What Salem could get out of 2024 session

With legislators about halfway through their 2024 session, Salem stands to gain from proposals still alive at the Capitol.

Here’s a quick look at the pending legislation.

State money for Salem (House Bill 4072)

What it does: The state of Oregon would pay up to $6 million a year to the city of Salem for help covering costs of city services. This is near what the state would pay in property taxes if state-owned property in Salem were on the rolls. The legislation proposes a three-year trial.

Who’s behind it: Chief sponsors are state Sen. Deb Patterson, state Rep. Tom Andersen, state Rep. Kevin Mannix, state Rep. Ed Diehl.

Status: The House Revenue Committee held a public hearing on Feb. 12.

A sampling of testimony:

Francine Boullosa: “I have served on the Salem Public Library Advisory Board since 2018. This January there was reduction of service hours of 27% at the Main Library and 40% at the West Salem Branch. The library is now closed on Sundays and Mondays…I hope the additional funding provided by HB4072 will enable the city to restore library in person access to seven days a week.”

Marcia Kelley: “The Legislative Committee of the Marion County Democratic Central Committee fully endorses the creation of a payment in lieu of taxes for the city of Salem.”

Tom Hoffert, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce CEO: “The Salem business community strongly advocates for an annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program directed toward the city of Salem, which equitably quantifies the state’s impact on the city’s budget for fire, police, and emergency services.”

Commuter rail to Salem (Senate Bill 1572)

What it does: Allocates $500,000 for a state study to extend TriMet’s Westside Express Service to Salem. The new service would include new stops between Wilsonviile and Salem. The study is due by the end of this year.

Who’s behind it: State Rep. Kevin Mannix, state Rep. Tom Andersen, state Rep. Paul Evans, state Rep. Courtney Neron, state Sen. Aaron Woods, state Sen. James Manning Jr.

Status: Joint Committee on Transportation held a public hearing Feb. 13 and is scheduled to hold a work session on Tuesday, Feb. 20, to consider the proposal.

A sampling of testimony:

Erik Halstead of Salem: “I know elected officials want to put their name on something, particularly something as sexy as a train. But let’s be honest – we’ve studied it to death. We don’t have the money.”

Angie Villery, president of Travel Salem: “Beyond alleviating traffic congestion on I-5, this initiative will contribute to our state’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, fostering a healthier environment, and advancing sustainable transportation alternatives.”

Chris Hoy, Salem mayor: “By offering other choices, like the Westside Express Service commuter line extension to Salem, we’ll be closer to our goals of reduce Salem’s GHG emissions by 50% by 2035 and making Salem is a carbon neutral city by 2050.”

Extended student protection (House Bill 4160)

What it does: School employees would be prohibited from sexual misconduct with students for a year after they graduate or leave high school. The current limit is 90 days and school officials say that’s not long enough. The change was prompted in part by a recent case involving a teacher in the Salem-Keizer School District.

Who’s behind it: State Rep. Kevin Mannix, state Rep. Courtney Neron, state Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, state Sen. Michael Dembrow

Status: The House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 15 unanimously voted to advance the bill, recommending the House pass it. The proposal is on the House agenda for Tuesday, Feb. 20.

YMCA Service Center (Senate Bill 1570)

What it does: Allocates $6 million to the YMCA of Marion and Polk Counties to develop a multi-agency service center in the now-vacant Statesman Journal building at 280 Church St. N.E. The newspaper left the building in 2017. The service center would be a pilot project with the state Department of Human Services.

Who’s behind it: state Sen. Deb Patterson, state Sen. James Manning Jr., state Rep. Tom Anderson, state Rep. Ed Diehl.

Status: Awaiting action in the Senate Human Services Committee.

Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected].

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Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.