Protecting Housing Options for Oregonians

Overview

In the 2016 short legislative session, lawmakers grappled with how to increase affordable housing options and address Oregon’s housing crisis, CFM protected existing low-income housing properties that serve some of the most vulnerable Oregonians.

Challenge

Low-income housing units owned by nonprofits were at risk of closing across the state after a recent tax court case confirmed the denial of property tax exemptions for these units. Nonprofits depend on tax exemptions as part of the financial model to provide low-income housing. Without these critical subsidies, nonprofits are unable to maintain the properties and may sell them, removing families from their current homes and reducing the availability of low-income housing in Oregon.

Approach

Catholic Community Services (CCS), a longtime client of CFM, provides more than 220 of these units to families in the Willamette Valley. On behalf of CCS, CFM raised awareness of the issue at the legislature and advocated for legislation that will help preserve existing low-income housing units.

Prior to the legislative session, CFM built a coalition of housing providers and key legislators. The coalition included Oregon Opportunity Network, the Housing Alliance, ShelterCare, NEDCO and Lane County Legal Aid.  Working with legislative leadership and members of the House and Senate Finance and Revenue committees, CFM successfully made the case.

Result

The legislature protected the existing low-income housing property tax exemptions. Although this was a success for CCS, the work is not done. CFM will build on this work by asking legislators to provide incentives for nonprofits to develop additional low-income housing to meet unfulfilled demand. This will be a contribution to the important goal of increased housing options for Oregonians, a stated top priority of the legislature.

CFM Public Affairs Associate Ellen Miller represented Catholic Community Services in taking on this challenge. Learn more about Ellen and her work here

Residency Requirement for Marijuana Businesses

Overview

After passage in 2014 of Ballot Measure 91 (M91), which legalized the sale and use of adult-use marijuana in Oregon, legislators created the Measure 91 Implementation/ Marijuana Legalization Committee. It was tasked with creating legislation to establish the recreational cannabis industry and protect patients already participating in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. The initial laws legislators adopted included a strict residency requirement for marijuana growers that stifled investment in the infant industry.

Challenge

Legislators limited the licensing of all marijuana businesses to Oregon residents residing in the state for at least two years. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) further required that any marijuana business be at least 51 percent owned by Oregon residents. This requirement, combined with the inability of marijuana-related businesses to work with banking institutions, reduced access to capital and outside investments for fledgling businesses.

Approach

Green Star Growing, a medical marijuana cultivation company in Southern Oregon with out-of-state investors, retained CFM to modify or remove the residency requirement, which would enable it to transition to the recreational marijuana market.

CFM aligned other marijuana interests and created a coalition to pursue the change. The coalition hammered home the message that the best course of action was removing the residency requirement entirely and helped the committee co-chairs gather the support to move the bill. CFM remained vigilant after the bill passed to block the residency requirement resurfacing as an amendment or compromise deal.

Result

Legislators ultimately determined the residency restriction was detrimental to the growth of Oregon’s marijuana industry – and to some of the Oregonians the policy was intended to protect. The legislature removed all residency requirements for business license applicants for medical and recreational marijuana industries, which will likely increase investments in Oregon’s newest industry.

CFM State Affairs and Development Associate Tess Milio represented Green Star Growing in taking on this challenge. Learn more about Tess and her work here

State Employee Bus Pass Program

Overview

The State of Oregon invested in a state employee bus pass program until the Great Recession when legislators facing huge budget holes eliminated funding for the program. The result was a 10-year waiting list for state employee parking spots and 1,200 state employees scrambling to find affordable transportation options. Working on behalf of Salem-Keizer Transit, which issued the bus passes, CFM labored to restart the program.

Challenge

Despite a strong push, funding to restart the state employee bus pass program failed to materialize during the 2015 legislative session. One factor was a local ballot measure put forward by Salem-Keizer Transit to impose a payroll tax to expand service, which was strongly opposed by the chamber of commerce and was defeated at the polls. The state employee bus pass program also got tied up in political dust-ups over other bills.

Approach

After the 2015 session, CFM worked closely with Senate President Peter Courtney, who represents the Salem area, House leadership and key members of the Joint Ways and Means Committee to emphasize the bus pass program’s importance to state employees. CFM asked for and got support to make restarting the program a budget priority.

During the short 2016 session that was marred by partisan wrangling, CFM kept in close touch with key leaders to ensure funding didn’t once again become entangled in legislative politics. CFM maintained daily contact with Courtney and other key players until the very end of the session, which ended abruptly following a political deal.

Result

The final budget bills of the 2016 session contained dedicated funding to restart the state employee bus pass program.

The job is done. CFM will monitor implementation of the program and be prepared to defend its continuation in future legislative sessions.

CFM Senior Public Affairs Associate Dale Penn II represented Salem-Keizer Transit in taking on this challenge. Learn more about Dale and his work here

Setting the Plate for Wine and Culinary Tourism

Overview

Oregon now has more than 700 wineries, up from 450 just five years ago. Around 70 percent of these wineries produce less than 5,000 cases of wine per year. This makes them small, family-run businesses, mostly operating in rural Oregon. Competition is fierce, with fewer distribution options. Consumer preferences are changing, too. Direct-to-consumer sales have increased as wine lovers – and buyers – choose to travel to winery tasting rooms to enjoy and purchase wine. Increased tourism in Oregon is vital to the future of the Oregon wine industry.

Challenge

Local tourism agencies operating in winery regions receive surcharge revenues from sales of “Oregon Wine Country” license plates, which have been around since 2012 (also a CFM client success story). These agencies aren’t required to spend these revenues on tourism to promote the wine industry, and not much coordination between these groups and regional winery associations has occurred on how best to spend the surcharge revenues. 

Approach

On behalf of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, CFM worked with key legislative leaders on a bill to clarify Oregon Wine Country license plate proceeds should be spent on “wine & culinary” promotion programs, and well as promote greater collaboration between local tourism agencies and the wine industry and regional winery associations  We told legislators how important tourism is to the wine industry and the entire state and the about the benefits of coordination in spending limited promotional dollars from license plate proceeds.

Result

The legislature overwhelming passed legislation to direct all Oregon Wine Country surcharge funds to wine and culinary tourism and directed Travel Oregon to write rules that encourage collaboration on how to spend these dollars.

CFM Partner Dan Jarman represented the Oregon Winegrowers Association in taking on this challenge. Learn more about Dan and his work here