Special session: Lawmakers to address OR’s illegal pot boom

December 10, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — With lawmakers returning to the Oregon state Capitol for a special session on Monday, Gov. Kate Brown said eviction protections and rental assistance won’t be the only topics of discussion.

Following bipartisan conversations with leaders in the Legislature, Brown Friday outlined additional priorities that lawmakers have agreed to address — including drought relief, illegal cannabis proliferation and humanitarian impacts and support for Afghan refugee resettlement.

“I’d like to thank the legislators from both sides of the aisle who have worked with me over the last several days to put together a package of policies and investments that meet the pressing needs of Oregonians,” Brown said in a statement.

Arguably the most pressing issue is that thousands of Oregon households are currently struggling to pay rent and at risk of eviction.

More than 67,000 Oregon households recently reported that they feel “not at all confident” they can cover next month’s bills, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey. Despite an overwhelming need, this month the statewide rental assistance program stopped taking new applications after all $289 million of federal funds have been requested and committed to renters.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Oregonians facing potential eviction do not have time to wait––they need an immediate solution that keeps them in their homes. And, in the last year, people across Oregon have faced unprecedented challenges due to record heat and persistent drought conditions,” Brown said.

As of Friday, Brown says that Legislature is proposing $215 million to prevent winter evictions and transition to long-term, locally-delivered eviction prevention services. Out of the proposed funds, $100 million would be for additional emergency rental assistance.

In addition the proposal would extend a “safe harbor” measure. The law, which the governor signed in June, grants renters a 60-day period in which they cannot be evicted due to lack of payments, as long as they provide proof that they applied for aid. However currently, an estimated 8,355 households are at risk of eviction, as the safe harbor protection keeping them housed have expired as they continue to wait for aid from the state.

Brown says the proposed safe harbor extension would apply to each individual who has applied for rental assistance by June 30, 2022. Instead of the 60-day limit, the protections would remain in place while applications are being processed and last no longer than September 30, 2022.

ADVERTISEMENT

In addition to keeping people housed, lawmakers will discuss a proposed $100 million to help Oregonians impacted by this summer’s extreme heat and drought conditions. Included in the package is $40 million for an agricultural forgivable disaster loan program, $12 million for the Klamath Basin for domestic well assistance, $9.7 million to address drought relief on Klamath Tribal lands, $10 million for agricultural workers who miss work due to unsafe working conditions resulting from extreme heat or smoke and $9.75 million for irrigation district assistance to offset water user costs.

Lawmakers are also eyeing $25 million for a comprehensive, statewide plan to address the proliferation of illegal cannabis around the state and ease the associated humanitarian impacts and $18 million to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees in Oregon.

—-

Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.