By State Representative Rob Nosse
This month I have been in Salem a lot as we rush to pass bills and improve budgets in a 35-day window. As I mentioned in the January column, the Oregon Legislature is a seasonal legislature.
We have a 160-day “long session” every odd year and a 35-day “short session” every even year, plus special sessions when the need arises. During the “short session,” as you might imagine, everything happens at a much more accelerated pace.
Deadlines come quickly and even bills with widespread support can struggle with procedural hurdles. With all that in mind, and the ever-present possibility of a Republican walkout (which I am very happy we have not seen so far), I will avoid giving too many concrete predictions.
You never really know how the “short session” will end until it does. We are reading every bill out loud, line by line, word for word though.
Instead of guessing at what the next couple weeks will bring, I thought it helpful to talk about the important bills Democrats are bringing that are still alive in the process and that have some momentum behind them.
One bill I have been hearing a lot about is HB 4058. This bill establishes a program to distribute emergency air conditioners and air filters to eligible households. Last summer, we experienced heatwaves and wildfires. 60 people died during the last heatwave in Portland.
Oregonians deserve access to affordable, efficient and safe heating and cooling during extreme weather events and HB 4058 will put funding aside for that purpose. This legislation will save lives and I completely support it. I am optimistic it will become law soon. There is a lot of support for this bill.
Another important priority is getting more shelter space. Oregon has one of the highest rates of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (meaning they are sleeping outside, in a tent or a car).
In 2019, Oregon Housing and Community Services commissioned a study of shelters in our state that found Oregon is one of four states where more than half of people (61 percent) experiencing homelessness don’t have access to shelter.
We are way behind on where we need to be in shelter capacity and, while we are funding more shelters, we need to act immediately to solve this problem.
In 2020 we put started Project Turnkey, which converts hotels, motels and other spaces into both temporary shelters and long-term housing.
Increasing funding for this effort so we can get our unhoused neighbors into shelters and off the streets is crucial. The current situation is untenable and we must give people a place to go and off the street. This is exactly what Project Turnkey has been doing and with more funding they can do more of this crucial work.
Both proposals, HB 4058 and more money for Project Turnkey, are going through the Ways and Means process where we will decide how much funding we can afford to put towards these priorities. Again, I am hopeful we will properly invest in both programs.
Without making this column way too long, I want to mention some other very important bills we are advancing.
HB 4075 would ensure that crime victims, including burglarized small businesses, receive restitution for the harm they have experienced.
SB 1510 would reduce traffic stops for infractions like broken taillights that aren’t dangerous, so police can focus on addressing dangerous crimes.
HB 4045 would invest in programs to break the cycle of community violence.
Finally, the earned income tax credit bill, HB 4157, would send $600 to more than a quarter million Oregonians to help low- and middle-income families.
These are only a small number of the important bills we are working to pass, and I will provide more updates in my weekly newsletter as things progress.
If you want to receive those updates, reach out to me at email@example.com.
There are lots of other bills on my radar, and if you have bills you strongly support or want to know my view on, please reach out as well.
Short session is certainly chaotic but I’m proud of the work we are doing and hopefully we can get important priorities across the finish line.
For the April column expect a summary of big-ticket items that passed – like saving the Elliot State Forest or the Governor’s Future Ready Oregon Proposal workforce initiative or making sure people don’t lose their health care (Oregon Health Plan/Medicaid) when the pandemic ends.