A Productive One Day Special Session
From Oregon State Representative David Gomberg
On Monday, the Oregon Legislature wrapped up our third special session of the year. Four proposed bills passed, all of them with substantial bi-partisan margins. We came together, Democrats and Republicans, to address urgent issues with proposals that will keep people in their homes, support independent restaurants that are barely hanging on, protect our schools, and dedicate ongoing funding for critical pandemic and wildfire programs.
I am proud that we were able to provide some measure of relief until the Legislature reconvenes next year.
Last week in my newsletter, I previewed issues that were scheduled. Making informed decisions during the pandemic has been challenging as we struggle to balance public health with public access. Although the Capitol was closed to the public and most staff, electronic hearings were held and testimony received. Meeting, debates and votes were all broadcast and recorded. Here is what we accomplished:
- House Bill 4401 – the Eviction Moratorium and Landlord Compensation Fund – Ensures that renters across the state cannot be evicted through June 30, 2021 if they can’t pay their rent. It requires tenants to sign a legal document that they have been harmed financially or health impacted to avoid evictions. It also establishes a $150 million fund to help smaller landlords recover payments they were counting on.
The landlord compensation fund is focused on smaller landlords and will reimburse 80% of the rent due. Proposals will be introduced in January to provide tax credits for the remaining 20% or for landlords choosing not to participate in the program.
Recent data from the National Council of State Housing Agencies estimates that anywhere from 27,700 to 56,100 Oregon households would have been at risk of eviction on January 1st without the extension of the eviction moratorium statewide.
- House Bill 4402 – the School Limited Liability Protections Measure provides temporary liability protections to K-12 schools, public charter schools, private schools, and community colleges that are complying with COVID-19 emergency standards. Schools are not protected if they are not following Oregon Occupational Safety & Health (OSHA) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) rules. This bill provides additional incentive for schools, administrators, and teachers to follow health directives and best practices. The measure also provides whistleblower protections to third party contractors, such as janitorial service providers, bus drivers, and food service providers.
- Senate Bill 1801 – Critical Restaurant Relief allows restaurants and bars temporarily to sell and deliver mixed drinks to-go if they are sold in a sealed container. The bill caps fees that third-party delivery providers can issue at 15%.
Many independent restaurants are currently hanging on by a thread, and this support for small businesses comes at a critical time as the pandemic continues and restaurants have had in-person dining disrupted. I argued that here at the Coast, we have no delivery services and that selling cocktails to tourists doesn’t help much if we have few tourists. I supported the bill but said we needed to do more, especially in tourism economies that have been disproportionately affected.
- Senate Bill 5731 – provided Emergency COVID-19 and Wildfire Recovery Funding. A large portion of the federal money that Congress passed through the CARES Act came with an expiration date at the end of 2020. This bill includes $600 million to allow the state to continue to pay for critical pandemic-related programs, as well as provide more support for Oregonians impacted by the Labor Day wildfires. It also includes $150 million for the Landlord Compensation Fund and $50 million for rental assistance.
I also want to address the events that took place outside the Capitol Monday morning.
While I support the right of anyone to protest, the violence and destruction we saw in Salem was unacceptable. Journalists and law enforcement officers were attacked. Your state capitol was vandalized. This small group of armed extremists tried to intimidate legislators doing critically important work. Again, I support peaceful and constructive protest. But I denounce all violence and any property destruction whether the perpetrators represent the right, left, or any other perspective. I and my fellow lawmakers will not be bullied as I serve you in the Oregon House.
Our Capitol staff members are fine and professional people that serve the public in supportive roles of the legislature. They should not be fearful at their place of work. Salem Police and Oregon State Police were valiant in their efforts to balance freedom of speech, protection of property, and human lives. I thank them for their service every day and especially for what they endured Monday. Please read more here: Press release from Oregon State Police.
In better news, I am pleased to report Congress in Washington D.C. has approved $900 billion for additional COVID-19 relief. The package includes $284 billion for another round of small business aid through the Payroll Protection Program, a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit boost for 11 weeks, $600 stimulus checks for those making up to $75,000, and more money for schools and hospitals. While we still desperately need Congress to send more state and local aid, money approved this week to support the distribution of a vaccine and additional stimulus checks of up to $600 will help.
In a briefing this morning from OHA and the Governor, we learned that the first 12,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine have arrived in Oregon, have been deployed to hospitals, and the first inoculations applied. We expect to have 72,100 doses this week, with another 25,000 coming next week. We’ll also learn next week how many we can count on in the following round. The Moderna vaccines are in addition to the 92,600 Pfizer vaccines we expect to receive by the end of the month. This means that approximately 100,000 Oregonians will be able to be inoculated in December.
In the coming weeks, I will be working with other lawmakers, community leaders and constituents to prepare for the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session. Even when I’m not in Salem, I’m still working on issues that impact your lives. We check our messages daily, so if you have a comment, concern or need help with a state issue or agency, please email my office. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for reading my newsletter. Happy Holidays and stay safe.
Representative David Gomberg, 503-986-1410