Oregon lawmakers will meet on housing and drugs after record GOP walkout(Part-1)

Salem, Oregon— As overdose fatalities rise, Oregon lawmakers will begin a brief legislative session on Monday to address homelessness, a housing shortfall, and proposals to modify the state's pioneering drug decriminalization statute.

Lawmakers have 35 days to pass measures. Legislative leaders say bipartisan communication is open as they overcome partisan tensions from last year's Republican walkout over abortion, transgender care, and gun rights, which halted the Legislature for a record six weeks and disqualified 10 GOP state senators from reelection.

Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek encouraged lawmakers to prioritize state concerns. “My number-one focus for the legislative session is to put as much as possible into improving housing production in the state,” Kotek said. “That is the ultimate housing and homelessness solution.”

Kotek presented one item this year, a broad housing package that would amend Oregon's land-use legislation to allow home development. Since the 1970s, the legislation has limited city expansion to minimize sprawl and conserve agriculture and forests. Kotek's proposal would allow communities to build houses in a “urban growth boundary” for a limited time. New extension units must be 30% affordable.

The idea would expand on last year's land-use regulation revisions to enhance semiconductor development acreage. The measure let Kotek choose up to eight urban development boundary expansion locations for such reasons.

This session's $500 million housing package includes $20 million in “climate-friendly” subsidies, according to Kotek. Housing developments with electric cooking, heating, and water heaters would qualify for funding.

The governor also prioritizes developing and supporting summer learning activities to assist pupils recover from the COVID-19 epidemic. More intense disputes are likely this session over planned modifications to the state's first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization statute.

Democratic lawmakers have introduced a plan to make little drug possession a low-level misdemeanor again in response to public and political pressure amid one of the highest national overdose rises. Authors claimed the measure would allow police to seize narcotics and curb public consumption.