In a 2023 legislative session that brought a plethora of change, the University of Oregon still managed to gain funding for causes such as the Friendly Hall renovation project and the Public University Support Fund allocation.
This article first appeared on the University of Oregon's Government and Community Relations blog on June 26th.
2023 Session Overview
On Sunday, June 25, Oregon lawmakers adjourned the 2023 Legislative Session. The unprecedented turnover of leadership positions at the state level made for some growing pains. This was the first legislative session with a new governor, Tina Kotek, and with new presiding officers in both Chambers—Senate President Rob Wagner and Speaker of the House Dan Rayfield. Changes were felt beyond leadership with around 40 percent of the state legislators new to their seats this term and over half of the legislators experiencing their first in-person session.
As new leaders and legislators worked to find their bearings, the state faced a potential recession and major political disagreements over two bills related to abortion, gender-affirming care, and gun control. This disagreement eventually led to a six-week walkout by most of the Senate Republican caucus, which prevented quorum and any official business from being conducted on the Senate Floor. With less than two weeks left to complete the legislature’s business, the walkout ended with a comprise on the two bills involved.
A surprisingly positive May revenue forecast eased the pressure for many of public university funding requests, leading to some big wins for the University of Oregon, including nearly full funding for the Friendly Hall Deferred Maintenance and Renovation Project and a meaningful increase in the Public University Support Fund allocation.
Public University Advocacy
Jointly, the public universities in Oregon entered the session focused on priorities that would enhance students’ ability to succeed. Advocacy focused on securing $1.05 billion for the Public University Support Fund, a significant increase in investment for the Oregon Opportunity Grant, and full funding of the Oregon Tribal Grant. This was paired with a request for bonding to support the HECC’s capital construction list which included $90 million for Capital Improvement and Renewal (CI&R) and $488.2 million in Article XI-Q and Article XI-G bonds.
The University of Oregon and its supporters showed up in a major way to help fight for these priorities. More than 500 UO Advocates and supporters made over 4,500 connections to legislators this session to fight for students, including in-person and written testimony, legislative meetings, calls, emails, and attendance at town halls meetings and other events. Our presence was felt, and it created the momentum necessary to succeed in securing our requests.
Public University Funding
The State Legislature made significant investments in public universities this session. While Oregon still lags behind most other states in per-student public funding, this budget was a step in the right direction for higher education investment. There is a growing understanding of the need to support students throughout their educational careers so that they can be more successful during their time in school and be better prepared to find high-quality jobs and create innovations that will lead toward the future economy. This includes ensuring all Oregon students can afford a degree and having systems to support them on that journey.
Investments for public universities in the 2023 Legislative Session:
- Public University Support Fund: $1 Billion (11%+ increase over last biennium)
- Oregon Opportunity Grants: $308 Million (50% increase over current service level)
- Tribal Student Grants: $24 Million (current service level)
- Capital – CI&R: $100 Million
- University Innovation Research Fund: $10 Million
- Capital – Friendly Hall Renovation:$73,490,000 (97% of requested funds)
- State Programs (Oregon Office of Community Dispute Resolution, Domestic Violence Clinic, Labor Education & Research Center): $3.7 Million (current service level)
- Strong Start: $1.37 Million (UO's portion of $6.8 Million total)
- Sports Lottery: $1.34 Million (UO's portion of $18.3 Million total)
- Water Justice Grant:$500,000 (one-time allocation for redistribution via Just Futures Institute)
Policy Legislation with Significant Impact
While budgets were the public universities’ largest priorities this legislative session, several bills impact how universities operate campuses and serve students. Below is an abbreviated list of the most significant policy bills universities actively negotiated.
Significant bills that passed and will become law:
- University Governance Changes (SB 273) – Adds members, creates nomination process for appointments, creates policy changes.
- Outside Counsel Reporting (SB 355) – Simplifies the process for reporting the use of outside counsel.
- Fentanyl Testing Kits (HB 2395) – UO Student-led priority to decriminalize fentanyl testing and expand those allowed to administer overdose prevention measures.
- Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (HB 2049) – Creates a joint institute with UO, Oregon State University, and Portland State University housed at PSU to supplement the cybersecurity activities of the State including partnerships with cities, counties and K12 school districts.
- Campus Sexual Assault Surveys (HB 3456) – Creates university requirements for sexual assault victims and requires a survey.
- Apprenticeship Requirements (HB 2649) – Creates requirements on publicly bonded projects with a contract price over $750k.
- Prohibition on Transcript Holds (SB 424) - Prohibits denial of transcript to current or former students due to debt owed to the institution.
- Changes to Part-Time Faculty Health Care (HB 2611 and HB 2740) – Creates a standard process for qualification of an employee for part-time faculty health care and adds dental and vision care to benefits.
- Data Privacy (SB 619) – Will have impacts on donor information stored by the UO Foundation.
Bills of significance that did not pass:
- Protect Local Journalism Act (HB 2605) - Funded a path to support and study local journalism throughout the state via the Agora Journalism Center.
- State of Sport (HB 3250) – Created a Task Force to make recommendations to grow business in athletics, team sports and recreation ecosystems in Oregon. UO is part of a coalition that drafted the initial report with Portland Business Alliance.
- Sporting Event Conduct (HB 2472) – Creates specific requirements on universities about fan conduct at sporting events.