Hill to Hall May 8–15

May 8: Churches sue Governor Brown over pandemic restrictions


A group of churches are suing Oregon Governor Kate Brown, arguing her stay-at-home orders are unconstitutional, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The lawsuit is being led by Common Sense for Oregon, a nonprofit led by former Republican candidate for governor Kevin Mannix. The basis for the suit argues emergency powers only last for 30 days and after that Brown would have needed legislative approval, which she never had. According to AP News, The Pacific Justice Institute, which is arguing the case for the plaintiffs, seeks to invalidate three orders, starting with Brown’s initial emergency declaration, signed on March 8.


May 11: Oregon agencies prepare for 17% budget cut


State agencies have been asked by Governor Brown to prepare for a 17% budget cut due to tax revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus outbreak, according to AP News. In a statement on May 11, Brown said the cuts depend on the need for additional federal funding to support state services, including the K-12 public school system. Brown expressed she was “gravely concerned” about the state’s ability to deliver basic services in the coming months. The next state revenue forecast for Oregon is May 20. Brown expects a $3 billion shortfall, according to The Oregonian. Brown has so far held off any systematic spending reductions, though a few agencies have implemented targeted cuts, layoffs and furloughs depending on the severity of their revenue declines.


May 14: Large part of the state to open under Governor Brown’s phase 1


Of Oregon’s 36 counties in the state, 31 reopened on May 14 in Governor Brown’s first planned phase affecting restaurants, bars, hair salons and many other businesses. According to AP News, Brown said she will continue to monitor testing rates, effectiveness of contact tracing and isolation of cases, hospitalization rates and other metrics that are required at this time. Brown rejected two county requests near Salem, Polk and Marion. Three counties in the Portland Metro area, the majority of the state’s population, did not request to reopen. According to OPB News, the majority of the counties to begin reopening are rural areas around the state. The phase 1 criteria include: counties must be able to show that COVID-19 infections are not climbing, they can test people for infections, trace the contacts of people who test positive and that there are enough hospital beds if COVID-19 begins to spread more rapidly.


May 15: Ballot measure asks Oregon taxpayers to help houseless

According to AP News, taxpayers in the metropolitan area will be asked to approve $2.5 million to fight houselessness. The money will come from personal income and business profits, and be dispersed over a decade. The ballot measure will be the first in the nation since the pandemic to ask taxpayers for more money. Proponents of the bill feel taxes are needed now more than ever. According to KPTV, nearly 40,000 people in the greater Portland area experienced an episode of houselessness and 105,000 households faced housing insecurity in a one-year period.