legislative session 2

That significant April 4 deadline has come and gone. This deadline eliminated nearly half of the session’s bills, from just over 2,900 to around 1,500. Many bills are now waiting for a third reading, which is legislative speak for a vote by the full House or Senate. Committees have been canceled April 10 and 11 to give the House and Senate additional time to work through third readings. Committee work will resume Wednesday.

The next major milestone is May 5, by which time policy bills must be scheduled for a vote in committee (this time in the other chamber). That vote must then occur by May 19. Again, this deadline doesn’t apply to the Rules, Revenue, Joint Ways and Means or other joint committees.


Preferential Contracting

Earlier this session, OBI opposed and ultimately persuaded the Senate Committee on Labor and Business not to advance a bill that would grant public contracting preference in some circumstances to non-profit organizations. There is now a bill in the House, HB 3572, that would grant the same public contracting preferences to certified B corps. The preference would allow such companies to have costs up to 10% higher than others. While Oregon has certain preference statutes, those typically involve a policy goal such as using Oregon companies or recycled materials. To grant preferential status solely on a filing status or third-party certification is a dangerous precedent that ultimately will cost taxpayers more.


Energy Bills

Two energy-related bills have died. HB 3152 would have restructured the Public Utilities Commission, making it an environmental regulator rather than an economic regulator, and eliminated energy efficiency incentives for natural gas infrastructure. It was pulled from its committee agenda, and no vote was held by the April 4 deadline. Meeting a similar fate was HB 2816, which would have required high energy use facilities like data centers to meet a renewable portfolio standard.


Right to Repair

SB 542, this session’s version of a “right to repair” bill, passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment on a party-line vote. OBI has and will continue to oppose the bill because it does not provide adequate intellectual property protection for original equipment manufacturers. The amended version of SB 542 is more narrowly tailored than prior years’ efforts. It focuses on consumer electronics such as phones and laptops and specifically excludes vehicles, engines, battery and power storage systems, HVAC systems, and machinery and equipment related to a wide group of sectors, including forestry, farming and construction. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the full Senate and probably does not have the votes to pass.


Workplace Bullying

OBI and others have opposed SB 851, which would have allowed employees to file lawsuits against employers when decisions like promotions or work assignments did not go their way or when two or more employees had disagreements. Fortunately, the bill was amended significantly, and OBI no longer opposes it. The amended version requires the Bureau of Labor and Industries to develop model respectful workplace policies that employers may adopt. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and head to the House this week. OBI will share those models with members when they are developed.


Gas Reduction Goals

The Senate Energy and Environment Committee moved SB 522 out of committee last week. Prior to doing so, it adopted an amendment to clarify that the greenhouse gas reduction targets are intended to be aspirational rather than mandatory. The amendment was intended to satisfy concerns raised by Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, but the concession frustrated proponents of the original bill. This has created some uncertainty about the bill’s fate. Meanwhile, OBI remains concerned that even aspirational language could lead to policies that would raise costs for businesses and consumers without affecting climate change.


Universal Health Care

SB 704A would establish a Universal Health Care Governing Board and direct it to present a comprehensive plan for a single-payer universal health plan, including funding, to a legislative committee by Sept. 15, 2024. This bill was moved from the Senate Health Care Committee to the Senate Rules Committee. Meanwhile, the bill’s chief sponsor introduced SB 1089, which is virtually identical to the current version of SB 704. It is scheduled for a public hearing and possible work session in Senate Rules on April 13. In addition, the sponsor filed an amendment that would instruct the Universal Health Care Governing Board to identify strategies that would allow employers to continue offering benefits if they chose while making some contribution to the cost of universal health care.


Diesel Ban

SB 803, which would have phased out the sale of petroleum diesel statewide by the end of 2029, was amended and passed out of committee. The amendment would require the Department of Environmental Quality to study a possible petroleum diesel ban as well as the availability and cost of renewable diesel. OBI has expressed concern about the supply and cost of renewable diesel.


Mandate Review Committee

On April 3, the House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care passed HB 3157, which would establish a Health Insurance Mandate Review Advisory Committee to review proposed legislation expanding mandated coverage of specified procedures. The bill has been sent to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.