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The Oregon Legislature's short sessions—held on even numbered years—are historically unusual. These month-long sessions are often used to fast-track uncontroversial policies or pass emergency budget packages to hold the state over for another year. Despite their swiftness, these sessions are not void of drama: The last time the state held a short session in 2020, Oregon Republicans made sure to cut it shorter by fleeing the capitol over a hotly contested climate change bill.

Yet, 2022's short session remained relatively drama-free for its 31-day stint and, in some cases, saw lawmakers stretching across the aisle to pass bipartisan bills. With a focus on COVID-19 response, climate change, workforce equity, and the homeless crisis, lawmakers were mostly successful in getting priority policies to Gov. Kate Brown's desk by the time the session concluded Friday. Here's a breakdown of what noteworthy bills passed—and which didn't—during this year's legislative session:

Environment

Senate Bill 1536

This bill limits landlords’ ability to ban air conditioners and creates a state stockpile of cooling and air filtration units to distribute to Oregon tenants in preparation for future smoke and heat events.

Landlords will no longer be able to ban their tenants from using air conditioners, like in-window AC units, unless there is a legitimate safety concern. For example, a landlord can still ban an in-window AC unit if the unit would be placed in a window used for emergency escape. The bill allocates $5 million to purchase an estimated 4,500 cooling units and 2,761 air filters. The bill also creates $25 million in grants and rebates for housing authorities, organizations, property owners, and more who install heat pumps in their community.

Verde, an environmental nonprofit, worked with legislators to craft the emergency bill in response to the record-breaking heatwave in June 2021 that killed at least 95 people in Oregon. A subsequent study of the deaths in Multnomah County found that most heat wave victims died in their homes without access to cooling devices. Verde worked with landlords and energy providers to craft the bill, which received little to no opposition throughout the legislative process.

“I cared for multiple people [during the 2021 heatwave] who were healthy one day and in the ICU the next suffering with multi-organ failure,” said Portland Representative Maxine Dexter, who is also a physician, while testifying in support of the bill. “These people didn’t make it home and their major risk was simply falling asleep in a room without any ability to cool off.”


Senate Bill 1567

Fuel tank owners in Northwest Portland’s Critical Energy Infrastructure (CEI) Hub will be required to conduct a seismic analysis of their tanks by 2024 under this new legislation.

The CEI Hub is a collection of more than 600 industrial fuel tanks placed along the Willamette River in Northwest Portland that stores over 90 percent of Oregon’s liquid fuel. According to a recent Multnomah County study, the hub could also cause one of the largest oil spills in the world during the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake—the overdue magnitude 9 quake that is expected to devastate the West Coast.

The majority of the oil tanks in the CEI Hub were constructed before modern seismic technology, meaning they are expected to dump all of their contents into the Willamette River and surrounding area during the earthquake. SB 1567 seeks to mitigate the environmental catastrophe by requiring the tank owners to conduct vulnerability assessments on the tanks and seismically retrofit them accordingly.

House Bill 4139

This bill requires the Oregon Department of Transportation to create a program that studies how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in construction materials used in transportation projects.

Senate Bill 1533

This bill acts as a clarifying follow-up to a bill passed in 2021 that required the Department of Human Services (DHS) to work with local governments to create clean air spaces. In practice, the policy did not permit DHS to partner with tribal governments to create those same spaces. SB 1533 ensures that federally recognized tribes are able to receive the same support for clean air spaces.


Criminal Justice


Senate Bill 1510

This piece of legislation prevents police from pulling over drivers for having a single broken tail light, headlight, or brake light. It also requires officers to inform drivers of their rights to refuse a search of their car. The bill was created to limit pretextual police stops that historically have targeted people of color, and is not unlike the recommendation Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell made to officers in 2021.

Among the bill’s supporters were Black Portland legislators Rep. Travis Nelson and Sen. Lew Frederick, who both described being regularly pulled over by police for these types of pretext stops.

“Until my hair started to turn gray, I was pulled over once a year in my neighborhood to ask whether I was lost,” Frederick told his colleagues during a Senate floor vote on the bill.

The legislation also invests $10 million into addiction treatment, mental health services, and other community programs to support people of color after exiting prison.


Senate Bill 1584

This bipartisan bill directs money to Oregonians who were imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. Specifically, the legislature will pay exonerated individuals $65,000 for each year they spent behind bars and $25,000 for each year spent as a parolee.

Even for exonerated prisoners, the stigma of time in prison impacts a person’s future ability to land a job, a house, and other basic needs. According to the Innocence Project, there are currently 13 people in Oregon who are eligible for this compensation.


Senate Bill 1543

Unlike American citizens, undocumented immigrants and refugees in Oregon who are pulled into court proceedings have no right to legal counsel. SB 1543 extends the state’s legal protections for people who can’t afford an attorney to undocumented Oregonians in court for an immigration-related issue. According to immigration law experts, not having an attorney is the single most outcome determinative factor in deportation proceedings. Without a lawyer, people are 5.5 times more likely to get deported than those with a lawyer, according to the ACLU.

“While an immigration court decision should rely on a close analysis of the particular facts and law of the case, we know that the most outcome-determinative factor is simply whether or not an individual or family facing deportation is represented by an attorney,” said Leland Baxter-Neal, an advocacy director with the Latino Network, during legislative hearings.


House Bill 4008

This legislation was initially written to approve staffing for a statewide law enforcement discipline program. But that’s not what makes this bill interesting. Lawmakers jammed an amendment into this legislation that would undo restrictions passed last year that limited law enforcement’s ability to use tear gas and munitions on protesters. In brief, this legislation makes it easier for officers to shoot tear gas and impact munitions into crowds of people, as long as it’s “objectively reasonable” to protect against threats to life, injury, or to safely control a dangerous or unlawful situation.

This change was made at the request of Portland city officials, who argued that the 2021 law limiting officers’ use of tear gas and munitions made it difficult for police to do their job.

This bill’s reversal of 2021’s law upset several civil rights groups, including the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC) and the ACLU of Oregon.

“Under the new standard, police with an intent to gas the public need only establish that there is a single person creating a ‘dangerous and unlawful situation,’ a term completely undefined in Oregon law,” reads a statement by the OJRC sent after HB 4008’s passage. "Requiring that such a term be objectively reasonable does little to clarify what it means for police or the public.”

Both the OJRC and the ACLU are involved in federal court cases challenging Portland officers’ use of tear gas and munitions against Portland protesters in recent years. In a press statement, both organizations pledged to lobby for a ban on tear gas and impact munitions in the 2023 legislative session.


Housing

House Bill 5202 — 

The past years have been hard on Oregon’s housing crisis, further widening the divide between those who can afford a home and those who cannot. With the COVID-19 eviction moratorium coming to an end in 2021, state legislators scrambled to pass a $400 million funding package this session to help the thousands of housing insecure Oregonians.

This package, buoyed by the state’s unexpectedly high tax revenue estimates, includes $20 million to improve access to homeownership, $165 million to strengthen homeless services, and $215 million to develop and maintain affordable housing. The proposal includes funds to purchase mobile home parks at risk of closing to maintain affordable housing options, funds for new affordable apartment projects, financial assistance for renovations on low-income housing, and financial aid for low-income homebuyers.

The homeless service dollars associated with this package will go towards outreach work, shelter capacity, hygiene programs, and are prohibited from being used for campsite sweeps or for forcing people to relocate. The bill specifically funnels $10,000,000 towards Multnomah County shelter services, infrastructure, and outreach.


Labor

House Bill 4002

One of the legislature’s biggest victories was passing a law granting agricultural workers in Oregon overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The policy impacts the state’s estimated 174,000 farmworkers, hundreds of whom testified before the legislature in support of the bill.

“We are isolated from the rest of society, and being excluded from overtime pay after 40 hours proves it,” wrote Salem farmworker Aracely Avila in her testimony submitted to the legislature. “This exclusion pushes us to the margins of society and it is time for us to be treated with the same equality and justice because we deserve it.”

This legislation was hotly contested at the capitol, with many agricultural leaders arguing that allowing farmworkers the basic labor rights guaranteed in most other industries could put smaller Oregon farms out of business. Yet, the Democratic majority’s support of the bill overcame the opposition.

“I believe it’s time to live up to the constitutional promise of equal protection before the law and bring farmworkers in line with workers in nearly every other industry,” said Eugene Rep. Paul Holvey during the House debate on the bill.

Supporters pointed to the racist history of these overtime exclusions: The 1938 Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was penned during the nation’s Jim Crow era, and effectively excluded the then-majority Black farmworker population from overtime pay.

The legislation comes with over six years of tax credits to farmers to offset the increased costs of overtime pay, which will become fully operational by 2027. With the bill’s passage, Oregon now joins Washington and California in adopting overtime pay policies for agricultural workers.


Senate Bill 5455

This legislation creates a number of grant programs aimed at supporting Oregonians who disproportionately experience employment discrimination or other workforce limitations due to their race, gender, age, location, income status, veterans, history within the criminal justice system, or disability status. This bill, a product of Governor Kate Brown’s Racial Justice Council, directs $200 million to new and existing workforce readiness and training programs. It aims to address two issues in Oregon: barriers to job opportunities that exist for people of color and other underserved populations and a shortage in job applicants in industries across the state at the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a game changing investment, and it couldn't be better timed,” said Duncan Wyse, president of Oregon Business Council, in a press statement. “With the COVID crisis easing, Oregonians are looking for new job opportunities that require new skills. This opens a pathway to more rewarding, better paid jobs, and it makes Oregon more competitive in the bargain.”


What didn’t pass:


House Bill 4147

This bill would have allowed Oregonians in prison to register to vote and vote by mail—as is standard for non-incarcerated voters across Oregon—with their ballot counted in the last county they called home before their sentencing. If passed, Oregon would have been technically the first state to abolish prison disenfranchisement in the country, setting the stage for others to follow suit.

Yet, Democratic lawmakers didn’t think they could convince their Republican colleagues—who dubbed the legislation evidence of “Democrats’ shameful pro-criminal agenda”—to support such a contentious bill during 2022’s short session. State Democrats expect to fight harder for this bill’s passage next year.

Senate Bill 1511

In 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that Oregon’s jury system was unconstitutional. That ruling did away with the state’s non-unanimous jury system, one where a person could be convicted for murder if only 10 out of the 12 jurors believed they were guilty. The court found that this policy effectively discriminated against Black defendants and the minority Black jurors sitting on an Oregon jury.

Yet the ruling didn’t make it clear to state courts what people who had been incarcerated by a non-unanimous jury could do to appeal their prior conviction.

SB 1511 would have vacated criminal sentences for any Oregonian who could prove that they’d been convicted by a non-unanimous jury. The bill would direct those cases back to the country of origin, where district attorneys could decide whether or not to retry the case.

Republican lawmakers leaned heavily on testimony from crime victims to inform their opposition to this bill. While the bill was expected to pass on party lines, the legislation never made it to the Senate or House floors—and House Democrats say it’ll have to wait until next year’s legislative session.

It’s a possibility this issue may be resolved before then. The Oregon Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on whether to retroactively apply the US Supreme Court’s ruling to people previously convicted by a non-unanimous jury in Oregon—and a decision may be announced before the 2023 legislation session kicks off.


House Bill 4141

This bill was originally written to phase out the sale of petroleum diesel in Oregon by 2029, replacing it with renewable diesel. According to bill co-sponsor Representative Paul Evans, renewable diesel creates 60 percent less emission than petroleum diesel. The bill was later amended to create a task force to study the availability of renewable diesel and the implications of removing petroleum diesel from the state’s economy. Ultimately, the bill never made it out of the House funding committee.


Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that House Bill 4139 had not passed through the session when, in fact, it had. The story has since been corrected to reflect that fact.