The Oregon Biz Report - Business News from Oregon

Read about accutane journal moderate acne here

Complete Review of 2010 Special Session

March 8, 2010

By Associated Oregon Industries,

1. Employment and General Business 2010 Session Report
2. Fiscal Policy & Tax Issues
3. Health Care 2010 Session Report
4. Retail 2010 Session Report
5. Employment and Fiscal Policy
6. Environment & Energy 2010 Session Report

1. Employment and General Business 2010 Session Report
Article by: J.L. Wilson – February 26, 2010

SB 1045. Senator Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland). Employer Credit Checks.

As introduced, the bill would effectively prohibit employers from running credit checks on employees for employment related purposes and create new Unlawful Employment Actions against employers who took adverse employment actions based on credit reports.

Actions: AOI strongly opposed bill. AOI worked this issue in order to gain language that allows employers to continue to use credit checks, so long as those checks are substantially job-related.

Status: Passed Senate, Passed House. Awaiting Governor’s signature.

HB 3653. House Business Committee. “Employer Gag Bill” re-write.

This bill is the third version of the “employer gag bill” to be introduced in less than one year at the request of the AFL-CIO. HB 3653 expands the political content that employers are prohibited from discussing with employees. But the new bill will specify that employers are allowed to hold mandatory meetings on such things as workplace safety and other topics directly related to the job. AOI’s legal counsel has assured AOI that the new bill will not sidetrack our pending federal lawsuit challenging the validity of SB 519.

Actions: AOI strongly opposed the bill in the House, going so far as to introduce a “minority report” on the bill that forced the House to vote on a full repeal of the original SB 519.

Status: HB 3653 passed the House 34-26, but the hard fought battle in the House caused the Senate to balk on the bill. The bill died in the Senate.

HB 3655. House Business Committee. Unemployment Benefit Extension.

As introduced, HB 3655 is a $19 million Oregon Emergency Benefits extension that would fund nearly 19,000 unemployed workers for an additional 4-6 weeks of benefits. This is money previously allocated for emergency benefits last year that has not been utilized. The $19 million will not impact employers’ unemployment tax rates. AOI supported the bill.

Status: Passed Legislature. Signed by Governor.

HB 3706. Representative Nick Kahl (D-Portland). Includes Banks and Lenders under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act.

As introduced, the bill puts Oregon’s community banks and financial institutions under Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act. HB 3706 allows new private rights of action against these businesses.

Actions: AOI opposed the bill, arguing that subjecting community banks and lender to new lawsuits will ultimately diminish the availability of credit and hurt community businesses.

Status: Narrowly passed the House and Senate. Awaiting Governor’s signature.

2. Fiscal Policy & Tax Issues
Article by: J.L. Wilson – February 26, 2010

Kicker Reform. Governor Ted Kulongoski.

Although no specific proposal emerged, Governor Kulongoski’s initial priority heading into the 2010 special session was reforming the state’s kicker law to fill the state’s “rainy day fund.”

Actions: AOI and several leading business groups united behind one simple message: Oregon’s business community is not interested in kicker reform unless it’s in the context of a broad fiscal reform package.

Status: Governor Kulongoski’s proposal to reform the state’s kicker law was rejected by legislative leaders and was never introduced as legislation.

Oregon Stability Package. Senator Frank Morse (R-Albany), Senator Ginny Burdick (D-Portland).

Senators Frank Morse and Ginny Burdick took the first steps to introduce a comprehensive fiscal reform package aimed at cutting capital gains taxes, limiting state spending, and reforming the state’s kicker law.

Actions: AOI and several leading business groups signed a letter thanking Senators Morse and Burdick for their good faith effort. AOI pledged to keep the dialogue going over the interim.

Status: The Oregon Stability Package did not gain traction, but it did provide a platform for further work on the issue.

3. Health Care 2010 Session Report

Article by: Betsy Earls – February 26, 2010

SB 1003. Association Health Plans

The passage of HB 3321 (2007) allowed group health insurers more flexibility in selling association and trust health benefit plans to small employer groups. The bill established protections to keep groups insured under these plans from losing coverage due to high claims, and made out-of-state association and trust health plans subject to the same requirements as Oregon-based associations. One of the protections established by HB 3321 was the requirement that associations maintain a retention rate of 95% in order to maintain their status.

Some associations have been struggling to maintain this retention rate and some have failed altogether. SB 1003 allows associations to seek a waiver of the retention rate. DCBS would establish standards to review the requests.

Oregon Insurance Division Director Teresa Miller has stated that she intends to use the following criteria for granting waivers from the 95% requirement:
Loss ratios of the small employer groups remaining in the association as well as the loss ratios of the small employer groups that left the association;
Reasons small employers left the association;

Rate increases facing small employers that left the association compared to rate increases facing small employers remaining in the association; and
Any other reasons the association health plan fails to meet the retention rate.

Action: Passed House and Senate

HB 3611. Deductibility of Individual Health Insurance Premiums.

HB 3166 started the session as an attempt to make premiums for individual health plans deductible. However, when the bill received a fiscal impact statement of $160m/year, the House Health Care Committee began discussing ways to make the plan revenue neutral. The first idea they had was to cap the deductibility of premiums for group plans. The proposal received a fair amount of consideration, and eventually was sent to the Revenue Committee for analysis.

Action: Moved to House Revenue for further review

HB 3659. Temporary High Risk Pool for Health Insurance

The Oregon Medical Insurance Pool (OMIP) is the state’s high-risk health insurance pool. The current budget for OMIP is $407.1 million. The program insures about 18,000 Oregonians who fall into one or more of the three following eligibility categories:
Those who are unable to obtain commercial medical insurance because of pre-existing health conditions;
Those who are eligible for portability coverage but have no access to commercial portability plans; and
Those who are eligible for an 80% Federal Health Coverage Tax Credit because they lost their jobs due to foreign trade or their company declared bankruptcy and they fall under the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.
OMIP enrollees cover about 50% of the program’s medical and drug claim costs through premium payments, with the remaining cost covered by an assessment on commercial insurers doing business in Oregon.

National health reform legislation proposals have included an expansion of state high-risk pools as an interim way to make health insurance available to more uninsured people. Both the House and Senate versions of health care reform packages contain provisions that require the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a Temporary National High Risk Pool Program. HB 3659-A creates a fund that would contain any Federal Funds received from the federal government for a high-risk pool program. Monies in the fund are continuously appropriated to the OMIP Board. Expenditures from this fund could be limited by the Legislative Assemblyalthough expenditures from the OMIP are currently non-limited.

Action: Passed House and Senate

HB 3664. Health Coverage for Foster Children

Creates a new eligibility category in the Oregon Health Plan for individuals from ages 18 to 21 who, immediately prior to their 18th birthdays, were in a foster family home or licensed child-caring agency or institution. Currently, children (under 18) in foster care are eligible for Medicaid-funded health care. HB 3664 would extent that eligibility through a child’s 21st year.

The 1% commercial premium tax passed in 2009 funds an expansion of public health coverage to children. Through this program, children in households with incomes up to the 300% of the federal poverty level can receive Medicaid or subsidized commercial health insurance depending on their specific household income. The Department of Human Services testified that it will have adequate premium tax revenue to fund the original Health Care for All Oregon Children program as well as this proposed expansion. For the rest of the 2009-11 biennium, the expansion is expected to cost $0.5 million in premium tax revenue, (to $1.3 million total funds). In 2011-2013, it will cost $1.8 million in premium tax revenue, ($4.6 million total funds).

Action: Passed House and Senate

HB 3665. Dental Services Contracts

Most companies that sell dental benefit plans require, as part of their contract with dentists, that these dentists give a discount to plan enrollees for services not covered by the plan. House Bill 3665A prohibits dental service contracts from requiring such a discount on charges for noncovered services.

Action: Passed House and Senate

4. Retail 2010 Session Report
Article by: Betsy Earls – February 26, 2010

SB 1032, HB 3703 – Ban on Sale of Products Containing Bisphenol-A (BPA)

SB 1032 would have prohibited retailers from offering for sale any product intended for use in eating and drinking that contains BPA, if that product is intended primarily for use by a child under the age of three. It would also have prohibited the sale of any food primarily intended for consumption by children under three, if food packaging contains BPA. The bill died on the Senate floor last week, but was immediately resurrected as HB 3703.

HB 3703 was drafted to prohibit the sale of re-useable drinking containers for children under the age of three (bottles and sippy cups), and included a statement that use of food-container lining with BPA would not be addressed until the FDA completed its current review of the chemical. This statement was proposed by legislators with food-processing industries in their districts, but in the end, it didn’t make the bill any more attractive. It remains in House Rules.

SB 1001A – Consumer Contracts

The bill would have imposed a restriction on consumer contracts with automatic renewal provisions that are triggered at the end of the contractual period. Under most automatic renewal provisions, a consumer does not need to expressly consent to an additional contract period after the initial contract term has ended, and may not receive notice that the automatic renewal provision has been triggered. Under SB 1001A, automatic renewal provisions in consumer contracts could not be applied without clear and conspicuous notice of the provision, and applicable cancellation procedure, to the consumer.

SB 1001A also addressed early termination fees (ETF), and would have made the charge of an ETF an unlawful trade practice unless notice is given to the consumer and the consumer provides express consent. Although the bill was moved from Senate Consumer Protection to Senate Rules with a do-pass recommendation, it has not resurfaced.

5. Employment and Fiscal Policy
Article by: J.L. Wilson – February 1, 2010
February 2010 Talking Points on Education and Fiscal Policy

Senator Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland) is introducing legislation – SB 1045 – that would prohibit employers from using credit reports to make employment decisions.  Over half of Oregon employers use these types of reports in hiring key personnel, usually in positions of “trust” (handling company assets, customer assets, or sensitive information).  The AOI Board of Directors voted to oppose this legislation as introduced, but AOI will work with the sponsor and others to explore opportunities to make the legislation workable for employers.

The legislature is planning to move a $19 million emergency unemployment benefit extension that would fund most claimants for an additional 4-6 weeks of benefits.  This is money previously allocated for emergency benefits last year that has not been utilized.  The $19 million will not impact employers’ unemployment tax rates.

The House Business Committee will introduce yet another re-write of the “employer gag bill,” again at the behest of the AFL-CIO.  This is the second re-write in addition to the passage of the original SB 519 last year.  The new bill will expand the political content that employers are prohibited from discussing with employees to include ballot measures.  However, the new bill will specify that employers are allowed to hold mandatory meetings on such things as workplace safety and other topics directly related to the job.
AOI’s legal counsel has assured AOI that the new bill will not sidetrack our pending federal lawsuit challenging the validity of SB 519.

AOI’s lawsuit against SB 519 (2009) is progressing toward a hearing for Summary Judgment in early April in federal court in Portland.  AOI, in conjunction with the US Chamber of Commerce, is challenging SB 519 as an illegal intrusion on federal labor law as well as an unconstitutional abridgement of an employer’s First Amendment free speech rights.

Representative Nick Kahl (D-Troutdale) will introduce legislation to include banks and insurance companies under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act.  The new legislation – HB 3615 – will be opposed by a wide array of industry groups.

6. Environment & Energy 2010 Session Report
Article by: J.L. Wilson – February 26, 2010

HB 3680. House Revenue Committee. Business Energy Tax Credits (BETC).

Legislators, responding to the runaway costs of Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit program, introduced HB 3680 to put some limits on the costs of this vital tax incentive program. HB 3680 changes the 5-year credit to a 6-year credit on projects exceeding $10 million by pushing back the credit until one full year after certification. Limits credit costs to individual wind projects down to $1.5 million by 2012. Places $300 million pre-certification limit for renewable projects and $200 million for manufacturing projects. HB 3680 will save the state $55 million in the current biennium.

Status: HB 3680 passed both House and Senate. On Governor’s desk.

  
Print This Post Print This Post    Email This Post Email This Post

Discuss this article

no comments yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top Business News

 

Top Women's News

 

Top Natural Resource News

 

Top Faith News

 

Copyright © 2016, OregonReport. All Rights Reserved. | Terms of Use - Copyright - Legal Policy | Contact Oregon Report

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Business Report through daily email updates:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

RSS Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)