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From the Desk of Representative Ed Diehl – End of Session Recap

Written on Apr. 27th, 2024
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Jamie and I ended our first short session – what a whirlwind!  For a five-week session that is intended to make budget adjustments and minor legislative ‘fixes’, we had much, much more on our plate.

It is an honor to serve House District 17.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office with questions or concerns.

And as always, I’m open to grab a coffee or a beer and discuss how we can make Oregon a better place.  

Here are some of the highlights from the 2024 Short Session.

Recriminalization of hard drugs

With the passage of HB4002, Oregon has recriminalized hard drugs once again, in part reversing the failed policies that have led to drug use on our streets and in our parks and shopping malls.  It provides for supervised probation which can consist of drug treatment and recovery services.  Recriminalization and required treatment reflect a hard truth – a significant portion of unsheltered homeless are drug addicted and not volunteering for treatment.  Getting them into the treatment they desperately need is the compassionate thing to do.

The bill also gives law enforcement the necessary tools to go after drug dealers.  HB5204, the funding bill for HB4002, provided much needed one-time funding to community corrections, courts, and law enforcement to help with enforcing the new “Drug Enforcement” Misdemeanor.  The bill also provided $11,500,000 to Salem’s Bridgeway Recovery Services, Inc., for the development of the Bridgeway Medical Center and substance use disorder treatment residential facilities.

HB4002 started as a very weak attempt at reform.  And it would have stayed that way if not for Republican resistance, a huge public outcry, and the threat of a ballot measure to take the issue to the voters.  

While there are good things in this bill, there are also some serious flaws.  That means the battle to reverse the damage from Measure 110 is far from over.  Without local leadership willing and able to enforce this new law, and without adequate resources for treatment and recovery, it will fail.  The bill kept all the long-term funding in the hands of a group of unelected bureaucrats that do not believe in recriminalization or required treatment, and are more focused on destigmatizing drug use than getting people clean.  They would like nothing more than to have recriminalization fail – and they control the purse strings.  This tells me that some in the legislature are not yet ready to let go of the Drug Policy Alliance vision of recriminalization, despite overwhelming public outcry to the contrary.

Housing and homelessness

NOTE:  housing and homelessness are two different, overlapping issues, and in my opinion our Governor and the legislature are making a mistake by lumping them together.

The Governor’s top priority this session was housing and homelessness.  SB1537 and SB1530 dedicate $376M to housing infrastructure, a developer revolving loan program, homeless shelters, short-term rent subsidies to protect against eviction, and addiction recovery housing, among other things.  There are also state supports in place to assist cities with urban planning.

One of the more contentious issues around these bills is a one-time exemption to Oregon’s long-standing land use laws.  For a few years, cities can expand their urban growth boundary (UGB) one time.  Up to 100 acres for cities with a population greater than 25,000, and 50 acres for smaller cities.  Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) land is off limits and cannot be brought into the UGB; the UGB expansion is limited to Urban Reserve areas.  The decision to expand the UGB is left up to each city with approval by the county, and there are strict guidelines for the decision-making process.

I’m not a fan of much of this policy.  I don’t believe the state should be in the housing loan business, and some of the programs are so overly restrictive that I don’t believe any developers will take advantage of them.  I believe the state’s role is to develop infrastructure so free-market housing can be built, preferably with Oregon timber.

Fiscal restraint

SB1562 increased the cap on our rainy-day fund.  Oregon has a constitutionally mandated balanced budget process: every two years the state estimates tax revenues, and the spending budget is set to stay within that projection.  Each budget cycle, money is put toward the rainy-day fund, the state’s financial reserve fund, which may be tapped into if tax revenues fall short of projections.  Note: this did not reduce the kicker!

Small business wins

SB1575, the “Duty to Defend” bill, fixes contractual language for design and engineering firms working government contracts so they are only liable for their scope of work.  This will provide much-needed relief for many small businesses that were either kept out of these government construction projects, or taking them on with the risk of losing it all if something on the project, completely out of their control, went wrong.

We successfully killed HB4130, a bill which would have banned the corporate practice of medicine in Oregon.  On the surface, this bill sounds like a good thing – we want our health care providers to be locally owned and operated, preferably by those delivering the care.  However, the bill did nothing to get at the root cause of why practitioners are selling their practices.  And it made many existing health care businesses illegal.  Instead of increasing access to care HB4130 would limit it.  

Now that the session is over, I’ll be working on legislation to introduce for the 2025 session.

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