Lawmakers Wrap Third Special Session while Protests Rage

While chaos reigned on the streets and lawns surrounding the Oregon State Capitol Monday, the day’s proceedings moved along uninterrupted and — more or less — in the usual manner.

The Oregon Legislature met for its third and final special session of 2020, passing four bills that state leaders said would address urgent issues facing Oregonians whose lives have been impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the devastating Labor Day wildfires.

“The legislation will keep people in their homes, support independent restaurants that are barely hanging on, and dedicate ongoing funding for critical pandemic-related programs,” House Speaker Tina Kotek said in a press release.

“State legislators showed up and did their jobs to help Oregonians who were facing tremendous risk in the month ahead because of some critical year-end deadlines,” she continued, while expressing frustration that lawmakers hadn’t accomplished more in the one-day session, including of foreclosure protections that expire next week.

Legislation headed to the governor’s desk after Monday’s session include:

House Bill 4401 – Eviction Moratorium and Landlord Compensation Fund

HB 4401 ensures renters across the state cannot be evicted through June 30, 2021, if they can’t pay their rent due to impacts of Covid-19, while also establishing a $150 million fund to cover overdue rent payments, which will help ensure landlords have a way to recover payments they were counting on.

Recent data from the National Council of State Housing Agencies estimates that anywhere from 27,700 to 56,100 Oregon households would have been at risk of eviction on Jan. 1 without the extension of the eviction moratorium statewide.

House Bill 4402 – School Limited Liability Protections

This bill provides temporary liability protections to schools that are complying with Covid-19 emergency rules, and incentivizes schools, administrators, and teachers to follow health directives and best practices.

The measure also provides whistleblower protections to third party contractors, such as janitorial service providers, bus drivers, and food service providers.

Senate Bill 1801 – Restaurant Relief

Allows restaurants and bars temporarily to sell and deliver mixed drinks to-go if the mixed drink is sold in a sealed container. The bill caps fees that third-party delivery providers can issue at 15%.

Many independent restaurants are currently hanging on by a thread, Kotek said, and this support for small businesses comes at a critical time as the pandemic continues and restaurants have had in-person dining disrupted.

Senate Bill 5731 – Emergency COVID-19 and Wildfire Recovery Funding

A large portion of the federal funding that Congress passed through the CARES Act came with an expiration date at the end of 2020, Kotek said.

This bill includes $600 million to allow the state to continue to fund critical pandemic-related programs that will support Oregonians in the first few months of 2021, as well as provide more support for Oregonians impacted by the Labor Day wildfires.

It also includes $150 million for the Landlord Compensation Fund and $50 million for rental assistance (as defined in House Bill 4401).

In a statement Monday, Governor Kate Brown thanked legislators for coming together in a bipartisan way to deliver on a relief package and get resources into the hands of Oregonians “who have been making incredible sacrifices to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

“I am pleased that the Legislature set aside $800 million that will allow the state to respond to the ongoing needs of the pandemic and wildfire response,” Brown said. “I am also glad they took up critical, Covid-19-related policy bills that will provide relief for tenants and landlords, extend the eviction moratorium, and create avenues to support restaurants and bars.”

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