The pace was intense in week 10 of the legislative session as committee chairs worked to move as many bills as they could out of their policy committees before the April 9 deadline to move bills out of policy committees. The week kicked off bright and early Monday with a hearing on paid family medical leave and continued into the evening. As the week continued, so did the hearings on such high-profile issues as cap and trade and the subsidized employer assessment.
On Monday, March 25, the House Business and Labor Committee and Senate Workforce Committee met jointly to discuss proposals on paid family leave – HB 3031 and HB 3385 were both on the agenda. HB 3031 proposes to provide 32 weeks of equally employer/employee funded paid leave. In contrast, HB 3385 creates a pool where employees would pay-in for their leave. The two bills, while drastically different, both look to expand the current family and medical leave laws in Oregon. Monday morning’s hearing included testimony from invited panels including OSBA, while the evening hearing had hundreds turn out from the general public. The testimony was emotional and compelling, but the debate is contentious and will be ongoing. Later in the week, HB 2005, the anticipated version of paid family medical leave from Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Milwaukie, and Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, was introduced and will be added to the list for consideration.
On Thursday, the House Healthcare Committee held an abbreviated hearing on HB 3262 and HB 2699 – the subsidized employer assessment. The proposal is part of the Gov. Brown’s Medicaid budget package, and she projected it would raise $119 million in her recommended budget. Both bills impose millions in new taxes on businesses and OHA said on the record that they anticipate the program to raise closer to $500 million. The concept places a “fee” on employers with workers that have employees on state assistance programs.
The much-anticipated omnibus amendments to HB 2020 were released Monday afternoon and Legislative Counsel walked the Joint Carbon Reduction Committee through the amendments on Monday evening. While the amendment drastically changes the original bill language, the negative impact on businesses remains the same. Stakeholders will continue to express their concerns and will work to negotiate with committee members. The next two hearings are scheduled for work sessions to consider individual legislator amendments.
Friday was the deadline for bills to be scheduled for a work session in policy committees, in their chamber of origin. April 9 is the deadline for bills to “move” out of committees in their chamber of origin (with exceptions). This sets up a mad dash over the next couple weeks to try to get good bills moving and bad bills killed. April 9 can’t come soon enough.