9 bills to watch in Special Session

Oregon NFIB,
The Oregon Legislature is now in its third week of the special session. Feb. 11 was the last day for bills to move out of their committee of origin, except for those in Revenue, Rules, or Ways and Means. This means a number of bills will be left in committee and are effectively dead.  The Legislature passed on any type of kicker reform. Gov. Ted Kulongoski asked legislators before the special session to pass a measure that would permanently place the kicker in a rainy day fund. But lawmakers decided now is not the right time for it.

The Senate Rules Committee passed a measure that would permanently put in place annual sessions. This would be a constitutional change and would require a vote of the people in the November election. Polling recently showed Oregonians in favor of annual sessions. The Senate should vote on the measure later this week.

Below is a list of other bills we’re tracking and their status:

House Bill 3632 would require the Oregon Health Authority to study the viability of implementing a pay or play system of employer-based health insurance coverage in Oregon and to report the results of the study. If a system is viable, OHA will propose a plan for implementation for interim legislative committees to consider. This bill has moved through the House and is up for a hearing in the Senate Health Care committee shortly. Although we would oppose an employer mandate, the Oregon Health Authority already has the authority to study this issue.

House Bill 3653 would modify certain definitions and exceptions applicable to the prohibition against employers taking adverse employment actions against employees who decline to attend meetings or participate in communication concerning the employer’s opinion about religious or political matters. This legislation recently passed the House against our objections and those of several other business organizations. This legislation modifies the employer gag rule that was passed by the Legislature in the last regular session. There is currently a lawsuit under way by employers, because we believe it violates federal labor laws.

House Bill 3655 would modify the definition of “emergency benefit period” to begin on the first week that begins at least 14 days after the effective date of the act and and ending when the total of Oregon emergency benefits paid reaches $19 million. This legislation extends unemployment benefits. It passed the House and is up this week in the Senate where it is expected to pass.

House Joint Resolution 100 proposes an amendment to the Oregon constitution establishing the right of all Oregonians to equal opportunity to lead healthy and productive lives. This legislation has been introduced by state Rep. Mitch Greenlick in the last three sessions.  We have opposed this proposal, and the legislation died on the House floor this week after receiving a 30-28 vote.

Senate Bill 1003 would authorize the director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services to grant an exemption from the 95 percent retention rate requirement for association health plans, according to rules adopted by the director. This legislation will allow association health plans that fall below the 95 percent retention requirement to receive a waiver from DCBS allowing them to continue to offer plans. We support this legislation, and it passed the Senate last week unanimously and had a hearing on Monday in the House. The legislation will be back up in the House Healthcare Committee Feb. 24 and should move forward. DCBS did indicate it would like to revisit this issue in the next regular session.

Senate Bill 1009 would prohibit the use of plastic bags as checkout bags. This legislation was opposed by a number of businesses and organizations and died in the House Environment Committee last week. Proponents indicate they will pursue this issue in the next regular session.

Senate Bill 1032 would create an unlawful practice of manufacturing, distributing, or selling liquid or food in containers made with bisphenol A, if the liquid or food is intended primarily for consumption by a child under three years of age. This legislation has been limited to baby bottles and sippy cups which are less of a concern than the original broad language.  This legislation passed out of the Senate committee but was killed in a 15-15 vote on the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 1045 would limit the use of credit history for employment purposes to certain circumstances. Although we opposed this legislation, it passed the Senate this week with 17 yes votes. While the language has been modified to allow employers to check a potential employees’ credit for “substantially job related” reasons, we believe this language is undefined and will be confusing for employers. We will continue to oppose this legislation as it moves to the House.  We continue to need examples of businesses that use credit checks as a tool for hiring.

Senate Bill 1059 would reate a process for adoption and implementation of plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by motor vehicles with gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less. This legislation has now moved to Ways and Means because of the fiscal impact. It is unclear at this point whether or not it will move forward in this special session.

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