77th Oregon Legislative Assembly begins with education-focused State of the State Address

Dr. John Kitzhaber, governor, expressed great pride in Oregon’s citizen legislature in his State of the State address on Jan. 14, and the 77th assembly of that legislature he feels is off to an exciting start.

Kitzhaber hopes to focus the representatives’ and senators’ attentions on redirecting funds towards education. He claims that this reinvestment will directly lead to the economic recovery still needed in our state.

“We cannot settle for an uneven, unequal and hesitant recovery,” Kitzhaber said. “The word ‘recovery’ is warped if it is used at a time when the unemployment rate for white Oregonians is falling, but for African Americans and Latino Oregonians it continues to rise. The word ‘recovery’ is the wrong word to use for a state with a 24 percent child poverty rate.”

That being said, Kitzhaber is pleased that during the last session, the Oregon government balanced its budget and the state became the second fastest-growing economy in the United States.

In order to better fund education in Oregon, Kitzhaber proposed that the legislature pass policies which reduce the costs of health care and corrections, reform programs such as the Public Employees Retirement System to put more money directly into the classroom, and reform state taxes. Kitzhaber trusts that “the thoughtful deliberation of citizen legislators” will make this possible.

Tina Kotek, democratic representative from north Portland, was elected Speaker of the House during the inauguration of the new assembly. This makes her, according to Noah Manger, creative projects director of the Bus Project, the first openly gay house speaker in American history. In her acceptance speech, she announced that she gave an opening day gift to all her fellow representatives: a book of essays entitled “Towards One Oregon.” She hopes her colleagues will join her in a “book club, of sorts” to encourage active listening among policymakers.
Julie Parrish, Republican representative from West Linn, is beginning her second term representing District 37. She will continue serving as a member of the committee on education and co-vice chair of the committee on veterans’ affairs, and she will begin to serve on the committee on transportation and economic development.
“I’m thrilled to be able to keep being a voice for families who want to choose how education is delivered to their children,” Parrish posted on Facebook, “and of course, continuing to be a voice for veterans and their families is a personal passion. I think it’s going to be a good session.”