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Oregon Legislative Update – 2024 Session Ends in Dramatic Fashion


Session Ends Early? Yes!


Oregon's Short Session ended earlier than expected. Legislators gaveled out shortly past 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 7 . More than 40 bills sailed across the finish line in the final hours, although several key bills crash landed (see below). The final action included a "Christmas tree" bill which added $465 million in raises for state employees, but little for key investments in youth programs or projects for many parts of rural and eastern Oregon.


Earlier in the week, the Legislature passed and sent the two key Session priorities - - - a large housing package and Ballot Measure 110 reform - - to the Governor's desk.


With the Session is over, it's time to get to work: Inviting Legislators for tours and meetings and spending time getting to know your first-term members and candidates needs to be at the top of our list moving forward.


But first, what happened this Session? Read on...





Broad Bipartisan Support to Recriminalize Drug Possession


Reforming Ballot Measure 110 (which voters passed three years ago) was a key priority of Lawmakers this year. After numerous hearings, many hours of closed door meetings, and several iterations of the bill, the Joint Addictions Committee developed a compromise, and the final version of HB 4002 passed the House 51-7 and Senate 21-7. It's a complicated mix of incentives (and potential criminal penalties), plus enhanced substance abuse treatment options. Counties will be assigned much of the task of implementing this new system. Of course, workforce in this area remains a key concern, and the bill attempts to address this issue as well.


While issues remain, the bill is likely to take a potential fall, 2024 ballot measure off the table.



Rep. Daniel Nguyen's (D-Lake Oswego) office's graphics explaining how the law will work


Behavioral Health Priorities and Funding


Legislators introduced dozens of concepts to improve behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment this session. Here are a few that advanced:


Passed:


  • HB 4150 – notifies providers of overdoses

  • SB 1553 – prohibits drug use on public transit

  • HB 4001 – creates a Task Force on Specialty Courts

  • SB 1503 – sets up a Firearm Suicide Prevention Task Force

  • HB4151– establishes a Youth Behavioral Health Workforce Subcommittee in the System of Care Advisory Council to improve licensure for youth behavioral health service professions

  • HB4092– requires a study on what it would take for counties and their partners to respond to state behavioral health mandates


The Legislature funded critical behavioral health and substance use disorder prevention and treatment programs in its "Christmas tree" bills (HB 4002/HB 5204). Some highlights for NWPA clients include:


  • $11.5 million to Bridgeway Recovery Services to develop the Bridgeway Medical Center and SUD treatment residential facilities.

  • $7.5 million for Aid & Assist, $14.6 million for Counties' Community Corrections, and funding for Deschutes County's Impacts program

  • $525,000 to expand detox capacity and $1.5 million to develop culturally specific SUD residential capacity in Central Oregon

  • $1.5 million for the Deschutes County Stabilization Center

  • Funding for Medically Assisted Treatment in Jails, a critical program for Counties which will now be responsible for many of the requirements of HB4002.


HB 5203 also allocates $18.3 million to the Problem Gambling Fund.


Other key bills and important funding requests mysteriously got stuck in Ways & Means.


Some may return in 2025:


  • SB 1592 – would have appropriated $6 million for 5 higher education schools to expand their existing programs to train the behavioral health workforce

  • SB 1594 Behavioral Health Workforce Safety Task Force (With $4.7 million to OHA and $1 million to United We Heal to help employers to implement safety measures)

  • HB 4097 – would have modified the process for setting aside convictions, dismissals, citations and guilty except for insanity

  • Funding for critical local projects, including Fire/EMS resources, transportation infrastructure for housing/homeless/RV resources in rural areas, etc. were left by the wayside, although Legislators are already promising to make these a priority in 10 months for the "long" session in 2025.

  • Dollars for special education students in the Metro area once again were not allocated.

  • HB 4070 – would have provided mental/behavioral health funding to schools with and without School Based Health Centers. The bill also included a workforce adjustment (for the first time since 2013), allowed up to 10 more school districts to plan for SBHCs, and incorporated an innovative "modular" SBHC construction program. Rep. Maxine Dexter (D-Portland) and her co-sponsors were dismayed that the bill did not move. The failure to move the bill was shocking. Rep. Dexter, Senator Sollman and others were true champions for kids this session, and pledged to continue the fight.


Read more details below:





Housing and Homelessness Funding


The Governor introduced just one bill this session, SB1537 which refined legislation that had failed on the last day of the 2023 Session. The bill includes numerous provisions designed to speed up housing approvals, give limited opportunities to Cities to expand their Urban Growth Boundaries , etc. SB1537 is the policy portion of the Governor's agenca. SB1530 (below) includes much of the funding to make all of this happen.


SB 1530 appropriates $279.6 million General Fund for housing-related projects, including:

  • $65 million for shelter support

  • $34 million for homelessness prevention services + $7 million to the Urban League

  • $5 million for Individual Development Accounts

  • $15 million to OHA's Healthy Homes Repair Fund

  • $18 million for housing projects for people recovering from SUD


It (and HB4134) also funds critical water, sewer and stormwater projects in Central Oregon, including:

  • $1.425 million to Madras

  • $2 million to Prineville

  • $2.5 million to Redmond

  • $1.3 million to Culver


HB 4134 and HB 4128 will help cities fund infrastructure projects to develop housing, including $2 million for the City of McMinnville. HB 4134, which passed and is now on the way to the Governor for her signature, includes funding for 4 cities, as well as key criteria requiring that projects: be inside the UGB, have completed land use evaluations, be ready for construction, and generate housing that critical workers can afford (teachers, fire, police, etc.). The funding will be fast-tracked (within 60 days) through "Business Oregon." Several projects from the original version of HB4128 were also included in SB1530.



Property Tax Foreclosure Discussion Dominates Final Days


One of the more complex bills of session, HB 4056, aimed to addresses the recent Supreme Court ruling Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota. Oregon must change its process for owners of tax foreclosed properties to claim any possible surplus funds. 


In the last week of Session, the bill had public hearings and work sessions in committees in both chambers. Lane and Deschutes Counties both testified and asked that Senate Revenue adopt the -6 amendment. Senators said there wasn't enough time left, and passed the bill as amended on the House side (with the -8 amendment). Senator Lynn Findley (R-Vale), noted the concerns expressed by Deschutes County and others, and voted no in Committee, pointing out the remaining concerns with the bill that should have been addressed. In spite of this, the bill eventually passed the Senate, and will now head to the Governor. Counties are already planning to jointly develop a model ordinance.



Child Welfare & Temporary Lodging

DHS received $25 million for temporary lodging (SB 5701) programs to keep youth out of hotels and Air B n Bs. It also funded treatment foster care services (TFCO) with $1.8 million, a program also designed to address higher acuity youth. The Legislature adopted a budget note tasking DHS with reporting back to the legislature in Sept. and Dec. 2024, based on previous requests from the NWPA's partner, the Alliance for Safe Kids & Healthy Familes.

Medical Examiners Shortage Study

Oregon is facing a medical examiner shortage. Testimony this month illustrated that Jackson County's medical examiner, for example, is 78 and covers seven counties.

 The Oregon State Police will study the causes and ways to address the shortage of Medical Examiners under a bill passed this session (HB 4003). Expect their report by October of 2025.

Juniper Water Bill Fix

SB 1501 includes the technical fix the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council needs to implement NWPA's 2023 Stream Restoration and Juniper Management Act, and should immediately eliminate the hold-up at the Dept. of Administrative Services. This has prevented COIC from working with Soil and Water Conservation Districts to identify additional potential funding sources for this important water conservation work throughout Central, Eastern and Southern Oregon.



"Corporate Practice of Medicine" Bill Dies On Final Day


One of the most contentious and confusing bills of Session supposedly sought to modify Oregon's laws governing ownership and "decision making" for medical clinics, doctors offices, and surgical centers. Originally aimed at Amazon's purchase of "One Medical" with offices in Oregon, as well as the Corvallis Clinic, the actual bill draft went much further than the sponsors claimed, sweeping in hundreds of other small and medium size clinics, restricting their ability to leverage investments in state of the art technology, and even requiring the sale of existing clinics to other large entities.



After less than an hour of public hearings and work session in House Health Committee, and with limited testimony and a short floor debate, the bill headed to the Senate.


Once in the Senate, HB 4130 was given a short hearing (during which a former


Oregon governor accused some Legislators, physicians/clinics and advocates of listening only to large greedy, international corporations), but again, witnesses were cut off. More than 18 who had signed up were not allowed to testify. The Chair cut off those witnesses, and then moved to adopt the bill. All expected the bill to move immediately to the Senate floor. But controversy and disagreement over the actual impact of the -15 amendment (which was adopted hastily by the Senate Committee), led to additional discussions among key Senate Leadership, and eventually, the failure of the bill to make it to the floor.


The final version of the bill would have regulated professional corporations in which physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and naturopaths deliver care. Every section had multiple exemptions and the bill had diverging definitions and contradictory language. It set out complex rules such as:


  • Licensees must hold the majority of shares and be the majority of directors

  • Shareholders/directors/officers could not also own shares in a management services organization (MSO)

  • A complicated formula for the use of "proxy" votes during board meetings

  • In case of violations, a requirement that the Secretary of State would dissolve the corporation or revoke their registration


The bill would also have voided most noncompetes, nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements for licensees.


Some argued that the actual impact of the bill would be to prevent ownership or engagement by one form of large organizations, while leaving only an option for the ownership or engagement by just another form of large organizations.


At the end of the day, and in a short session, the 39 page bill with 15 amendments and the contradictory statements were simply too complicated for the Legislature to tackle in such as short period of time.



The Lesson of Lists:


The Ways & Means process has shifted, and the two Presiding officers (Speaker and Senate President) as well as Committee staff (who appear to be the main decision making drivers in the budget process) seem to be relying far more on lists of projects developed outside of the Legislative process. Substance abuse bills, housing infrastructure projects, and even semiconductor workforce training bills this year were essentially "cut and paste" versions of these outside lists.


Is there a lesson here for future sessions? We think so!


Stay tuned and prepare to collaborate and engage with like minded partners to prepare lists in your areas in advance of the 2025 Session.


It's Time to Engage!


The end of the Session does not mean the end of the road.


Relationships with Legislators remain important, because the next Session is right around the corner.


Now is the time to begin scheduling meetings and tours, and inviting Legislators to learn more about your programs and hear about your priorities for 2025.




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