Co-Chair of Initial Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response
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I was honored to serve as Co-Chair to the initial Special Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response Committee earlier this year. It was convened by the Senate President and Speaker of the House to identify actions to support economic relief and household stability, and to make recommendations for legislative action. The committee met four times over seven days. We were briefed by some of the Governor’s closest advisors, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, members of the Governor’s Economic Advisory Council, leaders from Oregon Health and Science University, the director of the Office of Emergency Management, and Chief Justice Walters. But maybe most importantly, the committee received over 1500 pieces of testimony representing all sectors of the economy and citizens from all corners of Oregon who told how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting them and offering suggestions for legislative action.
The committee members discussed 47 possible proposals and identified recommendations to help the response effort and for potential legislative actions to aid Oregon’s communities in both the short and long term. We forwarded those recommendations in a letter (link to letter) to our leadership, understanding that some would need alignment with clarity from the federal programs and resources being passed by the US Congress. We also understood that some of those recommendations could be implemented by the Governor under her authority during and Emergency Declaration.
While the legislature prepared for special session the Governor implemented many of those recommendations.
Special Legislative Sessions 1 & 2
First Special Session Background
The first special session was called by Governor Brown on June 24th to address the ongoing COVID crisis and police accountability. This is an unprecedented moment in American history. People are rising up to demand racial justice and police reform, and the COVID-19 pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on Oregon’s economy and public health. We heard the call from Oregonians and quickly made progress during this special session to begin addressing some of these issues. I not only had the pleasure of carrying several of these bills on the House floor but I was one of the 14 members who made up the Special Session Committee that took public testimony and debated these measures prior to a full votes. In total 22 bills were passed in 3 days, below is a description and list of the bills that passed.
COVID- 19 Response Bills
Foreclosure Protection (House Bill 4204): Probably the legislation I spend the most time preparing for special session. Directs lenders to defer both residential and commercial mortgage payments until September 30, 2020 if a borrower is unable to pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deferred payments would be due at the end of the loan, unless the borrower and lenders determine alternate, agreeable terms. This critical legislation will help individuals keep a roof over their head and keep our state’s small businesses open. This is one piece in helping stabilize our state’s economy as we work our way through this crisis.
Residential and Commercial Evictions (House Bill 4213): Extends the moratorium on both commercial and residential no-cause evictions through September 30, 2020 and creates a six-month repayment grace period after the moratorium ends for tenants to repay their back rent accrued during the moratorium.
Omnibus Bill (House Bill 4212): This is another of the measures that I had the pleasure of carrying on the house floor provides a variety of support for public health, individuals, local governments, courts, and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Emergency shelter siting – Temporarily waives all siting, design, and zoning regulations for local governments to develop low-barrier shelters and navigation centers for 90 days. This will help local governments provide support for Oregonians experiencing unsheltered homelessness who are at high-risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Remote notary provisions – Creates a pilot program to allow notaries to perform work using electronic technology to accommodate public heath guidelines.
Enterprise zone deadline extension – Extends the expiration date of enterprise zones in the state by six months, preventing a June 30 expiration.
Individual development account funds for pandemic relief – Provides flexibility for individual development accounts to be used for emergency expenses.
COVID-19 race and ethnicity data – Requires health care providers to collect data on race, ethnicity, preferred spoken and written languages, English proficiency, interpreter needs, and disability status when administering health services related to COVID-19. This data will be confidential and used for public health purposes.
Safe public meetings – Allows local governments and other public bodies to hold virtual meetings so they can continue to provide essential services and make decisions in a public and transparent manner, while following public health guidelines.
CARES Act payment protection – Prevents CARES Act Recovery Rebate payments from being subject to garnishment to ensure that all relief money can be used to pay for essential needs. Payments are protected until September 30, 2020.
Safe court proceedings – Gives the Chief Justice the authority in certain circumstances to extend statutory deadlines for court appearances if the COVID-19 pandemic results in delay of court processes.
Temporary Physician Assistant Authorization – Physician Assistants are given flexibility during the emergency period to practice at the top of their scope to aid in emergency response.
Police Accountability and Racial Justice
House Bill 4201: Establishes a Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform to continue making progress on police reform. The committee is directed to examine policies to improve transparency in investigations and complaints regarding use of force by police officers; increase transparency in police protocols and process to build public trust; examine policies that reduce the prevalence of serious physical injury or death caused by use of force, the authorization of use of force under state law, and the disparate impact on communities of color; determine most appropriate policy for independent review of deadly force; and make recommendations to the Judiciary committees by December 31, 2020.
House Bill 4203: Declares that a peace officer is not justified or reasonable in any circumstance to use physical force that impedes “the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by applying pressure on the throat or neck of the other person” unless it is a circumstance in which an officer may use deadly force as provided by ORS 161.239. Rules will be adopted prohibiting the training of this force, except as a defensive maneuver.
HB 4205: Requires police and reserve officers to intervene to prevent or stop another officer from engaging in an act they know, or should reasonably know is misconduct. Misconduct is defined as “unjustified or excessive force that is objectively unreasonable under the circumstances or in violation of the law enforcement agency's use of force policy; sexual harassment or sexual misconduct; discrimination against a person based on protected class; committing a crime; or violation of the minimum standards for fitness for public safety personnel.” The bill requires the officer to report the misconduct as soon as possible, but no later than 72 hours after the misconduct; failure to report is grounds for discipline. DPSST will provide an annual report to the legislature on the rule adopted for implementation.
HB 4207: Requires the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) to establish a statewide online public database of records for officers whose certification has been revoked or suspended and specifies the information to be provided as well as timeline for posting. The bill brings current grounds for revocation or suspension of certification by DPSST from rules into statute. Law enforcement agencies are required to request and review applicant's personnel files from current or prior employing law enforcement agencies and liability protection is provided for requesting and supplying agencies. Clarification is given that both violation and criminal convictions for marijuana possession are not grounds for mandatory suspension or revocation of certification.
HB 4208: Prohibits law enforcement agencies from using tear gas for crowd control, except for circumstances that meet the definition of a riot in ORS 166.015. Before using tear gas in the event of a riot, law enforcement must 1) announce their intent to use tear gas; 2) allow sufficient time for individuals to evacuate the area; 3) announce for a second time that they intend to use tear gas.
SB 1604: Under current processes, when an internal investigation finds misconduct of a police officer, the Chief of Police would apply a discipline guide that has been agreed to by the public employer and the collective bargaining unit. In response, the officer has the option to grieve the decision all the way to arbitration. The arbitrator has the power to either disagree with the finding, agree with the finding and uphold the discipline, or agree with the decision but substitute a different discipline. Under this measure if the arbitrator agrees misconduct occurred, they must impose the discipline required by the matrix.
Other Urgent Needs
SB 1601: Prevents citations from being issued for expired driver licenses, permits, and vehicle registrations and further directs courts to dismiss any citation for specified offenses between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. SB 1601 also provides flexibility for transit providers by allowing Oregon’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund (STIF) to be used to maintain existing service. Previously, the STIF was reserved for transit expansion or improvement. Additionally, SB 1601A merges the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Fund with the STIF and requires the Oregon Transportation Commission to dedicate a portion of the fund to transit for older adults and individuals with disabilities.
HB 4210: Removes authority of courts to impose driving privilege suspensions for failure to pay traffic-related fines or comply with requirements ordered in lieu of fines.
House Bill 4214: Modifies Oregon's dependency code to align with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and requires the Oregon Department of Human Services to provide biennial reports about American Indian and Alaska Native children in the child welfare system.
SB 1603: The Rural Telecommunications Act establishes the Broadband Fund to support projects for planning or developing broadband service infrastructure, and for the administration of the Oregon Broadband Office. Subjects sale of all retail telecommunications services, retail commercial mobile radio services, and retail interconnected voice over Internet protocol services to the universal service fund surcharge to support the Broadband Fund.
HB 4202: Makes technical changes and clarifications to the commercial activity tax that the legislature approved in 2019. These changes include technical clarifications and exempting six small, Oregon dairies.
2nd Special Session
This second special session came later than anticipated due to the inaction of federal relief packages. On August 10th the legislature reconvened in Salem for a second special session primarily to rebalance the budget. It was an intense sprint, but 15 hours and 11 bills later we adjourned the 2nd Special Session of 2020. The Legislature was able to rebalance the budget in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were also able to pass a few policy bills that will fix a few of the problems for people struggling with Unemployment Insurance and update our Police Accountability measures. As was the case in the first special session members wore mask, maintained social distance and remained in our offices when not on the floor to vote or speak to a bill.
I once again was appointed to the Special Session Joint Committee. I was an honor to serve on such an important committee and be part of vetting measures before they went in front of the whole body for a vote.
The priority of this special session was fixing the budget. The pandemic has caused tremendous strain on our state budget. I believe we were able to strategically allocate the decreased budget to protect services including education, economic development, public safety, healthcare, and house services.
Below is a list of programs and services that were prioritized for preservation, as well as a package of infrastructure investments that will fund key construction projects across the state:
K-12 Education – We were able to keep the K-12 State School Fund at $9 billion, sparing students and teachers from devastating program cuts including most investments from the 2019 Student Success Act ($170 million for early learning programs, $246 million for statewide initiatives including the High School Success Fund and Ballot Measure 98).
Higher Education - The basic support funds for community colleges and universities, the Community College Support Fund and the Public University Support Fund are protected. As well as funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant program, the largest state-funded, need based grant program for college students, was maintained.
Housing - Housing stabilization programs, including the Emergency Housing Assistance and State Homeless Assistance programs, were kept at current service levels. $50 million in additional bonding was approved to provide affordable housing for low income Oregonians, as well as citizens in historically underserved communities and communities of color, through the Local Innovation and Fast Track (LIFT) Housing Program.
Human Services and Public Health – With the help of increased federal Medicaid resources we were able to keep essential programs in the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services intact. Oregon Project Independence services for both seniors and younger persons living with disabilities were maintained as well as Veterans’ services.
Economic Development - Lottery allocations to counties for economic development programs, which will be critical to Oregon’s economic recovery, will continue. Staffing and agency infrastructure at the Oregon Business Development Department were preserved, allowing the agency to focus on coronavirus relief efforts.
Infrastructure Investments - The legislature also approved infrastructure investments, both bonding and cash grants, to support local water systems, emergency preparedness, and major renovations of public buildings to create well-paying construction jobs across the state.
Water Systems and Emergency Preparedness
●$20 million to support improvements to the City of Salem’s drinking water system.
● $4.2 million to complete an emergency request from the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
● $7 million to rehabilitate the City of Sweet Home’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.
● $68 million to make seismic upgrades and accessibility improvements to the Oregon State Capitol. This project includes the state’s first Project Labor Agreement, ensuring fair wages and setting a new standard for future state contracts.
● $7.5 million for construction of seismic stations as part of the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system administered by the University of Oregon.
Higher Education Investments
The legislature approved bonding for four projects at public universities, totaling about $170 million. I was particularly happy to fight for the requirement that these projects require contractors to employ apprentices and legislation that would require certain public projects to employ apprentices to perform 15 percent of the work, including a goal of 15% participation by women, minorities, and veterans, and require an outreach and recruitment program to help achieve these goals. recruit women, people of color, and provide good-paying jobs with health insurance and retirement benefits, veterans to perform the work.
● $59 million to provide the first phase of funding to renovate Portland State University’s Science Building One.
● $57 million for the renovation of Huestis Hall at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
● $35 million to construct a new Arts and Education Complex at Oregon State University.
● $19 million to renovate Boivin Hall at the Oregon Institute of Technology
Child Care and Early Learning - The legislature approved $6.9 million for four child care and early learning-related projects from the Early Learning account.
• $1.4 million for Port of Morrow Early Learning Expansion for Head Start
• $2.5 million for the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette
• $2 million for the Rogue Valley Children’s Discovery Museum for renovation
• $1 million for the Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness
SB 1701 - Clarifies situations in which workers are able to work part-time while receiving benefits. This bill provides that unemployed individuals receiving unemployment insurance benefits who have earnings from less than full-time employment may earn greater of $300 or one-third of their weekly benefit amount before their weekly benefit amount is reduced.
SB 1703 - Provides that during a statutorily-declared emergency, the Governor may authorize the Director of the Department of Revenue to disclose certain information set forth in tax report or return to any state agency if the director determines that administration of any federal or state law or program, including –– but not limited to –– administration of unemployment insurance laws and programs by the Employment Department. This bill requires disclosure to enable the agency to verify identity or income level of any person for purposes related to emergency or any consequences of emergency.
SB 5723 - Appropriates moneys from the General Fund to Emergency Board for allocations.
HB 4301 - This bill brings together two policing reform bills considered by the Joint Committee on Transparent Policing & Use of Reform, of which I am a member. This bill clarifies the prohibition on use of "chokeholds" and other police actions that cut off breathing or blood circulation (such as the action that caused the death of George Floyd). It also clarifies when physical force is permissible and set standards in the use of force. HB 4301 further aligns Oregon law in statute with prevailing case law and is supported by both reform advocates and law enforcement agencies and organizations across the state including the Oregon State Police, the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, and the Oregon Sheriffs' Association.
HB 4303 - Directs the State Treasurer to transfer moneys from Education Stability Fund to State School Fund.
HB 5221 - Modifies amounts of lottery funds allocated from Administrative Services Economic Development Fund to state agencies.