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Central Oregon lawmakers point to successes after tumultuous session comes to a close

The two top Republicans, both from Central Oregon, again critical of Democrats

(Update: Adding video, comments from Rep. Emerson Levy, Senator Tim Knopp)

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The 2023 Oregon Legislative session wrapped up Sunday. It included the longest walkout in history, but in the waning days, numerous bills and budgets passed, an always fast-moving process made even more rushed by the 6-week boycott by Republican senators that stalled action on hundreds of bills.

A deal reached with the Democrats finally resolved the record-length stalemate, with little time to spare.

Both Rep. Emerson Levy, D-Bend, and Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp of Bend agreed Monday that they made a lot of headway on many major issues, including education and housing.

As the housing crisis grows, they said they'll focus their efforts on finding ways to produce more housing and reduce homelessness.

Knopp said the Senate achieved its biggest goal of returning a $5.5 billion kicker to taxpayers next year.

"On the 2024 income taxes, Oregonians will receive the largest ever kicker refund," Knopp said. "It’s going to be a credit on your taxes.”

Levy felt despite the walkout, progress was made.

"I believe we came out with really important housing packages, opioid reduction, early literacy -- really, things that people of Oregon care about," Levy said.

Alyssa's Law, which Levy helped spearhead, aims to improve school safety. 

"Alyssa’s Law is in response to the Parkland shooting, what they learned from that — which is that within the first 30 seconds of an emergency, those are the most precious seconds," Levy said. 

By wearing a badge or having an app on their phone, teachers and school staff can contact 911, which allows police to get an exact geolocation of an incident. 

Levy explained scenarios where this may prove helpful, "whether it is a 'bad guy' event or whether it is a kid that needs help. For example, if it’s a kid having an allergic reaction, every teacher who has access to an Epi-Pen or who is CPR-certified will get a notification.”

Along with the big tax credit, Knopp pointed to other efforts made on part of the Senate, such as: “We extended the statute of limitations on first-degree rape from 12 years to 20 years, matching a lot of other states."

One effort to produce more housing by loosening land-use restrictions, House Bill 3414 B, failed.

Levy responded to the outcome, "I think people were afraid that it was too much, too much of a push on our land use system.”

However, Knopp said he wouldn't be surprised if it gets brought back for another try.

“I think there are a couple people on the Democrat side who to the governor had said they’d vote for it, didn't ultimately vote for it, so it failed by one vote," Knopp said.

The bill would modernize Oregon’s land use system to provide more land for needed housing.

Levy said, "We need more units, and Deschutes County desperately — our average house price is back over $700,000," Levy said. "We have to think in new and creative ways and be open to new ways of thinking."

House Bill 2395, which will make the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone more broadly available and House Bill 2572, which cracks down on paramilitary activity, also passed.


Here's Gov. Tina Kotek's news-release take Sunday night on the highlights of the work done in Salem:

2023 Legislative Session: Governor Kotek Highlights Progress on Housing and Homelessness, Behavioral Health, Education

Governor Kotek worked successfully with Legislature
to deliver on mission-focused agenda

Salem, OR — Oregon lawmakers concluded the 2023 legislative session today, wrapping up a session that included significant progress on the top three priorities that Governor Tina Kotek set at the beginning of her term: housing and homelessness, behavioral health, and education.

“My top priorities since Day One have been to reduce homelessness and support housing development, improve access to mental health and addiction services, and ensure that Oregon’s children are better served by our investments in early literacy, child care, and K-12 schools,” Governor Kotek said. “This session was not without challenges and there is more work ahead of us, but today Oregonians should know the state is making progress on our biggest challenges and working hard to deliver results.”

Governor Kotek advocated for policies and budgets that would deliver on issues of shared concern across Oregon. Highlights include:

Housing and Homelessness
The lack of housing that is affordable across all income levels not only drives the homelessness crisis but is having a serious impact on working families and employers. The state made progress addressing the housing and homelessness crises this session by:

  • Responding to the Homelessness State of Emergency – Governor Kotek declared a homelessness state of emergency on Day One of her administration, then successfully worked with the legislature to urgently allocate $155 million to support the emergency response and meet the goal of reducing unsheltered homelessness over the course of this year.
  • Maintaining Momentum Over Two Years – $316 million will rehouse an additional 750 households, prevent homelessness for 11,700 households, maintain shelter operations, create new permanent supportive housing, provide ongoing support for 700 newly added shelter beds, and more.
  • Building More Affordable Housing – $650 million in bonding will build and preserve more affordable housing. However, the legislature missed a critical opportunity to address housing production by failing to pass House Bill 3414. 

Behavioral Health
When someone is ready to seek help for a mental health concern or substance use, that help should be easy to find and available – no matter where a person lives or what they can afford. The state made progress this session by:

  • Increasing Access to Behavioral Health Care – $200 million will add capacity for detox and substance use disorder residential treatment facilities, provide incentives to stabilize and support the behavioral health workforce, and increase community services for individuals who are likely to end up in the state hospital.
  • Funding Suicide Prevention and 24/7 Crisis Line – Increased funding will improve the statewide coordinated crisis system, including the 9-8-8 suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis hotline, which is available 24/7 to Oregonians in crisis.
  • Improving Implementation of Measure 110 – Policy changes will help ensure state investments and Measure 110 programs deliver real benefits for Oregonians, reduce hospitalizations and overdoses, and improve timely access to care.
  • Preventing Overdose Deaths – The state will expand access to overdose reversal drugs, like naloxone kits, to reduce drug overdose deaths.

Every Oregon child should have a safe place to receive a high-quality, culturally responsive public education, and every family needs access to affordable child care options. The state made progress this session by:

  • Advancing Early Literacy Success – Increased funding for early literacy will improve how we teach kids how to read and write – ensuring educators, parents, caregivers, federally-recognized Tribes, and communities have what they need to support our students.
  • Building Up Our Child Care Infrastructure – A new $50 million Child Care Infrastructure Fund will strengthen access to physical infrastructure for child care facilities.

Public Safety
Oregonians deserve to feel safe and be safe in their homes and communities. The state made progress this session by:

  • Clearing the Police Officer Training Backlog – Funding additional training slots will ensure that more officers can move through the academy at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. A backlog in training courses has been slowing the pace of law enforcement coming online to serve Oregonians for too long.
  • Banning Ghost Guns – Oregon is now the ninth state to ban ghost guns, cracking down on unserialized and undetectable guns that are often used by gun traffickers, violent criminals, and people legally prohibited from buying firearms.


As has been the case for many weeks, the leader of Senate Republicans, Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend, had a far different take on what transpired. Here's his brief Sunday synopsis:

2023 SESSION RECAP: Senate Republicans Delivered Big Wins for Oregonians, Held the Democrat Majority Accountable

SALEM, Ore. – Today, the 2023 Legislative Session adjourned sine die. Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) released the following statement:

“Despite continuous unlawful, uncompromising, and unconstitutional actions by Democrat leaders that put the 2023 Session and hundreds of bills at risk, Senate Republicans successfully negotiated a framework that got the session back on track so we could deliver on Oregon’s most urgent needs.

“Senate Republicans were finally able to give the nearly 2 million Oregonians we represent a voice in the Senate and a seat at the table. We protected the rights of parents and law-abiding gun owners, restored the rule of law, and forced good-faith bipartisanship to get good things done. This led to a successful end to a tumultuous session.”


Interestingly, Knopp, like Kotek, lamented the failure to pass a bill aimed at allowing more housing production, in another final-day news release:

Senate Democrats Choose Homelessness Over Housing

SALEM, Ore. – Today, the Oregon Senate failed to pass House Bill 3414 B, a measure modernizing Oregon’s land use system to allow for more buildable land for needed housing. It is a necessary component to reach the Governor’s 36,000-unit annual production goal.

“Today, Senate Democrats chose homelessness over housing and politics over Oregonians. Decades of failed policy under total Democrat control created this crisis yet when presented with an opportunity to take bold action, most Democrats chose to kick the can down the road. Compassion is enacting policy that allows us to house more people at a lower cost than exists today. We cannot do that when we artificially restrict the supply of buildable land,” said Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend), who has spent 20 years in the housing industry.

“There is no doubt that we are amid a housing crisis, but once again, we have failed to address the root cause of this crisis. No bill would do more in the short term to address our housing needs, especially in rural Oregon, than House Bill 3414. I am extremely disappointed that our land use system continues to be governed by special interests instead of the needs of our communities,” said Deputy Leader Dick Anderson (R-Lincoln City), Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing.


House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson of Prineville sounded a similar theme in her post-adjournment news release:

Sine Die: Tumultuous Legislative Session Officially Adjourns

SALEM, OR – The 2023 Oregon Legislative Session officially adjourned today. The session began with a commitment from Democrat Leadership to focus on bipartisan priorities for the benefit of all Oregonians. A noteworthy amount of time was spent on the most divisive and partisan issues in America: expansion of abortion and gender transition treatment for minors at the expense of Oregon taxpayers, along with more limitations on Oregonians’ Second Amendment rights.

After lengthy negotiations, some of the more extreme elements of the Democrat agenda were successfully rolled back.

“Republicans fought every day to protect Oregonians’ parental rights and the Constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners. Despite a promise of working together on Oregon’s most pressing issues, Democrats prioritized bills that were simply too extreme for Oregon. I am proud of the work we did to limit the impact of these devastating bills,” said House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville).

Some of the House Republican priorities which did cross the finish line include protecting the kicker for Oregon taxpayers, creating more tax credits, addressing key needs for housing and homelessness across the state, and cracking down on the fentanyl crisis. In addition, House Republicans successfully reduced Oregon’s burdensome estate tax for farming, fishing, and forestry families. Significant public safety improvements were also made by tightening laws around retail theft and protecting Oregon’s infrastructure from targeted attacks.

“I am proud of the work our members did in representing their communities and all Oregonians. Despite being in the minority this session, we successfully used our voice to get results by limiting some of the really bad, and elevating some of the really good policy, coming out of this session. House Republicans guarded the kicker, protected our natural resource families, and found some common-sense reform to Measure 110. Republicans remain committed to making Oregon a place people want to work, live, and raise a family,” said Breese-Iverson.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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