Legislative Update – 7/3/19
Senate Republicans left the state in a showdown over HB 2020, the ‘Cap-and-Trade’ legislation. By leaving the state, the Senate Republicans denied a quorum, meaning that the Senate could not conduct business. The Senate needed 20 Senators present. There are currently 18 Senate Democrats – not enough to conduct business on their own. The departure of the 11 current Senate Republicans meant that a host of policy bills (over 200) and budget bills (nearly 40) would die at 12:00 AM on Monday Morning, July 1st if the Republican Senators did not return. Return they did, and here’s what happened.
The legislature had already passed a ‘Continuing Resolution’ to fund state government until September, so the urgency would not set in until late summer. The Republican Senators returned at the very end (to focus only on budget bills).
Here is what happened in the last hours of the 2019 legislative session.
  • Cap-and-Trade (HB 2020) DEFEATED but not yet dead
This is the focal point of the Senate Republican walkout, as they are waging their political futures on killing this bill. As of last week, it was a pass/fail scenario. The bill would either pass as is or fail as is. There will not be amendments other than a potential amendment to refer HB 2020 to the voters. The amendments being pushed by the business community are no longer in play, as both the Republican and Democrat base would likely see them as a “sell out” to business interest. The bill died and was likely pushed aside in an effort to bring the Republican Senators back to the building for a quorum to finish business. Governor Brown stated she will sign the bill into law as an executive order.
  • Paid Family Leave (HB 2005) PASSED
This legislation adds weight to recently passed employment regulations and taxes, while putting pressure on businesses and local communities. There is widespread feeling that HB 2005 will only grow more costly as leave rights are expanded over time and current cost constraints prove ineffective. The bill passed both House and Senate with most republicans voting against it.
  • Business Tax Implementation (HB 2164) PASSED
This bill makes several significant adjustments to the just-passed Commercial Activity Tax (HB 3427) as well as authorizes over $70 million in tax credits. The bill increases the tax credit for higher education savings.
  • Diesel Engine Regulations (HB 2007) PASSED
Negotiations regarding this bill produced a piece of legislation that industries may be willing to work with. It requires that by 2029 all medium and heavy duty trucks be updated with 2010 engine types. This includes (but is not limited to):
–       Phases out 2007 and older on-road diesel engines by 2029.
–       Limits the phase-out and diesel retrofit requirement for on-road diesel engines to the tri-county (Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties) Metro area.
–       Exempts:
           –  F-Plates, farm tractors, and implements of husbandry
           –  Log Trucks
           –  Low use of 5,000 miles or fewer in a year.
           –  Motor homes
Here are some other bills and budgets that are in limbo because of the walkout:
–       Campaign Finance Bills (HB 2716 PASSED, HB 2983 PASSED)
–       Community College Budget (HB 5024) PASSED
–       Multi-Family Housing in Residential Areas Zoned for Single Families (HB 2001) PASSED
–       Tobacco Tax Referral (HB 2270) PASSED increases tax on distributors of cigarettes
–       Equal Pay Fixes (SB 123) PASSED
–       New Assessment on Wireless Carriers to fund Broadband (HB 2173) PASSED creates the Or Broadband Office to develop broadband in Oregon.
–       K-12 Budget (HB 5015) PASSED
–       “Christmas Tree” Bonding Bills (HB 5005 PASSED, HB 5006 PASSED)
–       Cage-free egg mandate (SB1019 PASSED) requires the Dept of Ag to make Oregon cage-free for raising hens in larger hen raising operations.
–       911 Tax Increase (HB2449-B) PASSED is a 50-cent increase on the emergency communications tax on cell phones.
–       SJR18 PASSED refers to the voters to change the constitution to limit contributions made in connection with political campaigns.
–       SB116 PASSED directs that HB3427 (Gross Receipts Tax), if referred by referendum petition, be submitted to the people at a special election held on January 21, 2020. On a side note, most off schedule elections tend to have fewer votes cast. It is believed this to be a ploy to get lower voter turnout and not have the bill overthrown by the people.
In a not surprising turn, Governor Brown signed into law HB2016. The law brings with it significant changes to public sector employers and unions. It appears to be a direct response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v AFSCME. The decision basically said that public employees do not have to pay union dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining.