Social Policy

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September 14, 2021 - Week 25

SOCIAL POLICY


ACCESS

Paula Krane


As you have read in the Legislative Report all session, THIS SESSION HAS BEEN LIKE NO OTHER. Access has been better in many ways but has had some problems and concerns. As we have all sat in front of our computers we have been able to watch the action easier (no long drives to Salem and for many of us in the comfort of robes or sweats) but we have missed the face to face/in person interactions with our Legislators and their staff. And also seeing and working with other advocates. We have even had all the Town Halls and Public Forums by ZOOM. This was a very impersonal session. Most Legislators and/or their staff tried to answer all our calls and emails as quickly as possible but something seemed to be missing. And all of us got ZOOMed out. The lines of communication were broken to some extent this session between everyone – Legislator to Legislator; Legislator to staff (theirs as well as colleagues, advocates, and committees); agencies with everyone; and the public with everyone. When there was a problem with a specific issue or bill this will be covered in the discussion of that bill.


However because of the pandemic and everything going electronic, the technology improved weekly even though many of us still had trouble accessing and using these improvements. Also for many there was not enough bandwidth, older computers or did not even have a computer so some people had no access. Phones (land lines) and cellphones could be used but they also had problems and were not as easy and in the case of landlines (many lacked video). The capital IT staff tried to be as helpful as possible and are to be commended and thanked for all their efforts this session.

Not sure when normal will return or what normal will look like but the technological changes are here to stay and for hearings you will be able to submit testimony electronically and to give testimony orally from the comfort of your home.


HOUSING (Nancy Donovan and Debbie Aiona)


As a member of the Oregon Housing Alliance, the League works with other organizations, agencies, and local jurisdictions to advocate for programs, policies, and funding that advance the goal of a safe, stable, and affordable home for every Oregonian.


The pandemic, wildfires, economic insecurity, and lack of an adequate housing supply brought the housing crisis into greater focus. With effective advocacy on a number of fronts and a receptive legislature, more resources and policy changes were approved to help address the challenges communities and Oregonians are facing statewide. Legislation fell into several categories:


Homelessness: The legislature committed to maintain the $40 million allocation for Emergency Housing Assistance and the State Homeless Assistance Program, adding $25 million in one-time funds to these programs. The League submitted testimony supporting a long-term rent assistance cost analysis study for a state program to supplement the federal Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) and help more people afford their housing. The bill did not pass.

Increasing visibility of homeless encampments and a court ruling preventing clearing camps when there are no suitable places for people to go, led to passage of HB 3115 which requires cities to stop enforcing illegal camping bans and clarify where people can safely sleep. See League testimony in support.

Other significant legislation addressing homelessness included bills to allocate money and create programs for runaway and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness, policies to enable people exiting the criminal justice system to access rental housing, and creation of a task force examining racial disparities in homelessness. The Legislature also made statutory changes to define culturally responsive organizations and broaden who can advise Oregon Housing and Community Services on agency policy.


Tenant Protections: Once an individual or family has lost their home, moving them back into housing is difficult and expensive. Much effort was devoted to keeping people in the homes they have. COVID 19 left many households unable to pay their rent. The Legislature created a grace period for rent missed during the emergency. This supplemented federal resource is intended to help tenants pay back rent. Legislation also provided tenants the ability to expunge evictions during that period, allowed people to double up in rental housing, and provided additional protections for retaliatory evictions.


Affordable Housing Preservation and Development: Oregon does not have enough housing affordable to its residents and, until the shortfall is eliminated, there will be Oregonians paying more for rent than they can afford or who are unable to find suitable housing. One of the most significant sources of funding for new low-income housing developments are general obligation bonds available through the LIFT program. This session the Legislature allocated $410 million in Article XI-Q General Obligation bonds for both LIFT and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) projects. PSH is of critical importance to people experiencing health conditions or addiction disorders. In addition to the G.O. bonds, the Legislature allocated over $13 million for rent assistance and services for people living in PSH projects.

COVID highlighted the need to increase the supply of farmworker housing. The Legislature extended and expanded the Agricultural Workforce Housing Tax Credit to $16.75 million per biennium with that in mind.

Maintaining and preserving existing affordable housing is another key step necessary to ensuring Oregonians have stable housing. The Legislature committed $100 million in general funds to help maintain regulated multifamily affordable housing, public housing, and manufactured home parks.


Wildfire Recovery: The 2020 wildfire season left many Oregonians without housing. There were 4,132 homes destroyed and 95 damaged. The Legislature included $100 million in HB 5006 for wildfire recovery including money for housing development, construction, infrastructure, rebuilding, down payment assistance, loans, and more. They also committed $30 million in lottery bonds for housing and $20 million in lottery bonds for land acquisition (SB 5534).


Homeownership and Asset Building: The investments made by the Legislature will help more Oregonians access the safety and stability of owning a home and give protections to homeowners from foreclosure due to the pandemic.

During the session, the Legislature reinstated the foreclosure moratorium in HB 2009 to protect homeowners by requiring lenders to allow borrowers to make deferred payments at the time a loan is scheduled to end. In addition, the Legislature committed $3 million in HB 5011 to provide counseling to homeowners at risk of, or facing foreclosure.

The Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative is a matched savings program to help people with low incomes build assets such as a home, a small business, or an education. HB 2433 extended the tax credit for six years, and HB 5011 committed $7 million in one-time only funds to address funding gaps and waiting lists.

In 2019, the Legislature passed landmark legislation to address missing middle housing through zoning by allowing duplexes, triplexes, quads, and cottage clusters in cities of a certain size to increase housing options for changing needs in communities. SB 458 allows an automatic lot division to ensure homes can be purchased.

Oregon Housing and Community Services operates several programs to serve veterans. However, the existing definition of ‘veteran’ is not inclusive and excludes many who need help and served in the military. HB 2094 allows OHCS to define “veteran” for OHCS programs in rule.

Replacing manufactured homes for people with low and moderate incomes will improve health outcomes and reduce energy costs. HB 3218 made technical changes to the program to allow wildfire survivors to access funds. HB 5011 increased funding for this important program by $2.5 million. These bills passed.

The Legislature passed HB 3275 to support permanently affordable homeownership through property tax exemptions. Homeowners with low incomes who own homes through a shared equity model are exempt from portions of property taxes to make their homes more affordable and reflect the role of the nonprofit land trust.

To address racial disparities in homeownership HB 2007 will continue the Task Force to Address Racial Disparities in Homeownership as well as training for real estate professionals on implicit bias.


Oregon Housing and Community Services Budget: The League submitted testimony in support of the Oregon Housing and Community Services budget, HB 5011. The agency ended the legislative session with a budget that doubled its investment in affordable housing and homeless services over the previous biennium. The League supported the many programs and services included in the budget that we believe are essential in meeting the housing needs of all Oregonians. Furthermore, legislators stepped up to challenges faced in 2020 by ensuring low-income and BIPOC households disproportionately impacted by COVID and wildfires have access to safe and stable housing during the state’s ongoing housing crisis.


Healthcare (Bill Walsh)

Most of the ambitious bills to regulate portions of the healthcare market were unsuccessful. However, many programs and needs that have gone unmet were able to be funded this year. Highlights of the bills the League supported that did pass during the Session follow:

SB 428 passed, extending the sunset on the 20-member Task Force on Universal Health Care from January 2, 2022 to January 2, 2023 and extending the due date of a statutorily required report from the 2021 legislative session to September 30, 2022. The Task Force, created in the 2019 Session, is charged with designing the Health Care for All Oregon Plan, a universal health care system providing equitable, high quality, affordable, and comprehensive care. The Plan would be publicly funded and available to every individual residing in Oregon. SB 428 also appropriated $516,768 in General Fund money to carry out the work of the Task Force. Testimony.

SJR 12, known as the Hope Amendment, passed after having been introduced in eight previous sessions by the late Representative Mitch Greenlick. Passage will put before the Oregon voters in November 2021 the question of whether the Constitution should be amended to add that access to healthcare for every resident is a right, rather than, as it is now for all too many, a privilege that’s beyond reach. The LWVOR supported the bill, in part due to addition this year of a provision we suggested in the past: “(2) The obligation of the state described in subsection (1) of this section must be balanced against the public interest in funding public schools and other essential public services, and any remedy arising from an action brought against the state to enforce the provisions of this section may not interfere with the balance described in this subsection.” Testimony.

HB 2337, declaring that racism is a public health crisis and outlining specific data collection, did not pass, despite League support, but the declaration portion of the bill was accomplished in HR 6, which did pass, with League support.


HB 3352, ”Cover All People,” takes another important step towards extending health insurance coverage in Oregon. The COVID-19 pandemic shows in no uncertain terms that we must address disparities and inequities in society in the near-and long-term timeframes. Near term, BIPOC populations are suffering higher incidences of serious cases and deaths due to COVID; longer term we will need to restructure our public health system to ethically and practically deal with this situation. Passage of HB 3352 points us in the right direction by renaming the Health Care for All Oregon Children program to Cover All People program and expands eligibility to adults who would qualify for Medicaid-funded state medical assistance program but for their immigration status. Testimony.


Immigration, Refugee, other Rights/Basic Needs (Claudia Keith)

Major progress on many bills assisting immigrants and refugees were passed this session. OPB: ‘Oregon lawmakers conclude 2021 session in a crush of bills’ ‘Energized by 2021 accomplishments’, and ‘Oregon’s BIPOC lawmakers continue social justice and equity work’.


In 2020 LWVOR passed at Council an Immigration Resolution. LWVOR presented an Immigration Caucus and successfully campaigned for it as a resolution at LWVUS 2020 convention, ‘Climate Migration, Immigration and Human Rights: What You Need to Know! In 2019 LWV was very clear concerning asylum seekers.”… “Seeking asylum is not a crime. Refugees from Central America are fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries, risking everything to survive. They must be greeted with dignity and respect…”.


Just this week Oregon Lawmakers are working with immigration nonprofits to welcome hundreds of Afghan refugees.


Nationally, courts are beginning to admit that some immigration laws are racist. “..The Aug. 3 ruling by Judge Simon in the District of Oregon also acknowledged that history, and suggested Congress should explicitly repudiate the racism underlying immigration laws…”.


Two of the three LWVOR priority Immigration/Refugee related bills have passed and been signed by the governor or are now funded.


SB 778 Enrolled Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement: ”Oregon lawmakers approve creation of new office to support immigrants and refugees.” will advocate for Oregon’s newest residents, seek to connect people to resources and programs helping to reduce social, economic and health disparities. (Fiscal $1.4M w/ 3.8 FTE) League Testimony.

HB 3230 A Universal (Legal) Representation for persons in immigration matters. This funding request was reduced to $2M and is listed in the end of session program bill HB 5006. (DAS will administer the funds to Innovation Law Lab for Immigration Defense). March League Testimony and June 18 League letter.

SB 718 Refugee Resettlement Funding ended the session in W&M. Would have appropriated money from the General Fund to the Department of Human Services to award grants to refugee resettlement agencies to provide specified services to refugees. Fiscal $4.3M. League Testimony. Related, Find Link to Oregon Refugee Program HERE. The Legislative Emergency-Board has funded $40M to the Fund. Find program funding reporting HERE. Find Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative info HERE.

Other Rights / Equity Bills passed by the Legislature and now signed by the Governor or filed with the Secretary of State: (League Followed or Supported - may appear in other LR’s)

HB 2167 Enrolled, codifying the Racial Justice Council into state law and ensuring its existence into the future. Excerpted from Governor Kate Brown Statement on Legislative Session Adjourning - RACIAL JUSTICE/equity- related bills she has signed or will be signing. One of six bills listed in the Governor's end of session press release.

HB 3353 A: Requires Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to request approval from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow coordinated care organizations (CCOs) to spend 3% of their global budgets to address the needs of local communities to improve equity. Lund Report

SB 70, Enrolled: Oregon Health Authority: Defines "regional health equity coalition" and "regional health equity coalition model." Requires Oregon Health Authority to work with regional health equity coalitions and groups using regional health equity coalition models throughout the state. Portland Business Journal Article

OPB: “Oregon’s sanctuary law will be stronger than ever under newly passed bill.”

HB 3265 A The Sanctuary Promise Act... LWVOR Immigration Resolution

HB 2993 A Provides that advisory committees appointed by agency as part of rulemaking must represent interests of persons and communities likely to be affected by rule. Requires agency to include in notice of rulemaking statement identifying how adoption of rule will affect racial equity. “Oregon House Democrats: Historic 2021 Session delivered on Promises to Oregonians.”

​​SJM 4 Urging Congress to enact legislation to begin process of implementing reparations for African Americans based on slavery and discrimination.

HB 3041 B at the request of Basic Rights Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle. Removes "gender identity" from the definition of "sexual orientation".

SB 289 A Prohibits person convicted of bias crime committed while on state waters or publicly owned outdoor recreation land from entering an area under jurisdiction of the State Parks and Recreation Department.

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HB 2168 Enrolled Establishes Juneteenth as a legal state holiday.

SB 398 Enrolled Hate/Bias Crime – ‘Ban the Noose’,

SB 569 A Makes unlawful employment practice for the employer to require an employee or prospective employee to possess or present a valid driver's license as a condition of employment or continuation of employment.

HB 3010 Enrolled Requires production companies seeking reimbursement under Oregon Production Investment Fund programs to perform certain actions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion with respect to production for which reimbursement is sought.

SB 704 explicitly bars defendants from arguing they were under an “extreme emotional disturbance” after learning their victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation. “Oregon lawmakers vote to ban ‘LGBTQ panic defense by accused murderers.”

SB 282 Extends grace period for repayment of residential rent accrued during emergency period of April 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, until February 28, 2022. Prohibits residential landlords from reporting nonpayment of rent accrued during emergency period to credit bureaus. Prohibits residential landlords from screening prospective tenants based on nonpayment of rent accrued during grace period. “Oregon’s Latest Residential Eviction…” Legal article HERE

HB 2526 Designates the second Monday of October of each year as Indigenous Peoples' Day

HB 2508 Enrolled Adds Telemedicine to Oregon Health Authority. “…Improves access in rural Oregon to Health professionals…”

HB 2583 A For cities only, eliminates any max number of non-related people per home. “Oregon Joins Washington to Allow Use of More Empty Bedrooms.”.

Bills followed that passed House policy committee but ended the session in W&M or Rules:

HB 2337 A Engrossed declares that racism is a public health crisis in Oregon, appropriates to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to provide grants to operate two pilot mobile health units, improve data collection, etc. Find More Info from BIPOC caucus Here. HB 5006 has a $49M Health adjustment for Covid Public Health Emergency. Additionally, the OHA budget does have $45M line item for modernization. (pkg 417)

HB 3110 A Requires the board of directors of publicly traded corporations to have specified proportion of female directors and directors who are members of underrepresented communities. Find AAUW article HERE

HB 2002 A Transforming Justice. Fiscal $26M, Directs Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to establish a program to award grants for restorative justice programs. “OR Bill Would Overhaul Community Safety, Policing.. CCC testimony and StreetrootsOpinion | To change the criminal justice system, we need to change policymaking - House Bill 2002 was a thoroughly crafted and heavily negotiated bill. It should have passed, yet the BIPOC-community-led effort fell short by the smallest margin because of a Senate leadership failure to back it.

HB 2358 Prohibits employers from permitting (or requiring or suffering agricultural workers to work in excess of 40] certain maximum hours in one workweek unless workers are compensated for overtime hours worked. OPB: “Bill to grant overtime pay to Oregon farmworkers gets last-ditch shot of life”. East Oregonian : “Oregon ag overtime bill amended with $100 million price tag.”


Gun Safety (Marge Easley)


The League was a strong supporter of SB 554 Enrolled, the only gun safety bill to pass this session. It combines the concepts of safe storage and restrictions on firearms in certain public buildings. Gun rights supporters are currently gathering signatures on IP 301 to repeal the law, with a deadline of September 24, 2021, to file the 74, 680 signatures needed for inclusion on the 2022 ballot.


We were disappointed that two other gun safety bills did not advance this session. HB 2543, which would have eliminated the Charleston Loophole by preventing the transfer of a firearm without a background check, died in the House Rules Committee, see LWVOR testimony. SB 396, the Attorney General’s bill to ban undetectable and untraceable guns, was abruptly pulled from the Senate Judiciary hearing schedule.


Public Safety (Karen Nibler)


Public safety bills that passed were reported on 6-28 but there were others that did not pass, such as SB 214 A on court determinations on restitution claims, which was challenged by attorneys. Those bills passed at the end of session included SB 218 A which allowed conditional discharge of C felony charges after completion of specialty court programs. SB 836 B requires the Department of Corrections to report on termination of alternative incarceration programs and delays of release dates.


SB 295 A detailed the court process for determination of fitness to proceed, psychiatric evaluations, and treatment in hospital or community mental health programs. This extensive 18 page bill was the result of a workgroup of judges and other professionals involved in the mental health system.


SB 575 A on expunction of juvenile records passed late in the session with approval of the Public Safety Subcommittee and decisive votes on the Senate and House floors, with League support. SB 817 B on elimination of fees in the juvenile system was sent to Senate Rules where it was approved and re-passed on the Senate Floor. The bill stipulated that parents were not required to pay for programs but could choose to pay and must comply with parent education or counseling programs.

SB 819 A on sentencing reconsideration passed Senate 26-2 with 2 ex and passed House 36-16 with 8 ex, with League support. The bill allows a defendant and prosecutor to appeal to the court to review a past conviction. The bill was supported by the Innocence Project. Juvenile commitments in the adult system could be reconsidered. Victim notification was a concern.


Mental and Public Health (Karen Nibler)


Behavioral Health program improvement was based on the BM 110 passage of requirements for assessments of mental health and substance abuse as a consequence of citations for possession of alcohol or illegal substances. SB 755 B was the legislative response to the ballot measure. The Oregon Health Authority has appointed an Advisory Committee that is currently meeting to develop the process for referrals and services in county mental health agencies.


The Oregon Health Authority has also established a System of Care Advisory Councilto deal with equity and infrastructure needs in child welfare services. Council members will provide input to the Governor. SB 1 (2019) was passed to provide in-home behavioral health support, foster care or residential services. A report is due on 4-1-2022. HB 3073 B establishes a new administration in 2023 for Early Childhood programs so these child welfare changes should be monitored, with League support.