The next significant legislative deadline is March 17, by which time bills need to be scheduled for a vote on a committee agenda in their chamber of origin. While this deadline does not apply to bills in Rules, Revenue or joint committees (like Ways and Means), it does mean that a significant number of ideas currently hanging out in various policy committees will die if they aren’t scheduled. The next significant deadline is April 4, by which point bills that are scheduled in those policy committees need to advance either to the floor or to one of those excepted committees.
A package requested by the Organized Retail Crime Task Force, which OBI helped organize last year, will get a public hearing on March 8 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Together, SB 318 and SB 339 would create and fund useful tools to crack down on the rampant organized crime plaguing Oregon’s retailers. An amendment to SB 318 would provide funding to the Oregon Department of Justice to hire an analyst and two investigators to coordinate with local law enforcement to make investigating and prosecuting organized retail theft easier. It would also fund a local grant program to bolster organized retail theft enforcement actions. An amendment to SB 339 would enhance the tools retailers and law enforcement need to detect, deter and hold accountable those who commit organized retail theft and address the growing safety threats that retail employees experience on a daily basis. OBI will testify in support of both bills.
HB 3157 is scheduled for a hearing on March 6 in the House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care, and Katie Koenig will testify in support. The bill would establish a Health Insurance Mandate Review Advisory Committee to review legislation that would expand mandated coverage for specified procedures or by specified providers. New coverage mandates are frequently proposed and assessed without considering their effect on the entire system. Further, any fiscal impact analysis of mandates is solely about financial impact to the state. There is no required assessment of premium effects or costs to the employers and employees who pay them. That would change under the bill. The advisory committee would help establish a more thoughtful and holistic review for new mandates.
On March 2, Derek Sangston and Katie Koenig presented the business perspective in an informational meeting on workforce challenges in the Senate Labor and Business and Committee. Recognizing that workforce issues are complicated and nuanced, Derek and Katie highlighted challenges involving housing availability and affordability, issues with skilled trades certification (reciprocity, on the job training, bureaucratic barriers, etc.), child care, Oregon’s tax structure its reputation. You can read their full comments here.
In other workforce news, on Feb. 28, Katie submitted comments in support of SB 849, which would help address some of Oregon’s workforce needs by mitigating barriers internationally educated professionals face while trying to obtain licensure. It would create specific timelines and transparency requirements for licensure boards to follow while eliminating burdensome and unnecessary requirements.
On March 2, the Senate Energy and Environment Committee heard SB 803, which would rapidly phase out petroleum diesel and mandate renewable diesel statewide by the end of 2029. Sharla testified in opposition to the bill. OBI’s testimony notes that there is not enough renewable fuel available to meet the demand such a mandate would create. The bill would result in increased costs and market volatility. The public hearing ran long and is being carried over to March 9.
Sen. Kathleen Taylor, chair of the Senate Labor and Business Committee, has pulled together a workgroup, including OBI, to talk through Oregon’s new paid family and medical leave insurance program (Paid Leave Oregon), specifically in the context of where it doesn’t align well with the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). Discussions are just getting underway.
On March 6, the House Climate, Energy and Environment Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 3196, which would authorize DEQ to allocate up to 5% of revenue from the sale of Community Climate Investment Credits (CCIC) to the agency for the administration of the program. CCICs are the compliance instruments covered fuel suppliers may buy to demonstrate compliance with the Climate Protection Program regulation put into effect by the DEQ last year. The 5% administration fee is an unstable funding source that is not based on any demonstrated statement of need. It likely would result in a windfall of funding to DEQ early in the program (up to $25 million per year) and shrink to approximately $4 million by 2050.
OBI’s work toward advancing a semiconductor and advanced manufacturing package continues. We are partnering with other stakeholders to help legislators understand the importance of the moment and to ensure that the final package actually improves Oregon’s competitive position and is in line with federal expectations and requirements for CHIPS Act grants. We continue to advocate for the entirety of the task force’s recommendations, but SB 4, the current legislative vehicle, remains woefully short. It could be that other portions of the package will come in separate bills, which is understandable, but we would like to see a clear and strong commitment from the committee that the whole package that must move.
Last week Scott testified in qualified support of SB 669. SB 669 is one of two research and development tax credit bills to have received public hearings this session. The other is SB 55, which we had drafted as part of our Growth and Innovation Roadmap. We are still grateful for the opportunity to publicly discuss the need for a well-structured R&D credit, and it’s helpful to have conversations in both chambers. We remain cautiously optimistic that an R&D credit will move. A bipartisan, bicameral legislative work group will begin to design a workable credit. We have submitted an outline to the work group for its consideration. It would be a $15 million transferable and deductible credit, with a credit rate of 15% toward eligible research expenses.
Legislation is starting to move through the respective chambers. On March 1, the Senate unanimously passed SB 853-A which would prohibit the state from reimbursing travel costs when state employees who work remotely and live out of state travel back to Oregon for work.
A lot of time and energy was spent on an interim task force relating to privacy legislation. Unfortunately, SB 619, the product of the Attorney General’s Privacy Task Force, is not something we can currently support. It will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7. OBI opposes the bill as drafted because, among other things, it would allow individuals to sue businesses using a private right of action, attempt to hold directors and officers of companies directly liable when data breaches occur. OBI will testify in opposition.