With legislators spending more time on chamber floor, important bills are moving
The session’s pace shifted last week.
Policy committees no longer have substantive work, so legislators are spending a majority of their time on the floor. The Republican dam in the House finally broke with an agreement to stop reading every bill in its entirety, and bills are flooding through. Most of the remaining action is in the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, often behind closed doors.
House Bill 2005, the paid family medical leave bill, has earned significant deliberation after a deal was struck on HB 3427, the $2 billion-a-biennium tax to fund schools. A compromise would provide 12 weeks of 40% employer-funded paid family and medical leave with more flexibility for small businesses. The agreement with legislative leadership is holding, and a finalized deal is expected to be reached this session.
The House unanimously passed Senate Bill 726, the long-debated workplace harassment bill. SB 726 increases the statute of limitations for harassment reporting from 1 to 5 years, requires all employers to have policies and procedures in place that deal with workplace harassment, and modifies how employers deal with settlement and nondisclosure agreements. Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill.
SB 123, the pay equity fix bill, was scheduled for a public hearing in the House Rules Committee on Thursday afternoon but was removed from the docket. This bill would adjust the 2017 pay equity law, which has been difficult for businesses to implement. Business stakeholders will continue to monitor its movement closely in the hopes of easing the issues related to the law's implementation.
HB 2020, the long-simmering cap and trade bill, continues to sit in the Joint Ways and Means Committee awaiting assignment to a subcommittee. An analysis by a nonpartisan legislative economist found that if cap and trade were to push people from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, it would cut deep into gas tax revenue going into the Highway Trust Fund. The analysis, done by Legislative Revenue Office economist Mazen Malik at the request of Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay, determined that by 2050 the Highway Trust Fund could see an $18.55 billion cut.
The analysis shed light on concerns that stakeholders have been raising for months but did not seem to leave a major impression on Co-Chair of the Carbon Reduction Committee Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland. He said a reduction in the highway fund was inevitable and we would need to find a solution anyway.
The House Rules Committee held a public hearing Tuesday, May 28, on the highly contentious campaign finance reform bills: HB 2714, HB 2716 and HB 2983. These bills would limit political donations and implement more stringent campaign funding reporting standards. Business stakeholders say the limitations do not treat union contributions the same as business contributions because of how unions raise money.
In an interesting turn of events, the fight over the expected $1.4 billion tax kicker has ramped back up following an announcement from Brown indicating a desire to redirect $500 million from the pot. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering House Speaker Tina Kotek announced last week that she is backing off her proposed redirect. Republicans have been outspoken about their denial of a redirect, arguing the money should go back to the taxpayers.
Brown’s proposal looks to move $500 million into several high-need areas: $250 million to help with Public Employees Retirement System costs for K-12 schools, $220 million for rural housing and $29 million to improve rural broadband.
These efforts, being more rural focused, may satisfy some Republican voters, but it’s not clear she would have the required two-thirds majorities to divert part of the kicker. A two-thirds vote would require at least two Republicans in addition to Democrats in each chamber.