Alanna Mayhem

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — After Oregon lawmakers adjourned the state’s short legislative session for 2024, Governor Tina Kotek announced her intention to sign bills targeting the state’s drug crises, housing shortages and more in the next 30 days.

“I commend lawmakers for a productive session with bipartisan successes and a strong focus on the top issues facing Oregonians,” Kotek said in a statement late Thursday, before listing several bills of interest including a controversial bill package to recriminalize small quantities of hard drugs in September of this year.

The “Oregon Drug Intervention Plan” passed this past week by the Oregon Legislature would repeal a law Oregonians passed in 2020 to reduce penalties for small drug quantities from a felony or misdemeanor to a citation with a maximum $100 fine.

One aspect of the reform package, House Bill 4002, reflects a bipartisan compromise that would make minor drug possession an unclassified misdemeanor with a jail sentence of up to six months starting in September. It also requires the conviction of anyone who sells a controlled substance near a public park, homeless shelter or treatment center while encouraging counties to establish a drug treatment deferment program instead of placing people in jails.

Before reaching the Oregon Legislature, the bill drew opposition from residents and organizations who spoke out against the predicted effects on Oregon’s shortage of public defenders and people of color. Critics also cited a recent study showing no correlation between Oregon’s increasing drug-related deaths and the passage of Measure 110, though those supporting HB 4002 believe decriminalization has enabled people with substance use disorder by limiting punitive consequences and making treatment optional.

The reality of Oregon’s drug crisis is that the state lacks the resources necessary to provide drug treatment for everyone who needs it. To achieve that end, HB 4002 intends to expand access to medications that treat substance use disorders in jail while providing more certified behavioral health clinics that address both mental health and substance abuse.

The package’s other bill — HB 5204 — will provide $211 million to “shovel-ready” behavioral health treatment projects, deflection programs, training programs and other initiatives outlined in HB 4002, including drug prevention curriculum intended for Oregon schools.

“As governor, my focus is on implementation,” Kotek, a Democrat, said Thursday night while emphasizing the need to address the Criminal Justice Center’s racial equity impact statement that projected how HB 4002 would disproportionately impact communities of color.

“House Bill 4002 will require persistent action and commitment from state and local government to uphold the intent that the Legislature put forward: to balance treatment for individuals struggling with addiction and accountability," Kotek said.

The governor also signaled an intent to sign two components of Oregon’s Emergency House Stability and Production Package — Senate Bills 1537 and 1530 — which aim to reduce the number of Oregonians living on the streets and provide more affordable housing. An accompanying bill, HB 4134, will allocate $376 million to funding housing production and infrastructure, homeless shelters and renter support.

“Oregon will now have more tools to meet the urgent demand for all types of housing, in all parts of the state,” Kotek said. “Senate Bill 1537 will help stabilize housing costs by increasing housing production through cutting red tape in permitting processes, establishing some of the strongest affordability standards for new construction in the country and other critical reforms. Combined with investments in Senate Bill 1530, I look forward to ensuring that every dollar advances housing production.”