Today In PPS And Advocacy In Salem - March 15, 2024

Many of you may know that this afternoon there will be a student-led walkout and march in Portland Public Schools. According to PPS, "From what we know, the action is intended to be peaceful and to elevate the cause of Palestinians." Click this linkwhich PPS shared in the opening line of their communication, to understand what this walkout is about.


We recognize the environment this is creating for many students who might not feel comfortable participating or who may feel unsafe. We are in communication with PPS and will be sharing more information on Tuesday of next week.


Super Sunday is here! It is an opportunity for those who have yet to make their gift to the 2024 Campaign for Community Needs. Calls on Sunday will be made by volunteers with various area codes. Please "Answer the Call” to support our community.



Beyond the work we are doing to fight antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the Jewish Federation and its Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) continue to work on behalf of the Jewish community on a state level. The 82nd Legislative Assembly just completed its short session in Salem, and I want to share our efforts on those issues with impact on the Jewish community.


Legislators remained laser focused on several big issues affecting Oregonians, including Affordable Housing/Homelessness and Measure 110 reforms. Legislative leadership made it clear that outside of those two big issues, unless there was clear bi-partisan, bi-cameral support on specific legislation, organizations would wait until the 2025 session.


The Legislature received welcome financial news in the beginning of session. State economists projected that corporate and personal income taxes were up $130 million from last November, giving them an additional $1.7 billion total unspent from the current two-year budget. This money was much appreciated by Governor Kotek, who asked for $500 million in additional housing dollars, as well as legislators bringing forth many ideas of spending for their districts.


Security Funding for Jewish Organizations


In the wake of rising antisemitism in Oregon, the JCRC submitted a $530,000 request for security needs (cameras, upgraded access control systems, motion detectors, fencing) for multiple Jewish organizations. Unfortunately, we were informed toward the end of the session that Oregon’s Constitution contains the strongest provisions for separation of church and state of any state constitution in the United States, including the Federal Constitution. Oregon Constitution, Article I, section 5, reads: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any religious or theological institution, nor shall any money be appropriated for the payment of any religious service in either house of the Legislative Assembly.”


While some of the money requested from the legislature would have gone to several synagogues, there were requests from the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and other Jewish organizations serving the general public. Currently, the JCRC is working with the legislature to better understand the guidelines and allowances for our partner organizations to receive state dollars in the future.




On January 10, 2023, Governor Kotek issued Executive Order 23-02, which declared a state of emergency due to homelessness. This was extended with Executive Order 24-01 on January 9, 2024, which cited continued increases in homelessness and laid out a timeline of funding and actions taken. At the same time, Governor Kotek issued Executive Order 23-04, which established an annual housing production target of 36,000 homes in Oregon and established the Governor’s Housing Production Advisory Council (HPAC).


Senate Bill 1530 is one of two key housing bills this session, allocating $258 million for the implementation of various state programs. Among a list of other appropriations, some of the largest state investments included: $100 million for infrastructure projects supporting housing development, $65 million for emergency shelters, and $40 million for the Oregon Eviction Diversion and Prevention Rapid Response programs and services administered by culturally responsive organizations.


The second bill, Senate Bill 1537, establishes the Housing Accountability and Production Office (HAPO) and directs HAPO to assist local governments with housing production. The bill contains some controversial language modifying the definition of limited land use decisions and requiring local governments to grant land use regulation and adjustments in certain circumstances. These include allowing cities to undergo either a one-time urban growth boundary amendment or a land exchange in specified conditions.


Both bills passed the House and Senate and are sitting on the Governor’s desk for her signature.


Measure 110 Reforms


In what started as one of the most divisive issues of the session, how to repeal Measure 110, ended in overwhelmingly bi-partisan support of the Oregon Drug Intervention Plan. Measure 110, a law voters passed in 2020, decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs and incentivized treatment. Largely cited as a reason for public drug use and a cause of increased fentanyl deaths, lawmakers made it a top priority to fix during this short session. The result, after considerable work, public testimony and debate, was House Bill 4002, which would dismantle the decriminalization of a simple drug possession and build something new in its place. While drug recriminalization is the core of HB 4002, there are several other provisions in the lengthy bill. Please click here to read the complete summary of the bill.


Climate Change Action


House Bill 4083, the COAL Act, directs the Oregon Investment Council and the State Treasurer to eliminate certain investments in thermal coal companies. It calls for divestment and reinvestment of monies, “without monetary loss to the funds through reasonable, prudent, and productive investments in companies generating returns that are comparable to the returns generated by companies subject to the divestment.” The measure narrowly passed to House and the Senate and now heads to Governor Kotek to sign.


Other Issues of Interest


At the request of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the JCRC wrote testimony in support of House Bill 4085. The measure would have allocated $6 million from the General Fund to the Department of Human Services to provide grants to assist noncitizens to cover costs of immigration legal services or fees. Despite momentum coming out of the 2023 legislative session, HB 4085 failed to advance out of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.


Finally, Senate Bill 1583, which prohibits discrimination when selecting textbooks, instructional materials, or library books for public schools. More specifically, the measure prevents a school board or school administrator from banning a book when the content includes a perspective, study, or story of or is created by any individual/group against whom discrimination is prohibited. The bill passed both the Senate and the House and is headed to the governor.


A special "Thank you!" goes to our JCRC leadership and our lobbyist, George Okulitch, for their hard work during this short session.


Purim begins next Saturday night (March 23), and our community has a full range of activities between now and then. Please click here to learn more.


Let me close with this special request from the Chevra Kavod haMet (Jewish burial society). As per tradition, we use a small amount of soil from Israel in the burial preparation (tahara). If you or anyone you know is going to Israel soon, please consider bringing back a sandwich-sized Ziploc bag of soil. You will not be stopped at US Customs as “burial soil from Israel” is allowed. If you are able to help, please click here.


Shabbat shalom.



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