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  • NW Policy Advocates

Oregon Legislative Update – 2024 Session – Week 3

"Half Way There"

It's time for a bit of celebration! The first deadline passed yesterday (February 19th). Bills from policy committees had to be passed by 5 p.m. Exempt from this rule are Rules, Revenue/Finance, Ways & Means (budget) and other Joint Committees. Several Committees went well beyond their allotted times, including the House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care, which took up several hotly contested bills, and had to recess three times for discussions among members before votes could occur.

Bills now move on for floor consideration or directly to the budget (Ways & Means) Committee.

Recriminalizing Drugs

The Joint Addiction Committee has yet to work its Ballot Measure 110 base bill (HB 4002) that would recriminalize possession and use, while protecting existing treatment programs. Last week, the Committee invited community partners to speak about their "deflection-like" programs, including Deschutes County's Holly Harris who highlighted their Stabilization Center's successes and partnership with local community providers (such as Best Care).

While the Committee praised funding programs, Sen. Steiner (D-Portland) asked the witnesses to talk about barriers besides money. "We're going to throw money at the problem and people are going to expect it to change overnight and it's not," she said. The speakers noted the system will take a long time to rebuild. Shovel ready project lists have been prepared, but appear to be waiting on an announcement from the Governor, who has tens of millions of dollars available for such projects, but has not yet shared how she will allocate the funds. The Legislature seems to be waiting for her decisions to be announced before unveiling their proposals for future funding.

Behavioral Health

Senate Judiciary unanimously "gut and stuffed" SB 1553 with a dash-1 amendment which prohibits drug use on public transit and passed it out of committee. See the link to the bill for all of the details!

Policy committees sent several bills to Ways & Means, including:

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

  • Task forces on Behavioral Health Workforce Safety (SB 1594, with $4.7 million to OHA and $1 million to United We Heal to help employers to implement safety measures); Specialty Courts (HB 4001); and Firearm Suicide Prevention (SB 1503); Youth Behavioral Health (HB 4151) to improve licensure for youth behavioral health service professions

  • The House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care passed HB4092, which requires a study on what it would take for Counties and their partners to be able to respond to state mandates. HB4092

The House Judiciary Committee worked HB 4097, which would modify the process for setting aside convictions, dismissals, citations and guilty except for insanity. The Committee ran out of time to get all of the amendments drafted, and instead passed it "as is" to the Rules Committee. Chair Kropf said it's a very important bill and he hopes it will pass this session.


"OHA's Slowness to Respond to Drug Crisis Stymies Care"

Capital Chronicle, February 18, 2024

"Last August, the Oregon Health Authority asked treatment providers to identify 'shovel ready' projects to help the state address the addiction crisis.

Within weeks, they submitted details on 16 residential projects that the state could fund. Many providers had already purchased or identified buildings, secured some funding from other sources and hired contractors or obtained cost estimates to renovate or expand existing facilities.

But they all are still waiting for a funding decision from the state, according to interviews and records obtained by the Capital Chronicle."


First Hurdle Cleared for School-Based Health Centers

House Behavioral Health and Health Care sent HB 4070 to Ways and Means. The bill comes from the Oregon School-Based Health Association, a long-term NWPA client, and would:

  • Provide $7.85 million in grants for critical school mental and behavioral health programs,

  • Include an inflationary adjustment for the nurses and clinicians who staff the centers (for the first time since 2011),

  • Give 10 communities the opportunity to explore whether an SBHC works for them (the "planning grant" process) and,

  • Issue $10 million in lottery bonds to fast track an innovative "modular" construction program proposed by Rep. Maxine Dexter.

It's an exciting and innovative bill which leverages funds 4 to 1, and would address the skyrocketing mental and behavioral health challenges our schools are seeing in this post-pandemic world.

Corporate Practice of Medicine

House Behavioral Health and Health Care debated Rep. Ben Bowman's (D-Tigard) HB 4130, the Corporate Practice of Medicine bill. After a lengthy debate and two "recesses," the Committee adopted the dash-6 amendment and sent it to the floor. Proponents say the bill will keep medical decisions in the hands of providers and out of private equity investors' hands. Others are concerned about it being poorly written and unclear, and wonder how it will affect current businesses in Oregon, particularly small, rural clinics. The 39 page amendment is wide ranging, but also includes a 7-year ramp up for companies to comply, or for changes to be made by future Legislative Sessions.

Rep. Bowman said the amendment makes minor technical changes to the base bill, mainly about how management services organizations and professional corporations will be regulated. Substantively it removes the transparency piece because a fiscal was attached, which Rep. Bowman said he hopes the Committee will take up in the 2025 Session. The bill passed by a wide majority, with only three (Republican) no votes.

Read The Capitol Chronicle's take on the bill.


Housing Bills Await Funding

Housing Committees sent several bills on to the budget committee, including NWPA client McMinnville's HB 4134, which will fund infrastructure for 13 "shovel-ready" housing projects in small cities. This NWPA client bill is an innovative way to skip the lengthy delays at OHCS and fast track funding to projects inside the UGB, dedicated to workforce housing, and ready to go!

HB 4099, also now in Ways and Means, will allow developers to defer paying system development charges, and create fund to reimburse cities in the case of defaults. This is a voluntary program.

HB 4063 adjusts Oregon Housing law and may serve as a base for key housing concepts.

SB 1537 is likely to be the foundation of a "package" considered by the body. The so-called "Governor's" bill is on the way to Ways & Means, along with a funding bill for housing infrastructure


Lawmakers Consider Redefining "Recreation" to Keep Public Trails Open

"A court case currently under review could shut down hundreds of parks in cities, counties and communities throughout Oregon. The issue is whether park operators could face lawsuits for incidents occurring within park boundaries. If so, operators would likely not be able to afford (or even secure) insurance, and might have to close parks. A key one year "fix" is working its way through the legislature, with a "-10" Amendment."


YOU Are the Best Lobbyist!

You can help us advocate for your issues by:

  1. Identifying your most important issues this Session

  2. Working to secure support from other organizations for your priorities

  3. Making time to reach out to/meet with legislators

During Session:

  1. Reviewing your bill tracking report each week (new bills are added regularly)

  2. Preparing letters or testimony to submit on priority bills

Find your legislator and their contact information

Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for (audience)? Why should they care (benefit)? What do I want them to do (call-to-action)?

Create a great offer by adding words like "free," "personalized," "complimentary," or "customized." A sense of urgency often helps readers take action, so consider inserting phrases like "for a limited time only" or "only 7 remaining!"

Here's one approach to lobbying . . . (we think he's in support of college students????)

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