Southern Oregon legislators react to special session with new bills aimed at rent, illegal marijuana grows

SALEM, Ore — The Oregon Legislature wrapped up a one day special session late Monday, to tackle a few bills including pandemic-related rent assistance and illegal marijuana grows.

Senate Bill 891 will add about $100 million dollars to the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP). The program was implemented earlier this year to help renters with past-due and future rent. Renters now have until June 30th of next year to apply for protection from eviction through September of 2022.

$10 million dollars will be available for landlords through the state’s Landlord Guarantee Program.

“We are deeply appreciative that the Oregon State Legislature and Governor Brown came together to provide more time and protection for renters to get the rental assistance they need during this critical time,” Margaret Salazar, executive director with Oregon Housing and Community Services, said in a release Monday. “We know eviction risk is real for too many families. As renters testified to over the weekend, the looming fear of eviction is devastating. The anxiety of a 60-day clock hanging over the heads of tenants in need has taken a toll.”

Legislators took action on the ongoing illegal marijuana situation which has been a concern for southern Oregon. The House passed SB 893, 5561 which approved about $25 million in funding for law enforcement to crack down on illegal grow operations.

 “I think southern Oregon has been the epicenter of this, ” Ashland state representative Pam Marsh told NBC5 Tuesday. “In Jackson County specifically, it’ll go to additional people at the Sheriff’s office. It will also go to additional people who are able to do code compliance, because that’s been a very effective strategy for us.” 

Marsh said the funds will also address growing concerns of worker exploitation at grow sites. She said law enforcement reported workers being forced into labor and living in alarming conditions.

As part of the funding, Jackson county will be asked to partner with community based organizations to design a worker protection program. Marsh said there’s more work needed next year to tackle illegal grows, but called Monday’s session a tentative step forward.

“That’s a new addition that we haven’t taken on before and is really an essential one,” Marsh said.  “We need to make sure that this funding stays in place for a few years. We are not going to solve the illegal hemp and cannabis problem in one season, even with additional resources.” 

Marsh also thanked Jackson and Josephine county residents for expressing concern about the illegal marijuana situation – which she says helped get the bills passed.

Anthony Carter is a reporter for NBC5 News. He grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Elizabethtown College in 2019. Anthony started his career as a print journalist, covering New York sports and the NBA Draft. He then started his own sports podcast and website covering the Arena Football League. Anthony moved to the Rogue Valley in 2019 as a news producer before joining the NBC5 News family. Anthony likes to workout at the gym, play basketball, and root for his Atlanta Hawks and New York Jets. Want to connect with Anthony? send him an email: [email protected]
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