Governor Kate Brown called a special session of the Oregon legislature with the goal of preventing a coming wave of evictions which started this morning. In order to conduct any business, two-thirds of both the Oregon House of Representatives and the Oregon Senate must be present. There’s some concern, however, that Republicans may refuse to attend. Assuming enough legislators show up to work, Brown is proposing using $215 million in state funds to reinforce current eviction prevention programs and extending eviction protections, building off of the work of Oregon Senators Kayse Jama (D-Portland) and Julie Fahey (D-Eugene). She also suggested several other priority issues, including issues Republican legislators have lobbied for.
Legislative efforts may not be enough to prevent evictions this winter, even if the proposed legislation goes through. Don’t Evict PDX, a community group supporting tenants in Portland, reports seeing numerous abuses of existing legislation as well as evictions despite aid to landlords. The National Housing Law Project released a recent survey where 86% of respondents reported landlords proceeding with evictions even when eligible for rent support. To make matters more complicated, many Oregon landlords who have applied for financial support have either not had their applications processed in a timely manner or received checks with errors.
Auditors found the city of Portland continues to neglect the needs of disabled people in emergencies. One of the most glaring problems is that the Bureau of Emergency Management does not regularly seek input from disabled residents of Portland and instead relies on assumptions from city staff. BEM has also failed to act on recommendations and concerns from staff, community stakeholders, and studies. Disability Rights Oregon cataloged specific concerns, noting that numerous disabled people died during recent emergencies like this summer’s heatwave. BEM’s interim director, Jonna Papaefthimiou, and Mayor Ted Wheeler wrote a response disputing some of the audit’s findings. The letter also notes that BEM receives less than 0.1% of Portland’s city budget and that COVID-19 has pulled all BEM staff away from regular duties for almost two years (though the audit makes clear that these issues date back to before the last audit of BEM’s failure to support disabled people, written in 2010). Mayor Ted Wheeler has chosen to retain the Bureau of Emergency Management as one of his direct responsibilities.
There’s a chance Oregon voters could see a campaign finance reform ballot issue in November. A coalition of groups, including Honest Elections Oregon, filed paperwork to start the ballot measure process last week. They actually filed three similar potential measures and plan to decide which ballot measure to actually put in front of voters in 2022 after they see which version polls best. Because campaign finance reform advocates will need to collect 112,020 valid signatures by July 8 in order to be on the November ballot, they’re putting all of their options on the table and will sort out exactly which measure to pursue later. That move is controversial: several unions, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders have been negotiating language for these measures but have failed to agree to any of the options so far. Some of the negotiators are even advocating holding off until the 2024 election cycle to put campaign finance reform on the ballot. The limits each ballot measure proposes are similar, capping individual donations to $4,000 per cycle to a candidate for state office and $2,000 per cycle to a legislative candidates. Certain kinds of organizations would be able to contribute significantly more. But, hey! Oregon doesn’t have any limits on campaign donations except those from super PACs, so even a few limits would be a nice treat for us.