Rick Lewis

Representative Rick Lewis

2019 End of Session Newsletter

Aerial view of Capitol

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

On June 30th, Oregon's 80th legislative session officially adjourned, sine die. The near six-month session (160 days) that began on January 14, took many twists and turns as we navigated our way through a supermajority-driven agenda that focused on taxation, criminal justice reform, housing, and environmental policies that intensified Oregon's rural-urban divide. Throughout the session it was clear that the issues brought forward ignited the interests of Oregonians on both sides of the aisle and in all parts of the state. I am grateful to each of you who took the time to email, call, testify in committees, and meet with me to share your ideas, concerns, and your hopes for Oregon's future.

This session, I served on the House Judiciary Committee, the Joint Committee on Transportation, and as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness. A total of 2,768 bills were introduced. Of those bills, 755 passed both chambers.

It is my privilege to be your voice in Salem and to share with you an overview of the 2019 session, which was marked by a handful of highly debated and controversial issues. Although policy makers broadly agree that it is important to protect our environment, invest in education, promote a criminal justice system that emphasizes fairness and accountability, and the need to find affordable housing options, the challenge was finding common ground to implement these ideals in a deeply divided legislature.

While most bills passed with bipartisan support, there were bills characterized by efforts to contravene or, in some cases, directly overturn the will of Oregon voters. I firmly believe that Oregonian's voices on measures should be honored and your input sought, not overturned through the legislative process. I supported referring SB 1008, a broad juvenile justice reform bill that rolls back Measure 11, HB 2015, which eliminates the requirement that a person provide proof of legal presence before obtaining a driver license, and SB 1013, which substantially limits Oregon's death penalty, back to the voters.

The following summary outlines a number of measures I supported and some of the most controversial bills of the session. I appreciate you taking the time read this report and I invite you to provide feedback as we work together to move Oregon forward.


Public Safety

Judiciary CommitteeHaving served in law enforcement for nearly four decades, public safety remains a high priority for me. Of the committees I served on, the House Judiciary Committee had the heaviest workload. This committee is known for its agenda of complex bills dealing with various aspects of the criminal justice system, civil practice, and other public safety related issues. A total of 296 bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Of those measures, 150 moved out of the committee and 124 of those bills passed both chambers.

I sponsored and supported the following bills to ensure the safety of Oregonians. These bills strike a balance to advocate for victims and law enforcement, hold persons convicted of crimes accountable, and offer reformation opportunities to those who are justice involved.

  • HB 2244 — Although this bill remained in committee upon adjournment, if passed the bill would have established a Task Force on CourtCare to study long-term funding sources for a statewide CourtCare program. This program, piloted in Marion and Polk Counties, provides free high-quality childcare to parents who are taking care of business in our courthouses. CourtCare lets children be children, sparing them from witnessing adult conflict and seeing potentially disturbing or traumatizing scenes. For parents, it removes barriers to attending court appointments and prevents children from being left in unsafe situations. The two counties successfully leveraged state funding to gain access to private and local contributions and together have served over 2,500 children.

  • HB 2328 — Modifies the definition of "culpable mental state" for the crime of unauthorized use of a vehicle when a person takes, operates, exercises control over or otherwise uses a vehicle, boat or aircraft without the consent of owner.

  • HB 2428 — Provides that masturbation while in/in view of a public place constitutes the crime of public indecency.

  • HB 2625 — Directs the Department of State Police to study how to increase and improve criminal justice resources relating to missing and murdered Native American women in Oregon.

  • HB 2631 — Provides legal services for women who are incarcerated at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility to reenter and reintegrate into local communities, to reduce womens' vulnerability to domestic violence and to obtain employment, housing services and other benefits. The bill is a pilot program.

  • HB 2750 — Directs the Department of Justice to establish a program for awarding grants to law enforcement agencies and local governments for training of groups and agencies that interact with persons who have experienced trauma.

  • With Molalla PD officerSB 423 — Prohibits law enforcement agencies from employing a person as a law enforcement officer unless the person has completed psychological screening to determine the person's fitness to serve as a law enforcement officer.

  • SB 424 — Requires a law enforcement agency to establish a mental health wellness policy for addressing issues related to mental health wellness of law enforcement officers employed by an agency.

  • SB 576 — Establishes Kaylee's Law and imposes certain requirements related to private security providers who contract with or are employed by institutions of higher education, to provide private security services on campus and special campus security officers commissioned by governing boards of public universities.

  • SCR 25 — Directs public bodies, and private medical providers in possession of relevant records, to comply, within a specified time period, with a court order for release of records to the state mental hospital or other facility for purposes of forensic evaluation.

Veterans and Emergency Preparedness

Testifying before committeeAs a U.S. Army Veteran, it has been a pleasure to serve as a Vice-Chair on the House Veterans & Emergency Preparedness Committee. This committee has a balanced number of legislators from both parties and strives to build consensus in policy decisions that impact veterans and their families and in the development of state-wide policies to help Oregon prepare for both small and large-scale emergencies. A total of 75 bills were referred to the Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee. Of those measures, 54 moved out of the committee and 36 of those bills passed both chambers. I am proud to have sponsored and supported the following measures:

  • HB 2209 — Protects our waterways from potential catastrophic oil spills by requiring railroads that own or operate high hazard train routes to have oil spill contingency plans that are approved by the Department of Environmental Quality, and by imposing fees on those railroads to fund equipment, training, and the development of those plans. In the 2018 Legislative Session, HB 4004, relating to safe transportation of hazardous substances, was proposed. As the session progressed and amendments were added, the bill stalled and ultimately died in the House Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness. As a member of that committee, I was appointed to serve as a Co-Chair of the Oil Train Safety work group. The goal of that group was to work with all stakeholders to develop a sound policy on oil train safety that could be proposed during the 2019 Session. The work group began its discussions in the spring of 2018 and continued meeting with stakeholders through March of this year. Two draft Legislative Concepts were developed during that time, which were ultimately refined and condensed into the sound policy contained in HB 2209. I am honored to have been a part of this effort and I am proud of the work that this bill represents, marking the first time Oregon has had a comprehensive policy relating to high hazard train routes.

  • HB 3209 — Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds for Interstate 205: Stafford Road to State Highway 213 Project.
Speaking on House floor
  • HB 2503 — Directs the Office of Emergency Management to study and make recommendations regarding funding of search and rescue operations.

  • HB 2530 — Requires persons who send or serve certain documents related to termination of tenancy, forcible entry or detainer and residential foreclosures to include certain information regarding assistance that may be available to veterans of armed forces.

  • HB 2892 — Allows a student to wear a dress uniform issued by the Armed Forces of United States during a high school graduation ceremony if certain conditions are met.

  • HB 3030 — Allows a professional licensing board to issue nonrenewable temporary authorization to a spouse of a member of the Armed Forces of United States stationed in Oregon and who holds an eligible out-of-state authorization to provide occupational or professional service.

  • HB 3161 — Requires directors and senior executives of businesses that receive $10 million or more in public moneys over a five-year period to file a statement of economic interest.

  • Memorial Highway signHB 3452 — Provides that U.S. Highway 26 shall also be known as the POW/MIA Memorial Highway to honor Oregon’s nearly 200 veterans who died as a POW in captivity (WWII to Vietnam), and nearly 600 POWs who were repatriated during WWII and 1,000 more Oregonians who still remain Missing in Action (MIA) from WWI to Vietnam.

  • HCR 4 — Recognizes and honors Specialist Nickolaus Gregory Gossack (1987-2010) for his service to his country.

One area of disappointment this session involved the unexpected removal of funding for earthquake and wildfire emergency warning systems. Moving forward, these systems are absolutely crucial to our emergency preparation efforts and failure to fund these systems sets us back a year or more. My hope is that the funding issues will be addressed in the short session to get us back on track. A recent article emphasizing the critical nature of emergency preparedness in Oregon can be found here.


Transportation

As a member of the Joint Transportation Committee, the committees' focus this session centered around the implementation of HB 2017, the Transportation Package passed in the 2017 session. HB 2592 was the "fix it and options package" passed that made adjustments and technical fixes to HB 2017. 83 bills were referred to the Joint Transportation Committee. Of those measures, 31 moved out of the committee and 25 of those bills passed both chambers. I was pleased to give my support to the following bills:

  • HB 2978 — Creates tax a credit for short line railroad rehabilitation projects.

  • HB 3213 — Directs the Department of Transportation to establish a county safety corridor program.

  • HB 3213 — Directs the Department of Transportation to establish a county safety corridor program.

  • HB 5005 – Newberg Dundee Bypass funding. This is a budget bill that would have provided the necessary funding to complete the project. Unfortunately, the funding was taken out at the end of the session. Completion of this project is essential to public safety. Traffic fatalities have significantly increased as a result of sending heavy traffic down a farm road in rural Marion County while awaiting completion of the bypass.

Education and Taxation

HB 3427, also referred to as the "Student Success Act", received a great deal of attention this session. The bill is a thinly-disguised multibillion-dollar gross receipts tax on Oregon businesses, similar to ballot measure 97, which Oregon voters rejected in 2016. While I support funding our education system, I opposed this bill, not because the policy is inherently bad, but because of the mechanism by which it is funded. The bill calls for new taxes that will fall directly on Oregon businesses — with special carve-outs for some of the largest businesses in the State who won't be paying. In addition, most of the businesses who aren't taxed directly, will be taxed indirectly, as their suppliers who are taxed raise prices to make up the difference. At the end of the day, all those businesses, whether taxed directly or indirectly, will pass those costs onto consumers — hitting low-income families the hardest. Although this bill will allow some funding to trickle down to local school districts, I am concerned that there are insufficient sideboards in the bill that could result in your tax dollars being siphoned off for other things where adequate funds will not reach the classrooms as intended. Furthermore, the grants included in the bill for schools are heavily weighted in favor of Portland Metro schools, further widening the urban-rural divide and to the detriment of schools in the district.

I am proud to have supported the following education related measures which passed with bipartisan support:

Examining bills on floor
  • SB 3 — Permits community colleges to offer applied baccalaureate degree programs under specified conditions and upon receiving approval from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

  • SB 52 — Requires a school district to adopt a policy requiring a comprehensive district plan on student suicide prevention.

  • SB 155 – Requires investigations of all reports involving suspected abuse or suspected sexual conduct by school employees, contractors, agents and volunteers.

Environment

One of this session's most controversial pieces of legislation, HB 2020, referred to as "Cap and Trade", brought the legislature to a standstill with a Senate Republican walkout and opposition from rural Oregonians who came to the Capitol in large numbers to express their concerns. Those concerns include the increase in fuel prices and energy costs that would be passed on to farmers, loggers, and truckers, negatively impacting Oregon's rural economy… and again, low-income families. I believe strongly in protecting our environment, however, expert testimony concluded that Oregon accounts for less than one percent of the world's emissions and that the measurable outcomes of this piece of legislation were described as "imperceptible". For me, that just didn't get us there. In the end, the bill simply didn't have the votes of both parties to pass.

Timber Unity rallyI testified on the House floor regarding the significant negative impact on nurseries. These are businesses (700 in number) that contribute to the reduction in emissions but would be the hardest hit with the projected 54% increase in the cost of natural gas if HB 2020 were to pass.

In sum, the benefits fall far short in comparison to the cost. Putting Oregon's economy at risk and making it more difficult for low-income families did not justify the bills imperceptible impact on curbing carbon emissions.

Moving forward, I am committed to collaborative discussions to protect and preserve our environment as demonstrated by my work on HB 2209, the oil train safety bill, and my votes in favor of the following measures:

  • HB 2509 — Prohibits retail establishments from providing single-use checkout bags to customers, except in certain cases.

  • HB 2623 — Prohibits use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas exploration and production. This bill reflects the current status of fracking in Oregon, as there is no fracking currently taking place in Oregon and expert testimony indicates that there are no plans to do so in the future. The bill is scheduled to sunset January 2, 2025.

  • HB 3114 — Makes changes to requirements for recycling certain electronic devices.

  • SB 256 — Prohibits oil drilling off Oregon's coast within territorial waters.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

Agriculture is the backbone of House District 18. Our industries include farming, Christmas trees, nurseries, vineyards, rock quarries, and thousands of acres of private timberlands that feed natural resources into Oregon's economy. The urban-rural divide became painfully obvious when attempting to address the concerns of these very vital economic interests. That said, the following are agriculture-related bills that I sponsored or supported during the session:

  • HB 5050 — During the 2017 session, I secured funding to reinstate an extension agent at the North Willamette Regional Extension Center to do experimental work on the various berry crops. That funding was due to expire this year. Through this end of session budget reconciliation bill, I was able to obtain $125,000 in additional funding that will enable the Center to continue its valuable work.

  • HB 2236 — Allows farm tractors to operate on state highways that have a speed limit or posted speed of more than 35 miles per hour.

  • HB 2264 — Exempts from property taxation property consisting of machinery, equipment, tools, implements or fixtures used primarily in agricultural or horticultural activities or animal husbandry, regardless of whether property is considered real property, and adds such property to the definition of "tangible personal property". Adds farming tools and implements to tax-exempt personal property and adds preparing farm crops for shipping as tax-exempt use of personal property. This bill was held up in Committee and did not make it to the floor for a vote.

  • With FFA groupHB 2444 — Directs the Department of Education to coordinate with the Oregon FFA to increase student achievement and improve college preparation and career placement for students enrolled in agricultural education courses.

  • HB 2740 — Establishes the Oregon Hemp Commission.

  • HJM 8 — Urges the federal government to adopt and enforce stringent regulations related to the accuracy in wine labeling, packaging and advertising

  • SCR 27 — Encourages restaurants offering beverages to list milk as an option for purchase.

  • HCR 35 — International Year of the Salmon.

Health Care

The most notable and highly debated health care bill of the session involved HB 3063, which would have removed the ability of a parent or legal guardian to decline immunizations for their children in order to be enrolled in school or child care for a reason other than a child's medical diagnosis. This, too, was a bill I could not support in its current form. The bill ultimately passed by a narrow margin in the House but failed to pass in the Senate.

  • HB 2005 — Creates the family and medical leave insurance program to provide partially or fully compensated time away from work to a covered individual who meets certain criteria while the covered individual is on family leave, medical leave or safe leave. This was a controversial bill. I supported the bill because employees pay a share of their insurance costs and it doesn’t apply to businesses with fewer than 25 employees. That said, the definition of family member is very broad, and the law may need to be amended in a future session if abuse occurs. I view it as a step toward self-sufficiency for those in lower income levels.

  • HB 2266 — Directs the Public Employees Benefit Board and Oregon Educators Benefit Board to impose a surcharge on eligible employees who arrange coverage for a spouse or dependent with access to medical coverage as an employee in the health benefit plan offered by the Public Employees' Benefit Board or Oregon Educators Benefit Board.

  • HB 2847 — Expands list of hospitals whose medical staff may qualify for a specified income tax credit.

  • HB 2317 — Designates May of each year as ALS Awareness Month.

Affordable Housing

The most notable bills this session impacting housing include the following:

  • HB 2001 — This bill requires cities with a population greater than 10,000 or within the Portland Metro area to allow duplexes in lands zoned for single-family dwellings within their Urban Growth Boundary. I supported this bill because it will help address the housing shortage in the Portland area and it also will provide a little more flexibility for communities elsewhere in Oregon that have a desire to increase affordable housing.

  • HB 2285 — Clarifies receivership proceedings and reporting and notice requirements for residential properties that a city or county determines are a threat to public health, safety or welfare. This bill received bipartisan support and is an attempt to remedy a problem with vacated homes often referred to as "zombie houses".

  • HB 2336 — Removes a population requirement for the affordable housing pilot program if no qualifying nomination is received for city with population under 25,000.
Vote to bring HB 3406 to floor
  • HB 3406 — A bill on which I was the chief sponsor, would have provided opportunities for affordable housing in cities and counties with a population under 25,000. A motion to put the bill before the House was defeated, largely along party lines. The bill would have reimbursed cities and counties for 100% of their system development charges and would have allocated $750,000 for a newly-created Rural System Development Charges Fund. This was an opportunity, in part, to accomplish what the governor intended to do in taking the kicker. I intend to continue to advocate for this concept in future sessions. The bill was granted a courtesy hearing after the second chamber deadline and demonstrates that there is interest in the bill.

  • SB 608 — Is a rent control bill and prohibits landlords from terminating month-to-month tenancy without cause after 12 months of occupancy. I was unable to support this bill because attempts at rent control have not worked in the past and have upset the balance achieved by supply and demand. This is a concept that is best suited for the state's largest metropolitan areas and would be detrimental to our small towns and rural areas, where supply and demand have functioned well. Finally, the bill adversely affects housing markets in Oregon and aggravates the crisis of unaffordable housing, where the market will respond by withdrawing or reducing additional supply of rental housing. Furthermore, landlords will likely accelerate rental price increases above what otherwise would have occurred to try to offset the additional risks and transaction costs. This bill simply did not strike the right balance to meet the housing needs in our rural communities.

Capitol Culture

Capitol CultureThe Joint Committee on Capitol Culture was created in response to harassment and hostile work environment issues in our Capitol. The work of the committee resulted in the following companion bills and represents over a year of work by a wide variety of experts, and a bipartisan and bicameral group of legislators. It is my hope that these measures will provide the appropriate structure, training, and reporting options to address concerns for those who work in and visit our Capitol in the future. As a member of the people's house, I take seriously the responsibility to make our Capitol a safe and supportive environment for everyone and these bills move us in the right direction:

  • HB 3377 — Establishes the Joint Committee on Conduct as a joint committee of the Legislative Assembly.

  • HCR 20 — Establishes standards of conduct applicable to the Legislative Branch and other persons present in State Capitol.

The interim promises to be a busy time.  The Legislature will be back for a week in September, November, and January for committee meetings.  Also, during the interim I will be in task force and work group meetings, since I serve on a significant number of those groups.  I also look forward to the opportunity to spend time in the District connecting with constituents throughout our various communities.  I will also be attending the Council of State Governments and National Conference of State Legislatures conferences where I will meet with legislators across the country to discuss public safety issues in my appointed capacity as a member of both Public Safety committees.  I will also be preparing for the February 2020 session and participating in local events and tours. With all that in focus, please know, your views are important to me and I welcome your thoughts moving forward.

Again, thank you for your participation throughout the session and for the honor to serve as your State Representative.  Please don't hesitate to reach out to my office if I can be of any assistance to you.

Sincerely,

Signature
Rick Lewis
State Representative House
District 18
Oregon's Christmas Tree District

Capitol Phone:  503-986-1418
Capitol Address:  900 Court St. NE, H-484, Salem, OR 97301
Email:  Rep.RickLewis@oregonlegislature.gov
Website:  http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/lewis

 

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