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Veterans, schools winners from 2013 legislative session

With the legislative session now complete, I am very proud to report that legislation passed this session addresses many top priorities for East County: education funding, job creation and public safety, among many others.

My No. 1 goal this session was to increase education funding so that East County schools could begin to stop teacher layoffs, add back school days and reduce class sizes.

We delivered on this priority by passing the strongest education budget in nearly a decade, with an additional $1 billion in new resources for schools. This budget means that we are finally turning a corner by beginning to reverse the trend of teacher layoffs and ballooning class sizes — a major victory for East County. 

As our economy gets back on its feet, job creation remains a top issue. We passed a number of important bills that help grow jobs in Oregon. Particularly, the Legislature again improved access to capital for small businesses, increased the availability of industrial lands so that businesses can grow and expand in our state, and streamlined economic development programs that give businesses a jumpstart. We also increased transparency for “Buy Oregon,” a program that encourages state agencies to buy more Oregon-made products. This is a good step toward more transparency in government, and it’s a step toward ensuring this program is having a positive impact on Oregon businesses.

As always, I focused this session on the issues that directly impact East County families. Public safety remains a concern for our community. For years, I’ve fought to ensure we fully fund the East Metro Gang Enforcement Team (EMGET), which continues to keep our community safe by cracking down on gang violence and working directly with at-risk youth to prevent gang affiliation. We secured $1.7 million dollars for EMGET to continue its work - a win for public safety in East County. I also championed legislation to hold TriMet accountable to taxpayers, a good step to ensure TriMet services are delivering what our community needs most from public transportation.

As a nurse and chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, I took the lead this session to strengthen Oregon’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

One of the leading causes of death in Oregon, believe it or not, is prescription drug overdose, and this legislation addresses the issue of prescription drug overuse. Mental health and primary care is also a big concern across the state, and as our population ages and the need grows for health care in rural areas, we took steps to address health care workforce shortages and improve care across our state.

We also took steps to care for our veterans, including a bill that will help prevent suicides as our troops return home. We passed another bill that grants veterans in-state college tuition as they earn their undergraduate degree, provided they were honorably discharged and are in the state for 12 months within enrollment. This makes college more affordable and accessible for our veterans — and it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

While there is always more to do, today I am proud to report we’ve delivered on East County’s priorities with a historic boost for K-12 funding, key investments for higher education and job training, and funding that will spur construction projects and job creation for our community.

Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson is a nurse who has served East Multnomah County in the Oregon State Senate since 2004.

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