State Representative Raquel Moore-Green,
It has been a challenge for the public to be heard since March of this year, and this session was no different. Compounding issues – the lack of public access and severally limited opportunity for legislators to ask questions and debate at any length do not make good public policy. Public testimony last Thursday and Saturday was to the committee and did not allow for members of the committee to ask questions. Legislators also experienced a new set of “rules” governing this special session that were not discussed by Leadership prior to session convening.
We continue to be under the strict rule of the presiding party. I will continue to ask for more transparency and for greater public access. Both of which I believe are vital if we hope to do a good job in representing all of Oregon. The lack of inclusiveness in discussion and dialog must be addressed prior to the regular session convening in 2021.
A third special session provided immediate relief for working class Oregonians. Republicans proposed COVID-19 liability for schools that included all K-12 and community colleges as well as protections for our small businesses, and worked to provide some relief to Oregon’s restaurant industry. SB 5731 provides funding for wildfire relief and additional resources for COVID-19 resources, as well as rental and landlord assistance. Here is what was discussed, voted, and passed:
SB 1801 – Cocktails-to-go and Third-Party Delivery Caps
Authorizes OLCC to devise rules permitting cocktails-to-go, including wine. Containers are required to be sealed when sold in this way. Caps the fees on service charges that 3rd party delivery apps such as UberEats or Postmates can charge at 15% for deliveries and 5% for pick-ups. Certain municipalities, with previously defined caps on delivery and pick-up service charges are grandfathered into this legislation.
HB 4401 – Eviction Moratorium Extension/Landlord Compensation Fund
The residential eviction moratorium would be extended through June 30, 2020, for tenants who sign a declaration stating that they experienced a financial hardship that impacted their ability to pay rent. Tenants who qualify would have until July 1, 2021, to pay all back rent. Tenants who do not qualify could be eligible for eviction at the beginning of the year and would have until March 31, 2021, to pay back any rent debt acquired before December 31, 2020. During the extended moratorium, no-cause evictions would be restored if the landlord intends to sell the unit, demolish or convert the unit, conduct major repairs, or move themselves or the family into the unit.
Landlord Compensation Fund
Landlords who are owed back rent would have the option to apply to Oregon Housing and Community Services for rent assistance grants on behalf of all of their tenants who owe rent payments. Landlords could receive up to 80% of their total unpaid back rent if they agree to forgive the remaining 20%. The estimated need for rental assistance is at around $250 million after applying prior rent assistance. The need for additional rent assistance could increase further as lockdowns persist and the moratorium is extended. landlords must refund to HCSD any rent amounts later paid by or on behalf of the tenant, must provide notice to tenants of rent forgiven through this program, and may not evict tenants without cause or for non-payment of rent while grant applications are pending.
HB 4402 – School Liability Protection
Provides school districts, public charters, private K-12 schools, ESDs and community colleges limited liability protections for civil damages related to COVID-19 if a school is operating in compliance with COVID-19 rules. A court may strike a plaintiff’s claim if the school can show they complied with the rules. Individuals engaged in activities not operated by the school but take place on school property may not bring a claim against the school district for COVID-19 damages. The policy is in place for the length of the State of Emergency.
SB 5731 – Emergency Board Allocation
The spending bill for the Third Special includes $800 million in allocations consisting of a $600 million allocation to the Emergency Board and $200 million for housing assistance. If remaining special purpose appropriations are not allocated by the Emergency Board before January 18, 2021, any remaining balances become available to the 2021 Legislature for other purposes.
It is essential that any major policy proposal from the governor be voted on by the newly elected and reelected lawmakers. As we move toward the 2021 long session, I remain committed to a fair and transparent legislative process.
Unfortunately, SB 1803 died in Committee when the House Democrats voted down limited liability coverage for hospitals and healthcare workers. These essential workers deserve better; we should not be making cuts to our health care system during a pandemic.