Image for Week 2: Housing, Drugs and Daylight Savings
Lawmakers took the first step toward ending the switch to Daylight Savings Time.

Kotek Housing Proposal Slashed; Chief Justice Raises Concern Over Drug Cases

Week two of the 2024 Oregon legislative session saw Governor Kotek’s housing request slashed, another roadblock to recriminalizing drug possession and the possible end of Daylight Savings Time. Bills that don’t clear their committee of origin by today are dead this session.

Kotek Housing Package
The Senate Housing and Development Committee approved a $350 million housing package, but with $150 million less than Kotek requested. The committee scaled back how much acreage cities can absorb through urban growth expansion, but environmental opposition continued.

The two-bill housing package now heads to the Joint Ways and Means Committee, where Kotek hopes some or all of her funding request could be restored. The committee retained her request to create a state housing production and accountability office.

As voted out of committee, the package includes $100 million for infrastructure for shovel-ready housing projects, $75 million for a revolving loan fund to support construction of moderate-income housing and more than $130 million to fund homeless shelter operations, homelessness prevention and affordable and recovery housing.

Measure 110 Changes
Lawmakers continued to negotiate over a possible new misdemeanor charge designed to nudge people arrested for drug possession into treatment. In an 8-page letter written on behalf of Oregon judges and court staff, Oregon Chief Justice Meagan Flynn raised concerns about the impact on courts if lawmakers recriminalize drug possession.

“We understand the desire to keep this bill streamlined to minimize costs, but as a practical matter, the Oregon Judicial Department will have significant new responsibilities and will need additional time and resources to implement the requirements of the bill,” Flynn’s letter said.

Among the challenges Flynn highlighted are a shortage of public defenders to represent indigent defendants, a lack of jail space and so-called deflection programs and the complexity of developing new procedures to parse misdemeanor charges qualifying for expungement.

“As currently drafted, the bill requires courts to set aside (drug) charges in cases where other charges that are not eligible to be sealed are included on the charging instrument,” the letter said. “This creates an extraordinary workload. It requires court staff to manually review the case to redact only the portions related to the (drug) charge, while leaving everything else. This process typically takes approximately 10 hours per case.”

The two lead Democrats working on Measure 110 revisions thanked court officials for their observations and expressed hope that deflection centers “will significantly decrease the need for public defense attorneys for drug possession cases.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a measure that would expand the Class A misdemeanor for interfering with public transportation to include using or consuming a controlled substance while on a transit vehicle or at a station. The measure is expected to come to the Senate floor this week.

Daylight Savings Time
The Senate Committee On Veterans, Emergency Management, Federal and World Affairs unanimously passed legislation to end the switch to daylight saving time in the parts of Oregon in the Pacific Time Zone. A similar attempt adopted by the legislature in 2019 required congressional approval. If the legislation passes to remain permanently on standard time, Oregon would become the third state along with Hawaii and Arizona to drop daylight savings time, beginning January 1, 2025. Daylight savings time would continue this year, starting at 2 a.m. March 10. A similar bill in the Washington Legislature failed to move this session.

Right to Repair
A bill allowing consumers or independent providers to repair some electronic devices. Major business groups were neutral on the bill after managing to remove private right of action provisions and add stronger protections for intellectual property and proprietary information. After years of inaction on various right to repair bills, which began with auto repairs, this legislation is now expected to pass this session.

Health Insurance Mandates
The House Behavioral Health and Health Care Committee is expected to move today a bill to begin a process to review proposed health insurance mandates before they show up as legislation, somewhat similar to a committee that reviews proposed changes to workers’ compensation.

Workplace Violence
A multi-year effort to pass workplace violence legislation took its first step in the House Judiciary Committee with passage of House Bill 4088 and its amendments. Work will continue after bill was sent to Ways and Means.

Expanded Pharmacist Role
The Senate Health Care Committee advanced legislation to allow pharmacists to test and treat COVID. The committee is scheduled to deal this week bills relating to the corporate practice of medicine, new regulations for pharmacy benefit managers and white bagging, which refers to the distribution of patient‐specific medication from a pharmacy to a physician’s office, hospital or clinic.

Semiconductor Worker Training
The House Committee on Higher Education approved creation of a Semiconductor Talent Sustaining Fund. The fund would allocate $5 million for STEM education and work-based learning opportunities, $5 million for community college workforce training and $5 million for advanced degrees and research. The fund also would allocate a one-time investment of $15 million for community colleges and universities to launch investments in infrastructure, faculty and curriculum to support this area of education and research. The measure, which now goes to Ways and Means, was recommended by Oregon’s Semiconductor Task Force to ensure a workforce to meet the needs of expanded semiconductor manufacturing in the state.

Business and union representatives negotiate
campaign finance limits behind closed doors.

Campaign Finance Limits
Reports indicate business and union representatives are negotiating privately on potential campaign finance limits, and reportedly have been joined by long-time campaign finance reformers. No details have surfaced as The Oregon editorialized over the weekend that the compromise, if reached, should not preserve loopholes for big donors. If negotiations fail to produce anything, there are two initiatives waiting in the wings – one by Honest Elections Oregon and another teed up by labor unions. Options include caps on donations and stricter donor reporting requirements.