Last month, the Legislature opened (and five weeks later, adjourned) the 2022 Legislative Session to consider policy and budget proposals concerning a host of issues from agricultural worker overtime pay, reparations, and meaningful investments in promoting safe, stable, and affordable homes. The Legislature brought unique challenges, a few surprises, and as much change that could be brought in such a short amount of time. Our team at NP spent those five weeks engaged in the process, and advocating for the shared priorities of the coalitions we work to convene, as well as the IDA Initiative.
For the Oregon Housing Alliance, we were fortunate to be part of the work in securing $400 million to address pressing housing needs for communities across the state. $400 million of investments in a short session to promote safe, stable and affordable homes is an unprecedented level of support from the Legislature, and is a level of investment that should be made in future sessions. These funds were available because of significant tax revenues plus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, and we’re concerned that future budget years will not see this level of funding available unless Oregon makes meaningful strides in promoting equitable taxation that requires the wealthier members of our community to pay their equitable share in taxes so that all of our communities can have access to the basics – safe and stable homes, and what they need to thrive.
The Oregon Economic Justice Roundtable (OEJR) was proud to have its first ever economic justice policy agenda, which consisted of initiatives to increase legislator pay, boost funding for IDAs, tax preparation assistance, and reparations work. With help of our partners, we were able to pass many of these important pieces of legislation, while also creating systems among the roundtable to create future policy agendas that work to promote financial stability and prosperity.
Similarly, the Stop the Debt Trap Alliance, a consumer protection roundtable jointly convened by Neighborhood Partnerships and OSPIRG, celebrated numerous wins in working towards a public option for the State of Oregon, ensuring access to legal services for individuals experiencing issues with deportation proceedings, and defeating proposals that would have allowed for predatory practices in landlord-tenant law.
Despite the large count of legislative wins in such a short window of time, the procedural restraints and time-scarcity of the short session closed the door on many meaningful pieces of legislation. Legislators had the chance to raise their pay to a level that would allow for many more citizens to serve in the Legislature, not just wealthy and well-connected. Another bill died in committee, which would have removed credit from the determination of one’s auto insurance rate, a key issue that continues to disadvantage communities of color. The Legislature was also unable to provide a robust investment for Individual Development Accounts, despite resounding support from legislators and the Governor.
While session for the year is now over, there is certainly a bunch of good work that will continue between now and the next session in 2023. NP and its partners across the state will be participating in a number of policy discussions, legislative workgroups, Rules Advisory Committees, and task forces to continue the discussion on important policy issues relating to housing, consumer protection, and economic opportunity. While some of this work will culminate into policy recommendations and bills in future sessions, it is important to continue considering new systems and processes to give bills their fair chance at consideration, to slow down the process to allow for meaningful deliberation, and to increase access to the legislative process. With more input from people directly impacted by these issues, more invitations to the decision-making tables, and fewer closed doors, legislators can feel a greater sense of certainty that bills will be based in the needs and expectations of their communities.