Legislative Report - November Interim
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Behavioral Health and Public Safety
By Karen Nibler
The Joint Interim Addiction and Community Response Committee held an in-depth discussion on the controlled substance crimes of unlawful possession, manufacture or delivery of illegal drugs during November interim legislative days. Felony and misdemeanor crimes were reviewed, and Class E possession of small amounts of drugs were explained under BM 110.
Sentencing for Class E violations (BM 110) could draw a fine of $45 to $100. Screening or treatment cancels the citation. Failure to respond draws no consequence. The police and sheriff representatives held that addiction and mental illness are health issues and they have no tools to abate. They need places to take drug users for services and need tools to shut down public use and open markets.
City and county law enforcement requested that the legislature consider new legal options for diversion and drug treatment. The BM 110 providers are not connected with law enforcement. The Court system has diversion and treatment options but the inadequate availability of public defenders continues to be problematic. Expect these issues to be examined in the 2024 legislative session.
Public Defense Services Commission
The Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee heard reports on PDSC salary plan increases and classification changes. In January new members will join the commission and the agency will move under Governor’s Office oversight. Current court system actions are to reduce the number of filings, speed up case disposition, hire additional attorneys, and increase the capacity of attorneys in the system. The Criminal Justice Commission staff are monitoring district plans and implementation now.
House Judiciary heard a progress report on a Restorative Justice Grant that serves crime victims in 7 areas for one year. The grant was set up and is monitored by the Criminal Justice Commission. The Mental Health Courts Workgroup is scheduled to report to the 2025 session on the civil commitment procedures and assisted outpatient treatment in the state court system. Statistics submitted showed 8,000 cases in 2022 with only 6% committed to the hospital, 15% in diversion programs, 29% dismissed after investigations, and 61% dismissed prior to investigation. The Oregon State Hospital has been at capacity due to Aid and Assist evaluations resulting in efforts to treat locally.
Community Mental Health Programs in counties bear the responsibility for patients discharged from the state hospital who need housing or secure facilities. State funding is needed for these services as well as case management. Marion County District Attorney commented on the numbers of homeless persons released from the OSH. Many of these patients are currently unserved in the Salem community without follow-up care after leaving the hospital. It was estimated that Marion County bears a $2 million cost for released patients.
School Based Health Center supporters testified in the House Behavioral Health Committee on the preventive services offered by nurses in school based health centers on public school campuses. The nurses managed chronic conditions, preventive options, mental health and physical health referrals. Continued funding for nurses is requested for school clinics.
Housing and Homelessness
By Debbie Aiona and Nancy Donovan
The Oregon Housing Alliance is gearing up to propose its 2024 legislative priorities and concepts. On 11/16 it held its annual membership meeting in Salem. Representing the League of Women Voters, a member of the Housing Alliance, were Nancy Donovan, LWV of Oregon and Beth Jacobi, LWV of Deschutes County. The following guest speakers provided overviews of the 2024 legislative session:
· Representative Maxine Dexter, Chair of the House Committee on Housing and Homelessness,
· Policy staff from Governor Kotek’s Office on Housing and Homelessness:
Housing and Homeless Initiative Director, Taylor Smiley Wolfe, and
Housing Advisor, Matthew Tschabold.
· Christopher Allanach from the Legislative Revenue Office reviewed the newly released 11/15 quarterly state revenue forecast.
The Housing Alliance presented their proposed 2024 legislative priorities and strategies below for the 2024 short session. The Housing Alliance did not ask meeting members to vote at this early juncture.
1. Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): $10-12 million from the general fund to provide Individual Development Accounts and financial education for additional 600-700 households statewide.
2. Housing Production: $7-15 million from the general fund, to be paired with the state’s Local Innovation and Fast Tract (LIFT) bonds to build new homes for first-time buyers in the state.
3. Mortgages for homebuyers with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to remove barriers to mortgage lending for borrowers to use their ITIN numbers to establish their identity.
Affordable Housing Preservation
1. $125 million to keep Oregonians housed by acquiring and or renovating buildings, including those with expiring affordability restrictions.
2. $2 million for tenant outreach, education, and resource navigation. Grants would enable community-based organizations to help residents in buildings that are scheduled to lose their affordability restrictions.
Homeless Prevention and Shelter Operations
1. (TBD) million to keep Oregonians housed by providing emergency rent assistance. Due to the high cost of rent, over 80% of evictions are for non-payment.
2. (TBD) million to maintain homeless shelter operations in Bend, Cottage Grove, Eugene, Medford, and Salem, which were established using American Rescue Plan Act money.
The Senate and House interim committees on housing and homelessness met during the Legislative Committee Days in early November. The topics below provide a preview of possible hot topics to be considered during the upcoming short session. Interim committees are authorized by the Legislative Assembly to study subjects between sessions.
The House Interim Committee on Housing and Homelessness held an interim informational meeting on 11/17. The housing and homeless topics presented by organizations are below.
· Medicaid 1115 Waiver Housing Component Implementation
· Homelessness Response Strategies
· Regional Homeless Services Coordination
· Land Readiness and Infrastructure in Cities
· Manufactured Housing: Stability and Affordability for Residents
· Urban Unincorporated Areas in Metro Counties Workgroup
The Senate Interim Committee on Housing and Development met on 11/6/2023. The following housing topics were discussed during the meeting.
· Statewide Eviction Landscape
· Joint Task Force on Addressing Racial Disparity in Homeownership
· Land Availability within the Faith Communities
By Claudia Keith
There continues to be growth in Oregon Immigration and Refugee populations that will affect a number of state agencies. This policy topic will likely not be addressed in 2024 however given the favorable revenue forecast additional funding may be added during the 2024 short session.
LWVUS Joins Letter Urging President to Finalize Rule on Health Coverage for DACA Recipients | League of Women Voters