Insurance Bills Promise to Raise Rates Substantially
HB 3242 would allow lawsuits against insurance companies for “bad faith” actions under the Unfair Settlement Practices Act. It is scheduled for a full Senate vote this week. While the bill was amended to clarify it would not apply to the workers’ compensation system, medical malpractice claims or litigation defense attorneys, the increased litigation it would almost certainly cause would increase insurance rates for every Oregon. While OBI’s opposition has been clear, business stakeholders have had to focus almost entirely on killing HB 3243, which is far more harmful. HB 3243 would allow lawsuits against insurance companies under the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act for violations of the Unfair Settlement Practices Act. It would have catastrophic effects on Oregonians and the insurance marketplace. The bill would allow both first- and third-party claims, impose punitive damages and apply to virtually any insurance claim – potentially even those made under the state’s own government-run paid family and medical leave insurance program. Fortunately, it appears increasingly likely that HB 3243 will fail this session.
Apprenticeship Bill Would Mandate the Impossible
HB 2649 seeks to do a few things. It would change Oregon’s apprenticeship requirements in public works contracts by increasing the percentage of apprenticeship hours from 12 to 15 by 2027. It also would expand the types of public works contracts to which that requirement applied, adding ODOT projects and every higher education project. It would penalize contractors that fail to meet the requirement even if they tried to comply in good faith. Employers already struggle to meet the current 12% threshold, as there aren’t enough apprentices in the pipeline. The bill passed the House with only 33 votes, and OBI is working to prevent passage in the Senate.
Awaiting Language on Key Budget Bills
OBI expects the release of amendments on Wednesday for HB 5006, the capitol construction budget, and SB 5506, the so-called “Christmas tree” bill. These budgets are generally the last ones adopted each session. Both bills are currently sitting in the Joint Ways and Means Capitol Construction Subcommittee. OBI expects the House and Senate to act on these bills near the end of the week.
Anti-Retail Crime Funding May Appear in ‘Christmas Tree’ Bill
SB 900, which would provide grant funding for local law enforcement to conduct sting operations to combat organized retail crime, is scheduled for a Senate vote this week. The $5 million investment in SB 900 is a significant step in Oregon’s battle against the coordinated crime syndicates. While its counterpart, SB 318, did not move out of the Joint Subcommittee on Public Safety, OBI believes that some, if not all, of the funding for the analyst and investigator positions SB 318 would have created will be included in the Legislature’s end-of-session “Christmas tree” bill. That funding is important, as it would help to provide statewide coordination of local efforts to prosecute organized retail theft
Bridge Replacement Language May Appear in Multiple Bills
Although specifics aren’t available yet, OBI expects language to appear in up to three different bills that would: commit $1 billion in funding to the project over several biennia; fund some amount in a budget bill for this biennium, probably $250 million; and address necessary language for funds secured by bonds. Fortunately, it appears that Oregon will cross the finish line with its $1 billion funding commitment before any of the federal grant applications are due. The primary question involves the funding mix (for example, general obligation bonds versus highway trust fund dollars).
Contractor-Liability Bill May Lack Support for Passage
HB 2057, which would make general contractors liable for wages subcontractors failed to pay their employees, has long been parked on the Senate president’s desk. OBI and other business stakeholders have worked to create opposition among as many senators as possible. The bill would not help victims of bad actors any more effectively than the current BOLI process but would increase construction costs and result in fewer opportunities for new construction companies. The bill has not yet made its way to the Committee on Rules, which likely means the coalition was successful in securing enough opposition to ensure that the bill won’t move forward this session.
Omnibus Climate Bill Contains Worrisome Provisions
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means adopted the -3 amendment into HB 3409 last week. The bill now includes all or parts of 15 bills relating to climate. The amended bill awaits action by the full House, which is scheduled for Tuesday. Although the package includes some non-controversial components, it includes several worrisome provisions. Most problematic are the language in SB 522 establishing a new state greenhouse gas reduction target (which would almost certainly open up recently completed, complex rulemaking in numerous agencies) and bills stemming from the state’s Rebuild Task Force. Among these bills is SB 870, which would allow municipalities to adopt different building codes.
Bill Would Create State Bank Task Force
On June 14, the House passed HB 2763B with just 31 votes. The bill would create a State Public Bank Task Force to study and make recommendations about the role, risks and rewards of a state bank in Oregon. The task force would consist of 19 people: four legislators (one from each caucus) and 15 people appointed by the governor, each of whom would represent a specific constituency. The list of topics on which the task force would conduct its analysis is long and complicated. It includes, among other things, serving as a depository for community banks and credit unions, providing financing for local government infrastructure projects, serving cannabis businesses and providing student loans. The bill awaits action in the Senate.
Toxic-Free Kids Expansion Likely to Pass
HB 3043 would expand Oregon’s Toxic-Free Kids Act by increasing the number of high priority chemicals that must be removed from certain products to include “classes” of chemicals. This would substantially increase the number of products that would be regulated in Oregon and Oregon alone. It is not clear how many chemicals would be added, as many of the bill’s provisions would be left to agency action. Oregon’s economy is too small for the national supply chain to accommodate such state-specific regulation. Manufacturers and retailers would be far more likely to stop selling affected products in Oregon. The bill will likely be voted on by the full Senate this week and pass.
Cosmetic Ban Would Reduce Consumer Options, Raise Prices
SB 546 would ban the sale of cosmetic products in Oregon that contain specified “high priority chemicals of concern.” It is likely to pass the Senate this week. Like HB 3043 (see above), this bill would impose Oregon-specific requirements on manufacturers and retailers. If SB 546 passes, people shopping for beauty products will see fewer and more expensive options.