This Week in the Oregon Legislature

Michael Dembrow

February 13, 2022

Dear Neighbors and Friends,

I hope that you and your loved ones are doing well, staying healthy, and looking out for your neighbors and friends during this past week.

As promised, I’m taking some time on this lovely Sunday (fortunately, I was able to get outdoors earlier in the day) to catch you up on some of the legislative action from the last week.

The Senate had three floor sessions last week--Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday—and passed a total of 9 bills and resolutions.  The House had four floor sessions—Tuesday through Friday—and passed a total of 11.  Needless to say, many more are coming.  Tomorrow is the deadline for bills to pass out of committee (though certain committees do not have deadlines and can consider bills right up to the end—Rules, Revenue, Joint Committee on Transportation, and Ways and Means), so we can expect a steady stream of bills coming to the floor.  Having said that, my sense is that most of the bills being passed in committee have budgetary implications and need to go to Ways and Means first—so they won’t make it to the floor for a couple of weeks. (Many will never make it out of Ways and Means.) 

The Senate will have floor sessions Monday through Thursday, while the House will have theirs each day, Monday through Friday.  To see which bills are coming to the respective floors each day, go to and look at Senate Third Readings and House Third Readings. (“Third Readings” means the measures are ready for a floor vote.)

I’m happy to report that the Senate floor has been a pretty mellow place so far this session.  The one exception was on Wednesday morning, as Senator Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg) came to the floor for the first time.  You may remember that he was obliged to leave the floor during the last special session because he refused to wear a mask.  This time he did wear a mask, but then took it off at the beginning of the meeting as he tried to display an oversized photograph that showed President Courtney at the rostrum without a mask (as I remember it, the President had very briefly removed it to eat or drink something).  Very unfortunate.  In any case, he never really got to talk about it.  He could have done so if he were willing to put his mask back on, but he was unwilling to do so.  He was quickly escorted off the floor, and the floor session continued with everyone else following the mask requirement.

I’m unhappy to report that the Republicans in the House are again insisting that bills be read in their entirety before they can be debated and voted on.  This obviously will create a lot of difficulty for getting through the bills once they appear in volume.  So far, they appear to be using a human to read the shorter bills and the computer (“Lovely Rita the Reada”) to read the longer ones.  I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, but I suspect that it’s connected to the controversial Farmworker Overtime bill. I’ll talk about that further down in the newsletter.

In tonight’s newsletter you’ll find more information about the latest revenue forecast, which came out on Wednesday.  Also, I’ll give you quick status reports on my bills and some of the others that are attracting a lot of attention. Obviously, I'm not including all the bills that are in motion, but these are the ones closest to me right now.

I also want to introduce you to my three interns for this session—actually, they’ll be introducing themselves in their own words.  And I am also providing you with some links to the latest news on COVID-19.

Until Thursday’s newsletter, please stay healthy and safe, and let me know if you have any questions about information in tonight’s newsletter.


Revenue Forecast: Oregon’s Economy Is Humming, and That Means More Tax Revenues

The House and Senate Revenue committees heard a presentation from Mark McMullen and Josh Lehner from the state’s Office of Economic Analysis on Wednesday morning.  It shows that projected tax revenues continue to increase—leading to another big ($964 million) individual kicker credit projected to go to taxpayers next biennium, along with $1.2 billion more in revenues than was projected back in November.

Here's a nice write-up from Pamplin’s Peter Wong.

Here are some of the highlights from the presentation:

  • We’re seeing the most positive economic indicators that we’ve seen since the 80s.
  • The one troubling indicator is the current high inflation rate. The economists, supported by their national consultants, continue to believe that much of it is tied to temporary supply-chain shortages.
  • The projected increases in revenues may be due in part to inflation, but it’s largely due to other factors.
  • The big increases in revenues are again led by big corporate profits.
  • The increases in personal income taxes are driven by the higher wages that workers have been able to command.
  • However, the economists note that there is a difference between public sector and private sector workers. Unlike in the private sector, wages in the public sector remain “tepid,” and we may need to see some catch-up in the future.
  • Finding workers and supply-chain issues remain the biggest barriers to further business expansion.
  • We haven’t seen nearly the number of business closures that we’d been expecting. This includes restaurants and bars (where there is always a certain amount of turnover).
  • Individual savings remain very high.
  • Businesses have been able to pass their higher costs on to consumers, and consumers so far appear willing and able to pay.
  • Along with the projected $964 million in the individual kickers, they are projecting $634m in corporate kicker (which goes to K-12 education and not back to the corporations).
  • Oregon’s estate taxes continue to be high.
  • Lottery revenues are meeting projections.
  • $804 million in Corporate Activity Tax revenues (which go to education) have come in this year, a little down from projections. But they project that it will be back to the projected $1 billion per year in the future.
  • Inflation is particularly acute in the Portland area because of the high housing costs. To keep up with the increases in the number of people moving to the metro area, we would need 111,000 more housing units. Nearly half of that shortfall (54k) is needed for those whose income is below the median household income.
  • Given the worker shortages, we can expect businesses to be more flexible in their hiring requirements—taking people without degrees and experience and doing more on-the-job training.

Here's the PowerPoint from the presentation, including the state and national analysis of current economic trends, along with projections for the future.

And here are the charts summarizing the forecast.


SSB 1567:Addressing Risks from Fuel Storage Tanks in the Event of a Big Earthquake

As you may know, this is one of my two personal priority bills for the session (though I’m joined by a large number of chief sponsors and co-sponsors).  Its passage will allow us at last to begin to address this looming risk and begin to mitigate it.

We had a good hearing on this bill on Monday, and it’s poised for a vote in Senate Energy and Environment. It will go to Ways and Means. It has been amended to clarify that the focus is on large tanks in three counties: Multnomah, Columbia, and Lane. 

Also last Monday, Multnomah County released a  study by EcoNorthwest showing the enormous financial cost (not to mention the human and environmental cost) of doing nothing on this issue.  At a press conference that day I was able to join colleagues from the County and the City to explain how SB 1567 will move us forward.  It attracted a lot of attention from the media (including an article in the Washington Post!).  Here are links to some of them.

  • Washington Post: Oregon Bill Tackles Megaquake "Nightmare": Fuel Storage Site
  •  Fox-12: Major PNW Earthquake Could Cause Biggest Oil Spill in U.S. History Near the Heart of Portland
  • KGW: "The Big One" Earthquake Could Send Millions of Gallons of Oil Into the Willamette River
  • Portland Tribune Quake Could Turn Portland Fuel Storage Hub Into Epic Disaster
  • Statesman-Journal: "Our Fukishima": Portland Fuel Tank Farm Has Potential for Largest Spill in U.S. History


SB 1568:  Compassionate Medical Release

This is my second personal priority bill.  It’s designed to better prepare us for the next health emergency that hits our prisons. (So far, the pandemic has resulted in 45 deaths and many thousands of cases.)  It also will allow for compassionate release for adults in custody who are at the end of life or who can no longer perform basic functions such as feeding, dressing, toileting, and mobility.

The bill had its public hearing Tuesday morning.  It will have its committee vote tomorrow morning.  It then goes to Ways and Means.

Although its primary purpose is not cost-saving, it is projected to save the state $10 million over the next decade. Medical expenses for those in state custody are paid for by the state; once they are in facilities on the outside, the cost is covered through federal Medicare and Medicaid.

Here's a one-pager with more information about the bill.


SB 1521: Superintendents Protections

This is one of the two committee bills from the committee that I chair, Senate Education. It seeks to bring more stability for district staff caught in the middle of political crossfires (think COVID response and equity initiatives).

The bill passed out of Senate Education on a 3-1 vote, then passed the Senate floor on Thursday on a 16-7 vote. (All the “yes” votes were from Democrats.) It heads over to the House, where it will be heard on Thursday afternoon in House Education.


SB 1522: Omnibus Senate Education Bill

This bill is a collection of a number of technical fixes and needed improvements to bills that passed last year, along with some initiatives that failed to make it through Ways and Means last year.  Here are a few of its more noteworthy elements:

  • Improvements to last year’s Health Care for Part-Time Higher Ed Faculty;
  • Improvements to the Oregon Promise, focusing more on low-income students;
  • Pilot programs at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (our women’s prison) and Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, allowing them access to internet prison education programming;
  • Expanding access to in-state university tuition for newcomers from Afghanistan.

The bill had informational and public hearings during the first week of the session, and was voted out of committee last Tuesday.  It’s now in Ways and Means.


HB 4030:Addressing Educator Workforce Shortages

As I’ve mentioned before, this is a challenge that will require extensive long-term action, but we have put together a package of proposals to make a difference during this school year and next.  I say “we” because this has been a good, cooperative effort between Senate and House Education. 

The current proposal is encapsulated in this bill, in the -3 amendments.  They involve recruitment/retention grants for high-need teachers and classified employees, support for substitute teachers, removing bureaucratic barriers to the licensure process, improving reciprocity between states, development of a common application and background check process, among others.

The bill had its public hearing in House Education last week and was then voted out of committee on Thursday.  It will need to go to Ways and Means, but prior to that it needs to spend a few days in House Rules, while the fiscal analysis is being finalized.  One thing we have not yet determined is just how much funding will be available for the recruitment/retention bonuses.


Summer Learning Programs

Although this is not tied to a specific bill, we appear to have received the green light to plan for another big investment in summer learning and summer enrichment programs for kids pre-K through high school all over the state.  It will include a certain amount of traditional “summer school” (e.g. credit recovery) for high school kids, but will include camps, enrichment classes, and a variety of other activities.

We’ll have a hearing in Senate Education on Tuesday (1-2:45) to hear about what went well last summer and could be better in the next iteration.  If you have any ideas you’d like to share, please send them our way.


SB 1512: Removing Unnecessary Barriers to Licensure

In past newsletters I’ve mentioned that one of the interim work groups that I’ve been part of has been focusing on creating smoother pathways for reentry into the workforce, particularly for young offenders.  SB 1512 was developed in partnership with the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments, a non-partisan resource for legislatures that provides us with the latest research and best practices on a number of issues.

The bill had its public hearing last Tuesday. (Here's my testimony explaining it.)   It will be voted on tomorrow morning in Senate Judiciary. 


SB 1520: Bottle Bill Modernization

Another work group that I led during the interim had to do with various improvements to our bottle bill program.  It led to SB 1520, which will eventually bring wine in cans into the program, bring in some of the distributors who have been fully participating, along with some other changes.

The bill had its public hearing in Senate Energy and Environment on Wednesday, Feb. 2, and was voted out to the floor on Feb. 7.  However, a subsequent fiscal analysis led to its having to go to Ways and Means.  I’m optimistic it will make it through the process.


SB 1518:  Next Steps for The Reach Code

One of the environmental community’s top priorities for the session was to see passage of what’s known as “the Reach Code,” a statewide building code for new building construction that’s more environmentally ambitious (i.e., more energy efficiency, lower emissions) than the standard statewide code.  There was an attempt to pass this same piece of legislation last year that didn’t make it. (I was one of its sponsors.)

Unfortunately, it has received a lot of pushback from construction unions, the Homebuilders, and Northwest Natural, so Energy and Environment Chair Kate Lieber has worked to reframe the issue away from the narrow confines of the Reach Code to look at the role of buildings in climate action and public health more broadly.  This has resulted in the -4 amendments that were released yesterday.  I commend Chair Lieber for her work and have promised to support her as she looks at ways to improve existing buildings as well as new building.


SB 1534:: The Role of Natural and Working Lands in Climate Action

SB 1534 has moved out of Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery and is now in Ways and Means.


Other Ag/Forestry Bills

A pair of bills related to ag and forestry are continuing to move forward this session. 

SB 1501A (Private Forest Accords): the product of a successful negotiations between timber interests and environmentalists brokered by the Governor

SB 1546A (Elliott State Forest): Turning the Elliott State Forest in Southwest Oregon into a research forest to study various conservation, sequestration, and forest health practices.

The prognoses for both are looking very good right now.


Other Judiciary Bills: 

SB 1510 (Transforming Justice): Passed out of Senate Judiciary last week. In Ways and Means.

  • Here’s an op-ed, SB 1510 will address public safety, by my colleagues Senator Floyd Prozanski and Senator James Manning, Jr., that appeared in last week’s Statesman Journal

SB 1511 (Ramos Retroactivity): Creating process for reconsideration of sentences decided with non-unanimous juries now that the Supreme Court has prohibited such sentences going forward.  Has been amended with -5 and -7 amendments and will be voted on first thing in the morning.  If it passes, it goes to Ways and Means.

SB 1584 (Wrongful Conviction aka Justice for Exonerees): This bill would create a compensation fund for those imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit.  It was voted unanimously out of committee and is now in Ways and Means. Republican Vice-Chair Senator Kim Thatcher is the chief sponsor, and the bill includes a bipartisan array of chief sponsors (including me), so I’d say its chances are quite good.     


Farmworker Overtime

As I mentioned above, the most controversial bill of this session—one that is generating threats of another walkout from House Republicans—is HB 4002, a bill that seeks to rectify the long-standing inequities faced by agricultural workers in this state (as in most states).  In the federal and state laws that established the principle of the 40-hour work week and overtime pay when that threshold is exceeded, agricultural workers were deliberately carved out.  This was the result of the strong political influence exerted by agricultural interests and the historically nonexistent political influence of their workers—who have often been immigrants, people of color, and almost always low-income.  We are slowly starting to see things change around the country, as a number of states are beginning to require overtime pay above a certain threshold, including our neighboring states of Washington and California.  I strongly support this move.

Needless to say, though, this is very controversial. Our Republican colleagues are calling it another manifestation of the “urban-rural divide,” as most of the advocacy (not counting the workers themselves) is coming from the urban parts of the state. They argue that this requirement will make small farms uncompetitive with their counterparts in states like Idaho and will put them out of business. 

I would say that proponents of the change recognize the financial challenge that it will create for small farmers and are therefore willing to largely pick up the cost for small operations and substantially pay for the cost to larger operations.  That seems like the right thing to do, another example of ongoing legislative efforts to support rural economies.

The current proposal coming from the proponent side (designed by House Business and Labor Chair Paul Holvey, in partnership with his Senate counterpart, Senator Kathleen Taylor) can be found here.    It seems quite reasonable to me.

Negotiations are ongoing, and I really can’t say at this point what the chances for success are.  In the background to all this is potential action by the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries that could resolve the question administratively.  I’m sure that the ag business interests would prefer to see this resolved through negotiation.

Hopefully, this will get resolved in the next week or so. 



Here they are, the team that's helping me do my work this session.  It's a great experience for them, gets them behind the doors of the process, allows them to see the reality behind the textbooks, and they actually are compensated for doing it (though of course not as much as they're worth . . .).  Many thanks to them for stepping up and to Sierra for guiding them in their work. 


Clare Lanusse:

I’m a senior at Portland State University majoring in Political Science with a minor in Law and Legal Studies. I am a first-generation, non-traditional college student with prior experience as a Legal Assistant for a personal injury attorney and as a Center Director for a healthcare clinic. I appreciate the opportunity to support Senator Dembrow’s bills that will positively impact current and future Oregonians while simultaneously learning firsthand about the processes that drive our state government. I am most drawn to policy concerning the Judiciary, Education, and Mental Health, but value learning about as many policy areas as I can. I live in NE Portland in SD 23 with my spouse and three kids (who are in three different PPS schools). In my spare time I enjoy running, walking and yoga. I also love every opportunity to enthusiastically cheer on my kids in their running and softball activities.



Raymond Arias:

I am from Tualatin, Oregon, where I graduated from Tualatin High School last summer in June 2021.  I’m currently on a gap year from my collegiate education and hope to spend this hiatus away from the classroom gaining more professional experience in policy. Throughout high school, I committed myself to advocating for and representing my peers, especially those from low-income backgrounds. This commitment manifested itself in many ways and leadership titles, namely through the Oregon Association of Student Councils (OASC) where I had the honor of serving as the State President of the Student Executive Council from 2019-2020. I have also collaborated with state organizations like the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) in developing legislative measures that sought to improve our public schools for the better. Overall, I am incredibly grateful to have received this opportunity, and I am excited to see what the session brings!



Nhi Truong:

My name is Nhi Truong, and I am a new APICCO intern, Asian and Pacific Islander Community Coalition of Oregon, for the 2022 Legislative Session supporting Senator Dembrow's office. I am a Junior at Portland State University majoring in Child, Youth, and Family Studies with a goal of becoming a School Counselor. I attended Portland Community College for three years before transferring to PSU, where I found my passion. My family and I immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam 7 years ago to seek a better Education system and opportunities. I have been living in Oregon since then. I am a first-generation college student and a College Advocate Mentor at a high school in the PPS District. I am very grateful to have this internship opportunity to support Senator Dembrow’s bills and excited to learn from everyone in the office. I live in Senator Dembrow’s District 23 with my parents and two brothers. 


Additional Brief COVID Updates and Links

  • On Friday the FDA announced that it was delaying the decision on whether or not to authorize a low-dose vaccine for children younger than 5. As you may remember from earlier newsletters, the evidence has not been clear on the effectiveness of just two doses of this low-dose vaccine at this time.  They did not feel comfortable authorizing the vaccine until more data comes in.  Unfortunately, it appears this will postpone the decision until mid-April at the earliest.  Here's more.
  • A new CDC study suggests that boosters lose their effectiveness against infection after four months. However, they continue to protect individuals from developing severe cases of the disease (i.e., leading to hospitalization and death).
  • As a result of these findings, the CDC is now recommending that immunocompromised individuals (who have difficulty forming antibodies and are at particular risk of severe consequences if they catch the virus)  receive boosters after three months rather than the current five months.
  • Further on this point: with precautions waning, COVID may well become a "pandemic of the vulnerable."
  • Although Governor Brown has announced a March 31st end to the statewide requirement that masks be worn in all public and private schools, shifting masking decisions to local school boards, we continue to hear calls for an IMMEDIATE end to universal masking. Here's a storyfrom the Portland Tribune about ongoing rallies in suburban school districts.
  • You may have heard about a Johns Hopkins study presumably demonstrating that the 2020 lockdowns did little to fight the virus. Experts say that it has serious flaws and its so-called findings are misleading.
  • For those of you who subscribe to The Oregonian, here’s a story that appeared today, observing that with a projected date of March 31st, Oregon is poised to be one of the last states to lift its indoor mask mandate. . Here's why.l As you’ll see, one reason is that Omicron came to Oregon a few weeks after it hit many other states, so we’re a few weeks behind them in our recovery. Also, unlike most states, our date is connected to a COVID-recovery metric—COVID hospitalizations. 
  • And here's a story/ from the Washington Post about why some states are treating masking requirements differently in schools.



Want to See Past Newsletters?

If there was COVID-related information in a past newsletter that you want to go back to, but find you’ve deleted it, you can always go to my lislative website (, click on “News and Information,” and you’ll find them all there.  Also, if someone forwarded you this newsletter and you’d like to get it directly, you can sign up for it there.


dembrow signature

Senator Michael Dembrow
District 23

phone: 503-281-0608
mail: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR, 97301