Social Policy 
By Marge Easley, Bill Walsh, Nancy Donovan, Karen Nibler and Debbie Aiona, Social Policy Portfolio

Gun Safety (Marge Easley)

A major victory for gun safety advocates occurred on May 5 with the passage of SB 554 B on a vote of 17 to 7. Six Republican senators were either absent or excused, and Sen. Betsy Johnson was the sole dissenting Democrat. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature. Because the emergency clause was removed from the bill during negotiations, it is possible that opponents will force a referendum on the bill in 2022. The bill is a combination of two gun safety concepts. It requires gun owners to safety secure their firearms when not in use and face civil penalties if they fail to do so. It also bans firearms, even for Concealed Handgun License (CHL) holders, in the State Capitol and PDX terminals and allows the governing boards of Oregon universities, community colleges, and school districts to pass their own rules to do so. CHL holders retain the right to carry in all other local public buildings.

On April 29, Lift Every Voice Oregon announced the filing of two gun safety initiative petitions for the November 2022 General Election. IP 17 would ban the sale of large capacity magazines; call for a permit-to-purchase qualification, good for five years, with a thorough background check, training, and testing; and call for complete background checks at the time of purchase from any dealer of any gun before transfer, thus closing the "Charleston Loophole." IP 18, called the “The Reduction of Harm from Weapons Act,” would ban the sale and transfer of semi-automatic assault firearms in Oregon and restrict the use and registration of those already in circulation.

Healthcare (Bill Walsh)

The steady work of the Senate Health Care (SHC) and House Health Care (HCC) Committees this week was highlighted by the Public Hearing on SJR 12 in HHC.

SJR 12, the HOPE (Healthcare Options Provided Efficiently) Amendment was originally written by Rep. Mitch Greenlick (RIP). It proposes an amendment to the Oregon Constitution requiring the state to ensure residents have access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate, and affordable health care and to balance funding of public education and other essential public services, and to put the matter before the voters as a Ballot Measure at the next general election.* Testimony was positive but Rep. Hayden argued that it was possible that passage could be a state mandate for counties and local governments to participate in funding.

HHC also held Public Hearings on SB 558 A, prohibiting insurance policy in the Oregon Health Program (OHP) to require mail order drugs, rather, allowing local pharmacies to also fill or refill prescriptions in order to increase access, especially in rural areas. SB 560 A requires insurers to count payments made on behalf of enrollees, e.g. discount coupons, to count toward out-of-pocket maximums. Cambia, Moda Health, and Association of Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) opposed the bill, claiming cost-shifting, but it was supported by Kaiser and patient advocates. SB 629 allows pharmacists to use telepharmacy to deliver services, especially in remote areas. SB 64 A combines OHA housekeeping matters and realigns with federal and local health department responsibilities.

SHC passed HB 2360 A, which prohibits hospitals from requiring patients to sign up for OHP to receive treatment. SHC held Public Hearings on HB 2517 A, requiring OHA to track and report on prior authorizations by Community Care Organizations (CCOs) annually. HB 2619 authorizes the Health Licensing Office to issue licenses to practice genetic counseling to qualified applicants. HB 2623 A allows Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to use transportation services for police dogs injured in line of service as long as humans are not being transported first. HB 2965 changes the deadline for Local Health Departments (LHD) to submit their modernization plans from 2023 to 2025 due to the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic. HB 3016 adds requirements for suspension of hospital nursing staffing plan during emergencies like the pandemic. HB2958 allows pharmacists to prescribe daily PrEP and PEP for emergency drugs related to AIDS.

*The proposed HOPE amendment in HJR 12 reads:

SECTION 47. (1) It is the obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.

(2) The obligation of the state described in subsection (1) of this section must be balanced against the public interest in funding public schools and other essential public services, and any remedy arising from an action brought against the state to enforce the provisions of this section may not interfere with the balance described in this subsection.

The Joint Task Force for Universal Health Care May meeting again heard from Technical Advisory Groups (TAG) which have been assigned to deal with the tough issues that will lead to universal health care. The Benefits and Accountability TAG settled on the benefits package offered by the Public Employees Benefit Board, plus certain behavioral health benefits, and recommended no copays or premiums unless administration costs are very minimal. The Provider Payment TAG wants global budgets for hospitals, a refined fee-for-service payment system, and value-based payments in some circumstances. The Governance TAG foresees one risk-bearing entity at the state level to operate and oversee a public trust and regional entities with strong roles in implementation and policy-making. The Revenue and Finance TAG is still attempting to understand the spending flows presently in place and looking at shifting them, plus new sources of revenue, and researching federal waivers to free up funds presently being spent in Oregon. While the expectation is high that the Task Force will receive an extension and funding for another year, an Intermediate Strategies Group will prepare a report in case they have to finish by June 2021 before their work is complete.

There will be a Health Care Caucus at the State Convention on Monday, May 10 at 11 am. All Delegates are welcome to participate.

Public Safety 

BM 110 passage gives high priority to implementation of Behavioral Health Services.  HB 2316 A assigns funds for housing for behavioral health clients to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and HB 2949 A assigns funds for the behavioral health workforce. This bill’s recent -23 amendment stipulates funding for health care providers, grants for behavioral health supervision, and grants to community mental health and private practitioners.  The recommended amounts were staggering but the actual funding decisions will be made in the Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee.

The Oversight Council for implementation has already been meeting with the OHA Behavioral Health staff. Grant proposals are in process and due in May.  The start of grants is targeted for June 10. Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA) will be assigned to counties and tribes.  Access for the public to Oversight Council meetings is available online and recorded on Youtube.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard HB 2003 A on the Public Defense Services Commission.  The bill asks the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to establish a Public Defense Modernization Committee to examine alternative models of providing public defense services.  The 18 members will consider the retention of appointed attorneys, caseload size, delivery models and compensation. An initial report is due on 11-30-21 and final report is due 9-30-22.

 HB 2172 A on earned discharge from parole supervision was heard from the Department of Corrections. The Director of Community Corrections stated that incentives will be given to parolees to reduce their time on parole.  The bill may require more duties for parole officers but result in better long term results.

The Public Safety Ways and Means Subcommittee will be hearing public testimony on the Public Defense Services Commission Budget HB 5030 on May 10.  Public Defense programs and funding rates have been studied but the caseloads and remuneration have not been adjusted in recent sessions.  This session deadlines for modernization recommendations have been set.  The League will submit a letter supporting budget increases.  

Housing (Debbie Aiona and Nancy Donovan)

Congress recently passed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill to address our country’s COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing recession. The Housing and Community Services Department is applying for funding under this act and expects to receive $90 million. The funds would include direct mortgage payment assistance to homeowners.

HB 3127 appropriates money for recovery assistance related to the 2020 wildfire season, including infrastructure, economic, housing, and natural resources. The House Special Committee on Wildfire Recovery funding package includes $429,500,000 for housing rehabilitation, reconstruction replacement of homes, mobile homes, manufactured housing units, and temporary rental and relocation assistance. Public funds will be leveraged to acquire land for affordable housing, and to subsidize costs related to affordable housing.

The Oregon Legislature is considering two emergency bills to protect renters, and homeowners:

  • SB 282A would extend the grace period for repayment of residential rent accrued during the emergency period of April 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, until February 28, 2022. It prohibits residential landlords from reporting nonpayment of rent accrued during the emergency period to credit bureaus. Landlords also cannot screen prospective tenants based on nonpayment of rent accrued during the grace period. This is one of many important strategies to create greater protections and housing stability for Oregonians who rent their homes. The bill is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, May 11.

  • HB 2009A will reinstate Oregon's foreclosure moratorium to provide stability for homeowners who have been impacted due to the pandemic. In Oregon, a Household Pulse Survey, conducted in January 2021 by the U.S. Census Bureau, found that 7.2% of Oregonians with mortgages, or 133,355 households, were not caught up on mortgage payments. Also, 7.5% of all households with mortgages in Oregon, or 140,319 households, had slight or no confidence in their ability to pay their next month’s mortgage.

SB 852: The bill to reform the mortgage interest deduction to dedicate a greater portion of this housing subsidy to low- and moderate-income households is slated for a public hearing before the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee on Thursday. Write your representatives and tell them you support this bill.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Housing will hold a public hearing on SB 79, which makes changes to the language related to homeownership to provide grants and loans to individuals for down payment assistance and grants and technical assistance to increase homeownership among persons of color.

The Committee will also hold a work session on SB 458, which would allow land division to separate dwelling units for new missing middle housing allowed in cities. It applies to divisions that are permitted on or after July 1, 2022.

HB 2008 A: The House Committee on Revenue held a work session on HB 2008 this week. The bill would relax zoning requirements and provide a tax exemption for property owned or purchased by religious organizations if the property is used for affordable housing for households earning up to 60 percent of median family income. The housing must remain affordable for 60 years to qualify.

HB 2736 A: This bill would require landlords to notify their tenants about state and federal anti-discrimination laws and provide information on how to file complaints. The Bureau of Labor and Industries would be responsible for creating the informational notice. Additionally, in buildings with 11 or more units, this legislation would require that the notice be posted in a common area.

SB 291: On Thursday, the House Committee on Housing will hold a public hearing on SB 291. It would require landlords to conduct individualized assessments for people with a criminal history. If passed, this will help reduce barriers for people seeking stable housing options.

Immigration, Refugee, other Rights/Basic Needs (Claudia Keith)

Priority Bills - League testimony submitted:

SB 778 and SB 718 are supported by the Communities of Color Coalition.

SB 778 A Establishes the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement to implement and oversee statewide immigrant and refugee integration strategy. Directs the Governor to appoint director of office. Fiscal $1.4M, for 2021-23 Biennium, currently in Joint Ways & Means League Testimony

SB 718 Appropriates money from the General Fund to the Department of Human Services to award grants to refugee resettlement agencies to provide specified services to refugees. Work Session 4/8. Passed out of committee 4-1. Fiscal $4.3M, (requires $600k for employment services). In Joint W&M League Testimony

HB 3230 A Universal (Legal) Representation for persons in immigration matters. A number of coalitions support. (General Fund $15M, Includes Oregon Depart. Of Justice Funding). , League Testimony. In 2019 Innovation Law Lab: Press Release: ‘Statewide expansion of Oregon’s Universal Representation Immigrants Begin’. Supported by Fair Shot Oregon, In Joint W&Ms.

Active Bills we are Following, no League testimony planned at this time:

(New) HB 2526A Designates second Monday of October of each year as Indigenous Peoples' Day. In Senate Rules, public hearing May 4 and Work session was May 6, (3 aye,1 nay,2 excused,) as of 5/7 still in Rules awaiting transfer to desk.

(New) HB 3110A Requires the  board of directors of publicly traded corporation to have specified proportion of female directors and directors who are members of underrepresented communities. In Senate Labor and Business, public hearing was 5/6, 5/13 Public Hearing and possible Work session.

(New) HB 2583 A For cities only, eliminates any max number of non-related people per home, on the way to the governor for final approval. ’Oregon Joins Washington to allow use of more empty rooms’

HB 3265A The Sanctuary Promise Act. Work Session was 4/13. (7-3) in Joint W&M. Fiscal 3.5 FTE, $905k (2021-23 Biennium) Supported by a number of coalitions including the Rural Organizing Project and FairShotForALL. Read LWVOR and LWVUS 2020 immigration resolution.

SB 569 A Makes unlawful employment practice for the employer to require employee or prospective employee to possess or present a valid driver's license as a condition of employment or continuation of employment. Requires the employer to accept other forms of identification that are deemed acceptable for purposes of federal forms used to verify identification or employment authorization. Work Session was 3/16 Unanimous vote: 4/7 Senate votes 25-3-2, moved to House Business & Labor Policy with Public Hearing 5/10.

HB 3041 A at the request of Basic Rights Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle. Removes "gender identity" from the definition of "sexual orientation" in ORS 174.100 and creates a stand-alone definition of "gender identity" in ORS 174.100. Hearing 2/10, Work Session 3/30 Unanimous do pass with -1 4/15 House passed (52-2-4-2). First reading in the senate April 19. Senate Judiciary Committee Public Hearing was 4/29

SB 70 in Joint W&M since 3/1, Oregon Health Authority: Defines "regional health equity coalition" and "regional health equity coalition model." Requires Oregon Health Authority to work with regional health equity coalitions and groups utilizing regional health equity coalition model throughout the state fiscal $2M. Supported by OHEA.

SB398 A Hate/Bias Crime – ‘Ban the Noose’, work session was 3/10 with partisan vote. 3/26 moved with Recommendation ‘do pass’. 4/1 Senate vote 27-1. Referred to House Judiciary. Public Hearing was 5/4 with Work Session 5/11

HB 2508 A House passes (56-1-3). Adds Telemedicine to Oregon Health Authority. Requires Oregon Health Authority to ensure reimbursement of health services delivered using telemedicine. Modifies requirements for health benefit plan coverage of telemedicine. “…Improves access in rural Oregon to Health professionals…, Rep. Prusak, a Board Certified Registered Nurse and Family Nurse Practitioner, believes that by extending parity for telehealth services, the state will “be able to reach, and extend access, to citizens in rural and urban areas with mobility issues…”Legislature Press Release: ‘ House Democrats Lead on Increasing Telehealth Access for Vulnerable Populations’ - HB 2508 will make telehealth services accessible to Oregonians, especially rural, senior, BIPOC and LGBTQIIA+ communities. In Senate Cmt Health Care, Public Hearing was 4/26 and 4/28, Work Session 5/10.

HB 3010 now in Senate Labor & Business, 4/22 Public Hearing, with a 5/13 work session. Requires production companies seeking reimbursement under Oregon Production Investment Fund programs to perform certain actions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion with respect to production for which reimbursement is sought.

HB 3353 A: In Joint W&Ms. Requires Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to request approval from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow coordinated care organizations (CCOs) to spend three percent of their global budgets to address the needs of local communities to improve equity.