State lawmakers act on top county priorities

March 15, 2016

Claudia Black, director of the Office of Government Relations (right) and deputy director of the Office of Government Relations Chris Fick.

Despite one of the most contentious sessions on record, the Oregon legislature acted this year on the county’s top priorities when it voted to pass laws to increase the supply of affordable housing and minimum wage, support new revenue authority to building a new courthouse in downtown Portland, and cut the state’s reliance on coal-fired power.

“It was a very difficult session to watch, even from a distance,” said Commissioner Judy Shiprack. “It did seem the partisan nature of the session might have soured people who were in the thick of it.”

Claudia Black, director of the Office of Government Relations, said it was indeed a tough session, with surprisingly positive results.

Lawmakers lifted a ban on inclusionary zoning. That allows local governments to require housing developers include affordable units in new complexes, and collect a construction excise tax. They also allocated an additional $10 million for programs that fight homelessness. And, as the rental market narrows and rents spike, they passed legislation requiring a 90-day notice for rent increases and prohibited rent increases in the first year of a lease.

The legislature supported a bill that allows the county to tack on a $5 surcharge to parking and traffic citations if lawmakers have set aside funds for a new county courthouse.

“The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support,” said Claudia Black, director of the Office of Government Relations. “We think this will be very helpful in funding the county’s portion of the courthouse.”

In other action, lawmakers:

  • Raised the minimum wage to $14.75 in the Portland metro area by 2022

  • Required utility companies to move away from coal-generated electricity by 2030 and get at least 50 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2040

  • Offered incentives for the cleanup of contaminated brownfield sites

  • Increased the earned income tax credit

“You guys really did an amazing job, especially as things heated up and it looked like nothing was going to happen,” said Chair Deborah Kafoury. “You guys really put your all into it and it showed, while still maintaining the integrity of the county. We’re lucky to have you.”