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Legislative Report - Week of 1/15

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By Nancy Donovan, Beth Jacobi, Debbie Aiona 

Homelessness State of Emergency: Governor Kotek declared a homelessness state of emergency a year ago and set targets for local jurisdictions. Based on preliminary data, the state and local partners have exceeded those targets. They created 1,032 low-barrier shelter beds, exceeding the original goal by 432; rehoused 1,293 unsheltered households, exceeding the goal by 93; and prevented 8,886 households from experiencing homelessness, exceeding the goal by 136. LWVOR supported funding this effort. 

To meet these goals, the Legislature allocated $155 million early in the 2023 session for homelessness prevention, rehousing, and shelter capacity expansion. They went on to budget $316 million for the same purpose in the 2023-25 biennium. 

The 2023 Point in Time annual count showed that as of last January an estimated 20,100 people were experiencing homelessness. About 62% were unsheltered. In recognition of the fact that Oregon has a long way to go before it can claim success, Governor Kotek issued Executive Order 24-02 on January 9. 2024, to extend the 2023 Executive Order and continue the state’s focus on addressing the homelessness crisis. 

In 2024, Governor Kotek is proposing $65 million for homeless shelter operations.

The funds will be used primarily to prevent closure of state and locally funded shelters and invest in re-housing focused services at shelters to improve exits into permanent housing. 

Rent Assistance: The Governor’s legislative budget is also requesting $33 million for rent assistance to help keep Oregonians from losing their homes.

Affordable Housing: Our League of Women Voters of Oregon actively partnered with a number of other organizations to inform legislators prior to the session on What we need to build more affordable housing. Oregon is in short supply of approximately 140,000 homes for people with low- and moderate-incomes.

Housing Production: Also, with League support, the Housing Alliance sent a letter on January 4, encouraging state leaders to introduce housing production bills in the 2024 session in line with principles outlined in the letter. 

Housing Alliance Membership Meeting: On Tuesday, January 23, the League will participate in the Housing Alliance’s Membership Meeting to vote on bill endorsements, via Zoom. Monday, January 29 is the voting deadline for bill endorsements, via an online form.

House Interim Committee on Housing and Homelessness held an informational meeting on 1/11. Housing and homeless representatives made presentations on the topics below. Note that Legislative Concepts (LCs) are being assigned to certain bills. When available, LC drafts will be posted on committee OLIS pages.

· Financing affordable/moderate income housing

· Committee Legislative Concepts

Technical fix omnibus, LC 40

· Member Housing-Related Legislative Concepts

Individual Development Account Funding, LC 151

· Oregon Housing and Community Services Legislation Implementation Updates, Shelter Operations Funding

· Modular Housing


The Senate Interim Committee on Housing and Development held an informational meeting on 1/10/2024. These housing topics were discussed.

· Committee Budget Bill (LC 158): Shelter Operation Needs

· Recovery Housing

· Affordable Housing Land Acquisition Revolving Loan Program

· Emergency Rental Assistance Program

· Public Safety Reports – 1-11-24


Public Safety Reports

The Joint Addiction Committee discussed the Secretary of State Audit of the Ballot Measure 110 process at the January 10 hearing. The grants totaled $209.3 million awarded to Behavioral Health Networks to provide access to services. The reports listed harm reduction as the highest service followed by peer support and mentors. Other services were low barrier treatment, screening, needs assessments, supported housing and supported employment. 

Problems were reported: hiring staff for behavioral health services, providing housing costs and documenting poor usage of the hotline. Funding Medicaid services was the highest priority. The committee heard presentations on youth substance abuse and prevention plans through the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene. Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission leaders talked about prevention efforts in the counties and tribal areas.

Treatment access with mobile units, sobering centers and residential programs were needed.

Specialty Courts are operational within the Oregon Judicial System with the Lincoln County Court spot lighted as an example. The Criminal Justice Commission provides program funding and supervision.

The Public Safety Subcommittee of Ways and Means discussed one of the primary needs for defense attorneys: for those in custody prior to hearings to determine release conditions and future hearings. Lack of defenders has delayed many cases and clogged court processes. The most urgent Oregon Public Defense Commission need was to provide funds for unrepresented cases (132 in custody). They cited 4,289 unrepresented cases of which 2,324 were pretrial, 268 parole or probation violations not in custody, and 1,365 on warrants.

The Committee considered extending a Temporary Hourly Increase Program for six months through the end of June. This program was created to ensure that persons in custody have representation by public defenders in a timely fashion. In the meantime, it is anticipated that sufficient contract providers will be found so that people charged with crimes do not need to wait an inordinate period of time.

Summer Learning

By Katie Riley

Different groups are working on a proposal for funding summer learning to be submitted by Rep. Susan McLain. The Governor’s office is working with the Department of Education. Another group with ODE representatives is working with a group of afterschool and summer providers called EASE. EASE has subgroups including data gathering and measurement, logistics, and professional development. These groups will provide input to the final bill. A key action to be required for the bill to succeed is for parents to come forward to testify about why care is needed for them to be able to work.

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