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OREGON CAPITAL CHRONICLE: a wrap-up of the week’s news

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Night falls on this year’s legislative session. (Lynne Terry/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

LYNNE TERRY March 9, 2024  || OREGON CAPITAL CHRONICLE

Dear readers –

And that’s a wrap! Over the past five weeks, lawmakers sorted through piles of bills, held hours of hearings, debated and argued, pulled some procedural moves to slow things down, compromised and passed dozens of bills – all amid the banging of construction workers making the 86-year-old Capitol safer. Workers even turned off heat for a time, forcing lawmakers and their staff to bundle up in hats, gloves and blankets to work.

This session, even though it was short, is likely to affect Oregonians across the state in years to come as new programs take effect. In five weeks, the Legislature approved more than 100 bills – less than half of those introduced. They included a bipartisan deal to recriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs – reversing Measure 110 – while allocating $211 million for treatment and other services. Lawmakers also approved $376 million for housing, more than half of the $600 million Gov. Tina Kotek originally requested.

The session ended late Thursday, three days early, and Julia Shumway and Ben Botkin stuck around, attending news conferences after the final gavels fell around 8 p.m. to wrap up our coverage. As Shumway reported, this session, unlike the last one, was imbued with bipartisan cooperation. Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, attributed that to the 2023 walkout which almost killed that session. Republicans who are losing their jobs because of their boycott last year had no reason not to walk out this session if they wanted to kill a bill.

The two big crises in the state – a lack of housing and widespread drug addiction – also helped set the tone of the session. The public is clamoring for solutions, and lawmakers knew they had to get something done.

Both parties can take the praise or criticism for the session, depending on how the big measures passed by the Legislature work out.

Gov. Tina Kotek announced she will sign the sweeping drug addiction bill, and she’s also likely to hop on the housing legislation. As Shumway reported, the housing bills include money for infrastructure and provisions allowing cities to add land outside the urban growth boundary for housing.

The Legislature also passed campaign finance reform, something that’s eluded lawmakers for years. That, too, was helped by the threat of two initiatives on the ballot in November, with one having much stricter limits on contributions than what lawmakers, business groups and unions want.

Here are some other legislative highlights from the week:

Legislature poised to approve $170 million for subsidized child care

‘Right to repair’ bill passes Legislature, heads to Gov. Kotek

Recovery houses in Oregon provide crucial transition in path toward drug-free life

Oregon’s legislative session ending without much-needed solutions to wildfire funding issues

Oregon Legislature allocates millions for adult addiction, stumbles on funding for children

High-stakes bill limiting private equity in health care stalls amid Republican opposition

Legislature passes bill to rid Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System of coal investments

Oregon Legislature passes $30 million for summer school

Oregon Legislature passes bill to make drug use on public transportation a crime

Oregon Legislature passes school bus camera bill targeting errant drivers

Oregon Legislature reaches compromise on public records proposal

Bill cracking down on Oregon child labor laws heads to Gov. Kotek

This week included some election news as well.

Alex Baumhardt reported that Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, announced he will not run for state treasurer, while Shumway reported that former gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan said she would challenge fellow Republican Rep. James Hieb for a Canby-based House seat.

Also this week, Republican Michael Summers, Redmond’s school board chair and owner of a flooring company, announced a run for the Bend Senate seat now held by Republican Tim Knopp. Knopp, who is stepping down over his participation in the 2023 boycott by Republican senators, had picked Shannon Monihan, owner of a firearms training company, to replace him. But the Secretary of State’s Office disqualified her because she hasn’t lived in the district long enough.

Also in the headlines, U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, who faces a tight race in the 5th Congressional District, endorsed Donald Trump this week for the Republican presidential nomination, which he has mostly locked up. And finally, the Oregon Board of Forestry approved the Western Oregon State Forests Conservation Habitat Plan to protect 17 threatened or endangered species on 630,000 thousand acres of state forests for the next 70 years.

For a change of pace, our Saturday story looks at abortion, a topic we’ve not recently visited.

Have a great weekend, and take care of yourself and others.

Lynne Terry, editor-in-chief

Lynne Terry  Lynne Terry, who has more than 30 years of journalism experience, is Oregon Capital Chronicle’s editor-in-chief. She previously was editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site; reported on health in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio.

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