Housing, Labor and Education Bills | Local News | Fold | The Weekly Source

ORegon’s 2022 legislative session ended with more than 60 bills crammed into the last two days of the short 31-day session. Lawmakers added $2.7 billion in spending to a budget passed the year before, as the state took in $2.5 billion more in revenue than expected.

Short sessions typically focus on budget adjustments and technical issues from the previous year, but Democrats believed larger challenges such as homelessness, building a sustainable workforce and childcare of children needed to be resolved.

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  • Courtesy of Zehn Katzen via Wikimedia
  • The Oregon Legislature adjourned its short session on Friday, March 4, voting on more than 60 bills in its final two days.

Housing and homelessness

Oregon has the fourth highest number of homeless people per capita (35 people per 100,000) in the United States behind California, New York and Hawaii. A $400 million bill aims to address this problem with investments in services, affordable housing and homeownership support.

Some $165 million of the package will go towards expanding shelter capacity — $50 million will go directly to the Turnkey Project, a state program that has retrofitted motels into shelters. Some $80 million of the package would support rapid relocation, including short-term rental assistance and services. The remaining $25 million would be given to municipal governments to meet specific local needs. It will build on previous work from the legislature, such as the 2006 House Bill that will partially fund the Bend Navigation Center that Bend City Council was likely to approve on Wednesday, March 16.

On the affordable housing side of the spending program, $215 million is allocated to building and preserving affordable housing. Additionally, House Bill 4123 allocates funds directly to local governments to establish joint offices coordinating services for the homeless.

“The goal is to provide money so that our cities and counties can start a joint office that can work with our community partners and have a big picture vision and a strategic plan in a community,” said Jason Kropf (D- Bend), who drafted the bill. “Bend will receive approximately $1.9 million in direct allocation.”

Child care and education

Every county in Oregon is a child care wilderness for families with preschoolers, which means there’s less than one spot available for three children. Last year, the Legislature consolidated two separate agencies that oversaw child care in the state into the Department of Early Learning and Child Care, and this year they are paying $100 million to bolster the industry.

“We have streamlined this process going forward, created increased investments, we have invested an additional $100 million in child care investments in the last session of 2022, in part to strengthen this workforce. child care work,” Kropf said.

The Legislature also prioritized funding to address teacher burnout and increase summer learning programs for K-12 students. School districts in Oregon reported more than 1,800 vacancies in 2021, citing high workloads, burnout and pandemic disruptions. The bill establishes grant programs to recruit and retain educators and waives certain professional development requirements. Lawmakers also approved protections for superintendents. The Newberg School Board fired Superintendent Joe Morelock on Nov. 9 without cause, although Morelock told the OPB he believed his dismissal stemmed from an alleged failure to enforce a policy promulgated by the school board banning “political, quasi-political or controversial symbols”.

“The Superintendent Bill was intended to ensure that superintendents could not be fired for following such things as public health guidelines, requiring some notice if a superintendent were to be fired without cause, that there would be a certain amount of time between when that notice is given and before the superintendent can be fired,” Kropf said. “The goal is to try to create continuity of leadership within our school districts so that we let’s not have these abrupt changes.”

School districts affected by the wildfires will receive a $25 million relief percentage after declining enrollment led to funding cuts.

Workforce training

A $200 million workforce training program will contribute to existing job training, apprenticeship and education programs to connect people to upward mobile jobs, and with a focus on supporting people from historically underserved communities, including people of color, adult learners, rural communities, low earners, and disconnected youth. The bill, titled Future Ready Oregon, was among Governor Kate Brown’s top priorities.

“I want to thank the Legislature for embracing Future Ready Oregon,” Governor Brown said in a press release. “And a special thank you to the Racial Justice Council, as well as our business community and workers in Oregon who shared their stories during the legislative process. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get put in the work to build a skilled team and diverse workforce.”

Perhaps the most controversial legislation passed gave agricultural workers the same overtime requirements as all other professions. Farmworkers are the only workers excluded from overtime pay in the Fair Labor Standards Act 1938. Republicans opposed the bill, saying it disadvantaged family farms over large corporations. The bill provides for overtime pay during an adjustment period and offers tax credits to farms that offset increased wages. Tax credits become more important as farms get smaller.

Oregon Republicans opposed many of the proposals passed during the short session, but in many cases were unable to override the Democratic majority. Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) said his party was able to block some of the more extreme proposals, but questioned Democrats’ priorities.

“At a time when inflation is out of control, Democrats have introduced a new sales tax and new spending. When Oregonians feel unsafe at home, Democrats have pushed an extremely lenient on the crime that makes our streets more dangerous. As we close the book on the pandemic, Democrats have clung to government overreach and mandates,” Knopp said. “Even with our big disagreements, we’ve done bipartisan good things for Oregon this session. Unfortunately, we left a lot of good policies on the table. Short sessions reveal priorities, and the priorities of the majority have been misplaced in many cases.”

The luxury sales tax Knopp mentioned was still in commission at the end of the session. As far as crime is concerned, the results have been mixed; a bill prohibiting police from carrying out stops over broken taillights or headlights was passed, as was a bill that allows those convicted in non-unanimous cases to be eligible for a new trial that they remain in detention and that they are only adult victims. The legislature also relaxed requirements for police to use tear gas after complaints that 2021 legislation restricting its use was ambiguous and prevented police intervention during violent protests.

who runs, part two

Last week, we brought you a list of local candidates vying for the upcoming primary in May, where candidates from the same party compete to see who will advance to the general election in November. This week we’ve compiled a list of those running in the races for Governor, US House and US Senate, but with over 20 gubernatorial candidates, we’ve made this long list available, including links to information about who donates to their campaigns, available on the News page of our website, bendsource.com/bend/local-news.

Michael A. Bynum