SALEM — One month down and four to go for the 2019 session of the Oregon Legislature. There’s been a surprising number of major votes already, most notably the Senate approving statewide rent control — with a vote in the House as early as this week.

Redmond looks like a good bet to win approval for a affordable housing pilot project. A bill that would allow multiunit housing in areas zoned for single-family homes has the backing of Democratic leaders, but will likely get more hearings before it goes up for a vote. The “cap and invest” program to cut carbon emissions is also plowing ahead, with a “roadshow” of public hearings around the state, including Bend. It’s still a long way to the session’s finish line June 30. Here’s some of the news in and around the Capitol, and the rest of Oregon.

Salem comes to Deschutes County

A pair of major legislative committees will be coming to Deschutes County in March. First up is the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, which will hold a hearing March 2 in Bend to receive public comment on House Bill 2020, the proposed “cap and invest” program to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The hearing will be from 9 a.m. to noon at Central Oregon Community College, Cascade Hall, Room 246-248. It will be followed March 16 by the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, which is traveling the state for public hearings on the 2019-21 state budget. The two-hour hearing will be at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, South Sister room, 3800 SW Airport Way, in Redmond. The hearing is scheduled to go from 2 to 4 p.m.

Rent control vote imminent

Statewide rent control appears on the fast track to becoming law before winter turns to spring. Democrats advocating for Senate Bill 608 are hoping for the final legislative hurdle — a vote of the House — to happen this week. Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, and Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, say they oppose the bill and will speak during the floor debate. The main points of the complex bill would cap annual rent increases at 7 percent plus the cost of living index percentage, and bars landlords from evicting tenants for no reason after they have living in a unit for 12 months or more. SB 608 only needs a majority vote in the House, where Democrats hold a 38-22 edge. After the vote, the bill goes to Gov. Kate Brown, who has said she will sign it. Under the bill’s emergency clause, the bill would then immediately become law.

School mental health

Helt says she expects to carry House Bill 2191 on the House floor this week. It would allow a school absence to be excused by a principal or teacher if it is caused by the mental or behavioral health of the student. Helt is vice chair of the House Education Committee, which voted to name the bill “Chloe’s Act” after Chloe Wilson, a 14-year-old Eugene student activist on mental health and anti-­bullying issues who committed suicide in February 2018. Wilson’s parents have advocated for the bill since their daughter’s death. The bill passed the committee by a 7-2 vote. If approved by the House, it would go to the Senate. HB 2191 includes an emergency clause that say it would become law July 1, the day after the Legislature is expected to adjourn. Normally bills become law 90 days after adjournment, but advocates of the bill say they want it in place for the beginning of the school year.

Is Carpenter done with politics?

Bend businessman Sam Carpenter says he believes he is done running for statewide public or party offices.

“Four statewide campaigns seems enough for this lifetime,” Carpenter said Friday in an email to The Bulletin.

Oregon Republican Party delegates voted Feb. 16 to re-elect chairman Bill Currier over Carpenter. Carpenter lost the GOP’s 2018 primary for governor and the 2016 primary for U.S. Senate. Carpenter also ran for the Senate in 2014 but withdrew and threw his support to state Rep. Jason ­Conger, R-Bend. Democrats went on to win all three races.

Carpenter had said as chairman of the GOP he would move the party into an even more conservative direction, including a firmer endorsement of President Donald Trump and his policies.

“The Oregon Republican Party has been compromised,” Carpenter wrote in his email. “Leadership has lurched left, with most directors believing this is the best stance for winning Republican seats. This approach is precisely wrong, and opposite the beliefs of 90% of actual Republican voters.”

Buehler’s back

Buehler has re-entered the political arena with “Knute’s News” a newsletter available through his website, knutebuehler.com. Buehler lets subscribers (it’s free) know “WHAT HAS BEEN ON MY MIND…” A recent issue praised Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, the only Republican in statewide office, for the agency’s recent audit of marijuana regulation. Buehler opines on reform of the state’s Public Employees Retirement System and problems with the state’s foster care program. The newsletter also highlights what Buehler considers the lowlights of Brown’s new term. “Gov. Brown will most certainly try to structure campaign finance reform to lock in the Democrat advantage for donating to campaigns while they have super majorities. Watch this issue carefully.” It also includes links to guest commentary pieces Buehler has written for The Oregonian and other publications.

Walden 2020

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, just won his 11th term in the House in November. But in ever-political Washington, D.C., that is old news. Roll Call, the venerable Congress-­watching publication, has issued its first congressional race handicapping for the 2020 election. Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of the eastern and central parts of the state — including Deschutes County — is rated “Solid Republican.” Walden won the 2018 election with a lower percentage of the vote than any of his other races. Still, most incumbents would love to have their worst showing give them over 56 percent of the vote. Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the Democratic candidate in 2018 who lives in Terrebonne, has said she may run against Walden again.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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