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Wage Security Fund, anti-discrimination bills languish during quiet week
Bills piled up on the Senate president’s and House speaker’s desks as the Republican walkout stretched through the week. Legislative committees continued to meet, but it is starting to weigh on folks that the everyday grind of the legislative session could result in next to nothing.
Just a handful of bills have made it through both chambers, and unless a deal gets cut on Senate Bill 1530, this year’s climate legislation, no more will pass before the session adjourns March 8.
Senate and House policy committees shut down Tuesday, Feb. 24, leaving just rules, revenue and joint committees to go through the motions of moving legislation through the process. Most of the business bills OSBA is tracking saw little activity.
Although some of these bills have moved out of committee and to the floor, they cannot advance until the Republicans return and provide quorum for a floor vote. If Republicans return, they will likely negotiate with leadership to allow the passage of only necessary legislation such as budget bills. Some education and business bills may be left on the floor.
House Bill 4087, the Wage Security Fund bill, was amended before it passed out of the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, Feb. 27. This bill adjusts the Wage Security Fund by redirecting civil penalties from the Common School Fund to deepen the existing security fund bucket. The legislation’s original intent was to redirect some of the fund to technical assistance for businesses, but that has since been removed from the bill through amendments.
Business stakeholders negotiated the bill to alleviate the concerns with incentivizing civil penalties by placing an annual civil penalties cap of $290,000. Any penalty collection over that amount due to larger settlement years will be redirected back to the Common School Fund. OSBA and other education stakeholder partners are opposed to the redirection of civil penalties to the Bureau of Labor and Industries from the Common School Fund.
HB 4076, a bill to develop an Age Discrimination Task Force in the 2020-21 interim, passed out of the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Thursday as well. The bill would establish a task force to evaluate the current employment system to determine any shortfalls leading to age discrimination and develop policy recommendations for the 2021 legislative session. OSBA would be interested in following the task force’s progress.
HB 4107 includes the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) and a requirement that all businesses open to the public must accept cash. The legislation passed the House with bipartisan support following the unusual adoption of a minority report.
In the Senate, business stakeholders and proponents of the bill have been negotiating over the inclusion of a Private Right of Action, which allows people to take action on violations, and many of the exemptions that were lost when the minority report replaced the committee report. The version moved out of Senate Rules on Friday adopted the -A22 amendment, which contains all the previous exemptions, a bank exemption and no enhanced penalties beyond the base $1,000 for a commissioner complaint and no Private Right of Action. Because of the changes, the bill will have to be voted on by the House again if it passes the Senate.
The new language likely will not affect schools dramatically. The bill would require public entities, including schools, to accept U.S. coins or currency as payments for goods and services. 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, is unchanged by the new amendments.
House Joint Resolution 202, Health Care as a Right, was voted out of the Senate Health Care Committee to the Senate floor on Tuesday, Feb. 25. There are concerns about unintended consequences over how the state might choose to balance the right to health care against its other budgetary obligations, including education, which are not defined as rights under the Oregon Constitution.