Legislative Report - Week of 2/5
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By Jean Pierce, Social Policy Coordinator, and Team
The 2024 short session runs Feb. 5 through March 10th. Bills in most committees must be scheduled for a work session by Feb. 12 and acted on by Feb. 19th in the first chamber. The legislative calendar is posted on the Oregon Legislature website.
Volunteers are needed who are interested in issues related to Children at Risk, Corrections, Farmworkers, Mental Health, and Physical Health. Please contact SocialPolicy@lwvor.org for more information about how you can make a difference with League advocacy.
After School and Summer Care
By Katie Riley
The House Committee on Education held a hearing on HB 4082, Summer Learning for 2024 and Beyond, on Monday, February 5th. This bill will provide $50 million for summer school in 2024 and establish a workgroup for planning to support afterschool and summer learning opportunities in the future. The League submitted testimony to support the bill in line with the 2018 position of the LWVUS Children at Risk that policies and programs "promote the well-being, encourage the full development, and ensure the safety of all children." All of the testimony provided in person during the hearing supported the bill. LWVOR support is also consistent with the recommendations contained in the LWVOR 2023 study, Caring for Our Children: An Update and Expansion of the 1988 LWVOR Study, which called for increased state funding and planning for afterschool and summer programs.
Behavioral Health and Related Public Safety Issues
By Karen Nibler
The Joint Addiction and Community Safety Response Committee focused on HB 4002-2, an extensive bill designed to confiscate hard drugs, such as fentanyl, provide more law enforcement tools, and facilitate treatment access through deflection programs. Possession of a small amount would be considered a Class C Misdemeanor, instead of the current Class E. A Class C misdemeanor requires an appearance at a court hearing, where the judge can order a behavioral health evaluation and probation in lieu of jail time. The court may not require the person to pay a fine, cost, assessment or attorney fee. The bill provides paths to expungement so that a convicted person would have their record cleared. The League submitted the attached testimony.
The bill also asks the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission to study barriers for youth accessing treatment, increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, and increasing the network of providers. Oregon Health Authority would be required to establish the Certified Community Behavioral Clinic Program. A Task Force on Regional Behavioral Health Accountability would be created to strengthen evidence-based funding decisions.
Delivery of a controlled substance was further defined in the bill with the addition of “intent” to transfer within 500 feet of a treatment facility, public park, or temporary shelter or residence.
The House Judiciary Committee heard HB 4097 on expungement reform. Supporters emphasized the need to remove barriers to gainful employment, housing, and education for offenders who have completed their sentences. Defenders of the current system cited protections for victims. District Attorneys objected and offered an amendment. Expungement reform will be heard again.
The Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee received reports on the Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program which receives a HUD grant for current services. Last session funding supported teens in host homes.
The Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee also heard from the Oregon Judicial Department on the status of the Oregon Public Defense Commission. The Oregon Judicial Department reported a high level of unrepresented cases but has no supervisory position over the newly formed Defense Commission. The OPDC reported an increase in the number of attorneys coming into the system and cited studies on workload models.
According to SB 337 (2023) the Oregon Public Defense Commission will transfer to the executive branch and will benefit from executive support for technology and personnel matters. OPDC has set up district offices in the metro area for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington Counties and in the Medford area for southern Oregon counties. A Mid-Willamette Office will cover Marion, Benton and Linn Counties.
Gun Policy and Violence Prevention
By Marge Easley
Although legislators are understandably reluctant to introduce firearm-related bills during a short session, several bills have been assigned to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in response to the significant increase in gun violence, mental health issues, and suicide ideation since the pandemic. According to Oregon Health Authority data, Oregon’s firearm suicide rate is 42% higher than the national average.
SB 1503, requested by Senate President Rob Wagner, establishes a Task Force on Community Safety and Firearm Suicide Prevention under the auspices of the Department of Justice that will include a broad range of stakeholders, including tribal representation. It examines public health best practices for reducing deaths from community safety threats and for suicide prevention, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations, geographic areas, professions, and age groups. The bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 7 with a work session scheduled for February 13. The League submitted testimony in support of the -3 amendment to the bill.
HB 4096 authorizes a gun dealer, otherwise known as a federal firearms licensee (FFLs), to enter into a firearm hold agreement with a firearm owner. The gun would be held in safekeeping at the owner’s request for a specified period of time and then returned to the owner. The second part of the bill directs the Oregon Health Authority to publish and provide free of charge a pamphlet on firearm suicide prevention to FFLs, law enforcement agencies, gun ranges, community-based organizations, and medical providers.
The League will also be monitoring the following bills, using the lens of the LWVUS Violence Prevention position:
HB 4156 modernizes and expands Oregon’s current anti-stalking law to include online and electronic means of intimidation. A public hearing on this bill was heard in House Judiciary on February 8. There was general agreement on the need for modernization of the law, although the ACLU expressed concern about the law’s impact on juveniles and youth due to their frequent use of social media.
HB 4135 creates the crime of threatening a mass injury event.
HB 4088 This bill makes the physical injury of hospital workers al least a 3rd degree assault and includes mandated posting of such. The bill also authorizes an OHSU pilot safety program with the purpose of protecting employees from workplace assault.
HB 4074 defines "dangerous to self and others" and describes evidence the court must consider in civil commitment proceedings for mentally ill persons. Current statute would be amended to include this definition: “likely to inflict serious physical harm upon self or another person within the next 30 days.”
By Christa Danielson
HB-4149 strengthens reporting from Pharmacy Benefit managers. These entities such as Express Scripts and CVS have taken over delivery of medication to many health plans. These entities were there originally to save patients money. However, they are now traded on the stock market and are considered to be some of the largest Fortune 25 companies. This bill will say that PBMs need to report rebates they get from drug manufacturers, how much they spend on management and how much they pass on to the insured population. This bill will also save rural pharmacies by not allowing “claw-backs” (charging the pharmacy for a drug after it has been given to a patient), allow pharmacies to participate in the delivery of medications instead of forcing patients to use a mail order or a specific pharmacy far from where they live. League testimony.
HB-4130 This bill strengthens previous laws developed in the 70s, still active. This bill is an attempt to keep corporations from making decisions about patient’s healthcare. It states that primary care doctors have to make decisions about what care is given - not a corporate entity. There is no restriction at this time about non-profit hospitals owning or managing physician practices. See League testimony.
HB 4136 This bill is in response to a downtown Eugene hospital closing abruptly. Some provisions would give money to fund one more Emergency unit but also work broadly to assess the need for transport by EMS and employ innovation on the ground to avoid unnecessary transport. It is broadly supported in the community.
By Jean Pierce
HB 4162: Relating to Higher Education Affordability would appropriate money from the General Fund to make college more affordable by creating and awarding grants for basic needs programs at public colleges and universities. These programs help students find money for food, housing, textbooks, health, childcare, transportation, and other purposes. According to figures reported in November, 2023, in-state students attending a 4-year institution in Oregon pay 15% more than the national average. The total annual cost of attendance is $24,517 for in-state students, with tuition accounting for 47% of that. So helping them pay for costs of basic living is necessary in order to make college more accessible. LWVOR submitted testimony in support.
SB 1592: Relating to Expansion of the Behavioral Health Workforce. Another testimony was written in support of SB1592, which would appropriate money from the General Fund to train more Behavioral Health professionals. The money could be used for purposes such as awarding tuition assistance to students, providing behavioral and mental health services, developing career pathways through partnerships with community organizations, developing education programs, etc. In January, 2024, the Rural Health Information Hub reported that there were shortages of mental health professionals in every Oregon county except for Clackamas and Washington. So there is a profound need to invest in this training.
By Debbie Aiona, Nancy Donovan, Beth Jacobi
SB 1537: Governor Kotek declared a homelessness state of emergency last year, and local jurisdictions are working hard to meet or exceed targets set out in the bill. This year, the Governor is introducing SB 1537. It requests $500 million in state funds to pay for land to and expand utility services and other infrastructure needed to make way for new development. She also is proposing a new state agency, the Housing Accountability and Production Office to help developers and local governments navigate state housing laws.
SB 1537 also includes a provision LWVOR opposes that would allow large acre urban growth boundary (UGB) expansions. There are currently thousands of acres in UGBs that should be developed first. And waiting for the Oregon Housing Needs Analysis rules by Jan. 2026 will assure that any expansions will be developed to meet price ranges, sizes, accessibility and other required housing for each city's demographics.
Individual Development Accounts: On January 31, LWVOR provided testimony urging support for $10 million to fund Oregon Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), as part of the Senate omnibus housing bill (SB 1530). The League joins over 70 businesses, financial institutions, housing providers and organizations calling for funding to maintain current service levels of the statewide IDA program. Combined with tax credit revenue, a $10 million general fund investment in 2024 will ensure that 2,200 Oregonians can begin saving for their financial goals through an IDA during this biennium.
Every IDA, regardless of the savings goal, is a tool for housing stability:
A home repair IDA can improve habitability and reduce utility costs.
An IDA used to grow a small business can raise a family’s income.
Saving for college can set a student on the path to graduate without debt, making homeownership a real possibility.
Purchasing a vehicle can enable an IDA saver to access a higher-paying job.
Emergency savings create resilience in the face of emergencies, preventing traumatic setbacks such as evictions.
SB 1530: Also included in the Senate omnibus bill, SB 1530, is funding allocated to the Housing and Community Services Department, Oregon Health Authority, Department of Human Services, State Department of Energy and Oregon Department of Administrative Services for the programs below:
$65,000,000 for the operations, services, and administration of emergency shelters, as defined in ORS 197.782.
$40,000,000 for homelessness prevention services delivered through the Oregon Eviction Diversion and Prevention and Eviction Prevention Rapid Response programs.
$20,000,000 to implement the Affordable Housing Land Acquisition Revolving Loan Program under ORS 456.502.
$15,000,000 to provide a flexible funding source to allow for alternative ownership models, including co-ops, as well as affordable single-family housing.
HB 4099-1: The concern over our shortage of housing affordable to Oregonians has resulted in an examination of the factors that lead to higher costs and extended timelines. HB 4099 seeks to reduce borrowing costs by giving developers more time to pay their System Development Charge fees to local jurisdictions. These fees help cover the cost of the infrastructure needed to support growth. They are typically due when permits are issued.
HB 4099 would give developers up to 180 days after the certificate of occupancy is issued to pay. Affordable housing developers would have a year. The bill also creates a fund administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) that would cover the cost of unpaid fees. OHCS would be responsible for collecting unpaid fees from developers.
The League submitted testimony in support.
By Claudia Keith
HB 4085 – Directs DHS to give grants for legal assistance to help noncitizens get lawful immigration, status – Support. League testimony was sent to HECHS committee members after the Olis 48-hour deadline.
By Anne Nesse, Education Portfolio
This week, the League testified on SB 1552, titled by some the “Educational Omnibus Bill”, which included 48 Sections. This Bill was sponsored by Senator Dembrow, the Senate Interim Committee on Education, and a collection of individuals from the HECC, as well as others. Some Sections of the Bill were necessary technical fixes to language, thus requiring an emergency clause for the entire Bill. We could only support 3 Sections of this long Bill, introduced on 2/8, due to the lack of relevant position statements for much of the bill:
• We supported that this Bill creates an Oregon Department of Education Youth Advisory Council, giving youth from around our State just representation for generations to come.
• We supported updating the outdated Quality Education Model, to increase the understanding of the funding calculations that have to be made equitably for school districts throughout our State, through the State School Fund.
• We supported modifying calculations to provide a more stable funding for youth in State Corrections and Juvenile Detention, and putting this into law.
All the Sections of HB 1552 were presented in the Senate Education Public Hearing on Thursday, 2/8. Senator Dembrow announced that often an Omnibus Bill is presented in the short session to fix older legislation, and make additions to be ready for the long session. Expect 2 Amendments he stated, that did not make it into this original Bill. Virtually all the testimony was in support of the Bill.
We also wrote testimony on HB 4079, for 2/5. This Bill would remove the outdated 11% cap for school districts on funding for those eligible for special education,thus making it easier to equitably fund school districts who have higher percentages of these students. This Bill would also allow school districts with high percentages of homeless students to receive a higher weight of funding. Arguments against this bill were hypothetical. What if all school districts identified higher special education needs? Chair Neron and lobbying groups pushed for identifying students’ special needs as a public education goal, defining excellent teaching.
We also wrote testimony on HB 4078, for 2/7, now with a -1 Amendment, that replaces the measure. The original Bill directed the Department of Education to develop and implement a standardized method to be used by school districts to electronically create, collect, use, maintain, disclose, transfer and access student data. The -1 Amendment, changed this to a nationwide study of educational data collection systems. Rep. Neron, testified that this change would help initiate the best data collection system choices in the 2025 session. The LWVOR testimony was still relevant, since it described advantages of electronic and standardized methods of data collection, needed to make the best educational decisions.
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