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Last week House Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement to suspend the full reading of bills on the floor and to split membership on the redistricting committee so an equal number of lawmakers from each party will serve on the panel.

This compromise agreement has already expedited the passage of bills off the House floor. Hopefully it will also foster bipartisan cooperation in the redrawing of congressional and state legislative district boundaries to align with the results of the 2020 census.

Unfortunately, multiple COVID-19 exposures may have occurred on the House floor this Monday. Out of an abundance of caution, and to keep lawmakers and staff safe, the House has adjourned until 11 a.m. Monday, April 26. Committee work will continue, as it is being done remotely.

The legislature is like many segments of our community, in that we have had to find creative ways to get things done due to the spread of COVID-19. As an example, in response to the pandemic, doctors and other medical professionals have found themselves relying on telemedicine.

HB 2508 codifies many of the advancements achieved through telemedicine over the past year. Once recognized as a promising way to expand health care in rural and underserved communities, telemedicine has now become vital to our health care delivery system HB 2508 updates Oregon’s telehealth statutes, clarifying that telemedicine services have coverage and reimbursement parity for public and private insurers. I signed onto this bill as a regular sponsor, and was pleased to see it approved on a House floor vote of 56-1 before moving to the Senate.

Having to wait a week before the House can reconvene is extremely frustrating, as there is much work to be done to deal with many critical issues now facing our state.

Oregon's homelessness

One problem that has been getting progressively worse is homelessness. In all parts of Oregon many people are struggling to find adequate affordable housing, and sometimes find themselves sleeping outside. HB 3115 would protect homeless people from fines or arrest for sleeping or camping on public property when there is no other option. This bill largely follows the federal court ruling in “Martin v. City of Boise” and bars criminalization of sleeping outdoors if there are no viable options for indoor shelter.

Cities and town can still pass ordinances to regulate sleeping or camping on public property, but they must take into account the resources available to homeless individuals and the impact of regulations on persons experiencing homelessness. Finding a solution to the problem of homelessness will take work and investment. This session’s Oregon Legislative Housing priorities include $47 million for shelter support and navigation centers and $50 million for permanent support housing construction. HB 3115 passed on a 36-22 floor vote and moves to the Senate.

Wildfire legislation

Before floor sessions were suspended, this past week I was honored as chief sponsor, to carry two bills on the floor relating to wildlife issues.

HB 3152 allows ODFW to operate wildlife inspection stations, to prevent the spread of disease and to deter poaching by monitoring compliance with harvest rules and regulations. Wildlife check points will be similar to Oregon’s watercraft checkpoints which are already in place and working to keep invasive aquatic species from contaminating Oregon waters.

ODFW inspectors could prevent the unlawful importation of deer, elk or moose harvested from areas in other states known to have Chronic Wasting Disease. ODFW believes check stations would provide an important protective layer to keep Oregon’s wildlife healthy, and they do not need additional staff to implement these checkpoints. HB 3152 received a unanimous House floor vote and moves to the Senate.

HB 3163 amends residency as it relates to the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses, tags and permits. This legislation requires that a person physically reside in Oregon not less than 6 months prior to applying for a resident hunting or fishing license and tag. They cannot merely own property or pay property taxes in Oregon, or claim resident privileges in another state.

HB 3163 came from an anti-poaching workgroup through discussion with law enforcement officials who are finding it difficult to prosecute wildlife offenders with dual state residency. This bill received a unanimous House floor vote, and moves to the Senate for consideration.

Stay in touch

Again, due to the rising number of infections, and the COVID-19 health protection restrictions, the Capitol building remains closed to the public. You are still able to view the committee work and weigh in on bills and other issues. This can be done in writing, by phone or by computer link-up. It has never been more important to be a part of the process.

If you have concerns or comment about a state issue, agency or proposed legislation, please contact my office. It is my privilege to represent you in the House of Representatives as we undertake this important work together.

Rep. Brad Witt serves House District 31. He may be reached at:

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