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Business bills review of the Legislature

March 8, 2012

Legislature Passes Final Bills and Heads Home
by Associated Oregon Industries
In the closing hours of the 2012 Oregon Legislature, it managed to pass three more bills on the AOI Priority Bill list; notably HB 4164 – Health Insurance Exchange, HB 4165 – Early Learning and SB 1581 – Achievement Compacts.

AOI’s agenda was about education reform, health care reform, and jobs. In the end, nine AOI Priority Bills were sent to the Governor and two left marooned in committee, both of which are more than likely to be reintroduced in the 2013 Session. But just as important as the successes, virtually every detrimental employment practices, health care, environmental or tax bill was blocked.

Below is the final disposition of bills selected as priority measures for the business community by the AOI Board in conjunction with the Oregon Business Plan. Watch for the next Leading Issues for a summary of other measures, both the quick and the dead, of interest to the business community.

EDUCATION REFORM – AOI SUPPORTS:

HB 4061 – Task Force on University Governance
PASSED
HB 4061 creates the Special Committee on Higher Education Governance and Coordination to study the issue and report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature no later than November 1, 2012. In addition, the measure specifies that the Task Force will be composed of four Senators, four Representatives and two members of the Oregon Education Investment Board.

HB 4165 – Early Learning
PASSED
Improves the coordination of early childhood services across the state in order to provide appropriate care to more children, and have more children enter kindergarten ready to learn. Also consolidates entities that serve young children to better coordinate services and prioritize measurable outcomes.

SB 1581 – Achievement Compacts
PASSED
Requires education entities to enter into achievement compacts with the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB), and describes some of the terms that must be included in the achievement compact. The bill introduces much-needed state and local accountability for education outcomes.

HEALTH CARE REFORM – AOI SUPPORTS:

HB 4164 – Health Insurance Exchange
PASSED
Approves the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange’s business plan, allowing it to meet federal deadlines and continue working toward implementation. The Exchange would create a marketplace for health insurance policies for individuals as well as the small group market and would allow employers to allocate defined contributions to employee coverage and let employees shop for coverage that best meets their needs.

SB 1580 – Health Care Transformation
PASSED
Allows the Oregon Health Plan to move forward with the development of coordinated care organizations (CCOs) throughout the state. CCOs are designed to coordinate and integrate physical, mental and dental health care, and (in a more perfect world) save money by focusing on preventive care, thus reducing emergency room visits. In short, the bill is aimed at delivering health care services to Oregon Health Plan recipients at lower cost. Bill includes an interim task force on liability reform, designed to report to 2013 Legislature.

JOB CREATION – AOI SUPPORTS:

HB 4040 – Oregon Investment Act
PASSED
HB 4040 is a priority of the Oregon Business Plan. The purpose of the legislation is to consolidate economic development resources in one place and create a vehicle to attract private sector lending and venture capital. It is aimed at creating more flexibility and more responsiveness in Oregon’s economic development infrastructure. Currently, Oregon’s economic development resources are spread throughout multiple state agencies.

HB 4093 – Enterprise Zones
PASSED
HB 4093 adds 18 additional new enterprise zones to the state’s economic development arsenal. In addition, the bill authorizes the expansion of current enterprise zones from 12 square miles to 15 square miles.

HB 4098 – Timber Harvest in State Forests
FAILED
This bill would manage annual timber harvesting in state forests based on new growth. It would allow harvesting of 85% of the increased growth annually, which will produce an additional 175 million board feet of timber – adding nearly 6% to Oregon’s current 2.7 billion board feet of timber harvest.

HB 4101 – Columbia River Water Withdrawal
FAILED
Currently, this bill would authorize an additional 100,000 acre feet of water from the Columbia River for agricultural use. Currently, 7% of the Columbia is withdrawn for irrigation of farmland. Idaho (4%) and Washington (2.7%) withdraw a far greater volume of water than Oregon (0.3%). The Oregon Business Plan observed that current Water Resources Board rules preclude withdrawing water from the Columbia for irrigation and other beneficial uses between April 15 and October 1, even when flows are so high that water is spilling over the dams.

SB 1532 – Tax Certainty for Data Centers
PASSED
SB 1532 clarifies that companies that build data centers, and have an enterprise zone agreement with a local government for the data center, cannot be saddled with new intangibles taxes by the Oregon Department of Revenue for the term of the enterprise zone agreement. SB 1532 paves the way for up to $1.5 billion in investment in Oregon, as several companies are looking at Oregon for placement of data centers.

SB 1547 – New Industry Creation
PASSED
SB 1547 would authorize the formation of captive insurance companies in Oregon. Captive insurance companies are valuable tools for the risk management of exposures not otherwise insurable in the regular market or where the premium is prohibitively priced. Coverage for exposures such as business losses due to supplier interruption, regulatory fiat and product defect are often unavailable but nonetheless very real. Currently, 29 other states allow these enterprises. They drive business as well as revenue in the form of premium tax to the state.

  
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