This is my third newsletter reviewing the recent legislative session. The first announced spending commitments in water and sewer, ports, and community centers across our district. The second detailed statewide policy measures and budgets. And in this final review, I’d like to tell you about bills I authored and introduced with a particular focus on the Coast and Coast Range.
I tend not to write “big bills” of statewide consequence. Instead I focus on proposals with a necessary consequence to our district and our special part of Oregon.
Most of these bills passed. Some were amended into other bills and will still take effect. And some failed to move. But as I’ve said before, in Salem you win some and re-file others. Here’s an overview of my efforts on your behalf.
Wildfire Response and Recovery:
HB 2341 – If your house is destroyed by fire or a natural emergency, you still have to pay property taxes on the original value of the home for the full year. This measure allows county tax collectors to prorate taxes to reflect the loss and the provisions are back-dated to include 2020.
HB 2607 – Construction Taxes (CET) are applied to new homes by school districts. This measure allows districts to waive the taxes if you are replacing homes lost in fires or other natural disasters. The provisions are back-dated to include 2020. See my floor speech here.
HB 2809 – Allows temporary siting for up to 24 months of recreational vehicles on properties with dwellings that natural disasters have made uninhabitable.
HB 2739 – A temporary program to help wildfire and COVID impacted families pay utility bills. You can see my floor speech here.
HB 2927 – Re-shapes Oregon’s Emergency Management structure. The measure creates the Oregon Department of Emergency Management and merges functions from other departments and offices into this new agency.
HB 3287 – The Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) was originally scheduled to be dismantled and their critical earthquake and tsunami work folded into other state agencies. This measure would have kept DOGAMI intact. While 3287 did not pass, I took a leading role to convince the Ways and Means Committee to fund DOGAMI through HB 5010. See my floor speech here.
HB 2605 – There are currently no restrictions on constructing public buildings (fire stations, police stations, schools or hospitals) in the tsunami inundation zone. HB 2605 would apply the same building codes currently used in Washington and California so that IF a city needs to build a new structure, they must do so according to current safety standards. See my floor speech here.
HB 2608 – For the third time, I introduced a proposal to create a pilot program to assist school districts in providing age-appropriate instruction preparing students for natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, fire, drought, freezes). Sadly, the bill did not receive a hearing. However, the state did adopt mandates requiring education on oral health (HB 2969) and organ and tissue donation (HB 3234). I believe emergency preparation is just as important and will continue to work this proposal.
HB 2609 – With a record number of unemployment claims, a record number of new employees handling them, and a record number of new rules and programs, I was concerned that we were looking at a record number of UI mistakes. But Oregon law only allowed the Employment Division to collect overpayments out of future unemployment benefits. And it made no sense to me to take benefits away from someone when they were out of work rather than create programs to responsibly collect when they were working. My bill had a hearing but was not adopted. Instead, the provisions were folded into another measure, SB 172.
HB 2604 – Small businesses qualify for tax reductions IF they hire year round employees. I once again introduced a proposal to grant the benefits to smaller firms that are seasonal (fishing, farming, tourism) or who hire part time employees (working seniors, working students, working parents). The bill was not adopted but provisions were folded into SB 139 which passed. Firms with profits under $250,000 now qualify with no worker requirements. See my floor speech here.
HB 2638 – Was intended to protect small businesses from frivolous lawsuits resulting from COVID if they followed best safety practices. I co-sponsored the measure with Republican Leader Christine Drazen. It did not pass. You can see our remote committee testimony here.
HCR 8 – An iconic Oregon business, Mo’s Seafood and Chowder, celebrated their 75th anniversary this year. I introduced a resolution to honor their history, legacy and success. The measure did not move forward but the family business received copies of the resolution which you can read here.
Building Stronger Communities:
HB 2603 – Was intended to provide protections for coastal residents and communities when undersea telecommunications cables come ashore. This was a particular problem in Tierra del Mar in the past year. You can see my detailed committee testimony here.
HB 3114 – Will invest $1 million in the Ocean Science Trust to study ocean chemistry and the problems of ocean acidification and hypoxia. Changing ocean conditions affect the health of our shellfish industries, the crabbing season, and our quality of life along the Coast. See my floor carry here.
SB 866 – Small cities face big challenges to provide building inspection services. Lack of inspectors slows housing construction. But state laws require inspectors to be public employees rather than let cities contract for extra services when needed. SB 866 is a long-negotiated compromise to find a way to legally increase inspection services in rural communities. See my floor speech and the following debate here.
HCR 6 – Michal Gibbons was a remarkable Oregon artist and a remarkable community organizer responsible for the Toledo Art District and so much of the regional art culture and industry. I presented a resolution honoring his many contributions. See the floor speech here.
HCR 7 – Our first responders are never off duty. Harold Berg was an officer in the Oregon State Police who was lost when he joined a rescue mission along our coast while vacationing with his family. I presented a resolution honoring his sacrifice and his family. See the floor speech here.
HB 2363 – COVID created all kinds of problems for our civic non-profits and their traditional fundraising. The Wine and Seafood Festival and our community colleges learned that to operate remote events, they needed multiple licenses from OLCC. HB 2363 fixed this awkward problem. See my floor speech here.
HB 2697 – A student on our coast asked her school board, and then the Oregon Board of Education to prevent the display of hate symbols like swastikas, or a noose in our public schools except when part of a legitimate educational curriculum. At her request, I joined several coastal legislators in making this good policy part of state law. See my floor speech here.
Accountability and Reform:
HB 2986 – I introduced legislation requiring the Board on Public Safety Standards and Training to ensure that police officers and certified reserve officers are trained to investigate, identify and report crimes motivated by prejudice based on the perceived gender of victim. The measure became part of a package of bills on police reform and accountability and was passed unanimously. You can see my floor speech here.
HJR 6 – I once again introduced a proposal to restrict the over-use of Emergency Clauses which allow measures to go into effect immediately and are occasionally used to limit the opportunity to collect signatures and refer measures for a public vote. Sadly, once again the measure did not receive a hearing.
With the session now concluded, I’m no longer driving to Salem each day. In fact, much of the Capitol, including legislative offices, will be closed for construction as part of a long-planned seismic upgrade.
Most COVID restrictions have, at long last, been lifted and I’m able to travel and engage across our district. Over the past week I’ve been meeting with city councils to detail the local project funding approved in the session’s final days. I’ve spoken to the Pacific City/Nestucca and Lincoln City Chambers of Commerce. I’ve done parades in Cloverdale and Neskowin and am planning for Dory Days. I’ve remotely attended meetings of the Ocean Science Trust and the Commission on Senior Services. I’ve done three radio interviews. I’ve enjoyed receptions and concerts at our local community centers and galleries. And just an hour ago, I wrapped up Business and Burgers – a joint appearance with Senator Anderson organized by the Small Business Development Center and broadcast in Lincoln City and Newport.
Meeting people, talking, and answering questions and concerns is the best and most important part of my interim job as your representative. I’ll hope to see you out there somewhere soon!
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10