Growing Oregon's Economy - The Top Priority
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The Last 10 Bills That Can Help Create Jobs in Oregon
Educate yourself on Oregon's PERS Challenge
2013 Legislative Session Summary
In Oregon, a Prius economy is towing a PERS yacht
Understanding the PERS Crisis
Watch Video – What does PERS Reform mean to our schools?
2014 Session is Done – What Passed and What Didn’t
The 2014 Session of the Oregon Legislature has now concluded.
At the outset, the Prosperity Project talked about three important initiatives: Building the I-5 Bridge; funding the construction of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute; and creating expedited siting processes for manufacturing facilities.
Only one of these initiatives – the funding for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute – passed the Legislature.
But just as important, virtually every damaging bill that would have hurt the ability of Oregon businesses to grow and hire was either blocked or acceptably amended. And several beneficial bills that never made the headlines passed along the way.
In all, about 270 measures were introduced this short session, about one-tenth the typical number for a long session. Nevertheless, there was no shortage of major, less than desirable measures. Many of the bills bad for business that failed in 2013 were teed up again for another swing - mostly with the same result.
Here you will find a quick synopsis of the session’s important bills and their fates. They are divided into the following issue categories:
Business liability issues took a more prominent role in the February session than in any session in recent memory. HB 4143, which took its place as the most publicized and controversial bill of the session, was an attempt to re-write the state's class action lawsuit procedures in order to generate higher awards and higher amounts of unclaimed funds that the state could collect. It was defeated in dramatic fashion. Another significant issue that won broad support was a bill allowing Oregon companies a right of action against "patent trolls."
SB 1540: Prohibits demand letters from persons who claim in bad faith that recipient has infringed or contributed to infringing on a patent or rights that patentee, assignee or licensee has under patent. Gives Oregon companies a right of action against such "patent trolls." Bill passed.
HB 4143: Perhaps the most controversial bill of the session, HB 4143 tossed out 40 years of process and procedures to determine the size of class eligible for damages and the amount of damages to be awarded in a class action lawsuit. It replaced these procedures with a judge's discretion. The intention of the bill was to generate larger classes, higher awards, and an increased amount of unclaimed funds for the state to access. Bill passed the House, but failed on the Senate floor.
Education policy this session was fairly narrow in scope, mainly addressing issues that have popped up as recent education reforms have taken effect. Several bills were introduced to enhance the state's career and technical education capabilities, the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development was moved to a new home at the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and the deadline for the Technical Regional Universities (TRUs) to choose to have local governing boards was moved up to this year.
SB 1524: Creates a study on the viability of allowing Oregon high school graduates to attend two years of community college for free, this study will be reported to the 2015 Legislature for further action. Bill passed.
HB 4058: Amends Oregon’s “40-40-20” educational attainment goals to include apprenticeship programs registered with the state Apprenticeship and Training Council; this is another way to ensure that students and workers are fitting into the middle 40 (having attained at least an associate’s degree) and fulfilling the state's goals in that metric. Bill passed.
HB 4069: Would have created an Oregon Task Force on Career and Technical Education Teaching for purpose of increasing availability and quality of teachers of career and technical education courses. Bill failed.
HB 4076: Would have directed certain universities to develop pilot programs for fixed cost bachelor’s degrees. Bill failed.
Employment law issues were most certainly not in the spotlight in February. No harmful bills were passed during the abbreviated session.
Here are the bills of note:
SB 1543: Created new unlawful employment action claims for reduction of employee hours due to new federal health care mandates. Bill failed.
SB 1558: Authorizes payment of workers' compensation claims due to workers of members of certain decertified self-insured employer groups. Bill was intended to avoid the prospect of costly litigation among the members of these employer groups to determine liability for up to $10 million in claims liabilities. Bill passed.
HB 4091: Created a military veterans hiring preference option for private sector employers and would have shielded employers from discrimination lawsuits for exercising a hiring preference for veterans. This bill did not advance. However, similar language was inserted into HB 4023, which did pass.
All environmental and energy bills detrimental to business and job growth were blocked. In fact, few of any kind passed through the Legislature.
The most hotly fought measure was SB 1570 which would have Oregon be the only other state in the nation to adopt California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) for gasoline and diesel. The LCFS requires special fuel blending for Oregon, increasing use of corn ethanol, then Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, then cellulosic ethanol (not commercially ready yet) and ultimately a Cap & Trade system of offset credits. The program raises a myriad of issues associated with production, warranties, and costs – all of which are detrimental to Oregon’s economy.
Another interesting bill, SB 1510, would have given state regulatory agencies the option to trigger a major Environmental Impact Statement study on top of existing land use and permitting requirements. It was widely seen as an effort to be able to selectively stall important economic development projects.
SB 1510: New Environmental Impact Study at agency discretion for projects requiring state permits. Died in Senate.
SB 1570: Repealed sunset on Low Carbon Fuels program allowing Oregon to impose Cap & Trade-like restrictions on gas and diesel. Died in Senate.
HB 5201A: $375,000 allocation of state funds for ambient air monitoring by DEQ in Swan Island area of Portland. Bill passed.
The primary areas of focus in the area of tax, fiscal and economic development policy were the approval of $200 million in bonding for construction of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute as well as a rigid defense of the elements of the "Grand Bargain" tax and PERS agreement passed during the October Special Session.
As expected, both issues came into play. Bonding for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute was ultimately approved, and on two occasions, bills that diminished the small business tax cut passed by the Legislature just five months ago were shelved.
SB 1534: Provided technical fixes to the "Grand Bargain" tax bill. However, at one point, the bill appeared to substantively limit the small business tax cut to income earned solely in Oregon. However, in the end, the bill was fixed to keep the small business tax cut fully intact. Bill passed.
SB 1563: Authorizes the Oregon Business Development Department to undertake entrepreneurial development activities for traded sector industries and in rural communities, and increases cap on entrepreneurial development loans from $70,000 to $100,000. Bill passed.
SB 5703: Authorizes $200 million in bonding for the construction of the Oregon Health Sciences University Knight Cancer Institute. Bill passed.
HB 4005: This bill started out as a bill to extend Oregon's manufacturing investment tax credit, but ended as a bill to add five new e-commerce enterprise zones throughout the state. Bill passed.
HB 4063A: Establishes a task force to look at use of loans from the common school fund to finance projects that provide "significant in-state economic benefits." Bill passed.
HB 4067: Would have limited Oregon's small business tax cut to the first $250,000 of pass-through business income. Current law applies reduced tax rate to first $5 million. Bill died in initial committee.
HB 4101: New timber severance tax to fund county government for O & C counties. Died in House.
HB 4141: Would have limited tax incentives for Oregon’s Strategic Investment Program by not allowing school property taxes to be included as part of tax mitigation incentive. Bill died in initial committee.
HB 5201: Allocates an additional $1 million to the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP), a leading organization that is instrumental in equipping Oregon manufacturers to compete in the global marketplace. Bill passed.
As with education policy this session, health care policy focused mainly on changes related to health reforms of the last several sessions. One bill, HB 4154, sought to fix problems with Cover Oregon, but at least one change in the bill was mooted by the federal government's announcement that it would not allow extensions of open enrollment in the exchanges.
HB 4050: Allows small businesses (down to one employee) to choose to join a self-insurance group instead of being required to purchase commercial insurance in the small group market. Bill passed.
HB 4109A: Requires the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to study the costs and impacts of operating a Basic Health Plan program in Oregon. Bill passed.
HB 4154: Directs the Governor to seek federal waivers to extend open enrollment for Cover Oregon through April, seeks federal subsidies for qualified consumers and small businesses who shopped outside the exchange; and gives whistleblower protections to Cover Oregon employees. Bill passed.
Since the Federal Government announced this week that it will not extend the March 31 enrollment deadline, that portion of the bill will not be implemented.
SB 1521: Interior Designer Licensing; would have required interior designers to complete a specific educational program and be licensed by a newly created professional board in order to work as designers. Exempted retail employees. Bill failed.
SB 1569: Toxics in Children's Products; would have required manufacturers, or manufacturers of record of children's products to report to the Oregon Health Authority if those products contained certain chemicals determined to be dangerous to human health. Bill failed.
HB 4100: GMO Labeling; would have required foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled with that information. HB 4100 died in committee, but initiative petition #36, which is expected to qualify for the November 2014 ballot, will require GMO foods to be labelled as such, or be classified as "mis-branded foods." The measure includes a private right of action. Bill failed.
In 2013 the Oregon Legislature passed a bill authorizing funding to replace the I-5 Bridge which is congested and seismically dangerous. For the funding to move forward, the State of Washington had to commit to its share by September 30, 2013. As it happened, the Evergreen State did not do so. Thus Oregon's funding evaporated as September came and went.
The next idea was to have Oregon fund both states' portion of a scaled back version, via tolls, with the federal government kicking in about one third, tied to light rail. But because of nervousness about Oregon proceeding on such a large project sans its bigger northern sibling, resentment about Washington's lack of willingness to participate, concerns about the project generally, and an increasingly severe case of political bridge fatigue, the votes for an Oregon-lead crossing were not there. The project died.
HB 4113A: Authorizes funding for Oregon-led I-5 Bridge construction via tolling. AOI supported. Died in Ways & Means Committee.