Chamber endorses Senate Bill 1553

February 2024

On February 12, Jon Isaacs, the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the Portland Metro Chamber, spoke before the Senate Committee On Judiciary chaired by Senator Floyd Prozanski and Vice Chair Senator Kim Thatcher, advocating for the endorsement of Senate Bill 1553, especially with Senator Lieber’s amendments, which would bring back meaningful criminal penalties for the illegal possession of fentanyl, meth, and heroin.

For the past two years, the Portland Metro Chamber has worked in collaboration with various stakeholders, including the City of Portland, law enforcement agencies, transportation authorities, and neighborhood associations, to revitalize downtown Portland. Despite substantial investments and concerted efforts, the pervasive proliferation of fentanyl remains a formidable barrier to progress.

“We have made measurable progress, but no matter the effort and the financial investment- which is well into the tens of millions of public and private dollars – we cannot overcome the unrelenting scourge of fentanyl,” said Isaacs. “We need your help this session if we are going to be able to accelerate our progress. I want to be crystal clear – the public sale and use of fentanyl and other hard drugs is the single biggest problem facing the City of Portland today.”

The prevalence of fentanyl not only poses a grave threat to public health but also undermines the safety and vitality of the city. The alarming escalation of drug-related incidents has significantly deterred commuters from utilizing public transit systems, leading to a concerning decline in TriMet ridership. Isaacs, drawing upon his role as a member of the TriMet HB 2017 Transit Advisory Committee, highlighted the community’s resounding call for enhanced security measures, particularly among non-English speaking respondents.

The findings of Trimet’s 2023 community survey underscored the paramount importance of security on public transit, compelling Isaacs to advocate for robust criminal penalties for drug-related offenses on transit. He emphasized that such measures are not only necessary for safeguarding public transportation systems but also for restoring confidence among commuters and revitalizing Portland’s vibrancy.

The Chambers testimony serves as a poignant reminder of the critical role that legislative support plays in shaping the future prosperity of Portland. As the voice of the business community, the Portland Metro Chamber remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering economic growth, promoting safety, and enhancing the overall well-being of the city.

Read the full letter to the Oregon State Legislature.