Oregon Legislature adjourns after drug law changes, a housing boost and limits to campaign spending

By Lauren Dake (OPB) and Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
March 8, 2024 4:17 a.m.

Lawmakers managed to pass major policies in a bipartisan fashion

Oregon lawmakers wrapped up the 2024 short legislative session on Thursday night after muscling through a remarkable number of high-profile policies in a little more than one month, from limiting political contributions to rolling back Oregon’s decriminalization experiment and passing a housing package pushed by Gov. Tina Kotek.

Perhaps as notable, state legislators managed to pass those major policies in a bipartisan fashion. Coming on the heels of the 2023 legislative session where Republicans staged the longest legislative walkout in state history, this year’s session harkened back to a time when Oregon lawmakers pointed to bipartisan collaboration as an accomplishment in itself.


“There’s a common refrain... that short sessions are only for minor policy changes and budget adjustments,” said state Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland. “If that’s the case, this legislative body did not get that memo.”

After gaveling out for the final time on Thursday night, both parties hailed the 35-day session as a success, saying they’d completed all their major agenda items and then some. Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, who presided over the session as House speaker, called it “one of the most historic” short sessions the state has seen.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, tended to agree, and was quick to credit a weeks-long walkout Republicans launched last year for a bipartisan outcome.

“The walkout paid dividends in terms of the atmosphere in the Legislature today,” Knopp said. “The Democrats had a different attitude coming into this session and from the very beginning it was trying to work together on housing and Ballot Measure 110. At the end we accomplished campaign finance reform, which no one expected to happen.”

There were, of course, some political hijinks. On the final day of the session, Republicans managed to kill two bills they opposed — one touching on corporate health care and another on book bans — by deploying delay tactics.

FILE: Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Portland, speaks on the Senate floor, March 1, 2024, at the Oregon state Capitol in Salem, Ore.

FILE: Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Portland, speaks on the Senate floor, March 1, 2024, at the Oregon state Capitol in Salem, Ore.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Lawmakers also had success in passing bills they failed to get across the finish line in previous sessions. Sen. Janeen Sollman, a Hillsboro Democrat, has been pushing the so-called “right to repair” since 2021. The idea is to make it easier to repair increasingly complex devices like smartphones and computers. This year, a measure that will give Oregon one of the nations’ strongest-such policies passed both chambers and will land on the governor’s desk.

That success did not extend, however, to a push to end daylight saving time in Oregon. Despite narrowly passing the state Senate, the measure that would have put Oregon on permanent standard time ran out of well, time, to become law.

Here are some other highlights from the 2024 legislative session:

Campaign Finance

After years of dithering over creating campaign finance limits in the state, lawmakers moved at hyperspeed this session, passing caps on political cash in a matter of days.

A looming ballot measure made the difference. A coalition of good government groups appeared likely to qualify a proposal that would have created far tighter limits than lawmakers or their key supporters wanted.

Rather than dumping money into a pricey ballot fight, business and labor groups quietly began hashing out a compromise. They unveiled their initial proposal Feb. 22, and just 14 days later a revised version of the bill had cleared both chambers with broad bipartisan support.

The bill caps contributions from individuals at $3,300, on par with federal limits. Committees formed by labor unions and nonprofits created by business and advocacy groups would have far higher limits.

The proposal also would create a new system for forcing disclosure of “independent expenditures,” money that is spent in support of a candidate without the candidate’s knowledge or blessing. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled such spending amounts to free speech, and cannot be limited.

Kotek has said she will sign the bill. Contribution limits won’t kick in until the beginning of 2027.

Measure 110

The most hotly debated bill of the session concerned how to tackle Oregon’s struggles with fentanyl. The answer proved to be a moving target.

Democrats unveiled a bill in early February to end Oregon’s three-year experiment with drug decriminalization, making possession of small amounts of illicit drugs like fentanyl and heroin a class C misdemeanor punishable by a month in jail.

The proposal was hammered by advocacy groups that oppose recriminalizing drugs, but also by police, prosecutors, local governments and Republicans who wanted stricter consequences. Democrats wound up bargaining with the latter group.

The final version of House Bill 4002 made drug possession a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. The bill’s authors stress that it includes opportunities for drug users to seek treatment rather than facing penalties, but there are huge questions about how that will work in practice when penalties begin this September.

The bill also expands access to treatment, and makes it easier to convict drug dealers.

As with campaign finance, the recriminalization bill was spurred by the threat of a ballot measure. A coalition with backing from some of the state’s richest people was vowing to ask voters to repeal most of 2020′s Measure 110. Polling suggested Oregonians were eager to do so.


If the bill is signed by the governor as expected, backers of the ballot measure say it will be withdrawn.

Lawmakers didn’t stop there. With Senate Bill 1553, they made using drugs on public transit vehicles a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.


This legislative session, Gov. Kotek pushed one bill: a proposal to send millions of dollars to create new housing, fund homeless shelters and pay for infrastructure like roads and land acquisition.

The entire package, made up of Senate Bill 1537 and 1530, and House Bill 4134, will send a total of $376 million funneled toward boosting housing production, streamlining development and supporting renters.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek examines a mass timber affordable housing prototype.

FILE: Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek examines a mass timber affordable housing prototype at the Port of Portland in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 27, 2023.

Claire Rush / AP

The package also creates a revolving loan fund meant to help cities build more affordable homes and apartments. It will create a program to allow local governments to offer interest-free loans in an effort to build more middle-income and affordable housing. Local jurisdictions choose the project and can borrow from the state fund to offer grants to local developers.

One of the initial sticking points of the housing package was the exemption to allow cities a one-time opportunity to sidestep state land-use laws and bring in more than 100 acres for cities with a population greater than 25,000 people and no more than 50 acres for those with fewer than 25,000 people.

But ultimately, the bills passed with bipartisan support.

In her first days in office, Kotek made it clear she expected the state to play an aggressive role in digging the state out of its housing and homelessness crisis. The latest funding package builds on a $200 million package legislators passed in the previous legislative session to help fund housing.

Kotek said the latest effort will “make meaningful progress in fixing our housing shortage while also preserving our land use system and ensuring strong environmental protections.”

And, she added, “this is not the finish line.”

New dynamics

One of the final acts of the 2024 legislative session involved a significant change in leadership.

Rayfield, D-Corvallis, stepped aside as speaker in order to focus on a run for attorney general. That paved the way for the House to elect Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, as the next House Speaker.

The second-ranking Democrat in the House, Rep. Paul Holvey, a Eugene Democrat who has been a fixture in the state Legislature for two decades, announced he’s retiring. Holvey overwhelmingly survived a recall attempt last fall.

Many senators also served out their last session — some not by choice.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in early February that 10 Republican lawmakers are barred from running for reelection, after refusing to attend Senate floor sessions for six weeks last year. This will be the last legislative session for Sens. Knopp, Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction, Dennis Linthicum, R-Beatty, Bill Hansell, R-Athena, Lynn Findley, R-Vale. and Brian Boquist, of Dallas. Four other Republicans will lose their seats when their term expires.

FILE: Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, returns to the Oregon Senate on June 15, 2023. Knopp led his party in a six-week walkout of the chamber.

FILE: Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, returns to the Oregon Senate on June 15, 2023. Knopp led his party in a six-week walkout of the chamber.

Dirk VanderHart / OPB

On the Democratic side, longtime state Sen. Michael Dembrow, of Portland, is retiring. Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland, announced she’s running for state treasurer. If she wins, her seat will also be vacated.

Other notable bills

Lawmakers did a lot more, too. Among notable bills that passed during the session were proposals that will:

  • Regulate the use of artificial intelligence in campaign ads. Senate Bill 1571 will put Oregon among a growing group of states requiring that campaigns disclose the use of so-called “deep fake” technology in political communications.
  • Allow the state to save more money. Senate Bill 1562 will increase the maximum size of Oregon’s Rainy Day Fund to 12.5 of general fund revenues, giving the state freedom to sock away more in reserves.
  • Keep recreational areas open. Senate Bill 1576 gave public and private landowners temporary immunity from lawsuits if someone is injured while recreating on their property. The change became necessary, backers said, after a recent Oregon Court of Appeals decision that increased the risk of lawsuits.
  • Clean up the state’s investments. House Bill 4083 pushes the state treasurer to divest the state from coal companies. The bill dovetails with a plan by Treasurer Tobias Read to achieve “net zero” emissions in state pension investments by 2050.
  • Block a challenge to state land use laws. On the final day of the session, state Senators gave overwhelming approval to a bill that will block voters in North Plains from voting on the city’s urban-growth boundary expansion. House Bill 4026 is a reaction to an effort underway in North Plains. After the small city planned to more than double in size, upset citizens who wanted to preserve farmland, put the expansion on the May ballot. The measure will block voters from holding public votes on the city’s planned expansion.

Not every bill was so lucky. On the final day of the session, as lawmakers sped toward adjournment, two of the session’s most contentious bills met their demise.

Senate Bill 1583 would have prohibited school boards and other school officials from removing library books simply because they contain the perspective of, or are written by, members of protected classes including people of color, LGBTQ people, religious minorities and more, did not make it through both chambers.

House Bill 4130 was a complex proposal that would have created some of the strictest limits in the nation on corporate and private equity ownership of primary care and specialty clinics.

Both bills fell prey to Republican opponents, who used delay tactics to push back possible votes on the proposals until Saturday. Lawmakers opted to leave the bills behind rather than work into the weekend.

This story may be updated.