Week four of the 2019 Legislative Session saw a historic event as thirteen immigrants from six separate countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens on the floor of the Oregon Senate chambers. Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer, hosted a ceremony which has only occurred twice in the state’s history in the Oregon Capitol.
The Senate Committee on Campaign Finance met on Wednesday to discuss LC 3841 regarding campaign finance. The legislation would fund a six-to-one small donor match to public finance candidates opting-in to the program. Proponents reason this will allow candidates to be more responsive to everyday Oregonians rather than just large-scale donors. The 90-minute informational meeting welcomed public testimony, which consisted mostly of non-profits sharing their support of small donor elections. Republicans on the committee argued that public donations would never be able to match donations from large companies. The bill is expected to have a fiscal impact ranging from $15 to $95 million to cover the cost of the matches.
Oregon lawmakers took the first step this week to secure funding for the Oregon Health Plan and the state’s reinsurance program that helps pay for expensive health care claims. The revenue plan outlined in HB 2010, which passed out of the Joint Ways and Means Committee today, will generate more than $400 million toward the anticipated hole in the state’s Medicaid budget.
The funding plan, which health care industry officials negotiated and support, extends a 6 percent hospital tax and a 2 percent tax on insurance plans. The plan introduces a 2 percent tax on “stop loss coverage” for large, self-insured companies.
The Senate Committee on Rules held a public hearing on SB 704 relating to improvements to the State Capitol building and grounds. The seismic and life safety improvements necessary are estimated to cost between $250 million and $300 million. There is widespread support for the concept of the bill, and a consensus that seismic upgrades to the Capitol are necessary. It will be difficult for legislators to justify the cost this biennium when there are so many other funding priorities, including education and the PERS deficit. The Committee on Rules did not have the proper paperwork before the meeting adjourned, but intends to move the bill over to the Ways and Means Committee at a future date.
There continues to be a great deal of debate and turmoil regarding SB 608. As we’ve written in previous reports the legislation prohibits landlords from terminating month-to-month tenancy without cause after 12 months of occupancy. The bill passed the Senate this week by a vote of 17-11 after the first contentious debate of the 2019 session. There were emotional speeches from nine legislators, with six Republicans rising in opposition. Proponents of the bill say that it will protect Oregon’s renters from unforeseen rent increases and no-cause eviction. SB 608 was referred to the House Committee on Human Services and has already been scheduled for a public hearing on Monday.