September 19, 2022

Forecast is Hazy for September Legislative Days

This week’s Legislative Days land just before the deadline to submit bill concepts to Legislative Council, making the hearings a crucial opportunity for interim committees to receive testimony that will shape legislation in the 2023 full session. The posted agendas are a rough outline of the priorities and voices that will set the tone for upcoming legislation.

However, an even bigger factor is the coming wave of turnover headed to the Oregon Capitol. The November election will determine not just the next governor, but about two-thirds of the total membership of the Oregon House. Many legislators on the committees that will meet this week are in their final months of holding elected office. The new personalities and priorities, as well as the balance of power in each chamber, will determine what kind of bills are drafted and advanced in 2023.

After Election Day on November 8, the fourth quarter Revenue Forecast will be published on November 16 and will bring clarity to the state’s budgeting options. Legislative Council will deliver Draft Measures on December 5, and a final Legislative Days for the year will take place on December 7-9, giving us a more complete look at the legislative session.

This week’s committee hearings will be the first taste of what’s to come in 2023, but the full appetizer won’t arrive until after the election.

Water Issues Drive Agriculture Committee

Rep. Ken Helm (D-Washington County) chairs the Interim Committee on Agriculture, Land Use and Water, along with his two co-chairs, Rep. Susan McClain (D-Hillsboro) and Rep. Mark Owens (R-Crane) They will hold an informational hearing on Wednesday, September 21 at 2:30 pm.
The committee covers a broad range of topics, and so will the hearing.

Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Protection and the Port of Morrow
Regulatory Environment and Actions
Leah Feldon, Deputy Director, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Lisa Mittelsdorf, Executive Director, Port of Morrow
Miff Devin, Water Quality and IT Supervisor, Port of Morrow

Drinking Water Update
Oregon Health Authority
Jim Doherty, Commissioner, Morrow County
Ana Pineyro, Communicable Disease Coordinator, Morrow County

Community Efforts to Address Nitrate Pollution
Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Committee

Managing Per- and Poly-Fluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) in Oregon

Jennifer Wigal, Water Quality Division Administrator, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Andre Ourso, Public Health Division Administrator, Oregon Health Authority
Susie Smith, Executive Director, Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies

Oregon Invasive Species Council Update
Christine Moffitt, Council Vice-Chair, Friends of South Slough Reserve
Peter Kenagy, Council Public Member and Legislative Committee Co-Chair, Kenagy Family Farm
Alex Staunch, Council Member, Mosaic Ecology
Christine Buhl, Forest Entomologist, Oregon Department of Forestry

Federal Funding Opportunities for Oregon
Margaret Hoffmann, State Director, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
Additional Presenters TBD

The 2023 Legislative Session will no doubt have a focus on water issues from stock water, ground water, pesticides in wastewater with recommendations from stakeholders and task forces. We also anticipate a continued look at funding for pesticide replacement, state lab funding, and most importantly will be the grant funding for Ag overtime.

Paid Family Medical Leave Ready to Launch

This week, the Oregon Employment Department published its final rules on the Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance program that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The program was created by the Legislature in 2019 and will begin offering paid leave in September 2023.

The program covers every employer in Oregon, but only those with more than 25 employees will be required to contribute the 1% payroll tax divided between employer (40%) and employee (60%). The Senate Interim Committee on Labor and Business will hear the full details of the program at its Wednesday morning meeting.

March 4, 2022

Legislators Wrap Up Short Session Ahead of Deadline

After a week of slowly churning through full readings of bills bound for passage in both chambers, legislators reached an agreement to speed up the process and wrap the session on Friday afternoon. Bringing back a tradition that hasn’t been observed in several years, the House and Senate opened their doors and gaveled out Sine Die simultaneously.

This relatively smooth landing ahead of schedule ended a session defined by changing leadership. It was the last regular session for Gov. Kate Brown and Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), and the first for House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend), House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville) and House Democratic Leader Julie Fahey (D-Eugene). In the end, legislators were able to achieve the top points of their agenda while updating the biennial budget with $5.8 billion in funding.

Candidate Filing Deadline

Coming directly on the heels of the short session is the March 8 filing deadline for candidates in the 2022 election. Three prominent legislators — House Speaker Tina Kotek, Sen. Betsy Johnson and former House Republican Leader Christine Drazan — stepped aside before the session began to focus on their campaigns for governor, while many other legislators have announced they won’t be running for re-election.

There is always turnover in the Oregon Capitol, but this year it will be shaken up even further due to re-districting that has shifted the ground under many legislators’ feet. The primary is May 17.

Upcoming Legislative Dates

  • September 23, 2022. Members and committees shall submit requests for drafts of measures to be pre-session filed to Legislative Counsel.
  • December 5, 2022. Legislative Counsel shall deliver drafts of measures to be pre-session filed.
  • December 21, 2022. Requesters shall submit drafts of measures to be pre-session filed for introduction to the Senate Desk or House Desk.

Ag Overtime Passes on Mostly Party Line Votes

After passing the House earlier in the week on a party line vote, the Oregon Senate has subsequently passed HB 4002B with one Democrat joining Republicans in opposition. On Thursday, Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield) cast the sole ‘no’ vote from the Democratic caucus that will phase in overtime for agricultural workers over 5 years.

Sen. Beyer, who will retire this year after close to three decades of public service, told his colleagues on Thursday that “the guarantee of time and a half for a job you won’t have anymore is not a good compensation.” Beyer went on to compare the loss of family farms in his native state of Nebraska and the loss of canneries and seasonal jobs in the Willamette Valley.

HB 4002B as passed will create a tax credit for farmers to help offset the rising costs of labor stemming from paying overtime. Farms will be divided into three tiers based on the number of their employees. Farms who employ fewer than 25 workers would qualify for tax credits of 90% of their added overtime payments next year, which would decrease to 60% in 2028. Farms with more employees would qualify for a rate that incrementally shifts from 75% in 2023 to 50% in 2028, its final year. Dairy farms with less than 25 employees would qualify for 100% tax credits.

Oregon’s Ag Coalition strongly opposed HB 4002B, stating in a floor letter, “Farmers and ranchers across Oregon have been clear — HB 4002-B demands wages that farmers cannot afford, resulting in capped hours and reduced paychecks for workers.” They have said HB 4002B as written is unworkable.

Renewable Diesel Bill Becomes DEQ Study

The Renewable Diesel Bill, which had been amended into a task force study to look at the availability of renewable diesel and report back to the legislature, died in Ways & Means this week. Without funding for a task force, it looked like the bill would be dead until the following session, but a budget note was added to HB 5202 directing the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct a broader study and report back to the legislature by the end of the year. It seems likely this will be back in some form in the long session.

Working Lands Bill Dies in Committee

Senate Bill 1534 was introduced by Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) on behalf of the Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC) as a way to move forward certain climate policy directives regarding the state’s natural and working lands. The coalition of agricultural and forestry associations and companies support the aim of the OGWC but opposed SB 1534 because it was not developed in consultation with landowners and does not recognize the significant investments occurring on working lands.

The bill had moved from Natural Resources and Wildlife Recovery to Ways & Means where it died. There will be an effort for interim work on this bill an to bring back an amended version into the long session.

New Pesticide Applicator Licensing at ODA

HB 4062 is en route for the governor’s signature. HB 4062 allows the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to create new pesticide license categories by rule. The department was regulating nine types of pesticide licensing and most the time an applicator applying on private land would hold multiple licenses.

HB 4062 allows ODA to create a new commercial license by rule and training certification. The bill passed both the House and Senate chambers with bipartisan support.


February 25, 2022

Tension Grows as Final Week of Session Nears

The final policy committee deadline of the Short Session passed late Thursday, closing down the majority of these committees and turning the full spotlight to budget committees and chamber floors. The session must conclude by March 7, but the path to getting there is still up in the air.

Tensions increased this week and Republicans have signaled they will draw as much time out of the remaining calendar as necessary. While not mentioning a walkout, they have committed to work only 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday while offering no rules suspensions to quickly move legislation through the chambers. With only six business days remaining before the close of session, this would put a real cap on the amount of legislation that could be approved.

The showdown on the Senate floor Thursday between Sen. Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg) and Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) was an example of this lack of cooperation toward a tidy conclusion. During a 1 hour, 43 minute floor session, more than half of the time was used for a procedural debate mask mandates in the capitol building, with Sen. Heard refusing to comply and ultimately being expelled from the building where he spoke at a rally outside. Meanwhile, Gov. Kate Brown was in the middle of an announcement of the end of mask mandates in just three weeks that will make the point moot.

Budget bills, including a $400 million housing package introduced Thursday and a capital construction list that has been discussed the past two weeks, will have a short runway next week if broader cooperation agreements aren’t reached.

Ag Overtime Moves to Floor Vote

After being heard in House Business & Labor and Revenue committees, HB 4002A landed in the newly formed Joint Committee on Farmworker Overtime on Thursday. The committee held a public hearing and a work session late into the evening, ultimately passing HB 4002A -12 amid fierce opposition from industry and the four Republicans on the committee.

During the hearing both farmers and industry representatives voiced their disappointment in the process, saying unions and Democrats had been unwilling to compromise from the start. Unions cited overtime ag exemptions as being tied to systemic racism from the 1930s while industry argued that agriculture by its nature is complex and unsuited for one-size-fits-all policies. Some farmers even asked the committee to put the bill aside and to let overtime be debated at BOLI through rulemaking or in the courts.

The final version of HB 4002A adopted a tiered tax credit structure where farmers can apply for credits to offset their labor cost over a five-year phase in. The threshold for overtime will start at over 55 hours in 2023 and end at 40-hour work weeks by 2028. Other considerations include:

  • Farmers with fewer than 25 workers would receive a tax credit for 90% of overtime costs next year and end in 2028 with a 60% credit.
  • Farmers with 50 employees or fewer would transition from 75% to 50% by 2028
  • Farmers with more than 50 employees would transition from 60% to 15% by 2028.
  • Dairies will have a 100% deduction if they have fewer than 25 employees.
  • The tax credit cap is $55 million a year.

Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis (R-Albany) opposed the bill, saying farmers who use labor contractors would have to get records from the contractors that are not currently available to them. She told the committee that with the labor shortage farms will not be able to turn labor contractors away due to lack of paperwork, but by requiring more paperwork some contractors may chose not to do business in Oregon. This will make it impossible for farmers and growers using contracted labor to apply for the tax credits, she said.

Rep. Boshart Davis and Rep. Daniel Bonham (R-The Dalles) submitted the -10 amendment that would pay workers overtime directly from a Agricultural Worker Overtime Relief Payment Program in the delta between 40-48 hours for overtime while the farmer would cover the base pay. The motion failed on a party line vote.

A coalition of ag business representing all sectors has pushed back on the bill all session for lack of seasonality or peak week considerations, which Democrats have said would defeat the purpose of the bill. Rep. Holvey thanked the committee members for their conduct throughout the meeting, and said he expects these overtime statutes to be revisited in upcoming sessions.

Petroleum Diesel Ban

HB 4141A was sponsored by Rep. Paul Evans (D-Salem) seeking to ban petroleum diesel in the marketplace. Truckers, laborers, and farmers all adamantly opposed, claiming there is not enough supply of renewable diesel to keep the markets moving with such a ban. Rep. Evans teamed up with Senator Lynn Findley (R-Vale) to amend the bill into a task force that will study the market and supply and demand of renewable diesel and report back to the legislature. The report will direct the state how to increase renewable diesel availability and how to phase it into the marketplace.

Sen. Findley said he was happy to participate in a bipartisan bill that will look for solutions. Rep. Khanh Pham (D-Portland) told the committee she was disappointed in the lack of seats for environmental representatives. The bill now heads to Ways and Means with a fiscal due to the task force.


February 18, 2022

Valentine’s Day Deadline Marks Turn to Second Half

As we passed the halfway point in the 2022 Legislative Session this week, the series of strict deadlines are doing their work of funneling policy bills into a manageable workload. The chamber of origin deadline on Monday, Feb. 14 again cut into the nearly 200 bills that remained from the previous week.

As of Friday, 65 bills had cleared their first chamber and are bound for committee on the other side of the building. Bills must be posted to an agenda by the end of the day Friday to survive into the second half of the session.

Some bills that started in a policy committee — like the Ag Overtime Bill and Future Ready Oregon Workforce Package — have moved to the non-deadline committees of Rules, Revenue or Ways & Means. These bills can be discussed at a slightly less pressured pace without fear of death by deadline, though every bill must get approval in both chambers by March 7 to be passed to the governor’s desk in hopes of becoming law.

Meanwhile, talk has begun to turn to capital construction, a sure sign that the halftime show is over and the final stretch is ahead. These projects are typically funded in a single omnibus bill at the end of session and dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars around the state. There many other big dollar asks that will take the focus in the coming weeks as the Joint Ways & Means Committee matches legislative spending to projected revenue.

Thursday, Feb. 24 is the last major deadline before the end of session, at which time all policy bills must have cleared the second chamber.

Ag Overtime Moves to Revenue

The Agriculture Overtime Bill (HB 4002) moved to the Revenue Committee from House Business and Labor this week with the -5 amendment brought by Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene). The -1 amendment from Rep. Shelley Boshart Davis (R-Albany) was also considered.

The committee voted down the -1 amendment and adopted the -5 amendment on party line votes of 7-4. Rep. Holvey told the committee that he expects more work to be done in the Revenue Committee. It’s noteworthy that the Revenue Committee does not close, so this discussion is set to continue outside traditional deadlines. Rep. Holvey and Rep. Paul Evans (D-Salem) both told the committee that HB 4002 would bring equal protection under the law. Holvey added that with the recent ruling allowing BOLI to set overtime for agricultural workers at 40 working hours, this bill would at least allow tax credits with an expected cap of $35 million. If Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle was to set overtime in rulemaking, there would likely be no tax credits.

The -1 amendment, among other things, included overtime exemptions for industries based on livestock such as cattleman and dairies. Employers would be given a seasonality or peak season exemption of up to 22 weeks per year. Rep. Boshart Davis told the committee that though the state can mandate overtime pay, it cannot legislate overtime hours. Rep. Daniel Bonham (R-The Dalles) echoed that he shared the concern that workers will not only lose hours, but some will lose jobs. Farmers could cap hours, run additional crews, mechanize or grow cheaper crops requiring less manual labor.

The bill in its newly amended form would phase in a requirement for farmers to pay overtime beginning with a weekly threshold of 55 hours in 2023 and reaching its 40 hour-a-week goal by 2027. The committee also passed an amendment to increase the tax credits. Under the amendment:

  • Farms with more than 25 employees would qualify for tax credits of 60% in 2023 and that rate would fall to 15% in 2028.
  • Smaller farms of fewer than 25 employees the credit would start at 75% and also end at 15% in 2028.

In the original bill the tax credit would have started at 50% and ended at 20%, regardless the number of employees.

It is anticipated that HB 4002(-5) will be scheduled for a hearing soon in the House Revenue Committee. The agriculture coalition will be engaging legislators once again for seasonality and a longer phase-in period. You will be asked to submit letters and testimony for the public hearing when scheduled. The ag community continues to request that a joint committee be reconvened to continue negotiations for an “Oregon Way” that will not pick winners and losers.

Stay tuned for call to action alerts.

Renewable Diesel Bill Revs Up

HB 4141 sought to establish a timeline for sales of petroleum diesel for use in motor vehicles by public bodies by 2029. In addition, it would direct the State Department of Agriculture to suspend enforcement of restrictions if supply of renewable diesel is determined to be insufficient to meet demand. Lastly, it directed the State Forestry Department to study feasibility of converting lignocellulosic biomass derived from invasive tree species into renewable diesel feedstocks.

HB 4141 had a public hearing last week in the Joint Committee on Transportation which received much opposing testimony with concerns over supply and demand. It is estimated that renewable diesel only makes up percentage points of the diesel used in the state, including with the movement of goods.

On Tuesday, Feb. 15 the committee held a carryover hearing and introduced two amendments to the bill. One was introduced by Senator Lynn Finley (R-Vale) and the other by Rep. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth). Both amendments sought to create a task force to study renewable diesel and its uses.

Rep. Evans who dropped the base bill told the committee he was fine with either of the amendments moving forward and since both will require a report to the legislature by December 31. Since Joint Transportation does not close, it is unknown when they would take action on the bill. If they do, it will likely be in the amended study form.


February 11, 2022

Economic Report Sets Stage for Budget Bills

Policy bills churned through their origin committees this week as legislators worked toward a Valentine’s Day deadline. Any bill not passed from its first committee by Monday, Feb. 14 will be scrapped, quickly narrowing the focus of the Legislature with three weeks before adjournment.

The total number of legislative bills has already been cut dramatically, with 111 (38%) of the original 265 failing to find a committee hearing by the February 7 deadline.

Budget bills will take the spotlight once policy bills are settled, and the quarterly economic and revenue forecast released Wednesday will play a large role in informing how state money is allocated. Among the highlights from the report:

  • The revenue outlook continues to strengthen as the U.S. economy continues its rapid growth and consumer spending remains high. The downside is the stress on supply as demand overloads the capacity of the labor market, even as Oregon added a record number of jobs in 2021.
  • Corporate taxes have increased by 140% in the past four years and are 50% higher than when the pandemic began.
  • The 2021-2023 ending fund balance increased by $979 million.
  • Reserve funds are large and expected to continue to grow, with $1.45 billion in the Education Stability Fund and Rainy Day Fund expected to increase to $1.98 billion by the end of the biennium.

Committee Works Overtime on Overtime Bill

The House Committee on Business and Labor met Thursday night on the Ag Overtime Bill (HB 4002). Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) chairs the committee and heard testimony on his potential amended version of the bill which would add Oregon to one of three states to initiate overtime for workers across the agriculture industry.

In its amended form the bill would phase in time-and-a-half overtime starting in 2023-2024 after 55 hours, 2025-2026 after 48 hours, and at 40 hours from 2027 on. To offset increasing labor costs, a tax credit is being offered as a transitionary help to farmers, but it would eventually decrease. The corporate excise tax credit would start with up to 50% credit in 2023-2024, 35% credit in 2025-2026 and 20% credit in 2027-2028. After that, tax credits would be revisited by the state every six years.

Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), who authored the ag overtime bill that died in Ways and Means last session, pointed out that a prior court case had ruled that if housing was offered as a way to maintain their workforce then housing should not offset paying overtime as it is an advantage to the farm owner rather than the employee.

Ag proponents are quick to remind the committee that agriculture is diverse from crop to crop and currently there is a labor shortage, especially when looking for skilled labor that you hope to bring back for years to come. Some farms employ families through generations.

To that, testimony by Rep. Shelley Boshart Davis (R-Albany) led off opposition testimony followed by farm owners and joined by nurseries, cattlemen and dairy farmers. Rep. Boshart Davis also introduced amendments that would change the base bill from a 40-hour work week to a 50-hour work week, allowing 22 weeks per year for peak weeks. Ag industry leaders supported this compromise in addition to a joint special committee to revisit the bill to find mutual ground.

The committee also heard from cattle ranchers and dairy farmers who explained that growing animals was not like growing grass seed as the animals need 24/7 care. They have asked for cattle and dairy to exempted from overtime in order to make it on their already narrow margins set by an international market.

If passed, HB 4002 will be referred to the House Committee on Revenue. Rep. Holvey indicated he would look at an option to further extend the tax credit to 75% in the first two years for small farms with less than 25 employees and larger farms would extend up to 60%. HB 4002 must have a work session on Monday, Feb. 14 to stay alive this session, so it is anticipated to move but there is still work being done to get changes before the work session vote.

To complicate the matter, Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle has indicated she could start rulemaking at BOLI as early as February 14 that would add hours over 40 to overtime for ag with no tax credits. It is clear the industry would rather come to a legislative agreement but one that is fair and shows compromise from both sides.


February 4, 2022

Big Tasks Ahead for Oregon Legislature

In his inaugural floor address after being sworn in as House Speaker, Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) set high expectations for the legislature this February, calling it the “most important short session” in state history.

Of course, that’s really only going back a decade to the first short session in 2012, but the stakes are nonetheless high for lawmakers who have tried to navigate a string of crises for the past two years and are eager to move on to an ambitious set of non-COVID-related priorities.

There were 263 bills introduced through Thursday with a small handful expected to come from Ways & Means on Friday, bringing the total to about 275. In a short session, bills are quickly sorted into two tracks — active or dead.

The first major deadline of session is known as the Chamber-of-Origin deadline, and consists of two parts. By Monday, Feb. 7, policy bills must be posted to a committee agenda to be voted out of its committee of origin by February 14. This year, Valentine’s Day is sure to break the hearts of many lobbyists and legislators alike, as many policies they are sweet on are sure to die.

Gov. Kate Brown delivered her last State of the State address this week, attempting to express optimism in the face of the challenges of the final stage of her tenure. She also made another push for $400 million in affordable housing, and $200 million in workforce spending.

One other determining factor in the course of this session is the revenue forecast, which will be released Wednesday. The projected state tax and lottery revenue in the coming fiscal year is the foundational element underlying all major policy decisions that will be made this session.

Future Ready Oregon Set to Move Forward

The short session kicked off with hearings right out of the gate on cannabis and hemp, with several bills in the House and Senate looking to tackle the problems of illegal activity in Southern Oregon. HB 4016 and HB 4074 each had a hearing in the Economic Recovery and Prosperity committee, but with so many scheduled to testify the hearing was carried over to Monday, Feb. 7.

While there is an overall consensus to increase law enforcement and funding to crack down on illegal cartels in southern Oregon, there are concerns over liens being placed on landowners who lease their land with illegal activity unknown to them, as well as a moratorium on hemp licensing since hemp has already had a decline in licenses since 2019.

The main focus this session will be ag overtime. Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) introduced HB 4002, a rewrite of a bill from last session that will have a longer phase in and includes tax credits to try to offset overtime costs. To complicate matters, BOLI has said they must write overtime rules at 40 hour workweeks while the ag coalition is working hard to get higher allotted hours with seasonal considerations.

A recent study by Highland Economics shows that mandated overtime will cut workers’ hours and many will find themselves working two jobs rather than one. Farms will also consider mechanization or growing less labor intensive crops. Workers will see shortened shifts and capped hours. The Oregon Farm Bureau has also put together more information.

HB 4002 will have a hearing next week, and that date and time is expected to be announced before Monday. It will be important for legislators to hear from all ag sectors with written comment since public testimony will be limited due to time constraints of the short session.

Coming up:

On deck for next week will be carryovers on HB 4016 and HB 4074 and an evening hearing on HB 4002, ag overtime. SB 1534 on carbon sequestration on working lands will have a hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 8 and a possible work session on Wednesday, Feb. 10.


January 31, 2022

New Leadership Steps in for Short Session

Turnover in House and Senate Play Role in February Agenda

Gov. Kate Brown has an ambitious agenda for her last legislative sessions as Oregon’s governor. She and Democrat leaders say they hope to approve as much as $2 billion in spending during the five-week session while setting aside some $500 million as a cushion in case of recession following the state’s influx of federal revenue the past two years.

This agenda comes to a legislature in transition. A quarter of House members aren’t seeking re-election or have already left the chamber, and nearly as high a percentage in the Senate, bringing a host of new faces and leadership into the Capitol. Taking a leading role in deciding how the agenda moves forward are four legislators — Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), Rep. Julie Fahey (D-Eugene), Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend) and Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville).

These four face a slim margin of error in the short session. Any false first step can keep bills from meeting the strict series of deadlines, and that can have a domino effect on other legislation. How quickly the new leaders and legislators get up to speed will determine the outcome.

Rep. Dan Rayfield will be elected as House Speaker on Tuesday, replacing Rep. Tina Kotek who has been Speaker longer than he has been a legislator. Rep. Rayfield has focused on the budget in his four terms, gaining a reputation for compromise and principled problem-solving. He also has experience as Democratic Whip in the House. It’s a big step, and the spotlight gets a lot brighter outside the Ways & Means Committee when policy bills are on the table.


Rep. Julie Fahey
steps into House Democratic Caucus leadership role, bringing with her a reputation as a data-driven policy analyst with a focus on solving everyday problems in a practical manner. She may not fit the typical “cheerleader” definition of a party leader, but has always shown a sharp eye for granular details and earned the respect of her colleagues since her hard-fought 2016 election.


Sen. Tim Knopp
has experience most current Oregon Republicans lawmakers don’t — legislating from the majority when the GOP controlled the House until 2006. He was elected Senate Republican Leader in October and brought the pragmatic approach to the special session in December, helping pick up wins for rural Oregon as part of the rental protection bill.

 

Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson steps into her first session as House Republican Leader with just one full term under her belt but a high-level of energy for the job. She replaces Christine Drazan who resigned to run for governor, and has thus far modeled a similar approach of pushing back on the Democrats’ agenda at every turn and maintaining the walkout option to control the scope of the session.


Legislative Days Sets Up Transitionary Short Session

The 2022 legislative short session will mark the end of an era that is already fading fast.

It will be the last session for Gov. Kate Brown and Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem). House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) will step down before the session starts to focus on her campaign for governor. That trio has held the reins of power in the Oregon Capitol since Gov. Brown’s appointment in 2015.

Meanwhile, more than 20 legislators have announced retirement or resignation, and there are already eight newly appointed legislators in the building since the close of the 2021 session. After a relatively cooperative special session in December, legislators will have 35 days to finish their work.

That process moved forward this week during legislative days, where 37 committees discussed the legislative concepts ahead of today’s submission deadline where they will be assigned bill numbers.

Key dates and deadlines:

Feb. 1 – Short session begins

Feb. 7 – Bills must be posted to first chamber’s work session

Feb. 9 – Revenue forecast is released

Feb. 14 – Bills must clear first chamber

Feb. 18 – Bills must be posted to second chamber’s work session

Feb. 24 – Bills must clear second chamber

March 7 – Last day of session

Essential Worker Bonus Makes a Comeback

One piece of legislation that is drawing a lot of attention is the proposal to pay essential workers a bonus for working through through the first months of the pandemic.

Workers classified by OSHA as medium to very high risk who worked at least 20 hours per week in April-December 2020, made less than $22 an hour, and haven’t already received bonus pay from the state would be eligible for a $1,000 bonus. A rough estimate is that 230,000 people could qualify.

A similar proposal failed at the end of the 2021 session. It could be funded by federal American Rescue Plan dollars and distributed through the Oregon Worker Relief Fund.

We’ll review the bills as they come out and track their progress through the five-week session. Stay tuned.

Ag Overtime Will Be a Main Factor in Short Session

The most controversial and anticipated ag bill for 2022 is a concept carried forward from last session that aims to change the labor costs of farms across Oregon by abolishing a longstanding exemption for overtime pay for agricultural workers.

Several draft concepts were presented in the House Interim Committee on Business and Labor Tuesday. The committee chaired by Rep. Paul Holvey (D-South Eugene) heard not only his proposed draft but also competing policies by Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis (R-Albany) and Rep. Daniel Bonham (R-The Dalles).

Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), who championed the 2021 ag overtime bill with farmworker unions, also serves on the committee. Rep. Salinas said that like last session there had been a large amount of work in drafting policy in the interim and though everyone agrees on the concept of workers getting fair wages, disagreements on the specifics and how to get there brought the stakeholder interim workgroup to an impasse. Rep. Salinas told the committee that her placeholder draft is LC 66 and she has been working with Rep. Holvey on his proposal that will likely go into her bill.

Rep. Holvey presented his concept to the committee with a one page handout that included a five-year phase in rather than the three-year phase in from the previous bill and a tax credit to offset the costs of the paid overtime for workers. Rep. Boshart Davis said she is still working on her concept but the complexity of agriculture and its many sectors made it hard to have a one-size-fits-all bill like Rep. Holvey’s proposal. She noted that many ag workers work at a “piece rate,” have the vast majority of hours at harvest or peak season, and their work includes bonuses and workforce housing.

Rep. Boshart Davis said farms do not set the price of their commodities so the increase cannot be absorbed and will force farmers to try to mechanize, grow fewer labor intensive crops, or run split crews. She said that while good faith proposed tax credits are appreciated, tax credits are not helpful to a business that is not making a profit.

Much of the policy is based on the Washington State ag overtime bill passed in 2021, but Rep. Boshart Davis said states like Colorado, New York and Maryland also passed overtime bills that may be more workable for Oregon. Rep. Bonham echoed the importance of seasonality considerations when looking at fair compensations for workers.

Rep. Holvey told the committee they would be bringing the workgroup back together with stakeholders, including union reps and growers. Needless to say, there will be much more discussion in the upcoming session but the Democrats clearly are motivated to pass a bill addressing overtime in the short session.


Legislators Tune Up for ‘Campaign Session’

November’s Legislative Days are the precursor before the February short session and a chance for legislators to work out the concepts that are likely to be introduced in 2022. Because the short session takes place at break-neck speeds with just five weeks from starting block to finish line, there is little time to work out bills that aren’t vetted and prepared for scrutiny.

Legislative Days are also an opportunity for legislators to stake out territory for upcoming campaigns, either for higher office or position within their party. In 2022 the short session will coincide with a volatile election season, as redrawn district maps are not yet confirmed and numerous legislators are retiring or running for other offices. This will be House Speaker Tina Kotek’s final session holding the gavel as she makes a bid for Governor, and the positioning to replace her has begun.

Insiders cynically refer to the even-year February sessions as “campaign sessions” as they lead into primary and general elections. This offers candidates an opportunity to spotlight their credentials and platforms.

This week we got a snapshot of what’s to come. We’re also hearing that the 2022 session will either be fully in-person or at very least hybrid, the first time the Capitol has been open to the public since the 2020 short session.

Ag Overtime Bill Prepares for a Comeback

The big issue for growers, farmers and ranchers in the 2022 short session will be ag overtime, which will make a comeback from the 2021 session.

The Senate Committee on Labor and Business heard testimony from both farmers represented by Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) and employees represented by labor union PCUN on the topic. Martha Sonato with Farmers Workers and Latin Working Families United and Jenny Dressler with Oregon Farm Bureau reported on the first meeting of a stakeholders workgroup that will try to mediate bill language prior to the session. The bill from last session, HB 2358, was based on a plan from Washington state for an ag overtime phase-in that has not started. Dressler told the committee it is difficult to pull data as only six states have initiated ag overtime and most have not yet implemented it.

CAT Training Session Planned

The Oregon Department of Revenue will host a live training session on the Zoom video conferencing platform in December to provide information to business taxpayers and tax professionals about 2021 legislative changes to the Corporate Activity Tax. The training session is scheduled for Tuesday, December 7,10:30 a.m. to noon.

  • Meeting link: https://www.zoomgov.com/j/1601021409
  • Passcode: 733214

In addition to a basic overview of the CAT, the training will cover:

  • Review of 2020 filing trends
  • Overview of 2021 filing
  • Tax year 2021 changes

Committee Changes and Natural Disasters

House Environment and Natural Resources met on Tuesday and said goodbye to two long-term members, Chair Brian Clem (D-Salem) and Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer). Rep. Clem is leaving midterm to take care of family health matters and Rep. Post is moving with his wife’s job transition to Nevada.

Rep. Clem told the committee his last meeting would be informational on subjects that have been near and dear to him throughout his career. The committee heard testimony on the effects of natural disasters such as wildfires and drought on Oregon’s agriculture. Mary Anne Cooper with OFB opened with introductions of a producers panel that outlined effects such as market disruptions, supply chain issues and gaps in federal funding.

Revenue Forecast Again Exceeds Expectations

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis presented another rosy report on the state’s budget outlook with a revenue forecast that predicts $700 million more in tax revenue than previously expected. This change is driven by personal and corporate tax collections continuing to exceed expectations and setting records.

A few notes from the report:

  • Corporate income tax revenue doubled over the past two budget cycles with 44% growth while the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) and pass-through income reporting on personal tax returns are above forecasted estimates.
  • A corporate kicker of $250 million is estimated for 2023-25, which would be allocated to K-12 education. Economists also made an early estimate of a $558 million personal kicker for 2024 as general fund revenues are currently 2.5% above close of session forecasts.
  • The baseline revenue outlook has strengthened in recent months and income growth has accelerated rather than normalizing. Despite 70,000 fewer jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels, taxable wages and salaries are far higher.
  • State reserves, including the Education Stability Fund and the Rainy Day Fund, are growing quickly. The total balance of reserve funds is expected to reach almost $4 billion by the end of the 2021-23 biennium, up from the current balance of $3.46 billion.
  • The biggest current economic challenge is workforce shortage, which is restraining the economy from growing at its full potential. The latest Oregon Employment Department job vacancy survey reports 106,000 openings and 78% considered “difficult to fill.”


October 12, 2021

Ag Committees Shaken Up With New Names, Faces

In the 2021 legislative session, agricultural issues went through either the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources chaired by Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) or the Energy & Environment chaired by Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland). Since the close of session, personnel and the committees themselves have undergone a major shakeup.

House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) removed Rep. Witt from his committee assignments after the Conduct Committee found he created a hostile work environment, and subsequently changed the committees and membership. The two House committees are now called Agriculture & Land Use and Environment & Natural Resources.

It is noteworthy that the Ag & Land Use Chair Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem) will not be running for re-election in 2022, and political insiders are on resignation watch. He may not serve out the remainder of his term, potentially leaving the chair open for appointment.

Another member of both committees, Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer), announced his resignation this week after moving out of state. His interim replacement in the House for the next 15 months will be selected by Marion and Yamhill county commissioners, and his replacement on the ag committees will be decided by Speaker Kotek.

A legislator with ag experience, Rep. Anna Scharf (R-Amity) from Scharf Farms has been appointed to fill in the seat left vacant by expelled Rep. Mike Nearman. She is not currently serving on any ag committees.

The loss of moderate Democrats Rep. Clem and Rep. Witt from ag committees and new slate of legislators have a strong possibility of moving the committees further left.

Legislative Days Bumped to November

September legislative days were canceled due to delays in the redistricting special session, bumping two ag-related hearings — hemp regulations and chlorpyrifos alternatives — to another date.

Another week of Legislative Days is scheduled for November 15-18 and it will be up to the chairs of each committee if they advance the September agenda or hear a different set of topics. These hearings are informational only, but can help set the agenda for the next session.

Ag Overtime and Advocacy Work

Most of the industry joined the opposition to the Ag Overtime Bill (HB 2358) in the 2021 session. The bill died in Ways & Means with a $100 million price tag after the Rules Committee adopted an amendment from Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego) late in session to create an allocation from the General Fund to reimburse ag employers for overtime paid from 2022 through 2024. The amended version also includes a three-year phase in with farm workers being owed 1.5 times the regular wage rate after 55 hours per week in 2022, after 48 hours per week in 2023 and after 40 hours per week in 2024.

Though it is unknown which version of this bill will be coming back, unions have said they plan on reviving the full version in 2022. The ag lobby has already begun meeting in preparation of issues we know will need advocacy work prior to the 2022 session with overtime at the top of the list.

Oregon Farm Bureau is working with Highland Economics on an Agricultural Overtime Survey that will be the basis of an economic analysis on the cost of agriculture in Oregon and effects the overtime bill will have on the industry. It’s important for interested parties to complete the survey to provide solid data for this pending legislation.

You can fill out the survey until October 15 here.


September 28, 2021

Legislators Approve New Electoral Maps in the 11th Hour

The final sprint to the redistricting finish line was littered with hurdles, but the Oregon House cleared the final one on Monday afternoon to pass amended maps back to the Oregon Senate just hours before the special session deadline.

Both chambers approved the maps on nearly party line votes and Gov. Kate Brown signed the bills into law, wrapping up the legislature’s responsibilities in the once-in-a-decade redistricting process.

What happened?

Negotiations broke down early in the week when Republicans opposed a congressional map that would likely have given Democrats a 5-1 advantage for the next decade. Rather than reworking the maps, House Speaker Tina Kotek reseated the committee with a Democrat majority to assure its passage.

Republicans called foul, arguing that stacking the committee after an explicit agreement in the Spring for bipartisan balance hurt the integrity of the process and created a skewed map. But they also had little power to change the ultimate outcome, as a walkout would have kicked redistricting to Democrat Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and a panel of appointed judges.

Republicans denied a quorum at Saturday’s floor session but returned enough members on Monday to conclude the process after some concessions were made on the map. While all three maps ultimately received a majority vote in both chambers, they did so without a single Republican vote and with opposition from two Salem Democrats.

Rep. Brian Clem voted against the bills because of Speaker Kotek’s broken commitment to a bipartisan process, saying he won’t run again. Rep. Brad Witt also voted no.

Are the maps balanced?

In politics, fairness is in the eye of the beholder. But early outside analysis shows the maps follow the basic mandates of balance.

According to analysis by The Oregonian, the first proposed congressional map would have almost certainly given Democrats a 5-1 advantage in congressional representation. The updated map includes four strong Democratic districts, one Republican district, and one district expected to be a tossup that stretches from southeast Portland to Bend. However, this district will likely lean left as Bend grows.

For legislative maps, PlanScore, a nonpartisan nonprofit affiliated with the Campaign Legal Center, found that Republicans earned a slight advantage in the House and Democrats earned a slight advantage in the Senate. Democrats are expected to keep supermajorities in both chambers.

What’s next?

Even with the approval of the legislature and the signature of the governor, the maps could still be overturned and redrawn. Court challenges to the congressional map can be filed until Oct. 12, and challenges to the legislative maps can be filed until Oct. 25. Based on the contentious testimony of Republican legislators, challenges are likely.


What to Expect When You’re Redistricting

Legislators Get Their Last Shot at Drawing District Maps with September Special Session

The eight-month redistricting marathon will conclude with a one-week sprint beginning Monday, September 20 as legislators negotiate a redrawn electoral map for Oregon in a special legislative session.

The Oregon Supreme Court approved moving the deadline to Monday, September 27, giving legislators seven days to reconcile the various maps submitted in both chambers. They will also consider input from a series of virtual town halls across the state.

Here’s what you can expect to see in the legislature’s final act of the decennial redistricting process.

A sense of urgency. Redistricting is butting up against the beginning of the 2022 election cycle because of a delayed census population count. Six seats in the U.S. Congress, 60 in the Oregon House, and 15 in the Oregon Senate are up for election next year. If no plan is approved by the majority of legislators by the deadline, the work will be handed over to the Secretary of State’s office.

Politics at play. Good intentions and promises to avoid partisan tampering aside, the redistricting process is overtly political. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done in a fair and balanced way, but legislators are putting forth maps that will impact the balance of power in Salem for a decade. The final map is also likely to pit some incumbents against each other in either the primary or general election, raising the bar to obtain the votes needed to ensure passage by the legislature.

Because most Oregon voters are Democrats, party leadership has the ability to put forth a map that either expands the party’s influence toward a two-thirds majority or secures a more  progressive simple majority to back a more aggressive agenda.

New battlegrounds. Candidates will have to wait until the maps are finalized before filing for election, and many elected officials and would-be challengers will find themselves facing shifted voting blocs once the work is done — if not in new districts entirely. Some districts will become more competitive, others less so, and elected officials will have new voters to woo.

A brand new map. Don’t expect legislators to rubber stamp any of the maps committees have put forth so far. They will all inform the final product, which is surely in draft form already and will be revised across the seven-day session.

A singular mission. Some special sessions become a target for extraneous bills not passed in the previous session, but legislators are committed to making next week a single topic special session. Other work will hold until the short session in February 2022.


August 26, 2021

Rep. Clem Returns to Chair of Key Ag Committee

House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) recently announced new committee chairs and membership, bringing significant changes to the House Ag Committee.

Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) has stepped down as both Chair and as a member of the Ag & Land Use Committee and Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem) will move into that Chair position. Clem had previously chaired this committee for multiple sessions when Rep. Witt was chairing the Natural Resources committee.

Last session Kotek combined Environment with Natural Resources and Ag with Land Use. Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland) will continue to Chair Environment & Natural Resources and Rep. Zach Hudson (D-Troutdale) will Vice Chair.

Agriculture & Land Use Committee

Brian Clem, Chair
Vikki Breese-Iverson, Vice Chair
Susan McLain, Vice Chair
Jami Cate
Ken Helm
Pam Marsh
Bill Post
Jeff Reardon
David Brock Smith
Anna Williams

Environment & Natural Resources Committee

Pam Marsh, Chair
Zach Hudson, Vice Chair
David Brock Smith, Vice Chair
Ken Helm
Raquel Moore-Green
Mark Owens
Khanh Pham
Bill Post
Andrea Valderrama
Marty Wilde

EPA Speeds Up Chlorpyrifos Phase Out

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a final rule on chlorpyrifos, banning the pesticide from use on food crops. The ban will begin six months after the rule was implemented on August 18. This will be much sooner than the three-year phase out planned by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and will affect food crops in Oregon.

Last session HB 3249 was sponsored by Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis (R-Albany) and had vast support from most agriculture groups and Ag Coalition. The bill aimed to create a grant by which the state would invest in finding an alternative to chlorpyrifos. We expect to see similar legislation next session although time is becoming more critical.


2021 Oregon Legislative Recap Report

A recap of the 2021 legislative session as monitored by the OSA Legislative Committee is available here. If you have any questions about this information, contact committee chair Joe McAlhany, Jr.