REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
National Association of Attorneys General Meeting
June 21, 2018
Thank you for inviting me to be here today to address such a distinguished group of Attorneys General and state justice department officials.
Welcome to the Beaver State and the Rose City. I hope you can enjoy a few of the fun things in Oregon while you’re here: our Willamette Valley wines, our craft beers, our fabulous ice cream, and our eccentric donuts. If food is not your wheelhouse, there’s always Powell’s Bookstore and the Lan Su Chinese Garden. And if you’re into shopping, we don’t have a sales tax.
Oregon is a wonderful place to live, work, and play. If you have an extra day or two here, make the short drive to the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, or the Coast — I promise, you won’t regret it.
Oregon has unique natural beauty. We also have a unique political culture — what’s come to be known as “The Oregon Way.” While our national political leaders seem stuck in rancor and gridlock. Here, our tradition is to find common ground and to work toward solutions.
The relationship of Governors and Attorneys General is a model of that cooperative tradition.
I have heard that in some states the relationships of Governors to elected Attorneys General are… uneasy. This certainly creates complications because the work and the portfolios of a Governor and an Attorney General are so intertwined.
Here in Oregon, we have been sued several times recently over policy matters, like how our Department of Corrections treats transgender inmates, whether our services for the developmentally disabled are sufficiently integrated into the community, and the unfortunate practice of temporarily housing foster youth in hotels.
In each of these cases, what the plaintiff wanted was a change in policy — which, as you all know, is my domain. But the forum for these disputes was the courthouse — thankfully, the Attorney General’s jurisdiction.
As a state, we successfully navigated these murky waters because of the positive relationship between my team and Attorney General Rosenblum’s team. My General Counsel meets with the Deputy Attorney General every week to go over areas of mutual concern, find opportunities for partnership, avoid pitfalls, and hash out disagreements.
And my staff is on the phone with the Attorney General’s staff almost every day to troubleshoot emerging issues.
I wish I could claim credit for this model of cooperation.
But I can’t.
I have worked in Oregon politics for almost 30 years and, as long as I can remember, the Offices of Governor and Attorney General in our state have worked together this way.
Remarkably, that has been true even when the offices were held by people of different political parties.
I am very grateful for my partnership with Attorney General Rosenblum.
The opportunities for us to work together have certainly increased in the past couple years, as we’ve seen drastic and unprecedented policy changes from the White House.
Changes that take our nation down a path I didn’t think we would see in our lifetimes.
Now, normally, I wouldn’t go into the political in a meeting like this. But I am reminded of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. : “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Obviously, this week, we have seen immigrant children taken from their families, and kept in warehouses, cages, and tents along the border.
We’ve heard small children crying out for their parents and relatives. Crying out for comfort, love, and safety.
It’s appalling that these children are being used as political pawns by the White House.
It’s abhorrent the President should then promote his executive order as some sort of victory.
This shouldn’t happen here.
This shouldn’t happen anywhere.
In Oregon, I’m determined to keep our state welcoming to all who this place home. I’m proud of Oregon’s Sanctuary Law, which was adopted over 30 years ago.
Last year, as the President announced a travel ban, a Muslim registry, and a crackdown along the border, I signed an executive order to strengthen our sanctuary status.
It extended the law to prevent state resources from implementing federal immigration law, and banned the creation of a "registry" to identify people based on religion.
And, in April of this year, I made it clear that the Oregon National Guard would not be used for political purposes along the border. Or to distract from the chaos and confusion of the Trump Administration.
As I have taken these steps, I appreciate the leadership of Attorney General Rosenblum. She’s continued to push back against the unjust, unconstitutional, and inhumane policies of the White House.
On behalf of Oregon, she joined with other states suing the administration over the travel ban, and, most recently, she has taken a stand against the separation of children from their families along the border.
And today, Attorney General Rosenblum and I are standing together again with partners from across the United States. We will defend the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of health coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
This decision by the Trump administration to abandon key elements of the law is a rejection of American voters’ voices.
It destabilizes our states’ insurance markets.
And it puts the health of tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions — including as many as 17 million children — at risk.
Here in Oregon, we are dedicated to expanding access to affordable care. We will not remain silent as Attorney General Sessions and the Trump Administration threaten to rip away healthcare from those who need it most.
I was once a practicing attorney. I can recall colleagues saying that the practice of law would be so much better if it weren’t for those pesky clients. Well, speaking today as one of those “pesky” clients, I am proud that Oregon is a model to the nation for a cooperative attorney-client relationship between the Governor and the Attorney General. Thank you, Ellen, for your partnership.
And thanks to the National Association of Attorneys General for giving me the opportunity to welcome you to our beautiful state.
Have a fruitful and engaging conference.