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Homelessness

Oregon lawmakers in both the Democratic and Republican parties named housing, homelessness and mental health as top priorities as they started the 2023 legislative session on a note of relative bipartisan good will. Whether it lasts, or dissolves into acrimony, threats and walkouts as occurred in recent sessions, will be tested as the lawmakers grapple with more divisive issues, like gun control, drugs and abortion rights. Convening in person without COVID-19 restrictions for the first time since the pandemic, legislators reiterated calls to boost housing construction, protect renters from eviction, increase homeless shelter capacity and expand mental health and addiction services.

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Oregon's newly sworn-in Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek signed three executive orders to tackle the state's housing and homelessness crises on her first full day in office Tuesday. One order declared a homelessness state of emergency, while another directed state agencies to prioritize reducing homelessness. A third order set a building target of 36,000 new homes per year, an 80% increase over current production. State officials estimate Oregon is short 110,000 housing units. Federal data shows that nearly 18,000 people live outside in the state. Advocates have welcomed Kotek's measures, but they say that mental health and addiction services must also be scaled up in order to address homelessness.

Liberal Democrat Tina Kotek unveiled measures to combat homelessness as she was sworn in as Oregon's new governor. In her inaugural address at the state Capitol in Salem on Monday, she said she will declare a homeless state of emergency and sign an executive order to increase housing construction on her first full day in office. She also proposed an emergency investment of $130 million to help people move off the street. Other priorities include education and treatment for mental health and addiction. She is one of the country's first two openly lesbian governors, joining Gov. Maura Healey of Massachusetts.

Liberal Democrat Tina Kotek will be sworn in as Oregon's new governor and make her inaugural address at the state Capitol in Salem on Monday. Kotek says her priorities include homelessness, mental health and addiction treatment, and education. She is one of the country's first two openly lesbian governors, joining recently sworn-in Gov. Maura Healey of Massachusetts. Kotek previously served a record nine years as Oregon's House Speaker. She replaces term-limited Democratic governor Kate Brown, whose strict pandemic measures made her a polarizing figure. Lawmakers also will be sworn in to the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which begins its session Jan. 17.

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Washington legislative leaders appear largely aligned with Gov. Jay Inslee in citing homelessness and the significant housing shortage as top priorities for the legislative session starting Monday in Olympia. Leaders of both parties in an annual meeting with reporters Thursday said they’re concerned about the lack of housing as well as a workforce shortage affecting all areas of Washingtonians lives from child care to health care. The 105-day session will also be the first to happen fully in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic. The bulk of lawmakers’ work will be to finalize a new two-year state budget.

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