SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A key Oregon legislative committee has approved millions of dollars in funding for pressing issues facing the state, ranging from public defense to affordable housing to grasshopper removal and crickets.
The commission overseeing the state’s beleaguered public defense system will receive $100 million, the largest tranche of funds. The Public Service Defense Commission, in charge of the state’s public defenders, is struggling with a shortage of lawyers and a backlog of cases.
The Oregon Emergency Council provides necessary funds to state agencies during the interim between legislative sessions.
The Statesman Journal reports that the committee also allocated $30 million on Friday for a health insurance program for long-term care providers. They noted that health coverage can often be unaffordable or unavailable for these workers, despite their outsized role in providing health care to those at risk during the pandemic.
Another $5 million has been approved for Portland housing authority, Home Forward. The agency administers grants to affordable housing providers with outstanding debt due to unpaid rent during the pandemic. Republicans broadly agreed with the funding but objected to how it was requested. Under the committee’s rule, those requests must come from state agencies, not lawmakers.
Lawmakers also committed $1.2 million for cricket and grasshopper suppression in rural areas. The bugs invaded parts of Oregon in 2020 and 2021, with some lawmakers describing them as “plague-like.”
A total of 69 articles passed the Democratic-controlled committee.
Republicans said the funds approved Friday should have focused more on the emergencies they say Oregonians are most concerned about.
“Inflation, violent crime, drug use and homelessness are all rising rapidly in Oregon and today was a missed opportunity for Democratic leaders to address real emergencies and provide solutions. to these critical issues,” House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, said. .
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.