SALEM — A tenant protections bill — a chief priority for House Speaker Tina Kotek and several other Portland-area lawmakers — has died in the Senate.
Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, gave an emotional speech on the Senate floor Thursday, July 6, saying the failure of the bill was his "greatest disappointment" of the more than five-month session, which ends this month.
The legislation began in the House as an effort to try to deter mass evictions and retaliation and discrimination against tenants. The House narrowly passed the bill 31-to-27 in early April. The bill would have banned no-cause evictions and required landlords to pay relocation expenses to tenants when they ask a tenant to leave for certain allowable business or personal reasons.
Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham, who volunteers as president of Human Solutions, a nonprofit organization that operates a family shelter in Gresham, has said the primary reason families come to the shelter is "they lost their home to no-cause eviction."
The Senate Human Services Committee modified the bill to make it less punitive against landlords. The committee's amendments reduced the circumstances under which landlords would have to pay relocation fees to tenants who were forced to leave at no fault of their own. The Senate also removed a provision to lift a ban on local rent control.
However, the proposal lacked any support from any of the Senate's 13 Republicans. Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, for instance, has said restrictions on landlords are counterproductive to solving Oregon's shortage of affordable rental units and has advocated for measures that make it easier for investors to develop new housing units.
"Oregon's land-use laws are the problem and if the Speaker was serious about addressing the problem she would be attacking restrictive land-use laws instead of renters and tenants," said Jonathan Lockwood, spokesman for the Senate Republicans.
At least two key Democratic senators, Sens. Rod Monroe, D-Portland, and Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, also opposed the bill. Monroe, who is a landlord, has said outlawing no-cause evictions would be too restrictive to landlords who have problem tenants.
An effort by Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, to negotiate a compromise more acceptable to landlords also failed to win the needed votes.
"I am sad we couldn't reach agreement on a reasonable bill to limit no-cause evictions. I commend the alliance of housing advocates for their hard work and I'm very disappointed we couldn't get there," Burdick said Thursday.
The compromise was included in an amendment to the bill by Senate Rules. Alison McIntosh, deputy director of policy for housing advocates Neighborhood Partnerships, said the compromise struck "a balance between protecting tenants and property rights."
Monroe and Johnson faced backlash from some tenant advocates. Some advocates demonstrated at Monroe's church in Portland. They also entered the Capitol before the building opened and left strongly-worded notes on the doors of lawmakers who opposed the bill. Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, said on the Senate floor earlier this week he was considering filing a trespass complaint with Oregon State Police.
"I'm sure it didn't help to gain support for the bill by intimidating lawmakers and breaking into the Capitol building early in the morning and string up offices with caution tape to look like a crime scene. The gangster tactics used to push this bill were doing violence to the passage of the bill," Lockwood said