By Jon Bartholomew, AARP Oregon Government Relations Director
I think the most generous thing I can say about the Oregon legislature this week is that it was “interesting”. There is a significant amount of frustration and tension in the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. And it has been spilling over onto proposals that were not considered controversial at the beginning of session. Many good bills are dying in committee due to running out of time, yet in some cases, they may be so badly injured by the process that they will be difficult to revive in the next session.
Final decisions are being made on legislation and the budget right now. Here’s your update on AARP’s priority issues for this session.
- Most important of all AARP priorities has been to prevent any cuts in Long Term Supports and Services provided through the Department of Human Services Aging and People with Disabilities division. The good news is that the budget deal that moved out of the Ways and Means Committee Thursday evening will fill most of a $70+ million hole that DHS was facing. By filling this hole, there will be no cuts to services
- Another victory this week was the funding for a new Elder Abuse Resource Prosecutor in the office of the Attorney General. This will help local District Attorneys prosecute complex elder abuse cases all over the state. Read more about this here - http://koin.com/2016/02/18/oregon-ag-wants-funds-for-elder-abuse-unit/
- The big disappointment this week was that funding was NOT restored to the Gatekeeper Program we have been advocating for this session. https://states.aarp.org/advocates-hope-to-restore-gatekeeper-program-a-vital-program-for-seniors/ Legislators felt that while this is a worthwhile program, the looming billion-dollar shortfall in next session’s budget factored into their decision to not fund this. AARP will continue to fight for this valuable program in 2017.
- The “Inclusionary Zoning” bill, SB 1577, passed the Senate on Friday with bipartisan support. This will provide a new tool for municipalities to encourage development of affordable housing. While the final bill isn’t as good as we had originally hoped, it is still a step forward. Read more about it here - http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/02/housing_crisis_inclusionary_zo.html
Legislation to protect tenants from sudden rent increases passed the House this week, and then moved out of the Senate committee it was assigned to. It will soon be on the floor of the Senate for a vote. Again, while it started off as much more robust protections, the final version is an improvement and provides renters with more time to deal with a rent increase and prohibits rent increases in the first year of a month to month tenancy. More information here - http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/34090867-75/oregon-lawmakers-approve-protections-for-renters.html.csp
Advance Directives Modernization - SB 1522, legislation to modernize Oregon’s Advance Directive form and create a new process to keep it updated was not passed. This proposal was a product of many diverse stakeholders coming together to craft a consensus bill. However, it goes mixed up in the politics of the Capitol, and there was not enough time to do the work to take it over the goal line.
The Memory Care facility standards bill (HB 4083) also died this week due to lack of time to get it through the process. However, since this proposal was to create a workgroup to look at the licensing and regulation of Oregon’s memory care facilities, it may happen anyway without legislation. The chief sponsor of the bill has expressed interest in bringing stakeholders together with our without legislation requiring it.
Rumors are that the legislature will end the short session on Wednesday, March 2 nd. However, there are no guarantees of that, as many of the legislators are not getting along as well as usual. And after the legislature is done, much work gets started on following through with what legislators set in motion this February.
[Photo: Joyce DeMonnin]