The 83rd Oregon Legislature declared “sine die” (the conclusion of the legislative session) on June 25, just hours before the constitutional deadline to conduct business on the Senate floor and vote on bills and budgets. The six-week walkout by some Senators threatened to prevent votes on key state investment and policy bills that would help Oregonians continue to recover from the pandemic, improve infrastructure, and prepare against upcoming recessions.
A late-session compromise prompted the Senate to return to the floor and the Oregon Legislature was able to accomplish some important pieces of work. That work included earmarking millions for growing Oregon’s semiconductor economy, record-level funding for our public schools, a strong Early Learning and Literary Success budget, and designating funding for housing and homelessness and climate resilience. Link Oregon is particularly pleased to see the following outcomes—on the Oregon Broadband Bill and the Oregon Cybersecurity Center of Excellence Bill—that will support our key objectives going forward.
HB 3201 – Oregon Broadband Bill
Link Oregon Executive Director Steve Corbató participated in a 2022 broadband working group led by Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, that included a wide range of broadband stakeholders, including representatives from the Oregon Broadband Office (OBO), front-line community leaders, and public and private sector representatives. That effort produced Broadband Bill HB 3201, which was a top priority for Link Oregon as it serves to bring Oregon statute into alignment with eligibility requirements to receive millions in federal broadband funding.
During the session, Steve visited the capital several times and met with key legislators who are engaged with information technology and broadband policy. Link Oregon provided both written and verbal testimony in support of HB 3201 in both the House and Senate. After being amended in its Senate committee, HB 3201 passed out of committee in a near-unanimous vote, ultimately passed in a floor vote at the end of the session, and has been signed by Governor Kotek.
We also had the opportunity to present to the Joint Legislative Committee on Information Management and Technology about Link Oregon’s work and vision. Committee members asked good questions, discussed key points, and articulated their appreciation for the value of the Link Oregon network.
HB 2049 – Oregon Cybersecurity Center of Excellence Bill
Link Oregon also prioritized HB 2049, which establishes and funds the Oregon Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (OCCoE). The bill benefited from the active support of Technology Association of Oregon (TAO), many Oregon K-12 leaders, and other cybersecurity professionals. Link Oregon provided verbal and written testimony in support of the bill. Ultimately the legislature passed the bill and funded the OCCoE at the level of $4.9 million, which will allow the Center to get started on its work. As of this writing, the bill is on Governor Kotek’s desk awaiting her signature.
OCCoE will be based at Portland State University in close coordination with Oregon State University and the University of Oregon—three of Link Oregon’s founding members. The Center will provide oversight, coordination, funding, education, and training to raise awareness of the growing prevalence, impact, and evolution of cybersecurity threats. Importantly, this bill will enable the state to leverage upcoming targeted federal investments in this societally critical area. Oregon will also benefit through enhanced workforce development in the cybersecurity arena, positioning our state to leverage emerging cybersecurity-related technologies and services to protect the public, non-profit, and private sectors.
The next legislative session, a “short session,” will begin on February 1, 2024. The number of bills will be limited during this 35-day session – legislators can introduce two bills, committees can introduce three, and the Governor’s office and Chief Justice can each introduce three. The Senate President, Ways and Means, and the Rules and Conduct Committee are not subject to bill limits.
As the dust of the 2023 Legislative Session settles, we are turning our focus toward our 2024 legislative strategy. Our work will include continued outreach to legislators, engagement with the OBO’s grant program implementation, and relationship building with broadband providers and stakeholders in support of sustainable and equitable broadband infrastructure development and improved Internet access across the state.