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Saundra Sorenson
Published: 19 January 2021

Oregon's Legislative Black, Indigenous, & People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus announced its agenda for 2021 on Wednesday, a follow-up to last summer’s call-to-action on police accountability.

“I have now served for over a decade, and I feel pretty confident saying that none of us have ever faced a session like the one we’re about to see,” Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) said in opening the press conference.

He warned that the White supremacist efforts that had driven the attack on the U.S. capitol and violent protests in the Oregon Capitol Building.

“But it also represents a historic moment for the members of the BIPOC caucus and Oregon’s communities of color,” Frederick said.

“Never before has the public conversation in the state been so focused on the legacies of racial inequality and the continuing impact of systemic racism on our society. And never before have the bodies of the Oregon Senate and House stood ready to take on those challenges.”

The 12-person BIPOC Caucus includes state representatives Teresa Alsonso Leon (D-Woodburn), Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas), Diego Hernandez (D-Portland), Mark Meek (D-Oregon City), Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland), Wlnsvey Campos (D-Aloha), Khan Pham (D-Portland), Ricki Ruiz (D-Gresham), and Frederick and fellow senators James Manning (D-Eugene) and Kayse Jama (D-East Portland). Jama, executive director of Unite Oregon, was selected by Multnomah and Clackamas county commissioners to fill the seat vacated by Shemia Fagan, now Oregon secretary of state.

“We stand here before you today to highlight 10 themes that reflect our caucus’s priorities for this session,” Bynum said. “Included under those themes are 40 pieces of legislation we’ve drafted in collaboration with community partners to move towards racial equity and inclusion in Oregon.”

The agenda is a follow-up to the list of recommendations the group, then called the People of Color Caucus, issued in June.

The BIPOC Caucus outlined its 10 themes:

  1. Police accountability: Hold police officers accountable to the community for racist conduct and behaviors that disproportionately target BIPOC populations.
  2. Criminal justice reform: Eliminate legalized slavery in Oregon's prison system; eliminate wealth transfers from our communities through the justice system.
  3. Economic opportunity: Provide targeted support for BIPOC workers and BIPOC-owned small businesses who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Education: Remove student achievement barriers at all levels by enhancing school environments, reducing overtesting and prioritizing student voices.
  5. BIPOC healthcare access: Expand and invest to provide access to culturally sensitive, linguistically appropriate mental, behavioral, physical and telehealth BIPOC providers, and acknowledge racism as a public health crisis.
  6. Housing and homeownership: Expand options for building housing and attaining homeownership. Provide communities a voice in property development.
  7. Expand access to democracy: ensure equitable access to the ballot and voting rights and ability to run for office.
  8. Equitable, welcoming, and transparent government: Make the Capitol more accessible to community, lobbyists, non-native English speakers and potential legislators.
  9. Revenue reform is a racial justice issue: BIPOC communities are disproportionately affected by an inequitable tax system.
  10. Protect and expand critical social services: Ensure equitable services and supports for the most vulnerable among us.

“This agenda was selected to highlight key priorities and principles from the broader list of bills that our caucus members and others have introduced,” Bynum said. “And that is reflective of the fact that we should always have an eye towards equity as we develop policy, asking the questions of who will this impact, who was consulted in its development, and what other barriers must be considered to ensure it achieves its desired outcomes?”

For a full list of bills highlighted in the agenda, visit https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bynum/Documents/Oregon%20BIPOC%20Caucus%20Legislative%20Agenda.pdf.

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