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Plus, state funding for Multnomah County Behavioral Health Resource Center falls through and Walmart gains a surprise supporter

PMG graphicAlthough only three bills passed the 2020 Oregon Legislature, one of them addressed an issue that has been widely covered by the Pamplin Media Group — concussions among student athletes.

House Bill 4140 requires the Oregon Department of Education to produce a form that describes academic accommodations available for students who have been diagnosed with brain injuries and to provide a mechanism for taking advantage of them.

The issue has been covered in "Rattled: Oregon's Concussion Discussion," a joint project of InvestigateWest, the Pamplin Media Group and the Agora Journalism Center, made possible in part by grants from Meyer Memorial Trust and the Center for Cooperative Media.

Pamplin is the parent company of the Tribune.

Approximately 280 bills did not pass this session because Republicans walked out to block the cap-and-trade proposal. In even-numbered years, the Legislature meets for only 35 days and takes on only a few hundred bills. During a long session, in odd-numbered years, the Legislature addresses many more bills.

The other two that passed increased the fee for cultural registration license plates by $10 and declared that Happy Valley is no longer part of a county parks district to settle a legal dispute.

You can find the concussion series here.

Homeless services funding falls through

Multnomah County's plan to build a $25 million Behavioral Health Resource Center suffered at least a temporary setback when the 2020 Oregon Legislature abruptly adjourned on Thursday, March 5.

The county had requested $12.5 million for the project to convert the vacant office building it has purchased at 333 S.W. Park Ave. But no funds for homeless facilities or services were approved by lawmakers — despite leaders declaring homelessness and the affordable housing crisis to be the state's most pressing problems — because of the Republican boycott.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is now considering calling a special session within the next few weeks if legislators can agree on a priority list of bills to discuss. That likely would give the county another chance to secure half the renovation costs from state before the 2021 Oregon Legislature.

Oregon Democrat supports Walmart

What a difference a few years can make.

For years liberal Democrats have railed against Walmart for paying low wages and fighting unionization efforts. For example, when he was a city commissioner, Sam Adams displayed an anti-Walmart sign in his City Hall office window. After he was elected mayor, he tried to put conditions on the retailer's eventually unsuccessful proposal to open a Hayden Meadows outlet.

But now Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has announced the expansion of a pilot program that will allow Oregon recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — once known as food stamps — to use their benefits to purchase food online from Amazon and Walmart.

The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. Merkley serves as the top Democrat on the funding subcommittee that oversees USDA.

"This pilot program will test an innovative way to overcome that problem, so we help more families keep food on their tables," Merkley said in a March 9 news release.

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