Gov. Kate Brown calls 1-day special session for next week

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By Jamie Goldberg | The Oregonian/OregonLive12-15-2020

 

Gov. Kate Brown will call Oregon lawmakers into a one-day special session Monday to pass additional COVID-19 and wildfire relief legislation, her office announced Tuesday.

 

Brown is asking the legislature to allocate $800 million to relief efforts for Oregonians, which could go to helping tenants and landlords, as well as providing funding for vaccine distribution, contact tracing and wildfire prevention and preparedness.

 

“We must protect Oregonians now, as we face some of our hardest days, whether by getting critical resources into the hands of those most in need, keeping a roof over people’s heads, or recognizing the incredible toll of this virus on our small businesses and restaurants,” Brown said in a Legislative officials say lawmakers will consider allocating $150 million for the new landlord compensation fund and $50 million for existing rental relief programs administered by the Oregon Housing & Community Services department. Landlords that apply for assistance through the fund would be given money to cover some missed rental payments and would be required to forgive 20% of their tenants’ past-due rent.

Unlike the sweeping eviction moratorium that the Legislature enacted in June, the new bill would require tenants to show they have experienced financial hardship since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to receive protections. The previous moratorium did not require tenants to prove they were experiencing hardship.  “Oregon must act to bridge the gap as we continue to wait to see federal relief. I thank legislators for their work in addressing these critical issues next week, and I look forward to our progress.”

 

Rep. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, said Tuesday that lawmakers would focus on four key proposals during the special session.

She said lawmakers would consider bills that would extend the state’s residential eviction moratorium and create a landlord assistance fund, offer coronavirus liability protections to schools and provide support for restaurants, as well as consider allocating $600 million to the Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board for other COVID-19 and wildfire relief and recovery efforts.

Lawmakers are expected take up legislation that would extend the state’s residential eviction moratorium until the end of June for renters facing financial hardships and create a new compensation fund for landlords whose tenants have fallen behind on payments, according to a draft copy of the proposed bill.

Legislative officials say lawmakers will consider allocating $150 million for the new landlord compensation fund and $50 million for existing rental relief programs administered by the Oregon Housing & Community Services department. Landlords that apply for assistance through the fund would be given money to cover some missed rental payments and would be required to forgive 20% of their tenants’ past-due rent.

Unlike the sweeping eviction moratorium that the Legislature enacted in June, the new bill would require tenants to show they have experienced financial hardship since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to receive protections. The previous moratorium did not require tenants to prove they were experiencing hardship.

“We want to thank the governor for calling the special session and we hope that lawmakers are planning to take action to extend the eviction moratorium and create a landlord compensation fund to ensure that COVID doesn’t bring a lifelong economic setback for Oregon working families,” said Alison McIntosh of the Oregon Housing Alliance. “All Oregonians - white, Black or brown, rural or urban - need safety and stability for their families through the end of the school year and there needs to be rental assistance available for tenants and landlords to help.”

The Reimagine Oregon Project, a group of Black-led organizations and individuals, said the proposed legislation won’t do enough to protect Black renters and called on supporters to tell lawmakers to strengthen renter protections specifically for Black residents in the bill.

A separate proposal floated by Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, to extend the state’s foreclosure moratorium is not currently on the agenda for the one-day special session.

Lawmakers will also consider legislation that would protect schools districts, public charter schools and community colleges that follow COVID-19 public health guidance from being sued if students, staff or visitors contract the virus, according to a draft of the bill.

Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, called on lawmakers to enact the liability protections and provide additional funding to allow schools to safely reopen.

“We support the governor’s efforts to reopen schools while balancing protections of public health,” Green said. “Two of the critical pieces to making that happen are providing funding and ensuring that schools have limited liability from COVID-related lawsuits.”

 

Another bill on the table would allow restaurants to sell sealed mixed drinks to-go and impose a new cap on fees imposed by third-party platforms, such as DoorDash and Grubhub. If passed, the bill would direct the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to establish additional requirements for the sale of cocktails to-go within 30 days.

 “The ability to sell a mixed drink, a Bloody Mary, a mojito to go, along with that awesome plate of ribs that you ordered is going to make it possible for restaurants to make a little bit more money and limp along and hopefully make it through the pandemic and come out the other end,” said Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, who has pushed for the legislation. 

According to a draft copy of the proposed bill, third-party food platforms would also have to enter into agreements with restaurants to facilitate orders and delivery. Those platforms would not be allowed to charge restaurants more than 10% of the purchase price of a delivery order or more than 5% of the purchase price of a pickup order.

Finally, legislative officials say lawmakers will consider allocating $600 million to the Legislature’s Emergency Board. Of that $600 million, $400 million would go to COVID-19 relief efforts, including potential funding for vaccine distribution and contact tracing, $100 million would go to wildfire prevention and community preparedness and $100 million would be placed in the general emergency fund.

As recently as last week, the special session appeared to be in doubt as Senate Democrats remained divided on the proposal to extend the eviction moratorium, but lawmakers have had ongoing discussions behind the scenes over the last week to reach a consensus on legislation that could be addressed in the special session.

Both Democrats and Republicans expressed support for the special session Tuesday.

“The third special session will give needed relief to hurting Oregonians,” Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod of Lyons said in a statement. “Proposed legislation includes COVID-19 liability protections for schools, a critical first step to get schools reopened, support for renters and landlords, as well as technical changes in the restaurant industry that will help hard-working Oregonians and small businesses.”

“There is significant work to be done in the upcoming 2021 long session, and Republicans will continue to advocate for liability protections for our health care system in the coming weeks,” he added.

The one-day session will take place in person at the Capitol. Legislative officials are consulting with the state epidemiologist, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, to ensure that they can meet in a healthy and safe environment, Brown’s office said.

Brown said she is disappointed that the federal government has yet to pass additional coronavirus relief.

“I continue to call on Congress to pass another robust coronavirus relief bill to bring support to the American people. But these calls have not yet been heeded,” Brown said. “It is clear that states must act on their own to provide a bridge until federal help arrives. This is why I am calling on legislators from both sides of the aisle to come together in the best interests of the state.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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