Legislative Report - Week of 2/6
By Nancy Donovan and Debbie Aiona
Oregon’s housing crisis demands a wide variety of tools aimed at keeping people who are housed in their homes and helping people with inadequate or no shelter into safe and stable housing. When families and individuals cannot afford to cover their basic needs for food, transportation, rent, and utilities, they are at risk of becoming homeless. The bills listed will address some of these needs and take steps towards increasing Oregon’s housing supply.
HB 2889 – Oregon Housing Needs Analysis in OHCS
This bill proposes to locate the Oregon Housing Needs Analysis (OHNA) within Oregon Housing and Community Services to bring comprehensive reforms to the state’s land use planning systems to pave the way to increase housing production and enhance flexibility in housing choice and location. With state guidance, local communities must address disparities in housing outcomes with an emphasis on housing people most in need. LWVOR testimony was in support.
HB 3125 – Public Drinking Water and Sewer Ratepayer Assistance Fund
This bill would create a drinking water and assistance fund to be administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services. Resources would be allocated to community-based non-profits, housing authorities, community action agencies, and public utilities. These agencies would be responsible for distributing funds to households in need of assistance. This ratepayer assistance fund will give local agencies one more tool to assist households at risk of losing their homes. The League submitted testimony in support.
HB 3010 – Mortgage Interest Deduction
The Oregon Secretary of State’s office released an audit of the state’s Mortgage Interest Deduction in March 2022. The audit made findings that should be helpful in informing legislators of the program’s lack of effectiveness in promoting homeownership. The report concludes that the tax deduction is regressive and costs the state over $1 billion in foregone revenue. It is the largest housing-related tax expenditure.
The deduction primarily benefits higher earning taxpayers. Taxpayers in urban counties receive a disproportionate share of the savings. For example, in 2018 Clackamas County taxpayers received an average benefit of $331 while Wheeler County taxpayers received an average of $71. People of color receive disproportionately less benefit because of significantly lower homeownership rates.
There is no evidence the deduction promotes homeownership. Barriers to homeownership include high home prices, limited funds for down payments, and credit issues.
Mortgage Interest Deduction reform is one of the Oregon Housing Alliance’s priority issues.
Housing Alliance Membership Meeting
The Oregon Housing Alliance, of which LWVOR is a member, held a Membership Meeting on February 6, 2023, attended by Peggy Lynch, Debbie Aiona, and Nancy Donovan. Andrea Bell, Executive Director of Oregon Housing and Community Services, presented an overview of the Governor’s Recommended Budget, and the agency’s proposed budget shifts. They are working through the details and amounts will be refined in the weeks ahead.
Following her presentation, the three Housing Alliance workgroups broke into discussion groups: Homeless & Tenant Protections; Land Use, Development and Preservation; and Homeownership & Asset Building.
By Karen Nibler
HOMELESS YOUTH services have been supported by LWVOR since our February 2007 study. This session, HB 2454 requesting funding for the Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program was heard in House Housing and Homelessness on January 31. The League submitted supportive testimony. The Department of Human Services has administered this program since 2015 but funding had been minimal and covered established shelter programs. In the most recent sessions state funds went to Ecumenical Ministries for the administration of Host Homes through private families.
The League had supported youth shelters for all regions in the state as there were needs in many areas. The manager of this state program reported that the homeless services coverage had expanded from 12 to 26 counties with only two counties having no youth shelter programs. Those who testified at the hearing pointed out that currently homeless adults were often homeless as kids. Thus it was important to house families and children to interrupt this cycle.
The Human Services Ways and Means Subcommittee has zeroed in on reducing child poverty with its Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, SNAP food benefits, Earned Income Tax Credits and early learning and child care programs as presented in the January 24 hearing.
By Marge Easley & Karen Nibler
The House Judiciary recently heard bills relating to two issues of increasing concern in Oregon and across the country: paramilitary activity and domestic terrorism. As background, it is important to note that the US Supreme Court decided in 1886, and again in 2008, that the Second Amendment “does not prevent the prohibition of paramilitary organizations.” Today all 50 states forbid private military units from engaging in activities reserved for the state militia, including law enforcement activities.
On February 6, the League submitted testimony on HB 2572, which modifies Oregon laws related to armed paramilitary activity. The amended version of the bill defines unlawful paramilitary activity as public patrolling, drilling, or engaging in techniques capable of causing physical injury; interfering with government operations or proceedings; asserting improper authority; and interfering with or intimidating another person engaged in legal behavior. A key provision allows the Oregon Attorney General to bring civil action in the name of state if there is reasonable cause that a person or group of persons is about to engage in such behavior. It defines “private paramilitary organization” as “any group of three or more persons associating under a command structure for the purpose of functioning in public, or training to function in public, as a combat, combat support, law enforcement or security services unit.”
The League is monitoring the progress of HB 2772, heard on February 8, which creates the crime of domestic terrorism, punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment; $250,000 fine; or both.
SB 529, which provides policy recommendations for alternative incarceration programs related to addiction treatment, passed out of Senate Judiciary on February 7 with a do pass recommendation and subsequent referral to Ways and Means. This bill is a step toward fulfilling one of the Governor’s budget priorities—to provide $8.7 million for enhanced substance abuse treatment programs at the Oregon State Penitentiary and the Snake River Correctional Institution.
The Oregon Judicial Department brought 2 bills to Senate Judiciary: SB 234 asks for more data on equity of persons in court by client self-report not by staff observation SB 235 asks for increases in judicial positions, at least six county circuit courts have unacceptable wait times for trials, and a time study recommended 36 new judges. The Public Safety Ways and Means Subcommittee will consider this request along with the OJD Budget.
Senate Judiciary has considered SB 579 on the right to vote for convicted felons in Department of Corrections custody. SB 637 asks for funding for immigration legal assistance for an existing service, and SB 745 asks the Department of Justice to provide mandatory training to state and county employees on the identification of trafficking victims, interviews and reports.
House Judiciary heard 3 cases on crime victim services. HB 2933 asked for a Sexual Violence Safety Fund to provide safe shelters for victims through social service agencies before trials.HB 2676 asked for funds for forensic kits, clean-up costs in homes, funerals, lost wages, and counseling costs. HB 2732 requested funds for Children’s Advocacy Centers for forensic interviews and medical evaluations during abuse investigations. A few exist in counties.
Public Safety Ways and Means Subcommittee held initial meetings with the Oregon Judicial Department on the growing backlog of criminal felony cases and Aid and Assist evaluations and Public Defense Services Commission efforts to hire out of state lawyers and pay for time not by case.
By Marge Easley
Measure 114 Update: The League is disappointed that the Oregon Supreme Court has declined to intervene in the county circuit court ruling that blocks Measure 114 from going into effect. The decision, issued on February 9, is also a disappointment to the Oregon Attorney General, who had petitioned the court to throw out the ruling by Harney County Circuit Judge Robert S. Raschio or direct him to explain why it should stand. According to a statement by the Supreme Court, “That resolution is underway in the trial court; our only determination today is that now is not an appropriate time to exercise our authority in mandamus in connection with the trial court’s temporary and preliminary rulings.”
Immigration/Refugees and other Basic Rights
By Claudia Keith
Building grassroots leadership in immigrant communities | American Friends Service Committee. Ukrainians by the thousands arrive in states, but with a time limit – Oregon Capital Chronicle. Labor advocates celebrate a major victory for immigrant workers - The Chief. Welcome corps: How US residents can now sponsor refugees. - CSMonitor.com
Bills of Interest or possible League support: (Bills that have been posted to OLIS that may move forward via a committee public hearing. – an Incomplete list)
Bills moved from Policy Committee to the Joint Ways and Means Committee:
SB 627: Funding for universal (legal) fees for non-documented individuals (15M$) Sen Lieber. Passed out of Sen Judiciary, DO Pass, Feb 7, sent to JW&M. The League has supported this policy / funding category in the past.
SB 610: Establishes Food for All Oregonians Program within Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (snap), unclear what the funding ask may be. Chief sponsors: Senator Campos, Representative Ruiz, Senator Manning Jr, Gorsek, Representative Bowman, Dexter, Gamba. Sen Human Services then to JW&M.
SB 856 Establishes COFA Food Assistance Program to provide nutrition assistance to COFA citizens who would qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits but for their immigration status and who have incomes at or below federal poverty guidelines. Legislative Counsel has not adopted standards for drafting measures that establish exemptions from disclosure of public records. Chief Sponsor: Senator Meek, Patterson, Hansell. Posted to OLIS 2/7/23
SB 185 Requires Department of Justice to study immigration in this state; may include legislation recommendations to the interim committees of the Legislative Assembly no later than September 15, 2024. Requested by Attorney General Rosenblum. In Sen Judiciary. Sunsets January 2, 2025.
HB 2957: Financial assistance to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status recipients for specified purposes. (>7M$). Large portion of the Source funding is Federal ARPA funds. Rep Ruiz, House EC&HS
SB 603: Establishes People's Housing Assistance Fund Demonstration Program, administered by Dept Human Services, to provide 12 monthly payments of $1,000 to individuals who are experiencing homelessness, are at risk of homelessness, are severely rent burdened or earn at or below 60 percent of area median income. (Includes immigrant, and refugee status.) Starts with a PSU $250K study. A potential $500M program. Rep Pham K and Senator Campos, Sen Cmt on Housing and Dev, then JW&M.
HB 3176 Requires Dept HS and Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement, to award contracts to organizations to provide support services to immigrants and refugees. Appropriates moneys from the General Fund. Directs Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement to convene representatives from state agencies, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders to coordinate policy recommendations. Representative Reynolds, Senator Jama, House ECHS then JW&M.
SB 849 requires professional licensing boards to provide culturally responsive training to specified staff members, publish guidance on pathways to professional authorization for internationally educated individuals and waive requirement for English proficiency examination for specified internationally educated individuals…. Sen L&B. Senator Jama, Dembrow, Frederick, Campos, Manning Jr, Woods, Representative Chaichi, Nguyen H .
SB 613: Creates Commission for Indigenous Communities
SB 216 Related to data collected by OHA. (Request of Governor Kate Brown for OHA).The Oregon Health Authority set a goal of eliminating health disparities by 2030 including those based on race, ethnicity, language, or disability (REALD) and sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI). Sen HC, 2/8 Cmt Work Session carried over. No fiscal impact identified.
HB 2458: Prohibits conversion therapy.