May 19 was the second chamber deadline, the date by which policy bills needed to be out of most committees. Of note, HB 2098 died in the Joint Committee on Transportation. The much-anticipated I-5 bridge funding package was slated for action at the May 18 committee meeting. But the meeting concluded without action or even an update on HB 2098. Presumably, there weren’t enough votes to move the bill. While this was disheartening, some key things are worth noting. First, there is still talk of getting 2023-25 funding into an end-of-session budget bill and a policy statement in an end-of session omnibus program-change bill. Timing is important here. Many have worried that the federal grant application window would close before Oregon passed its $1 billion commitment, a necessary application component. We now know that an application window will extend into July. If Oregon’s commitment is passed at the very end of session (before June 25), we will remain eligible for up to $3 billion in federal funding. Second, the amendment to HB 2098 that OBI supported included a cost allocation study to examine disproportionate impacts on funding methods to freight users. This language was moved into a stand-alone bill, HB 2096, which is moving forward.
SB 999, the bill that OBI helped negotiate to better align Paid Leave Oregon and OFLA, is set for a House vote this week. Since it already cleared the Senate and wasn’t amended in the House, its fate is not wrapped up in the walkout. We’ve updated our Paid Leave Oregon resources web page with some information, will keep sending more and are working on a webinar with the Paid Leave Oregon folks that we can get online this summer. Again, this is just a first step. It will be a busy interim, and we hope to see full alignment tackled in the February 2024 session.
HB 3055 would have required electric utilities to buy more energy from non-utility renewable projects. This energy has historically been much more expensive for utilities to acquire and would have increased ratepayers’ bills. By all appearances, the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment intended to move the bill, but the chair announced May 18 that a work session would not be held on the bill. OBI, in conjunction with the electric utilities, had testified in opposition.
On a party-line vote, the House on May 3 passed HB 2107, which would automatically register people to vote when they enroll with the Oregon Health Plan, a program administered by the Oregon Health Authority. This is an expansion of Oregon’s “motor voter” law, which automatically registers people to vote when they interact with the DMV.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Labor and Business, with little discussion and over OBI’s opposition, passed HB 3385. The bill would prohibit major residential contractors from collecting the full price of contracts over $40,000 until the work on the project was substantially completed. This bill is a solution in search of a problem. The bill awaits a Senate vote, and OBI continues to oppose it.
SB 340, which would help law enforcement agencies fight organized retail theft, awaits its final vote in the House. Its companion bills are in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. With the revenue forecast behind us, OBI hopes the committee will start to advance good bills through its subcommittees in order to prepare them for Senate action.
Earlier this session, OBI led the opposition against HB 3183, which would have required the OLCC to make future cannabis license applications and renewals conditional on those businesses entering into labor peace agreements. OBI has argued that the state should not dictate labor relations in this manner. We also argued that the bill is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. The chair of the House Committee on Rules agreed and stated on the record that the bill would not move forward.
Ranked Choice Voting
HB 2004 is headed to the House floor this week after a party-line committee vote in the House Committee on Rules. The bill would establish ranked choice voting as the method for Oregonians to nominate (where applicable) and choose the following: president, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor, treasurer, attorney general, secretary of state and commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries. The bill also would allow local jurisdictions to use this method. Notably, it would not allow ranked choice voting for legislative races.
May 19 was an important day in defense of Oregon’s most important pro-jobs, pro-growth tax incentives. HB 2199A, which would reduce the value of enterprise zones by more than 40%, and HB 3457A, which would gut the gain share provision of Oregon’s Strategic Investment Program, had public hearings at the Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures. OBI argued in favor of these critical job creation and economic development tools. We also noted that the programs mitigate the state’s challenging business climate. We were not alone. Of the 25 people and organizations that testified on May 19, 21 were opposed to the bills. We do not believe they have traction for passage, at least in their current forms.
On May 17, the Senate Committee on Judiciary moved both HB 3242 and HB 3243 to the Senate floor on party-line votes. HB 3242 would increase costs throughout the insurance system by affecting settlement behavior. It would do so despite the fact that an amendment clarifies that it would not apply to the workers’ compensation system, medical malpractice claims and litigation defense attorneys. HB 3243 would increase insurance costs by including the insurance industry under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. Together, these bills would create one of the most extreme insurance regulatory schemes in the country, raise consumer costs significantly and produce a great deal of litigation.