Oregon college students lobby legislators for two important bills

Eliott Coda - Oregon Student Association | Used by permission
Senator Janeen Sollman talks to students about Right to Repair

On February 14th, over 80 college students from all across the state flocked to the capitol in Salem to tell state legislators about two bills that are on their minds: HB 4162, the Student Emergency Needs Package, and SB 1596, the Right to Repair. If passed, both of these bills would have a big impact on Oregon students and their communities. Students met with over sixty legislators to ask for their support.

The Right to Repair Act would require manufacturing companies, like Apple, to make parts, tools, and information available so that Oregonians can more easily and affordably fix their electronics and appliances. Manufacturers often require consumers to go back to the manufacturer or one of their “authorized service providers” in order to repair their products. This can often be more expensive or inaccessible than going to a local repair shop or fixing a product yourself. Moreover, we throw away around 4,800  phones each day in Oregon. If everyone in Oregon was able to extend the life of their phone by one year, it would be the equivalent of taking 8,100 cars off the road in terms of carbon emissions. Giving Oregonians the Right to Repair will save families money, support local businesses, reduce e-waste and pollution, and close the digital divide by making electronics more affordable and accessible.

Eliott Coda - Oregon Student Association | Used by permission
Students talk with Senator Jeff Golden

Kikachi Akpakwu, a student at the University of Oregon shared a story with several legislators that is a great example of why Right to Repair is important – especially for students. Many textbooks are online, students do research and write papers on their computers. They send emails, turn in assignments, and register for classes online. When Kikachi needed to make repairs on her laptop, she had two options. The first was to somehow get all the way from Eugene to Portland without a car. There, Apple would repair her laptop for a steep cost. Her second option was to take her laptop to her local repair shop in Eugene where they could repair her computer for much cheaper – the caveat being that the functionality of her laptop would be reduced because of unnecessary practices that Apple puts in place to maintain their monopoly on repair. 

The Student Emergency Needs Package is a bipartisan effort to expand basic needs programming and affordable textbook initiatives at public universities. HB 4162 asks for $6 million in one time funds. This money would go to things like direct student aid, which includes housing vouchers, grocery store vouchers, transportation subsidies, childcare subsidies, and emergency funds. The funding would also go towards the expansion of programs for no-cost or low-cost textbooks. College is expensive enough as it is. Textbooks can cost up to hundreds of dollars and students should not have to experience food, housing, or other types of financial insecurity just because scholarships and financial aid programs fail to address the bulk of their basic needs. 

Marlena Fox, a student from the University of Oregon, reflected on a meeting with Representative Paul Evans’ chief of staff, Kathy Martin-Willis. “Kathy was very empathetic and informed about textbook affordability and Student Emergency Needs,” wrote Fox, “She said flat out: ‘Textbooks are out of control.’ The mention of UO’s lack of a food pantry on campus also piqued her interest.”

Students like Marlena were able to give legislators unique and personal examples that illustrated why they should support the Student Emergency Needs Package and Right to Repair. Right to Repair was passed on the Senate floor with a vote of 25 – 5 on Tuesday, February 20th and is scheduled for a hearing in the House on Monday February 26th. The Student Emergency Needs Package is currently awaiting a hearing on the Committee on Ways and Means.

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Brenna Stevens

Campaign Associate, OSPIRG

As the field associate at OSPIRG, Brenna works to engage members and assists the team with Right to Repair, health care and consumer protection campaigns. Brenna lives in Portland where she enjoys spending time outdoors and cooking.

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