Legislative update

As the second week of the legislative session wraps up, we checked in with Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland) and Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas).

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Keny-Guyer chairs the House Committee on Human Services and Housing. Boquist chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness.

OB: What kind of headway have you made over the past two weeks? Any progress to report?

Rep. Keny-Guyer: I think so. In my own committee that I chair, six of our nine members are new. We started off with hearings to introduce them to the big issues: human services and housing.

For instance, the CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust came and spoke to the housing group about why housing is one of their priorities. Bringing in someone like that who has a really big perspective on trying to promote public-private partnerships is good. 

Sen. Boquist: The pace of the session is twice that of the last session. At least in the Senate the various sides and members are working closer together than I’ve seen in the past eight years.

OB: Will you close the $1.8B funding gap?

Keny-Guyer: We will make progress on a lot of things we’ve continued to work on over time that do not require money, but the biggest issue of course is if we can close the funding gap. In my view the state needs more even than $1.8 billion. If we just close the funding gap, it leaves us short from investing where we should be investing. The biggest question in the session is whether we’re going to come to some revenue agreement. If we don’t solve that really big problem, and frankly if the corporate sector doesn’t step up … it’s going to be excruciating.

OB: Where do you stand on PERS reform?

Boquist: Not sure the legislature will reach an agreement in closing the gap unless all sides come together. However, we need to reform future retirement options as the present PERS program is unsustainable.

Keny-Guyer: I have always been wiling to look at any kind of PERS reform that I think is fair. I’m really eager to hear what ideas people have that are (fair). (The biggest problem is) our liability is so huge. Even if we cut off and completely closed down PERS from this day forward we have huge liability problem.

OB: What are your priorities in a transportation funding package?

Keny-Guyer: What my district really cares about is increasing transit options. And making sure we have funding for orphan highways (ODOT highways that run through cities, such as Southeast 82nd Avenue and Southeast Powell Boulevard).

Boquist: It is too early to tell on the transportation packages. However, the process and planning are looking at long term upwards of 20 years. This has never been done before. It will months until it comes together.

Should Oregon lift the ban on rent control, or approve statewide measures to assist renters (such as the Portland relocation fee ordinance)?

Boquist: I have not had time to review these proposals. We have six months, so in due time.

Keny-Guyer: I strongly support increasing protections for tenants. Almost 2 million people are at risk of losing their housing. And many have. It’s caused enormous displacement. It’s really critical we look at all the supply issues we can and put money into help builders expedite anyway we can. We need more funding of policies to help supply, more money to help with housing and rental support, and need more tenant protections. With our budget deficit … tenant protections are one of the things we can do that doesn’t have a fiscal impact.