The 2023 legislative session must end by June 25, which means lawmakers have eight weeks, at most, to complete a great deal of work. This includes the adoption of a budget, to which end the May 17 revenue forecast looms large. In the meantime, here’s what’s happening with a handful of significant bills:
On April 26, the House passed SB 543, which would prohibit food vendors – like restaurants, food carts and bars – from using Styrofoam and other polystyrene takeout containers. The bill is now sitting on the governor’s desk. Due to industry’s work, the bill was significantly narrowed, and its impacts on the supply chain, costs and complexity were mitigated. Problematically, DEQ will now be responsible for rulemaking related to this bill even though the agency is conducting rulemaking for the broader Recycling Modernization Act of 2021, which includes attention to Styrofoam and other polystyrene materials. The Legislature should let DEQ complete existing rulemaking and fully stand up the larger program before layering on new issues.
Right to Repair
SB 542, in a rare procedural move, has been referred from the Senate floor to the Senate Rules Committee. The bill did not have the 16 votes needed to pass the full Senate. OBI has consistently opposed the bill because it does not provide adequate intellectual property protection for original equipment manufacturers and because it contains a private right of action. A Senate majority deserves credit for standing together against this bill.
R&D Tax Credit
SB 5, which legislators are likely to amend to create an R&D tax credit, has been referred from the Joint Semiconductor Committee to the Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures. The -2 amendment, which is a “gut and stuff” (complete rework) of the base bill, seems to be the way legislators are leaning. It would create a maximum credit of $10 million for larger companies and $5 million for smaller companies (those with fewer than 150 employees); make credits fully deductible for companies with fewer than 500 employees, and 50% deductible for companies with 500-2,000 employees; and provide a credit of 25% for eligible research and development expenses. Despite these positives, the amendment does not provide for credit transferability, making it less valuable to firms with significant sales outside of Oregon. It also is limited to companies within the semiconductor industry. These flaws are short-sighted. The next public hearing is scheduled for May 5, from 8-9:30a.m.
Right to Rest
HB 3501, which proponents have dubbed a “right to rest” bill, is scheduled for a public hearing May 4 in the House Committee on Housing and Homelessness. The bill seeks to decriminalize homeless camping and would give homeless people a right to “reasonable privacy” without harassment, citation or limitation on the time they can camp in one location. Efforts to remove homeless campers would be deemed harassment, and homeless people moved from their encampment would have a right to sue municipalities for $1,000 for each incident of harassment. This is probably a courtesy hearing as, technically, the bill is dead (it needed to be passed by this committee earlier this month). And while procedural options around that deadline exist, the chief sponsor, Rep. Farrah Chaichi, D-Aloha, acknowledged the bill is unlikely to pass this session.
On April 27, the Joint Committee on Transportation held a public hearing on the Interstate 5 bridge replacement funding bill, HB 2098. There was solid turnout from the business community, including OBI, with business interests supporting the heavily negotiated and bipartisan -2 amendment. This amendment approves $1 billion in general obligation bonds, affirms the importance of the Rose Quarter interchange project, expresses a desire for impartial and open competition in the procurement and contracting process, and conducts a cost allocation study to address the disproportionate cost burden freight users have borne through the weight mile tax. Two more amendments have been posted. Rep. Khanh Pham’s -3 amendment requires project labor agreements (PLAs), which could increase the cost of the bridge by upwards of $1 billion. The amendment also would force work on the interchanges to be scrapped if the project cost escalated beyond the estimated $6.3 billion—which it assuredly would do with a PLA. There are seven interchanges within a five-mile stretch of Interstate 5 and they must be updated to improve overall traffic flow. Two other Democrats, including committee Co-Chair Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro, introduced the -4 amendment, which removes the open competition section in the -2 but does not go so far as to add a PLA. Over the next week, we will see which proposals have the best chance of getting through the full Legislature.
On April 24, the House Committee on Business and Labor heard testimony on SB 592, which would require Oregon-OSHA to conduct comprehensive inspections of workplaces when violations caused work-related fatalities. It also would increase the penalties the agency may impose. OBI dropped its opposition to this bill after joining with other stakeholders and negotiating substantial changes to circumstances leading to comprehensive inspections. The first version of the bill required such inspections virtually whenever a workplace death occurred, whether related to a violation or not. This bill is likely to become law this session.
On April 26, the House Committee on Early Childhood and Human Services heard SB 569, which would require half of all televisions in places of public accommodation to display closed captioning. OBI was able to ensure this bill would impose the same requirements as Washington’s law rather than create an entirely different set of requirements as originally proposed. OBI also helped ensure that the bill will not create a private right of action. This bill is likely to have a committee vote within the next week or so.
Energy and Environment
There continues to be little movement on energy and environment priority bills for several reasons. Many bills are sitting in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means awaiting action, some committees have cancelled meetings, and other committees are focused on holding informational hearings. OBI will provide updates when priority bills are scheduled for action.