Oregonians face new laws with the start of 2024 that will address the drug addiction crisis, environment and crime. Oregon Revised Statues volumes at the Oregon State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 21, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
New Oregon laws that took effect Jan. 1 are aimed at the state’s biggest crises and needs, from affordable housing to the exploding fentanyl addiction crisis to mental health.
The laws, passed amid a tumultuous legislative session with a historic GOP-led Senate walkout, have a wide reach. Oregonians will see a new tax on their cell phone bills to pay for a crisis hotline.
Cities will have an easier time rezoning commercial property to increase housing options. And state health and education leaders are charged with coming up with a curriculum to teach young people about the deadly danger of fentanyl.
Almost 3,000 bills were introduced and lawmakers passed more than 650 in the last session. Of those, 250 took effect with the new year. Here’s a look at some of the biggest changes:
Measure 110 tweaks: House Bill 2513 makes changes to Measure 110, the voter-approved measure that decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs and puts a share of cannabis revenue into addiction treatment and recovery services. The law improves staffing and simplifies the application process so organizations can receive funding and start helping people sooner. The law also makes changes so the state receives improved and accurate data about Measure 110 programs.
Youth fentanyl education: Senate Bill 238 requires Oregon public health and education officials to develop a curriculum that will teach youth about the dangers of opioids amid a rise of fentanyl overdoses. The law comes after Beaverton School District developed its own curriculum to educate teens after a former student overdosed and died.
Preventing opioid overdoses: Senate Bill 1043 requires hospitals and other providers like addiction treatment facilities to give patients two doses of the overdose reversal medication naloxone when they leave the facility if they entered the facility to get treated for opioid abuse. The bill also protects people who administer opioid overdose reversal medication from lawsuits.
More access to addiction treatment for inmates: Senate Bill 529 will make it easier for people in prison to access intense addiction programs and different types of treatment. The law defines substance use disorders as a chronic illness for which treatment is necessary. The Oregon Department of Corrections says 63% of people entering prison have an addiction, and 50% have a severe need for treatment.
Mental health needs
New cell phone tax: House Bill 2757 will add a 40-cent tax on cell phone bills for the state’s 9-8-8 hotline, which serves people in a behavioral health crisis. The tax will generate about $26 million annually to run the hotline and provide mobile crisis response teams that help people in crisis.
Mental health treatment: House Bill 3426 requires 988 crisis hotline centers to train staff on how to serve firefighters, paramedics and police officers who contact the crisis hotline. First responders have high suicide rates, and the law is intended to ensure they get the help needed through the 988 crisis line.
Crime and punishment
Fighting organized retail theft: Senate Bill 340 gives law enforcement more tools to fight organized retail theft rings, with tougher penalties for organized crime that targets retail stores. Retailers raised concerns with lawmakers about increasingly sophisticated crime rings that steal merchandise.
Driving under the influence: House Bill 2316 expands the state’s driving under the influence of intoxicants law to include any impairing drugs. The law previously applied only to liquor, cannabis, psilocybin and controlled substances.
Domestic terrorism: House Bill 2772 makes domestic terrorism a crime when it targets “critical infrastructure” like utilities, airports, roads and dams, or when it sends out a “toxic substance,” such as chemical and biological weapons. Depending on the severity of the charge, domestic terrorism is a felony that is eligible for up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Unlawful paramilitary activity: House Bill 2572 creates a civil enforcement mechanism that allows the attorney general or private citizens to take paramilitary participants to court to stop their activity. The law also allows the attorney general to investigate paramilitary activity. Paramilitary activity involves actions that can include the threat of violence and intimidation, such as preventing people from accessing public areas. The law applies to paramilitary activity regardless of ideology.
Body armor: Senate Bill 618 allows courts to give tougher sentences to criminal defendants when they are found guilty of committing a crime while wearing body armor. The law also applies in cases when people flee from crimes while wearing body armor.
Sex crime law: House Bill 3632 expands the statute of limitations for first-degree sex crimes from 12 years to 20 years, or before the victim turns 30 years old if they were a minor during the crime. The limitation applies to whatever scenario comes last.
Photo radar: House Bill 2095 allows all Oregon cities to use photo radar to enforce traffic laws, such as speeding, and ends restrictions on the number of hours photo radar can be used at any given location.The law also allows cities to put speed limits in place that are lower than those set by the state, up to 10 miles an hour less than the speed limit in state law. The catch: Speed limits cannot be less than 20 miles an hour.
Housing growth: House Bill 2984 is intended to help the state’s housing shortage by allowing cities to convert commercial buildings to residential housing when they are in the city’s urban growth boundary. The law allows this without requiring a zoning change or conditional use permit.
Affordable housing: House Bill 2761 expands the ability of Oregon Housing and Community Services to finance affordable housing projects. The bill makes it easier for the agency to finance housing development projects that serve low-income households.
Homeowner wildfire protection: Senate Bill 82 prevents insurance companies from canceling policies or raising premium costs to insure a home based upon its location on the statewide wildfire risk map. The law also requires insurers to give homeowners information about how they can lower their premiums by protecting their home from wildfires by making improvements with fire-resistant building materials.
Education and kids
Oregon Kids Credit: House Bill 3235 creates Oregon’s first state-based child tax credit. Families that earn $30,000 or less receive a $1,000 tax credit for every child 5 years old and younger. About 55,000 children in Oregon will help families access the benefit. Families can apply for the credit when they file their tax returns. For more information about the Oregon Kids Credit and other tax benefits, go here.
School HVAC systems: House Bill 3031 helps Oregon schools access federal funding to upgrade heating, cooling and ventilation systems and put carbon dioxide monitors in classrooms. The law is intended to help schools improve air quality and eradicate airborne germs.
Student financial literacy: Senate Bill 3 requires personal finance education as a graduation requirement for high school students starting in 2027. The law also requires a class in career path skills, which includes preparing for job interviews and resume preparation.
Nurse training: Senate Bill 523 is intended to address the shortage of nurses in Oregon. The law allows community colleges to offer bachelor’s of science degrees in nursing. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission will approve any applications from colleges that want to start bachelor’s degrees in nursing.
Health care and environment
Breast cancer screenings: Senate Bill 1041 requires commercial insurance companies to fully cover all medically necessary breast cancer diagnostic tests, imaging and exams. Insurers usually cover mammograms, but not all plans cover ultrasounds and other diagnostic tests.
Hospital charity care: House Bill 3320 requires hospitals to do more to help low-income patients access their financial assistance programs, also called charity care. The bill requires hospitals to do more to inform patients about their options for charity care and how to apply. Patients also get refunds if they later qualify for charity care.
Prosthetic care: Senate Bill 797 requires health insurers to cover costs of medically necessary prosthetic and orthotic devices that aid people with weakened or missing limbs. The measure is intended to provide devices that are necessary to maintain one’s quality of life or work.
HIV prevention drugs: House Bill 2574 prohibits health insurers from charging their patients for the costs of HIV prevention drugs administered after a possible exposure, either through co-payments or increased premiums. The law also requires hospitals to have policies in place to dispense the drugs and requires the Oregon Health Authority to provide the drugs, called post-exposure prophylactic drugs, to rural hospitals free of charge.
Domestic partnerships: Under House Bill 2032, couples, regardless of gender, can enter into Oregon registered domestic partnerships. They are available to all adult couples 18 and older. Domestic partnerships have the same rights and benefits as marriage.
Correction: Due to inaccurate information provided by the Senate and House Majority offices, an earlier version of this story misstated the timeframe for when the state’s ban on foam food containers starts. The ban goes into effect in 2025.
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