Bills explore how to report and investigate workplace harassment
Friday, February 22, 2019
Cap and trade continues to be the issue of the session, but the shock of the bill has begun to fade, allowing other issues to crowd in, including Medicaid funding and workplace conditions.
The Medicaid funding package, the first tax bill of the session, passed the House with bipartisan support and is headed to the Senate floor.
House Bill 2010 would create a sustainable funding package to expand Medicaid for low-income Oregonians. HB 2010 was negotiated as part of the larger budget package for the Oregon Health Plan, with the goal of creating sustainable funding for the next six years.
This is the first tax to pass, but it doesn’t provide funding to expand Medicaid for the full biennium. Legislators will now start reviewing more controversial funding methods, such as a tax increase on cigarettes and assessments on employers.
Multiple issues surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace are being discussed with bills that would address harassment in schools, the Capitol and workplaces generally.
Senate Bill 744 and HB 2859 would create a two-branch equity office within the Capitol to receive confidential reports for investigation, but there are concerns about the difficulty of taking action with confidential reports.
SB 155 would expand the authority of the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission to immediately investigate any suspected misconduct and suspend the license of the suspected individual.
The workforce harassment bill, SB 726, is meant to address the power imbalance between supervisors and employees by extending the statute of limitations to seven years and making sure employees feel comfortable returning to the workplace once they make a complaint. Thoughtful concerns have been raised regarding employers not connected to the harassment being held accountable, as well as the legitimacy of such an extended statute of limitations. Negotiations are ongoing.
HB 2020, the cap and trade bill, has had a series of hearings, with both invited testimony and public comment. The increased costs that residents and businesses will face due to higher gas taxes and natural gas utility rates are garnering attention.
Hours of public testimony before the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction showed strong support and opposition from stakeholders throughout Oregon. Many children and families in the Capitol for Presidents Day gave testimony in support.
The "road show" for the committee began Friday, Feb. 22. The committee will hold public hearings in Springfield, Medford, Bend and The Dalles as well as take remote testimony from eastern Oregon and the coast.