The 2024 legislative session is underway. The session will run through March 10 for a maximum of 35 days. If legislators complete their work in a timely fashion, they could wrap up before the 35-day limit.
All of the bills were made public this past week. As of now, it looks like the legislature will consider between 280 and 290 bills.
As it stands today, both sides of the political aisle and saying and doing all the right things: they’re pledging a common focus and a high degree of bipartisanship.
As a backdrop, the Oregon Supreme Court rendered its decision on Measure 113 last week, effectively barring 10 Senate Republicans from running for re-election. Although the Court has effectively removed all the risk from Senate Republicans boycotting the 2024 session, it appears that Republicans are satisfied enough that the session will be bipartisan and productive that they do intend to ensure that the Senate will have a quorum and can conduct business.
Housing is Primary Focus
The main focus of 2024 will be seen primarily in two areas. First, legislators will work to address the housing crisis. Governor Kotek is introducing only one bill this session (SB 1537) – as a clear signal of her priorities – which aims to fund and remove barriers to boosting housing production by her stated goal of 36,000 units per year.
The state is short by more than 140,000 units to meet the needs of Oregonians, and to provide affordable housing close to where people work. It is also anticipated that the legislature will spend a significant amount of the state budget on housing-related issues. In addition to investments that boost housing production, the legislature is expected to provide significant resources for shelters in the state, continued rent assistance, and funding for other programs that help individuals find a place to live or programs that help home buyers purchase a first home.
Measure 110 Reforms
Legislators are also expected to address the drug, behavioral health, and public safety challenges the state is faced with. The legislature has appointed the Joint Addiction and Community Safety Response Committee to focus on these issues. That committee is expected to provide changes that would reform Measure 110 and make drug possession a crime again – although the argument remains about the classification of the crime (Class A misdemeanor vs. Class C misdemeanor). Investments to improve Oregon’s behavioral health system and workforce are also anticipated in 2024.
The state is expected to have significant resources to spend in 2024 – much more than in a typical short session. How much the state spends, and how much will be saved for an anticipated economic downturn for 2025-27, will be a key discussion between the Governor, budget writers, and legislative leadership. The state of Oregon has seen roughly $655 million in increased General Fund revenue since the 2023 session adjourned. State agencies are also expected to have around $400 million in unexpended funds from the previous biennium. After 1% of money is set aside for the State Rainy Day Fund, legislators are expected to have just over $1 billion in available resources, and a small increase in lottery revenue as well.
After funding all of the agency caseload increases, the Governor’s housing priorities, and the Measure 110 investments, we are hearing the legislature will have about $150 million to spend on various member priorities. With respect to additional bonding capacity, the number we are anticipating for 2024 is expected to be around $20-$30 million.
Business Legislation Worth Watching
HB 4005 appears to be a bill aimed at disallowing Professional Employer Organizations (PEO).
HB 4050 would allow employers to offer hiring and retention bonuses without running afoul of Oregon’s “pay equity” laws.
HB 4106 directs the State Forester to establish harvest levels for cutting timber on state forest lands.
HB 4126 authorizes local governments to establish their own rent control policies.
SB 1537 is the Governor’s bill to increase housing supply.
SB 1559 would make Oregon’s greenhouse gas reduction goals more stringent by requiring levels to be 95% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.
Caucus offices and leadership have unveiled their 2024 Session priorities:
House Majority Office: House Democrats Announce Priorities for 2024
Senate Republican Caucus: 2024-1-31 Senate Republicans 2024 Session Agenda Will Tackle Emergencies like Measure 110 and Housing Supply, Lower Costs for Oregonians, Protect the Kicker from Democrats.pdf (oregonlegislature.gov)
Senate Majority Office: 240131 Senate Democrats Uniting Oregon Agenda (oregonlegislature.gov)
Information provided by Oregon State Chamber of Commerce, Bravio Communications, and Salem Chamber Staff.