What’s next on the Legislative business agenda

By  J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries

The seven months between Legislative Sessions affords lawmakers, business groups and other interests a chance to do policy work and negotiate key business issues – some good and some bad for business.

The 2013 Legislative interim will be no different. AOI will be participating in a host of interim work groups and task forces on various issues of importance to Oregon business.

Here’s a sampling of the issues AOI will be involved in during the Legislative interim:

Mandated Paid Sick Leave. Although the statewide mandate for all employers to offer paid sick leave, HB 3390, did not pass this session, the proponents will be afforded the opportunity to make their case for such a mandate in an interim work group. AOI will participate.

Property Tax Appraisals. AOI introduced HB 2731 in the 2013 Legislature, which required that all county and state property tax appraisals be compliant with Universal Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). AOI’s bill was an expression of concern that private appraisals must be compliant with these standards, but there was no similar requirement for county or state appraisals. The House Revenue Committee directed AOI to work with county assessors and the Department of Revenue on this issue.

Oregon Family Leave Regulations. As part of the family leave negotiations during the Legislative Session, the House Business Committee will establish an interim work group to look at addressing business’ administrative concerns stemming from conflicts between Oregon’s Family Leave Act (OFLA) and the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). AOI will be represented in this work group.

Wage Equity Study. SB 744 directed BOLI to study wage equity issues and come back to the 2015 Legislature with recommendations. AOI opposed numerous bills in 2013 that attempted to legislate wage equity, primarily because these bills would have made wage equity discrimination claims “no fault” claims that an employer would have to disprove. Current burden of proof lies with claimants to prove discrimination. AOI has asked BOLI for the inclusion of two AOI members on this study panel. Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian agreed with that request.

911 Fees for Prepaid Cellular. Several bills attempted to impose a fee on the sale of prepaid cellular minutes to help fund 911 operations. However, proponents of the idea (all parties involved) could not agree on which method was best; consequently, the Legislature adjourned without a solution. Senator Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Senator Jackie Winters (R-Salem) have committed to work with stakeholders to come to resolution prior to the 2014 Legislative Session. This work is expected to begin in September.

Education Funding. HB 2506 established a task force on school funding, charged with reviewing and reexamining the State School Fund distribution formula. The task force is to submit a report with recommendations to the Legislature by October 1, 2014.

STEM Investment Council. HB 2600 established a nine-member private sector council to advise the Chief Education officer on ways to increase student proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with the goal of doubling the number of students who earn a post-secondary degree in STEM related fields. Although the Council is ongoing, its formative work over the next several months will be of particular significance to the business community.

Standards for Transferring Associate Degrees & Credits. HB 2970 strengthens the transfer student bill of rights by directing the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) to make recommendations to minimize the number of credits transfer students need to complete a four-year degree. HB 2970 also directs HECC to develop additional associate transfer degrees, including engineering.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Standards. In 2011, HB 3362 established the Career and Technical Education Revitalization Grant Program to award grants to enhance collaboration on CTE programs between the education and employer communities. 2013’s HB 2912 directs the Department of Education, Community College and Workforce Development and BOLI to establish joint advisory committees to help create clear pathways between high school programs and post-secondary programs; ensure that current industry workforce needs are being met and curriculum is current; and increase opportunities for internships and apprenticeships.

Governor’s requests to Oregon Health Policy Board. In June, the Governor sent a letter to the Oregon Health Policy Board (OHPB) asking that they make recommendations on mitigating the cost shift and decreasing health insurance premiums, as well as increasing overall transparency and accountability. The Governor also asked that the OHPB establish a coordinated care alignment work group to form recommendations on strategies that move Public Employees Benefit Board (PEBB), Oregon Educators Benefit Board (OEBB), Cover Oregon and the commercial marketplace toward one characterized by models of coordinated care.

The OHPB intends to provide recommendations (including potential statutory and regulatory changes) to the Governor and the Legislature by December 31, 2013.

Health Care Funding. HB 3260 established criteria for evaluating health care delivery and financing, and requires the Oregon Health Authority to conduct a study to determine what option best satisfies these criteria. The study must evaluate at least four methods of funding, including one single payer plan, and will make recommendations on options to most efficiently and effectively provide health care for all Oregonians.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Physician Assistant (PA) Reimbursement. HB 2902 requires insurers to reimburse NPs and PAs at the same level as Medical Doctors (MDs) when providing the same services. This requirement sunsets in 2018, prior to which a task force is to study and make recommendations to the 2014 and 2015 Legislature on payment structures for primary and mental health care practitioners. The task force sunsets in 2016.

Health Care Quality Metrics. HB 2118 created a Health Plan Quality Metrics Work Group to publish recommendations on quality measures to be used by Cover Oregon, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Educators Benefit Board, and Public Employees Benefit Board. The work group is to make recommendations that further the goals of the Oregon Integrated and Coordinated Health Care Delivery System. The work group is also directed to develop a common format for collecting consumer responses to the health quality measures.

Disclaimer: Articles featured on Oregon Report are the creation, responsibility and opinion of the authoring individual or organization which is featured at the top of every article.