SALEM, Ore. – Boosting affordable housing and job growth in rural Oregon, tightening gun control and battling the opioid epidemic are among Gov. Kate Brown’s priorities in the upcoming legislative session.
Brown’s policy advisers described the bills Brown would support in a briefing with reporters Wednesday.
Brown envisions a two-pronged approach to job creation and affordable housing in rural Oregon. Those in the construction industry interested in starting their own business could more easily obtain supervisory licenses if fees are temporarily waived job experience to be substituted for formal education requirements. Subcontractors willing to locate in rural Oregon to work on affordable housing could obtain low-rate, flexible loans from Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency. These loans help build credit and can be used to purchase bonds and insurance.
Grants administered by Workforce Investment Boards could defray the cost of hiring apprentices and career and technical education graduates.
Public pension liability
The liability is driving up costs for over 900 employers, Brown’s office says. A remedy would be to divert one-time and unexpected revenue streams to create a side account within the pension system to offset the growing employer costs. Brown’s bill would create an Employer Incentive Fund, which will be used to match 25 cents to every dollar employers contribute to their own side accounts.
A bill would prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor stalking or convicted of domestic violence from purchasing firearms. Authorities would be notified when a prohibited person attempts to buy a gun.
An Oregon law passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor last year enables a court to order confiscation of a gun belonging to a person deemed at risk of suicide or hurting others.
Brown is proposing legislation to require all licensed opioid prescribers in Oregon to register for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This would make it easier for authorities to identify and prosecute illegal prescribers, and determine trends that drive policy decisions. Oregon is currently one of only a dozen states that don’t require prescribers to register for the program.
The legislation would also allow for mentors, often people in recovery themselves, to be sent to emergency departments to assist a person who has overdosed, and help that person get on the road to recovery.
A pilot program would start in four counties, with the goal of expanding it throughout the state.
State agencies spend $8 billion biennially, representing nearly 10 percent of Oregon’s all funds budget, to buy supplies, equipment, or services, Brown’s office says. But there’s no unified system for tracking costs across the 85 executive branch agencies. A bill Brown developed would track spending to provide data that helps save money. A “reverse auction” concept would also be tried out for the purchase of goods or services valued at more than $150,000.
“In a reverse auction, sellers compete to obtain business from a buyer, which is expected to drive prices down as sellers underbid each other,” Brown’s office said.
The short legislative session begins on Feb. 5.