Anti-discrimination bill adds language to require schools to take cash payments
Monday, February 24, 2020
Things have slowed considerably as Republican legislators utilize procedural tactics to stall bills’ movement. Although the delay is primarily to halt climate legislation, all other bills are getting caught up in the backlog.
Many business bills watched by OSBA have seen little movement, but Clackamas Democratic Rep. Janelle Bynum’s anti-discrimination bill made waves Wednesday on the floor. The House adopted a minority report offered by Rep. Ron Noble, R-McMinnville. Minority reports are rarely adopted, and in a session this contentious, it was a surprising decision by Democratic leadership.
House Bill 4107 includes both the CROWN Act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, and a requirement that all businesses open to the public must accept cash.
A minority report is an alternate version of a bill from the one that a committee has endorsed. It has a minority of committee members, at least two, in support. Noble presented the minority report on the House floor to incorporate previously excluded public entities into the cash portion of the bill. Surprisingly, the minority report passed unanimously and was amended into the bill. Minority reports are often the vehicle for hyperpartisan policies endorsed by a very few legislators, but this one received broad support.
The new language will likely not affect schools dramatically. It will require public entities, including schools, to accept U.S. coins or currency as payments for goods and services, but no schools currently refuse to accept U.S. coins or cash.
The dress code and hairstyle discrimination language, which is the most relevant to schools, was not changed. The bill explicitly adds to the meaning of “race” any sort of “natural hair, hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles” for the purposes of anti-discrimination statutes. It also clarifies that a valid dress code or dress policy “may not have disproportionate adverse impact on members of a protected class,” such as race or gender. These restrictions are consistent with guidance from OSBA staff and counsel, and changes to these laws should not disrupt most school operations.
HRJ 202 has also seen some movement in the House. The bill would refer a measure to the voters to declare health care a constitutional right. HJR 202 is considered Portland Democratic Rep. Mitch Greenlick’s legacy bill. It has passed the House in several sessions but has never been endorsed by the Senate.
Although HJR 202's general concept is supported by many organizations, there are concerns about unintended consequences. Many other public services, notably public education, are not rights. What would be the effect of adding health care as a right to the Oregon Constitution? How would the state balance the right to health care against its other budgetary obligations, including public education funding? If the bill passes out of the Senate, it will head to the November 2020 ballot for Oregon voters to consider.
But like so many other bills, its fate hangs on a possible Senate walkout.
Earlier this session, Senate Republicans appeared to be willing to entertain the idea of returning from a theoretical walkout on the final day of the short session. This would allow the bare minimum of bills, mostly budget bills, to get a vote on the Senate floor. Recently, this has changed, and Republican Senators seem to have indicated that if they leave, they will not return, effectively killing all bills that have not yet been considered by the Senate.