Oregon state lawmakers on Wednesday approved a measure that epitomizes the times we live in: the bill would make it easier to convert hotels and motels – hit by the coronavirus pandemic – into affordable housing long term for people who have lost their homes in forest fires or who are otherwise not housed.
The measure is now heading to the Senate.
Representative Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, who sponsored Bill 3261 and represents an area where 2,500 homes were destroyed during the 2020 wildfire season in Oregon, said the opportunity to quickly transform some hotels in emergency shelter was “a godsend”.
“This allows us to reuse hotels and motels that have housed tourists to house the most vulnerable,” Marsh said upstairs.
The bill would pave the way for converting motels or hotels into emergency shelters or long-term affordable housing, even if current zoning laws prohibited doing so. However, the building must be located within the city’s urban growth limits.
The mere fact that a law is passed also marks an increasingly rare moment in the House where the partisan deadlock has slowed all legislative progress at a breakneck pace and made policy debate increasingly difficult.
There are other similar housing efforts underway in the state, including what has come to be dubbed Project Turnkey, where the state has spent $ 65 million to buy and convert motels into temporary shelters. House Speaker Tina Kotek also has a bill, House Bill 2006, that would allow local governments to waive design, planning and zoning regulations to approve the location of emergency shelters.
Republican House Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, said Marsh’s legislation highlights a larger problem the state faces: unworkable land use laws.
“It takes our land use system and recognizes that it is broken,” Drazan said, voting against the measure and instead calling for an overhaul of the state’s land use laws.
Shortly after the bill was passed, lawmakers again relied on software to read the legislation verbatim.
For weeks, Republicans have demanded that all bills be read in their entirety before a final vote.
Republican Leader Drazan called on Democrats to open Capitol to the public, remove deeply controversial laws, only propose bills with bipartisan support, and pay more attention to Republicans’ contribution.
On Wednesday, Kotek offered his own proposal to Drazan. In a letter, Kotek asked Drazan to allow lawmakers to consider budget bills without them being fully read aloud.
The constitution states that bills must be read in their entirety before they are passed. But in previous years, both sides agreed to skip reading the bill. It takes two-thirds of the members to break the rule. Republicans began to increasingly vote against the rule-breaking, relying on tactics to slow down the global agenda and maintain influence over majority Democrats.
“I don’t think anyone should be getting into politics with the fiscal rebalancing program,” Kotek wrote to Drazan on Wednesday.
Some of the budget bills under consideration would include $ 250 million for a summer learning and child care program, as well as funding for homeless shelters and wildfire recovery. .
It is not known whether Drazan or his office responded to the letter. They did not return the OPB’s requests for comment.
Shortly after the hotel conversion bill was dropped, the computer software restarted and finished reading a 170 page bill.