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  • NW Policy Advocates

Oregon Legislative Update – October 2023

Freight Train Coming Down the Tracks in 2024


Calm Before the Storm


The Capitol hallways are quiet now. This belies the enormous work and frantic activity taking place behind the scenes. Huge challenges await for the 2024 "Short" Legislative Session (which begins the first week of February, and is Constitutionally limited to 35 days).


Among the expected major issues:


  • Ballot Measure 110 Reform. Polls show public opposition to BM110 growing, and ballot initiatives are already being prepared to make major changes to the voter passed measure. Expect the Legislature (and a brand new Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response ) to craft an alternative. Legislators are also considering a package of funding for specific behavioral health investments (both capital construction as well as services/workforce). If you have "shovel ready" projects, please send them our way asap! Recriminalizing public use, possession and distribution of even small amounts of drugs is likely to be considered.

  • Housing / Homelessness Packages. Governor Tina Kotek has just proposed spending an additional $600 million on housing and homeless response programs (including $65 million for shelter operation). House and Senate Housing Committees are also working on outlines of their 2024 recommendations (of around $500 million), which will likely include both near term and mid-term funding for infrastructure to fast track construction of housing, especially for workforce housing (130% of AMI). Kotek Proposes Housing Funds .

  • Addressing shortfalls in agency specific funding (i.e. ODOT winter maintenance budgets).


Interim Legislative Days


The Legislature spent three information packed days in Salem, holding in-person hearings, meeting with constituents, and diving into topics that may be addressed during the 2024 Legislative Session. For instance,


  • The Senate Housing Committee heard updates about the Governor's Emergency Homelessness Response, the Housing Production Advisory Council (HPAC), and cities’ infrastructure needs. Committee Chair Jama said the committee will focus on housing production this short session. As of the end of July, only 40 households of the target 1225 had been rehoused, and only 88 of the 686 shelter beds had been created. Meanwhile, HPAC is meeting weekly to come up with recommendations by the end of the year. The Governor set a housing production target of increasing housing production by 80% to 36,000 homes/year.

  • The House Behavioral Health Committee plans to focus on overdose prevention. At least $5.6 million of the opioid settlement has reached local communities. State allocations are planned for the beginning of 2024. Chair Rob Nosse (D-Portland) also wants to review how the CCO model is working, and held an informational hearing on CCOs' record profits.

  • The Senate Finance and Revenue Committee discussed making revenue-neutral changes to the middle personal income tax rate. Currently single fliers making $10,00-125,000 and joint filers making $20,400-250,000 are taxed at 9%. The Committee is interested in breaking that middle income bracket into smaller brackets and taxing lower earners at a lower rate

  • DHS gave the House Committee on Human Services a report on the temporary lodging of children in the child welfare system. Director of the Child Welfare Division Aprille Flint-Gerner said we need more beds, additional capacity, more workforce, and better access to services. The agency also presented progress in the Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program, which is in the early implementation stage. Challenges include ongoing and sustainable funding needs, capacity-building support for continued expansion, and the need for long-term youth housing. The program has created a workgroup to reimagine its relationship with child welfare. Meanwhile, children's providers are planning to work with the Committee to introduce a major restructuring bill aimed at addressing the shocking revelations that DHS is paying upwards of $3,000 a day to put youth into unlicensed and unregulated Air BnB's.

 

High-Level Turnover About to Heat Up


Get ready to ramp up your outreach and education efforts because there will likely be a host of new faces in the Capitol in 2025.



Experienced legislators like Sen. Lynn Findley (retiring), as well leaders including Speaker Dan Rayfield (running for Attorney General) and Senate Ways & Means Committee Co-Chair Elizabeth Steiner (running for State Treasurer) will be leaving their legislative positions at the end of 2024.


 

Rare Recall Effort Fails


Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) survived – in overwhelming fashion – against a recall effort brought by the United Food and Commercial Workers. He prevailed with 90% of the vote. This was a closely watched election and seems to deal a blow to the influence of UFCW in the State Capitol. For more information: Holvey wins recall election.

 

Lam Research Wins Oregon CHIPS Funds


NWPA client Lam Research won a $22.1 million grant from the Oregon CHIPS Fund, which will enable it to expand its R&D operations in Tualatin and Sherwood. During an October Leg Day hearing, the Governor’s staff told the House Economic Development Committee it had hoped the Oregon CHIPS Fund would net $5-10 billion in capital investments. But companies' projections have far exceeded expectations.


The 15 selected companies receiving $240 million in state money project a net $43.8 billion in capital investments and the creation of 6,300 direct jobs. Contract negotiations will go through November, and funds are expected to begin reaching companies in the fall/winter. No projects requested land outside the urban growth boundary, so the Governor has not needed to use her authority to expand it. House Economic Development Committee Chair Janelle Bynum noted that the committee may introduce an omnibus bill for economic incentives in the short session. 

 

Transportation and Tolling Discussions Gain Attention


The newly created Transportation Planning Subcommittee held its first of 10 planned meetings to review the state’s three large transportation projects. The next three meetings will take place over the next few months in affected communities and focus on congestion management, tolls and gantry locations.


Future meetings will:


  • Review issues raised at local meetings; look at road system capacity, congestion and traffic;

  • Review issues raised at local meetings; review the expected outcomes of these projects;

  • Discuss gantry locations;

  • Review proposed tolls; other issues.


Sen. Brian Boquist said that he is frustrated that these “decisions” continue to be debated but that ODOT doesn't seem to be listening to community perspectives. ODOT acknowledged it has made mistakes and said it’s working on doing a better job of engaging with – and listening to – community partners.


In the larger Joint Ways & Means Subcommittee on Transportation, Senator Mark Meek (D-Clackamas County) spoke against tolling and left the room for votes on the I-5 Bridge Replacement and I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement reports out of frustration. Republicans opposed most ODOT grant applications. Sen. Meek claimed Clackamas County would pay for the majority of the Rose Quarter Improvement costs. Sen. Meek added, “My community has no trust in ODOT and the Highway Commission’s process on these.”

 

School-Based Health Center Advocacy


Almost half-way through the school year, one thing is becoming clear: anxiety, depression and health related issues are skyrocketing in our schools. This is contributing directly to absenteeism, challenges in academic performance and declining test scores.


School health centers are an evidence based model that directly addresses these challenges, and draws down a 4-1 match for each state dollar invested.


Education advocates, youth, school health professionals, community organizations have worked together to put together a proposal for 2024 which would enable more schools and students to take advantage of these services. The bill will include:


  • Funding for increased mental/behavioral health services.

  • Grants to an additional 10 school districts to gather community members together to put together the business plan and medical providers and prepare to open a school health center.

  • Capital funds to allow for construction of up to 10 modular school health centers, a more economical and efficient way to rapidly provide space for health centers for districts which complete the planning process.


Stay tuned for more information soon!

 

The Interim Is the Best Time to Advocate for Your Issues


We're busy driving around the state to meet with legislators one-on-one. This is the best time to meet with them to advocate your issues. You'll likely get more time with them, and have an opportunity to invite them to come visit you and your programs in person.


During our recent trip to Southern Oregon, we met with the Speaker of the House, 7 Representatives and 2 Senators up and down the I-5 corridor.


Recently, we visited the coast for meetings up and down the Highway 101 Corridor.

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