Legislative Session Fully Underway
While the Legislature convened on Jan. 9 to organize, adopt chamber rules, elect leaders and the like, legislative activity began in earnest on the Jan. 17. As of Friday, 1,945 measures had been introduced. More will come.
In December, Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, announced his resignation effective Jan. 1. Heard’s term had two years remaining. County commissioners chose Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, to fill the vacancy. The process to fill the vacancy that now exists in the House is underway.
Tax and Fiscal
Something lawmakers and the public will hear much about this session is the tight fiscal reality facing budget-writers. This Dec. 7 Oregonian story discusses some of these pressures, which stem in large part from increased spending during periods of growth and the use of one-time stimulus money. There are two quarterly economic forecasts before the final budget gets inked (February and May), but legislative leaders are already sending strong signals about the difficult spending decisions that will unfold. With this as the backdrop, OBI is closely watching numerous measures introduced that would raise taxes, ask voters to repeal the kicker and minimize tax incentive programs.
Both the House Revenue Committee and the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee held informational hearings during the first week of session. As is the case at the beginning of every long (odd year) legislative session, these committees provide members with summary information detailing Oregon’s complex tax and revenue structure. These summary presentations are valuable primers. Click here for the personal income tax presentation and here for the corporate income and CAT presentation.
Economic Development and Regulatory Reform
OBI was invited to present at the first hearing of the House Economic Development and Small Business Committee on Jan. 17 about our perspective on economic development. Scott Bruun took advantage of this opportunity to highlight aspects of our Growth and Innovation Roadmap and provide the committee with insights from our statewide manufacturing bus tour last summer. This committee and the Joint Semiconductor Committee will be the first points of discussion for several of the tax incentive and regulatory improvement concepts OBI is supporting. Read Scott’s testimony here.
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, OBI will testify on SB 44 during a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor and Business. This is the first of our regulatory improvement concepts to be heard this session. SB 44 would create the Office of Business Ombuds at the Department of Administrative Services. This office would provide a one-stop shop for businesses struggling to navigate Oregon’s complex regulatory and permitting environment. The office would also provide necessary feedback to the governor’s office and the Legislature on recurring regulatory roadblocks and systemic challenges faced by businesses. It’s our hope that policy makers would use that information to make customer-oriented improvements to our problematic regulatory system.
Energy and Environment
Like several other committees, Senate Energy and Environment in its first week focused on discussing priorities and hearing statutorily required reports to the Legislature from various agencies. Notable legislative priorities from the committee and individual committee members include renewable diesel, recommendations from the Resilient Efficient Building Task Force, carbon sequestration from natural and working lands, and the development of renewable hydrogen capacity. Also of note is the new “youth voices” portion that will be on every committee agenda and provide an opportunity for students to tell the committee about an energy or environment issue that is significant to them. Students who testified last week focused heavily on concerns around climate change and the need for policymakers to take fast and decisive action. K-12 students can sign up to testify here.
The House Committee on Climate Energy and Environment will hear HB 2659 on Jan. 25. This bill, requested by several cities as well as the League of Oregon Cities, will provide critical fixes from a local government standpoint to the Department of Land Conservation and Development’s Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities (CFEC) regulations adopted earlier this year. CFEC, undertaken in response to former Gov. Kate Brown’s climate executive order 20-04, established extremely stringent, unworkable and costly rules regulating development. The changes in HB 2659 are a good step forward, though OBI is still analyzing all recommendations in light of employer concerns.
The biggest transportation conversation of the session is the Interstate 5 bridge replacement project. As that continues to unfold, related committees are starting to move bills while continuing to gather information and hear reports.
The Joint Committee on the Interstate 5 Bridge will hold a work session Jan. 26 on SB 431, which would appropriate $125 million to ODOT for the replacement of the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge. As in past sessions, OBI supports this project and will submit testimony.
The Statewide Tolling Rules Advisory Committee (STRAC) is scheduled to meet for the first time on Jan. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. OBI’s Sharla Moffett has been named to the STRAC, which will meet for up to 12 months to make recommendations on Oregon’s tolling rules. Click here to livestream the meeting, here for the agenda, here for the draft committee charter, here for the committee roster and here for a description of various work happening on tolling.
The Organized Retail Crime Task Force met Jan. 17 to discuss legislative concepts that it will recommend. The task force includes district attorneys, law enforcement, employee groups and retailers of all types. We expect these concepts to be introduced as amendments to a placeholder bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Cost Growth Target Advisory Committee met on Jan. 18 and endorsed the Prescription Drug Affordability Board’s 2022 annual report, which includes recommendations for legislative changes. The recommendations include transparency in supply chain rebates, expanded reporting requirements for patient assistance programs and expanded insurer reporting requirements to the Drug Price Transparency program. In recognition of inflation and other economic factors that have occurred since the cost growth target of 3.4% was set, the group agreed to delay implementation of performance improvement plans (PIPs) for one year. However, payers and providers who exceed the target may still choose a PIP.
Education and Workforce
On Jan. 26, the Senate Education Committee will hear SB 424, which prohibits post-secondary institutions from refusing to provide transcripts to current or former students who have unpaid fees. Bill proponents seek to reduce barriers to employment for job seekers who are required to provide post-secondary transcripts to potential employers but can’t obtain them as a result of unpaid fees. OBI supports this concept.
Several bills aimed at addressing Oregon’s child care shortage have been introduced. On Jan. 23, the House Early Childhood and Human Services Committee will hear HB 3005, which creates a child care facility fund through which the Housing and Community Services Department would help eligible applicants to pay for costs related to early child care infrastructure. Such costs include land acquisition, new construction, repairs, retrofits and the like. The fund would be seeded with a $100 million general fund appropriation.