NEWS FROM OREGON STATE REPRESENTATIVE SUZANNE WEBER: District Update 5/13/21

www.tillamookcountypioneer.net

Welcome back for my district updates newsletter!

So much has been going on that it is difficult to get time to write about it.  However, it is important to share as much as I can with our district when I can. Let’s get right to it.

Outside of the business of reading, researching, and voting on bills that have been introduced I often receive pleas for help from citizens in our district.

One recent plea for help came from the friend of a resident in our district.  One of our citizens in the district was facing difficulties with living conditions and property manager issues that appeared to be getting worse.  While I don’t claim to know all the issues surrounding the dispute and am not the person to mitigate between parties, I am sometimes able to find people that can help in that regard.  In this case my staff connected with the Oregon Law Center Legislative Advocate and they are now working to get this individual legal aid so they can move forward toward a positive, safe, and legal outcome for all involved.

If you are struggling with an issue I will do my best to help.  While I can’t always fix it personally, my team and I will do our best to find a way to move your issue forward towards a positive outcome.  Please feel free to reach out by email and phone.


554

Senate Bill 554: After hours of heart wrenching debate from both sides of this issue, I joined all members of the Coastal Caucus (the legislators who represent the districts from the coast), Democrats and Republicans in opposing the bill. While I can get behind the desires of the sponsors, which were presented as stopping gun violence, the reality was that most of this legislation was aimed at restricting concealed carry permit holders. CCP holders account for .007% of all violent crime convictions (and it’s unclear how many of those crimes even involve firearms), so this bill restricted the rights of the Oregonians who have been trained, have had in-depth background checks and have been licensed by the state. In short, it targeted exactly the opposite type of people we should be targeting. That is why the bill was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans, including all members from both chambers (House and Senate) who represent coastal communities. As of now, the bill has been sent to Gov. Brown for her signature or veto, which may have occurred by the time you read this.

282

Senate Bill 282: This bill would extend the grace period to pay back rent that accumulated during the COVID-19 eviction moratorium until February of 2022. Currently, renters have until June 30, 2021 to pay all back rent owed. That is a tall order for many workers who have not seen a paycheck in over a year, have had to fight to get the unemployment insurance that is owed to them, and have a large amount of late bills they need to pay. In order to avoid massive evictions after the grace period expires, the Legislature created the Landlord Compensation Fund during a special session last summer. Landlords could apply to be compensated for 80% of their tenant’s owed rent if they agreed to forgive the other 20%.

While this program was passed last summer and thousands of landlords have now applied to utilize the program, nearly a year later not one dollar has made it to landlords. This is a massive failure on behalf of Oregon Housing and Community Services, and that agency needs to answer for their failure. Many landlords have now gone more than a year without collecting any rent. Many landlords aren’t big corporations. They are individual property owners who rely on the rent they receive to buy groceries, pay their utilities, taxes and insurance. We certainly need to protect renters who have, through no fault of their own, been forced out of work or out of business, but we also need to provide the assistance we promised to rental home providers.

With that in mind, my immense frustration with Oregon Housing and Community Service is giving me pause on how I will vote on SB282. If the Landlord Compensation Fund were up and running and rental home providers were being provided with the assistance they were promised, I most likely would have voted yes. However, I cannot in good conscience demand that rental home providers continue to provide their service for free for upwards of 18 months.  There were additional amendments being considered which I think would have addressed everyone’s concerns, and I had asked for four more days for those amendments to be finished and vetted, but the chair of the House Housing Committee refused and the committee voted the bill out of committee on a party line vote. Had those amendments had just four more days, I believe we would have passed the bill out of committee unanimously. I came to Salem promising to work together with both sides of the aisle to find common solutions to common problems. I felt very disappointed that we were so close to compromise and we were told that it wasn’t worth it. The bill also passed the House floor and is headed to the Governor for signature. The fact that I have two groups of constituents who are struggling because of the failure of yet another state program is absolutely infuriating, and I have committed to holding OHCS’s feet to the fire.

My frustration notwithstanding, OHCS has opened another round of funding for landlords to apply for. Even though I can’t promise landlords will see the money they deserve very quickly, I still encourage everyone who is entitled to the funds to apply for them. You can find instructions on how to do so in the Resources section of this newsletter.