Legislative Update - 6 Weeks Until Sine Die

Posted By: Jonathan Clay Central Oregon, Industry News, Mid-Willamette Valley, Portland/SW Washington, SWV News,

We are about 6 weeks away from the end of the 2023 Session of the Oregon Legislature. It’s never a dull moment at the Capitol, and for the past week the decision of a select group of Senate Republicans to not be present for Senate floor sessions, has strategically denied the chamber the required 2/3 majority quorum to conduct business. The result is the legislative process grinding to a halt and jeopardizing critical bills passing to fund the State’s business before the constitutionally mandated end of session on June 25th. Being the minority party for decades, the Republicans have a long list of grievances. Negotiations have started to try to fix this impasse, however there is still a lot of uncertainty.  In response to prior walkouts, last year voters passed Measure 113 that disqualifies from reelection any state lawmaker who receives 10 or more unexcused absences during a legislative session. These Senate Republicans are on the verge of testing the constitutionality of Measure 113.

Rent Control
During the last month, rent control bills have caused the most drama, taking center stage in the Housing Committees. HB 3503 seeks to allow any local jurisdiction to enact its own rent control policy. It received a courtesy Public Hearing last month and has thankfully been sidelined to the House Rules Committee, not likely to move further this Session. The SB 611B rent control bill has had the most movement and many amendments were added to the bill. SB 611B is the bill that “opened up” the landmark 2019 SB 608 rent control bill seeking to further lower the rent increase cap, further limit the new construction exemption and triple the tenant relocation penalty. Sensing this policy facepalm, backers quickly created a series of incremental amendments trying to make the bill more palatable, and Multifamily NW continued fierce opposition to the bill. As a result, the bill language is now nearly identical to the current law under 2019’s SB 608 – with the only difference being a 10% cap to the annual rent increase limit calculated by 7% plus the West Coast Consumer Price Index. Although we would prefer to defeat the bill outright, the concessions made to nearly mirror the current law is a slam-dunk success by any measure. Still on principle, Multifamily NW remains opposed to SB 611B.

Electronic Notices
SB 1069A is a bipartisan bill that would allow, in certain circumstances, for written notices to be sent electronically, as well as the electronic refund of held security deposits. This is a popular bill. An earlier version SB 1069 already passed the Senate unanimously, and an updated version passed the House Housing Committee unanimously on its way soon for a vote on the House floor. The bill will need a quick concurrence vote with the Senate to address the slightly different version passed in that chamber, and it would be sent to the Governor for signature.

Damage Coverage for certain Subsidized Tenancies
HB 3417A would expand financial assistance to the current Housing Choice Landlord Guarantee program, which provides payments to housing providers in cases of unit damages for tenancies paid from the Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. HB 3417A expands tenancy eligibility to include specific rehousing initiatives adopted this session in HB 5019.

Fast-tracked Housing Funding & Eviction Prevention
HB 5019 passed this session and signed into law on March 29th. It allocated a whopping $128.2 million for the Oregon Housing and Community Services agency to disperse via rental assistance, eviction diversion, homeless shelter capacity and rehousing initiatives. HB 2001 is the policy companion bill of HB 5019, also signed into law by the Governor on March 29th. These two bills were greenlit for early, swift passage as a legislative counterpart to the Governor’s housing emergency executive orders calling for immediate resources build more housing, support housing programs and help lift Oregonians out of homelessness. HB 2001 includes a compromise brokered between tenant advocates and housing providers that lengthened the notice periods of nonpayment of rent notices and allocated more time to the courts to process evictions. Now the standard nonpayment of rent notice is the 10-day Notice, rather than the 72-hour Notice.

HB 2680A is the only screening-related bill still active this session. Multifamily NW was able to defuse several problematic bills interfering with standard applicant screening protocol that sought to cap screening fees and/or allow any jurisdiction to enact their own screening limits. HB 2680A seeks to make more nuanced changes to screening protocol with mandates for prompt confirmation of screening, a 30-day timeframe to refund unused screening fees and increasing the housing provider penalty for mistakes or errors to $250 plus twice the amount of the screening fee. This bill passed the House and Senate Committee but awaits a floor vote in the Senate chamber.

Family Childcare in Rentals
SB 599A is a bill that would specifically allow certain family childcare home facilities to be permitted to operate in rental housing. This concept has the momentum of many years’ effort, trying to find the right balance in offering critical daycare opportunities in rental housing communities that typically don’t permit commercial activity. Compromises finally aligned in SB 599A that included additional insurance mandates to mitigate risk for the housing provider. Family Childcare Homes are already heavily regulated by the State of Oregon with requirements that can specify single family structures, square footage minimums and mandate direct secondary egress to the ground floor that would disqualify the majority of the apartment rental inventory.

What’s Next?
The fate of SB 611, HB 2680, HB 3417 and SB 1069 are now wrapped up in the current walk out of several Republican Senators that have denied the constitutional two-thirds quorum necessary (20 out of 30 senators) for the Senate to operate. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding when the Senators will return and what deal may be negotiated. June 25th is Sine Die, the constitutionally set end date of the session when all unpassed bills die. If the current impasse extends through that date, it will be practically guaranteed the Governor will need to call a Special Session to finish the work of the 2023 Session. Stay tuned.