A bill phasing in ag worker overtime pay survived in week three while 54 out of 260 bills introduced in the 2022 short session failed to advance as the session reached its halfway mark. Nicholas Kristof being blocked from running for governor dominated headlines while Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum revived the prospects of three initiatives to impose campaign donation limits.
Dead bills include Senate Bill 1516 to prohibit public COVID vaccination mandates, Senate Joint Resolution 202 to curtail gubernatorial authority to commute prison sentences, House Bill 4129 to ban animal testing for cosmetic products and House Bill 4042 to impose additional disclosure requirements on physicians prescribing abortion drugs.
The farmworker overtime bill, House Bill 4002, emerged from House Business and Labor on a party-line vote and now heads to House Revenue to negotiate the terms of the employer tax credit included in the bill. Washington made farmworkers eligible for overtime in 2020.
Legislation to bolster the state’s ability to address excessive heat waves advanced to Ways and Means. House Bill 4058 would give $5 million to the Oregon Health Authority to distribute emergency air conditioners. An additional $10 million would be allocated to aid purchase and installation of heat pumps for low-income households.
House Health Care continued hearings on House Bill 4035 to develop a plan for the 300,000 Oregonians covered under the Oregon Health Plan during the coronavirus pandemic who will begin to exit the rolls. State officials estimate nearly 25,000 Oregonians per month will drop off the state’s Medicaid program and may face financial instability requiring them to return to the Oregon Health Plan. This “churn” population will need assistance with navigator services, obtaining financial subsidies and other support to manage their health care services. Enhanced federal support during the pandemic will end. Some lawmakers see this situation as an opportunity to develop a basic health plan extending beyond Medicaid eligibility. The bill was moved to House Rules to remain alive in the session.
The Joint Transportation Committee held a second hearing on House Bill 4141 to mandate renewable diesel and phase out petroleum diesel to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable diesel is a cleaner, drop-in substitute for petroleum diesel that doesn’t require any engine conversions. Questions continued to be raised about the market availability of renewable diesel. Amendment have been added to HB 4141 to conduct a year-long study, which could clear the path for legislative action in the 2023 session.
The Oregon Senate easily approved a measure prohibiting bakery and tortilla plant workers who refuse to work overtime on short notice. The measure now moves to the House.
Other Issues in Play
Three initiatives that would impose limits on campaign donations have new life after Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum certified their ballot titles, despite their disqualification by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan for technical drafting flaws.
Rep. Andrea Valderrama, D-Portland, proposes a one-time $600 payment to around 260,000 low-income Oregon workers and undocumented workers who weren’t able to claim an earned income tax credit. Historic homeowners will likely continue to receive discounted property taxes, though in some cases not as generous as before. A House bill would increase criminal penalties for persons convicted of harassing election workers. Legislation remains alive to expand where prefabricated and manufactured housing could be located if they meet the same standards as constructed housing. The measure is an effort to make it easier and less expensive for wildfire victims to rebuild.
Campaign Finance Initiatives
Three initiatives that would impose limits on campaign donations have new life after Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum certified their ballot titles, despite their disqualification by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan for technical drafting flaws. Rosenblum’s action will enable initiative petitioners to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court seeking a speedy judgment to give supporters enough time to gather 112,020 signatures in time to qualify for the November election.
Metro Highway Tolling
A month before a decision is due on tolling Portland metropolitan highways, the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation raised concerns about amendments to the Regional Transportation Plan sought by the Oregon Department of Transportation that affect I-205. The committee faces a March 17 deadline to vote on the amendment, which would clear the way for ODOT to receive $28 million to conduct an environmental impact study of the effects of tolling. Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas expressed concerns about traffic diversion to avoid tolls and the need for mitigation to avoid congestion and unsafe conditions on local roads. Savas also sought more transparency on how toll revenues would be spent. ODOT shared data indicating that it has identified six intersections that will experience heightened congestion as a result of tolling.
Rep. Marty Wilde Speaks Out
Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, said in an Oregonian guest column that he left the House Democratic caucus last summer because it had “stopped acting democratically”. “We let our partisan desire to maintain power override our duty to the people,” Wilde wrote. “We owe Oregonians transparency, accountability and support for their role in their own governance.” He claimed caucus meetings stopped being forums to discuss legislation end became avenues for leaders “to give orders”. He also faulted his Democratic colleagues for failing to enact campaign finance reform and ending gerrymandering. Newly redrawn legislative districts shifted Wilde’s residence out of his current House district.
Washington Tax on Gas Exports to Oregon
Oregon officials, including Governor Brown, have reacted negatively to a proposal in the Washington legislature to tax gas exports to Oregon. Two Oregon lawmakers testified in Olympia the tax is offensive and paying for oil refinery infrastructure is a state obligation. Idaho officials also criticized the proposal, which is pending in the current Washington legislative session.