Legislative Session in the Rear View Mirror

Updates from Senator Tim Knopp.

Senator Tim Knopp

Legislative Session in the Rear View Mirror

Equal Pay

Women and Men at Work

There were quite a few important pieces of legislation that were passed in the 2017 Legislative Session. One bill I worked hard to improve this session was House Bill 2005 or the Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017. I worked with the Chair of the Senate Workforce Committee, Senator Kathleen Taylor to do what the legislature came to do, eliminate pay discrimination. The bill would positively reform existing equal pay law in Oregon and would also provide employers a way to show compliance with the law thus preventing unnecessary lawsuits. This historic legislation passed the Senate with a unanimous vote.



The legislature passed Senate Bill 828, a bipartisan bill that would require very large employers in the retail, hospitality, and food-service sectors to provide employees their schedules 7 days in advance(14 days in advance by 2020). The goal is to give employees certainty over their schedules so they can plan child care, school obligations, medical appointments, and other work schedules. I worked in a bipartisan way with Senator Taylor to come to a compromise over the bill that wouldn’t overburden employers, especially small businesses, but that also would benefit employees.

Overtime Manufacturing Fix

The Oregon Legislature passed legislation that would go a long way towards giving manufacturing employers more certainty over how to calculate overtime pay for their employees. Senate Bill 984 fixes a flaw in how overtime statutes have been interpreted by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Before the fix, BOLI began interpreting the law to say that manufacturing employers must pay employees overtime on both the day and the week they work. This means that if an employee worked 2 hours of overtime during a day and a total of 2 hours of overtime for the week, the employee would end up receiving pay for 4 hours of overtime, even if they only worked a total of 2 hours of overtime. By providing certainty for manufacturers, the bill will strengthen Oregon’s export-driven, manufacturing-reliant economy and prevent further litigation on an issue that should be settled. I support this bipartisan, common sense legislation.

Paid Sick Leave Fix

Senate Bill 299, was passed this session to improve Oregon’s paid sick time law. The bill allows farmers to pay workers who take a sick day the state minimum wage instead of the previously stipulated “regular rate of pay”. Often times farm workers are paid based upon the crop they are working on and how much they pick, this meant that farmers had a tough time determining what was the regular rate of pay since it was always changing. I supported this change because of its importance to small businesses and the consistency it provides employees.

Voted Against Tax Increases

There were a number of bills this year that were aimed at increasing taxes. There were bills that almost cloned the voter defeated Measure 97 and others that would tax specific industries or activities. One of the major taxes passed was on health care. House Bill 2391 taxes health insurance plans at a rate of 1.5%. Unfortunately, this legislation likely was not needed if the Legislature was willing to seriously tackle cost containment. Instead of passing a new tax, we should have done more to find existing pools of money(in a record revenue year) that could have been re-routed from poor performing programs towards filling the funding gap for state health care services.

Not only did Oregon increase taxes on health care, more taxes were passed as part of the transportation package such as a 10-cent increase in the gas tax, a new tax on new cars and other vehicles, as well as fees and surcharges, such as the surcharge on bicycles. I opposed both of these bills because in a time of record revenues we shouldn’t ask for more tax dollars and because of the negative impacts the taxes would have on working Oregonians.

Recreational Immunity

rock climbin

One of the most important bills this session to pass the Legislature is the recreational immunity bill, SB 327. The bill will protect public and private landowners that open their land up to the public for recreational activities from excessive liability risks. In 1995, the Oregon Public Use of Lands Act passed which lowered liability risks for individuals and public entities that allowed the public to use their land for recreational purposes. The Oregon Supreme Court made a recent decision that put the liability protections at risk and thus risked closing off many public and private areas that are open to free recreational use. I believe SB 327 is a good solution to the problem of recreational liability and will allow citizens and visitors to continue to visit many beautiful and scenic areas of our state currently at risk of being closed to the public.

Grand Jury Recording

A big improvement in Oregon’s criminal justice system is Senate Bill 505 which directs district attorney’s statewide to ensure that grand jury proceedings be recorded electronically. Using electronic recording will increase accuracy and clarity and ultimately make proceedings more impartial. It is a big step that brings Oregon in line with many state courts and all federal courts. I supported this bill because it will make Oregon’s courts and criminal justice system more fair and effective. Deschutes County D.A. John Hummel supported this bill as did many Central Oregonians.

The Budget

Much was made of the budget this session. It was claimed that Oregon was facing a billion dollar plus deficit. It was also claimed that this was the result of low taxes. In reality, Oregon had record revenue this session but the majority party claimed that Oregon needed massive tax increases to shore up the budget. The same budget writers that wrote previous budgets that ended up creating ‘the deficit’, were also advocating more taxes. Didn’t the budget writers see the writing on the wall in previous bienniums? They knew that the Medicaid matching dollars from the Federal government would reduce over time. Instead of planning ahead, Oregon’s leadership kicked the can down the road. There is a pattern here of putting off tough decisions on the budget and other major issues facing Oregon.

Protecting Women and Children

SB 249, 250 Signing

This session we passed some good legislation that will protect women and children. We put into law bills such as SB 249, SB 250, and SB 375 which will increase protections for women and children victimized by sex trafficking. The Legislature also tackled issues such as campus sexual assault through bills such as SB 795, HB 2972, and HB 2633. It is very important that we fight back against terrible crimes like sexual assault and sex trafficking and these bills were sensible and valuable. I worked with a bipartisan coalition to pass these protections.


Oregon’s health care system is a major area of concern that the state needs to improve in order to maintain the state’s long term fiscal stability. Oregon’s health care woes are three-fold. First, Oregon needs to become more efficient in its delivery of state provided healthcare to citizens and second, the state needs to become more efficient in how it provides health care for its employees. Oregon’s legislature passed a tax in order to pay for Medicaid but this could have been prevented with smarter budget planning and serious cost containment efforts. I voted against the bill for these reasons and the potential to increase the cost of healthcare services for Oregon citizens. Look for a statewide ballot measure to overturn House Bill 2391. On top of all this, the recent shakeup at the top of the Oregon Health Authority brings new issues to the front and brings into question the very structure of Oregon’s public health care system.


Oregon passed a $8.2 billion budget for education. While the constrained budget did not allow for further funding of schools to reduce class sizes or add back programs, we were able to prevent deep cuts. There is much to be done to improve Oregon’s education system. Among them are adequate funding, improved quality, adequate choice, and greater efficiency. Oregon’s school system can do much better, but it will take a large effort from all sides to tackle the issue. We can’t just throw money at the issue, but we also can’t forget that funding constraints matter.



We were successful this session in passing a good bill, SB 634, that will promote rural job creation, improve forest management, and provide sustainable energy for schools and other public buildings in Oregon. Currently, Oregon law requires that new public buildings and buildings that are being significantly renovated to set aside 1.5% of the construction budget for renewable energy. The law excluded woody biomass which is a byproduct of logging, forest management, and mills. After several sessions of working the bill, I was glad to see it pass with unanimous(minus some excused legislators) support from the Legislature.

Missed Opportunities:



I am thankful for the opportunity we had this session to more deeply examine PERS, bring forth many different ideas, and work to create a compromise with all parties that will benefit the state. I worked in a bipartisan way to find places where the retirement system could be better managed and improved. There were some minor changes made this session and the Governor did put together a work group to investigate further. Some economists believe that the true unfunded liability of the system is closer to $50 billion rather than the official $24 billion. If true, the requisite employer contributions to the system would further constrain state and local government and would dramatically impact government services very negatively across the board. I will continue to take on this issue because the stakes are so high. We must see the bigger picture here and create lasting change to the system.

Cost Containment

A lot was made of the budget this session. Record revenue coupled with a ‘shortfall’ made for peculiar times at the Legislature. Sadly, the need for significant spending reform was left for future legislatures to solve. SB 1067, which made minor changes passed, but it did not go far enough. It did not create real General Fund spending reductions. It saved money because it shifted the burden to medical service providers. The bill failed to address the enormous costs of state employee health care spending and state provided healthcare for citizens. Ultimately, any significant cost savings measure must include PERS reform which has a dramatic impact on all levels of government in Oregon. Our state cannot continue on its current fiscal path or we risk significant impacts to the quality of our state services and the quality of life of Oregon citizens.

OSU Cascades


OSU Cascades is growing and and has become a centerpiece of life in Central Oregon, but disappointingly OSU Cascades did not receive their requested state funding for expanding to meet future growth. I’m committed to working with the Governor to prioritize such an important investment for our region and our state. I will continue to support OSU Cascades and advocate for well thought out efforts to expand the university. 


Best Regards,


Senator Tim Knopp 
Senate District 27

email: sen.timknopp@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1727
address: 900 Court St NE, S-309, Salem, OR, 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/knopp