Tuesday, September 19, 2023
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Oregon lawmakers send $400M plan on homelessness, overtime for farmworkers to governor

“We invested in things that are proven and have worked,” said Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield.

SALEM, Ore. (CN) — Oregon lawmakers sent a budget to Governor Kate Brown that includes $400 million in emergency funding to address homelessness and affordable housing, as well as bills to require overtime wages for farmworkers and expand childcare services statewide.

The new budget expected to be signed by the governor will invest $215 million for new projects to build affordable housing, $165 million for homeless services and $20 million on programs to help people into home ownership. The plan will significantly increase shelter capacity and access to showers and bathroom facilities, help people recently displaced from housing to find caseworkers and quick placement into new housing.

The money will pay to keep families in affordable housing, pay for the construction of new affordable housing, buy and produce manufactured housing parks and pay for the purchase of land for new projects.

And the plan allocates $50 million for Project Turnkey, which under the Oregon Community Foundation turns old, unused hotels into emergency shelters.

Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield, a Democrat from Corvallis said the plan was carefully considered for maximum results.  

“We invested in things that are proven and have worked,” Rayfield said. “Project Turnkey – that’s $50 million for something that’s proven.”

Similarly, a bill that will require farmers to pay overtime wages to farmworkers passed the House and Senate and headed to the desk of the governor, who has applauded the bill.

HB 4002 will protect a category of workers who were excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Speakers noted in testimony that farmworkers typically work extremely long hours during extreme weather and endure pesticide exposure. The average life expectancy for farmworkers in the United States is 49 years, according the National Farm Worker Ministry.

Senate Leader Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem, marveled on Friday at the fact that the 35-day short session ended three days before the deadline. While previous legislative sessions were stymied by Republican walkouts, this session Republican lawmakers had once again refused to allow a standard suspension of legislative rules that require every bill to be read in its entirety before a vote — a practice that caught the notice of Twitter celebrity Jorts the Cat.

Courtney said he had a realization late the night before, that it was like an innovative defensive move in a basketball game. “I said, you know what the Ds are getting used to this tactic,” Courtney said.

Still, not everyone was happy with how the session wound up.

“At a time when inflation is out of control, Democrats introduced a new sales tax and new spending. When Oregonians don’t feel safe in their homes, Democrats pushed an extreme softoncrime agenda that makes our streets more dangerous,” said Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, a Republican from Bend. "As we close the book on the pandemic, Democrats clung to government overreach and mandates. They doubled down on blowout spending on failed government programs.  Luckily, Republicans were able to kill many of the most harmful and extreme proposals this session.”

Just before noon on Friday, Senate President Peter Courtney gaveled the session closed. It was the final session of Courtney’s 38-year career. Asked afterward who he hoped would replace him, Courtney, 78, demurred.

“I’m not the like coach who’s leaving and picks their successor,” Courtney said.

But Oregon’s longest-serving lawmaker did have one piece of advice.

“None of you were particularly crazy about my style and none of you liked me,” Courtney said. “So you don’t want another Peter Courtney.”

“Will you still get chili with me?” Speaker Rayfield asked.

“No, I’m not going to get chili with you,” Courtney said.

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Categories / Government, Law, Politics

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