Democratic Leaders Show Patience, But Won’t Deal to Kill Bills
The pace of the legislative session slowed to a crawl last week as House and Senate Republicans employed delay tactics to postpone approaching floor votes on gun restrictions, rent control and gender-affirming care. Democratic leaders coped by canceling most committee sessions and scheduling marathon floor sessions to keep the legislative process moving.
The Joint Ways and Means co-chairs are pressuring House and Senate members to narrow their individual funding priorities in the next two weeks before release of the critical May revenue forecast that will determine how much spending flexibility exists for the next biennium. The Ways and Means Committee is barnstorming the state to get feedback on spending priorities.
Governor Kotek signed the $210 million semiconductor investment measure and signaled she is open to a narrowly crafted investment tax credit, which business interests have sought. Meanwhile, a local tax fight could affect the $40 billion Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) project in Phoenix.
In week 13 of the 2023 legislative session, the Senate approved bills to prevent opioid overdoses, expand workers’ compensation benefits and protect consumers from counterfeit airbags. Transportation officials requested $1 billion in state-issued bonds over four biennia for the I-5 Columbia River Bridge replacement. Kotek, who supports replacing the bridge, balked at tying up that much of state bonding capacity, which she wants for housing investments.
The Oregon Global Warming Commission reported the state is fell behind in meeting its climate benchmarks in 2020 and 2021. Former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and Senator Dick Springer, both Democrats, died last week.
An Oregon State Police spokesperson warned drivers it was unsafe to stop on highways to retrieve wads of money after a driver on I-5 in Eugene threw $100 bills out his car window. The driver reportedly cleaned out a $200,000 bank account before this throwaway spree to “bless people with cash”.
Republican Delay Tactics
Last week marked a significant change from what had been a relatively bipartisan session thus far. Since the first-chamber deadline has passed, delay tactics are increasing and reached a tipping point that resulted in nearly all committees being cancelled.
Oregon voters last fall approved Ballot Measure 113 that makes lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences ineligible to seek re-election. That has forced minority Republicans to resort to other tactics. Senate Republicans, who have refused all session to waive full reading of bills the Senate floor, upped their delay tactics with long floor speeches, lengthy vote explanations and vain attempts to resurrect dead bills for floor votes. These tactics consumed hours of valuable floor time, as the backlog of bills waiting for Senate floor votes grew significantly. Despite these tactics, Senate Democratic leaders remains optimistic they will pass their full agenda before adjournment.
Minority Republicans in the House also decided to pump the brakes by requiring bills be read in full before a final vote. House Speaker Dan Rayfield indicated he will give Republicans time to protest, but said he won’t negotiate to kill bills or priority investments. The House shortened its backlog of bills on the House floor after Rayfield agreed to push votes on House Bill 2005 and House Bill 2002 to later in the session.
[From CFM Advocates Client Report]
Ways and Means Roadshow
Budget writers reinstituted the pre-pandemic tradition of going on the road during the legislative session to allow members to hear directly from constituents. The first road show hearing only had time for a limited number of people who had signed up to testify. The hearing schedule:
- 4/14/2023 5:00 PM, Newport
- 4/21/2023 5:00 PM, Roseburg
- 4/28/2023 5:00 PM, Ontario
- 5/3/2023 5:00 PM, Salem or virtual
Gover Kotek signed the semiconductor investment legislation after U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo visited Oregon and said the state “will be extremely competitive” for federal CHIPS Act investment for computer chip research. Raimondo, whose agency will distribute $52 billion in CHIPS Act funding, noted 15 percent of the nation’s semiconductor workforce is in Oregon.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a fight over a half-cent sales tax threatens to impede a $40 billion semiconductor plant in Maricopa County. The tax pays for most transportation and infrastructure projects and will sunset the end of 2025 barring legislative and voter action. Several Republican legislators have refused to support a tax extension. TSMC agreed to build in Phoenix on a 1,000-acre site assuming additional infrastructure would be built to serve its site.
Opioid Overdose Passes – SB 1043
On a unanimous vote, the Senate approved legislation to give patients with a history of opioid use increased access to overdose reversal medications when they leave hospitals and other care settings. Senate Bill 1043 would require hospitals and other providers such as residential care homes to give patients two doses of the medication when they leave the facility if they have a history of opioid use or a prescription to an opioid medication. The bill now goes to the House.
Ag Worker Crisis Line – SB 955
Lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 955 that would allocate $300,000 to link distressed ag workers to a hotline called AgriStress. Studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find farmers are two to three times more likely to die by suicide than the general public.
Workers’ Compensation Increase – SB 418
Also on a unanimous vote, the Senate approved a bill that closes a gap in coverage that Oregon employees get through the state’s workers’ compensation system, which pays employees when they miss work due to an on-the-job injury. Under existing state law, workers with an approved workers’ compensation claim get paid for the time they miss work due to an injury, but only if they miss more than four hours of work at a time. As a result, workers who need regular medical care or therapy for injuries are often not eligible for pay because those appointments are usually less than four hours long.
Counterfeit Airbags – SB 256
The Senate approved legislation that would make it illegal for someone knowingly to manufacture, sell or install counterfeit vehicle safety systems, including airbags that fail to meet federal safety standards. Federal officials have flagged the issue nationwide, as unsuspecting consumers don’t know they were scammed until it’s too late. Senator Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, who carried the bill, said counterfeit airbags are typically sold over the internet.
Food Assistance for Migrants – SB 610
Senate Bill 610 was sent on a bipartisan vote to Ways Means that would create a state-funded program under the Department of Human Services that mirrors the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the estimated 62,000 undocumented immigrants in Oregon who are excluded from SNAP.
Mandate Review Committee – HB 3157
The House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care passed House 3157 that would establish a Health Insurance Mandate Review Advisory Committee to review proposed legislation expanding mandated coverage of specified procedures. The bill has been sent to Ways and Means.
Oregon Falls Behind Climate Goals
The Oregon Global Warming Commission released two reports containing recommendations to meet climate goals after indicating the state missed its targets in 2020 and 2021. According to the reports, Oregon’s annual temperature is projected to increase by 5 degrees Fahrenheit in about 30 years and 8.2 degrees Fahrenheit in about 60 years without significant reductions in carbon emissions.
Renewable Diesel – SB 803
Senate Bill 803, which would have phased out petroleum diesel in favor of renewable diesel, has been amended to a study bill.The amendment would require the Department of Environmental Quality to study a possible petroleum diesel ban as well as the availability and cost of renewable diesel.
Interstate Bridge Replacement
State transportation and community leaders from Portland and Vancouver urged the Joint Transportation Committee to approve $1 billion to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River. The replacement is expected to cost between $5 to $7.5 billion, with the Oregon Department of Transportation saying the most likely cost is around $6 billion. Washington lawmakers already have pledged $1 billion toward the project.
Replacing the bridge is the most expensive part of the project, with estimates ranging from $1.64 to $2.45 billion. Improving interchanges and creating paths for bicyclists and pedestrians on either side of the river is expected to cost between about $2 and $3 billion. Light rail and other transit connecting the two cities is estimated to cost between $1.3 and $2 billion.
DACA Recipient Match
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced rulemaking that would provide a federal match for DACA recipients who access Medicaid or an Affordable Care Act Marketplace health plan. Oregon passed Cover All Kids in 2017 to provide access to kids regardless of their immigration status that was funded entirely with state dollars. That policy was followed in 2019 and 2021 with expansions to include all adults. The proposed new change would enable Oregon to tap into federal matching funds for a portion of the population covered by Cover All Kids and Cover All People.
Minimum Wage Goes Up in July
Oregon’s minimum wage will increase July 1. In the Portland metro area, where state law sets the local minimum wage at $1.25 per hour more than the baseline, the new hourly minimum will climb to $15.45. in rural counties, where the local minimum wage is $1 per hour less than the state’s baseline, the new minimum will climb to $13.20.
Bill Bradbury Remembrance
After suffering decades with multiple sclerosis, former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury died last week at age 73. As chief election officer for decade, Bradbury worked to increase voter turnout, promote government transparency and protect the environment. Friends and associates remember Bradbury as joyful and passionate, despite his debilitating illness.