Week 1 Legislative Session Update

The 2019 legislative session is now underway in Oregon.

The 2019 Legislature has already introduced over 1,700 bills.  OSCC expects another 1,000+ pieces of legislation to be introduced over the next six weeks.  Of the 1,700 bills that have been introduced thus far, OSCC is keeping an eye on:

  • HB 2655 and SB 379 which would prevent employers from enforcing zero-tolerance workplace drug-free policies on marijuana;
  • SB 110 and HB 2175, which would help alleviate the complications that have arisen from Oregon’s new manufacturing overtime limits which cap production employees at 60 hours per week;
  • HB 2255 and SB 592, which would increase damage awards in medical lawsuits;
  • SB 608, a comprehensive rent control and tenant protection bill.
  • Dozens of bills that increase individual, business, property, or product excise taxes.

OSCC expects that several hundred new bills will be introduced this week.  We will continue to screen all new legislation for impact on our local business communities.

As with previous sessions, OSCC expects that the Senate will be the backstop on bad business bills.  Although Democrats have expanded their majority to 18-12 in the Senate, a handful of key moderate Democrats will still control the flow of bills that pass.  Senators Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), and Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) will be the key bloc of Senators who will decide just how aggressive the legislature will be on issues of taxes and other progressive policies that will impact business.

Early Activity on Major Issues

We are expecting to see early activity on a handful of key policy and budget items that Democratic legislative leaders have identified as key priorities, including:

  • Rent control.  Senate Bill 608 will limit rent increases to 7% per year in buildings over 15 years old and also prohibits no cause evictions for tenants after one year of tenancy.  This is a key priority for Democratic leadership that will start receiving public hearings on February 4th.
  • Cap & Trade.  We are expecting to see the 2019 cap & trade bill for the first time by the end of this week.  It will likely start receiving public hearings the week of February 4th. 
  • Business taxes.  Starting this Tuesday, the Joint Student Success Committee will initiate its Revenue Subcommittee hearings on a potential tax plan that will meet the Governor’s objective of raising business taxes by $2 billion for K-12, Pre-K, and higher education.

Other Issues Coming up This Week

  • Single use straw ban.  Senate Bill 90 would ban the use of single use straws.  It will be heard in the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.
  • Workplace accommodations for pregnant employees.  House Bill 2341 could require an employer to hire an additional person to do heavy lifting or to purchase equipment to allow an employee to stay in their job during the pregnancy.  The bill is scheduled for a hearing in House Business & Labor on Monday morning.  A similar policy has been adopted in Washington, but some business sectors have had issues with implementation.
  • Biometric data collection.  SB 284 would make it an unlawful employment practice to collect biometric data (e.g. fingerprints, retinol scans, etc.) from employees.  There are still unanswered questions about the scope of the bill, which will be heard on Thursday in the Senate Workforce Committee.

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