March 16, 2016
The short legislative session ended a week ago. It was the worst session I have ever seen, and exactly opposite of what citizens were promised when annual sessions became the law of the land.
We still do not know exactly which bills that were passed the Governor will actually sign into law. Think you all know the two largest bills were the new three-tier statewide minimum wage which rises to $14.75 per hour, and the so-called clean coal bill which will radically increase your utility rates. Yours’s truly voted against both bills for a variety of reasons. Click here for a good summary of the bills passed in the 32 days which felt more like 32 weeks:
If you want to get some details on the specific bills you can go to the OLIS web page.
The fate of two bills I worked on extensively has yet to be decided: SB 1565 is a rural economic development bill that has yet to be signed by the Governor, and HJR 202 is a veterans funding referral that goes to the voters in November 2016. SB 1656 got tampered with in the House of Representatives but is mostly intact. Again, you can look at bill specifics on OLIS above.
Lastly, as the P.S., there is a set of talking points from the session that might be of interest.
Senator Brian Boquist
• This 32-day session went far beyond the scope of what we should – and can thoroughly and realistically – consider in such a short amount of time.
• Senate Republicans are concerned about the unknown costs of our new minimum wage law and utility mandate.
• Small business owners, the Public Utility Commission, and hundreds of Oregonians who reached out to us throughout the session all warned of dire consequences of such expensive mandates: shutting down small businesses, loss of Oregon jobs, and pricing consumers out of basic goods and services.
• The short session and one-hour noticed prevented full public input on policies that will drastically change how Oregonians live and do business. This was a disservice to Oregon citizens who deserve to full access to the legislative process.
• The Legislature missed critical opportunities this session to address real emergencies like our looming PERS liability and gaping holes in agency budgets.
• While making small steps forward in restoring transparency and accountability to Oregon government, Senate Democrats still rejected numerous ethics bills, including our bill to stop campaign contribution kickbacks (SJR 205).
• We saw too many back room deals throughout this session. Despite claims to the contrary, Republicans were not invited to the table on any of the major policy issues we considered this session. The public was also left in the dark on key issues like the minimum wage and renewable energy mandate. This is not the way Oregon citizens want their government to do business.
Despite an 18-12 disadvantage, Senate Republicans are proud to have the following bills pass:
• Extending similar incentives to small and rural businesses currently available to large corporations (SB 1565)
• Preserving open enrollment options for parents and students (SB 1556)
• Preserving the major party status of the Independent Party of Oregon and protecting the status of all minor parties (SB 1599 & SB 1501)
• Ratifying the ODF&W decision to delist the Canadian Grey Wolf (HB 4040)
• Protecting government and nonprofit whistleblowers (HB 4067)
These bills will make a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of Oregonians, especially those living in rural communities.
Despite an 18-12 disadvantage, Senate Republicans blocked the following bad bills from becoming law:
Higher Property Taxes for Oregon Taxpayers
SJR 202 would have increased property taxes on homeowners, further exacerbating unaffordable housing issues in many Oregon communities.
SB 1510 would have allowed Tri-Met to raise property taxes to resurrect the Columbia River Crossing boondoggle.
Restricting Second Amendment Rights
HB 4147 would have extended the waiting period for obtaining firearms through a legal background check, further burdening the Oregon State Police who are already understaffed and underfunded.
Endangering victims of domestic violence and human trafficking
SB 1551 would have allowed abusers to block domestic violence victims from obtaining firearms to defense themselves for 60 days.
HB 4073 would have made it easier for human traffickers to conceal their abuse by forcing trafficked women into marriages to conceal their trafficked status.
Threatening financial stability
HB 4131 would have forced banks to make bad loans.
Increasing costs for Oregon consumers
HB 4122 would have increased costs for new labelling of fish at grocery stories, raising the price of healthy groceries for Oregon families.
SB 1509 would have removed caps on utility fees, allowing bureaucrats to raise utility prices for ratepayers to subsidize green energy special interests.
Adding to the PERS Liability
HB 4011 would have increased Oregon’s PERS liability by 20% for employees of the Oregon State Hospital.
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