Legislative Report - October 2022
By Nancy Donovan and Debbie Aiona
In the Oregon Housing and Community Services October update, the agency reported progress in meeting goals of their five-year statewide housing plan to address the state’s housing shortage. Developed in 2019, the plan’s focus is to expand the affordable housing supply in communities across Oregon. To help meet the plan’s goals the agency’s 2023-2025 budget request was the largest in the agency’s history: $775 million.
OHCS reported on highlights and progress made in its delivery of statewide housing plan goals:
Set a goal of increasing funding for housing in rural Oregon by 75%. With more than a year to go, OHCS has surpassed its goal by funding 3,612 affordable rental homes in rural areas, a 148% increase from the previous five-year 2014-2019 period.
Set a goal of funding 1,000 new permanent supportive homes. In 2022, the state exceeded that goal by funding more than 1,200 new permanent supportive homes. This type of affordable housing connects people experiencing chronic homelessness with additional support services to help them stay stably housed.
Set a goal of increasing the existing pipeline of affordable rental housing by 25,000 homes. In 2022, OHCS has increased the pipeline by nearly 21,000 homes, 82% of the way to meeting the goal.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development granted $422 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery money to OHCS to help fund survivors of the 2020 Labor Day fires to continue their recovery. The funds will not only help build back and renovate homes but also become more resilient against future disasters.
Immigration, Refugee and Human Rights
By Claudia Keith
Senate Bill 1550 transferred the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement from the Governor’s Office to ODHS. Director Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie was hired in March 2022. There is limited information, here is the recent Oregon DHS Report: “We look forward to welcoming the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement, which was transferred from the Governor’s Office to ODHS. The office is charged with operating a statewide immigrant and refugee integration strategy that includes advocacy and data collection – work that directly aligns with our existing efforts to support immigrants and refugees as they resettle and rebuild their lives in Oregon.“ Here’s a recent news article; “Oregon's new director of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement”. | Portland Business Journal
By Marge Easley
Oregon Supreme Court
The Oregon Supreme Court will undergo a number of changes in the coming months. Chief Justice Martha Walters will be retiring and Meagan Flynn has been chosen by the other justices to replace her for a six-year term of office. Justice Thomas Balmer has also announced his retirement. The Oregon Constitution mandates a retirement age of 75 for judges. Lastly, Justice Adrienne Nelson may soon be replaced, pending approval by the US Senate of her judgeship nomination to the US District Court, making her the first female African American federal judge in Oregon.
Measure 110 Implementation
Measure 110, passed by Oregon voters in 2020, reduced the penalties for most offenses related to the possession of a controlled substance from a felony or misdemeanor to a new Class E violation, punishable with a $100 maximum fine. Since then, it has become a topic of much controversy, with complaints that the drug treatment component has not materialized soon enough and that drug use and related criminal activity show no signs of slowing down. Steve Allen, OHA’s behavioral health director, conceded that one reason for the implementation delay is that OHA needs to “give more support and technical assistance to the committee of volunteers tasked with deciding which grants to fund.”
In September, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced it had completed the awarding of the first two years of grant funding to nonprofits in the amount of $302 million. However, the availability of addiction treatment services will likely remain inconsistent across Oregon counties due to lack of treatment infrastructure and the fact that Measure 110 money cannot be used to pay for services that are also covered by commercial insurance or the Oregon Health Plan. The money will be directed to non-Medicaid services, including outreach, peer mentoring, recovery housing, needle exchanges, and overdose reversal medication.
Interestingly, a Willamette Week article (10/12/22) reported that a North Carolina firm, RTI International, has been commissioned by billionaire John Arnold to do a four-year study to determine how well Measure 110 is working. Preliminary results show no correlation between drug decriminalization and calls for police service.
By Karen Nibler
The Joint Task Force on Universal Health Care finished their work on SB 770 (2019) and issued a report that includes an Executive Summary. The report defers to the 2023 Legislature to pass legislation to implement establishment of a Governance Board and start Implementation of the Plan that lays out “a blueprint for a robust system of universal health care that accounts for and builds on Oregon’s legacy of health reform as envisioned in SB 770.” More information about the Joint Task Force work is available on the OLIS website.