receive updates on specific bills and committee hearing agendas. Sign up for Capitol E-Subscribe to keep yourself informed.
Giving public testimony before a legislative committee can be an exciting and fulfilling experience and is one way you may influence the committee’s action on topics you care about. It also becomes part of the permanent record and may be used in future research. You may testify in person and/or submit written testimony.
Committees are the heart of Oregon’s legislative process – in a committee hearing, legislators are afforded the time to closely study measures that they are being asked to act upon. In the committee process, members of the committee hear from many people who either support or oppose the measure or may be providing important educational information.
Watch here to learn the ABCs of this process:
Connect with other people who are involved.
There are various groups that are providing support and coordination. If you would like to learn what options there are to get connected, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Call or visit your own elected officials.
Even if you live in a district that is represented by someone who is not on the committees that are responsible for the proposed bills you care about, they will eventually be voting on each one when the bills go from the committee they are assigned to and move to the House and Senate Floors (where full votes take place). You can call your Representative and Senator to urge them to support these bills and to inform them about what matters to you. They work for and respresent YOU and they can only know what you care about if you tell them.
Legislator Lookup To find out who your elected officials are and how to contact them, enter your address and get your district’s legislators.
Legislative Calendar This calendar has all the dates and deadlines of the session. You’ll want to stay in close monitoring of the bills that interest you so you know when and where their activities take place.
The Keny-Guyer Mental Health Work Group:
Alissa Keny-Guyer is a very active member of Oregon’s House of Representatives, representing District 46. In Fall of 2014, she paved the way for Jerry Gabay and Julie Magers to present testimony to the House Health Committee about their experiences navigating the mental health system to access care for their daughters. The testimony was very compelling and since that day, she’s worked with Jerry and Julie to champion “consumer-driven” health care improvements at the legislative level. After the highly successful 2015 session, Rep. Keny-Guyer convened a group to allow any stakeholders who took an interest in these efforts to participate in shaping these legislative efforts. The group quickly became informally referred to as the “Keny-Guyer Mental Health Workgroup.” If you are interested in getting on the mailing list to receive notices of activities and meetings, email rep.alissakenyguyer