Image for 2022 Legislative Session’s First Week in the Books

During week one of the 2022 Oregon legislative session, lawmakers elected a new House Speaker, listened to the final State of the State Address by Governor Brown and began tackling 260 bills that have been introduced. Controversial bills include agricultural worker overtime, limits on firing school superintendents without cause and allowing self-service gas statewide.

Rep. Dan Rayfield, a Corvallis Democrat in his fourth legislative term, was elected Speaker with just one vote to spare. Rayfield had been selected to replace former Speaker Tina Kotek at a closed-door Democratic caucus last month. Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, who vied unsuccessfully for the Speakership, was nominated by a Republican House member in an apparent attempt to thwart Rayfield’s election.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate President Peter Courtney is presiding over his last regular session in his 38-year legislative career and record-setting 20-year tenure as presiding officer. 

In her final State of the State Address, Brown recounted the travails during the coronavirus pandemic, while applauding a higher high school graduation rate and a declining number of children in foster care. She didn’t mention the delayed implementation of the legislatively approved paid family and medical leave program, which won’t go into effect until after she leaves office.

Overtime for agricultural workers is expected to be one of just a handful of controversial issues taken up during the short 35-day session, as majority Democrats try to avoid another GOP walkout like what occurred in 2020 that led to an abrupt, early adjournment. House Bill 4002 is up for a hearing Tuesday.

School superintendent firings, including the ones in the Newberg and Albany school districts, prompted legislation spelling on the conditions for firings without cause. A hearing was held last week on Senate Bill 1521 and a work session is scheduled for Tuesday.

Overtime for agricultural workers is one of just a handful of controversial issues during the short 35-day session, as majority Democrats try to avoid another GOP walkout like what occurred in 2020 that led to an abrupt, early adjournment.

Business groups representing logging, utility and automotive interest swarmed Governor Brown’s $200 million “Future Ready Oregon” workforce proposal, seeking to broaden the industries included beyond healthcare, manufacturing and construction. The Governor’s staff indicated an amendment was being drafted to include older adults seeking job training, unemployed workers, teenagers not in school and disabled Oregonians. The amendment apparently will widen eligibility for training assistance.

Other business and labor measures would effectively outlaw nondisclosure agreements, require two-week notice of required overtime for bakery workers and allow franchisees to ignore franchise requirements.

The House Committee on Behavioral Health held a hearing on a state-level Paycheck Protection Program in House Bill 4004 to give providers bonuses, salary increases and grants to retain staff and avert an even greater staff shortfall.

The House Health Care heard House Bill 4134 that would require insurers to cover labor and delivery services provided at an out-of-network health care facility because of a public health emergency-related diversion from an in-network facility. The committee also heard testimony on House Bill 4052 to fund two culturally and linguistically specific mobile health units as a pilot project.

A pivotal part of the 2022 session will be considering up to $2 billion in additional state spending for affordable housing, childcare expansion, State School Fund reimbursement and relocation of Harriet Tubman Middle School in Portland away from freeway pollution.