Week 3 in the Oregon Legislature

Michael Dembrow

February 20, 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, here’s another effort to catch you up on some of the legislative action from the last week—Week 3 of this 5-week session.

When I wrote last Sunday, I think I spent some time deploring the decision by House Republicans to require all bills to be read in their entirety.  I think I also expressed my relief that we seemed to be in a better place in the Senate.  Well, the very next day, Senate Rs also started to exercise the constitutional loophole requiring bills to be read in their entirety.  And suddenly we were spending a lot more time on the floor!  It’s a shame, really, that this is happening.  I had to cancel our Senate Education meeting on Thursday afternoon (a public-hearing to hear the range of opinions on online charter schools) because we needed to be on the floor because of a bill that took an hour and a half to read. (All it did was replace the word “alien” in statute with the word “noncitizen,” an important bill that ultimately passed with only one No vote.)

Last week I also blamed the bill-reading on the controversial Farmworker Overtime bill. There too, in hindsight I think I was wrong.  Farmworker Overtime is one piece, but I think what’s driving this is a broader desire to see fewer bills get to the front of the line and pass this year, as the clock runs out. 

At this pace, it appears that the only way we’ll get all the bills processed, debated, and potentially passed will be for us to work evenings and weekends over the next two weeks.  I know that Democrats are more than willing to do so, but I believe that Republicans at this point are not. Because of our quorum rules, if they choose not to come, we cannot do our business.  The combination of our constitutional bill-reading requirement (which for a century has been routinely waived by both parties), plus our quorum requirement (which led to a complete shutdown of our last short session), plus the number of serious problems that need to be fixed, plus the abbreviated timeline for the short session is a difficult combination indeed.

The result is that some important pieces of legislation appear to be falling by the wayside, while other priorities do appear to be moving forward. 

We're starting to get a sense of which bills are moving and which are not. In tonight’s newsletter, I’ll try to help explain the Ways and Means process—which is where most of the action is right now.

Here's a rule of thumb:  if a bill has been assigned to a Ways and Means subcommittee, it means that it has a clear path to passage this session. (Of course, nothing is ever certain . . .)  If it is in Ways and Means but not yet assigned to a subcommittee, that's not a good sign--though we still have a little more time for them to get the "green light."

In tonight's newsletter, I'll catch you up on some of the bills I’ve been following closely, and end with a few recent COVID links and updates. 

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


Floor Votes This Week

The Senate is scheduled for floor sessions at 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday. It’s not clear at this point how long they will last.

The House is scheduled for morning floor sessions Monday through Saturday, with afternoon sessions Wednesday through Saturday.

To see which bills are coming to the respective floors each day, go to olis.oregon.gov and look at Senate Third Readings and House Third Readings. (“Third Readings” means the measures are ready for a floor vote.)


In Ways and Means

As I mentioned in the intro, key policy bills with budget needs are finally getting scheduled for their votes this week, beginning in their relevant Ways and Means subcommittees.  There will be no public hearings on these bills, since they’ve already had their public input in their policy committees. They will go straight to a “Work Session”: i.e., a presentation by the Legislative Fiscal Office, followed by discussion and debate, followed by a vote. 

If successful (and generally bills that get this far have the necessary votes for passage), the bill then goes to the full Ways and Means Committee (probably meeting on Wednesday and Friday) for passage to the appropriate chamber floor.  If it’s a Senate bill, it goes to the Senate for its first floor vote; if a House bill, it goes to the House.

The Co-Chairs of Ways and Means are also currently finishing work on the various agency budget adjustments, big construction bonding projects, large investments in housing, homelessness, child care, and a variety of other needs.  We should be hearing the final allocation numbers on these by the end of the week.

Here are updates on some of the key policy bills that I’ve been close to.  Needless to say, there are many that are not on this list.  If there’s a bill that you’re particularly interested in, you can search for it on olis.oregon.gov and then sign up to be notified about any changes to its schedule.


SB 1567: Addressing the Enormous Risks from Fuel Storage Tanks in the Event of an Earthquake 

I’m pleased to report that SB 1567 was voted out of Senate Energy and Environment on Monday on a unanimous, bipartisan vote.  It is now in Ways and Means, where it has been referred to the Subcommittee on Natural Resources and is scheduled for a work session on Wednesday!


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. Sadly, this has become the object of a Senate Republican misinformation campaign, (falsely) claiming that putting these very ill people into care will lead to more crime in our communities.

It was voted out of Senate Judiciary on Monday morning on a 4-3 party-line vote and is now in Ways and Means awaiting referral to a subcommittee.


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). It prohibits school district boards from directing superintendents to violate laws that they disagree with and from firing them if they refuse to do so.

The bill passed the Senate floor on a 16-7 vote. It had a public hearing in House Education and then a work session on Thursday.  Two amendments put forward by Republican committee members were proposed and rejected.  Time ran out before an amendment from Democrats tightening up the language around what is meant by “the force of law.”  I expect that it will pass when the committee meets again on Tuesday, and it will then head to the House floor where it will be voted on.  I predict another very partisan vote.  The bill will then have to come back to the Senate for a final “concurrence” vote, since it has been amended.  That should happen soon after the House floor vote.


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 has been referred to the Joint Subcommittee on Education and is awaiting scheduling.


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 bill was passed unanimously by House Education and went to House Rules for a final amendment.  It passed House Rules on February 17 with the -5 amendment added.  It has been referred to the Joint Subcommittee on Education and is awaiting scheduling.

At this point, I’m not yet sure how much will be allocated to districts for recruitment/retention grants.



Summer Learning Programs

It does appear that we will have another very large appropriation to support summer enrichment programs this summer.  We had a great hearing in Senate Education  last Tuesday hear about what went well last summer and could be better in the next iteration. 

You’ll find some very interesting materials on last summer’s offerings posted here.  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. They identified Oregon as a state with significant barriers to licensure for people with records.  SB 1512 is an effort to limit blanket prohibitions from licensure and allow individuals to make their individual case to the licensing board as to why they are a safe risk.

The bill passed Senate Judiciary on Monday on a 4-3 party-line vote and is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate.



Provides access to legal representation for Oregonians who are facing deportation.  Passed from Senate Judiciary to Ways and Means, scheduled for a work session in the Public Safety Subcommittee tomorrow afternoon.


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.  Current Status: In Ways and Means, not yet referred to a committee.


SB 1518: The Task Force on Resilient Efficient Buildings

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.)

The bill has been broadened to have a task force look at the role of buildings in climate action and public health more broadly.  It will look at ways to improve existing buildings as well as new buildings.

The bill passed from Senate Energy and Environment on Monday on a unanimous vote.  It is now in Ways and Means, where it has been assigned to the Joint Committee on General Government.


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. It is still awaiting assignment to a subcommittee.


Other Ag/Forestry/Climate Bills

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

SB 1501A https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2022R1/Measures/Overview/SB1501 (Private Forest Accords): the product of a successful negotiations between timber interests and environmentalists brokered by the Governor. It has moved to Ways and Means and has been assigned to the Joint Natural Resources Subcommittee.  It is scheduled for a work session on Wednesday.

SB 1546  (Elliott State Forest): Turning the Elliott State Forest in Southwest Oregon into a research forest to study various conservation, sequestration, and forest health practices. It has moved to Ways and Means and has been assigned to the Joint Natural Resources Subcommittee. It is scheduled for a work session on Wednesday.

HB 4077 :  Makes significant improvements and commitment to the Environmental Justice Task Force. It has moved to Ways and Means and has been assigned to the Joint Natural Resources Subcommittee. It is scheduled for a work session on Wednesday.

This session the Legislatures are considering two “cooling bills,” related to helping low-income Oregonians adjust to future climate-induced heat events by having better access to cooling in their homes. Both appear to be moving forward.  HB 4058 creates a program to distribute air conditioners and other cooling devices to people in need.  It has moved to Ways and Means and has been assigned to the Joint Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development.

Its corollary in the Senate is SB 1536, which limits the ability of landlords to prohibit cooling units from being installed in rentals.  It has moved to Ways and Means and is awaiting assignment to a subcommittee.


Other Judiciary Bills: 

SB 1510 (Transforming Justice): Passed out of Senate Judiciary two weeks ago. In Ways and Means. It is in Ways and Means and has been assigned to the Public Safety Subcommittee.  It is awaiting scheduling.

SB 1511 (Ramos Retroactivity): Creating process for retroactive reconsideration of sentences decided with non-unanimous juries now that the Supreme Court has prohibited such sentences going forward.  It passed Senate Judiciary on a 4-3 party-line vote last Monday and is now in Ways and Means awaiting assignment.

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. It has been assigned to the Public Safety Subcommittee and is awaiting scheduling.

SB 1545: Future Ready Oregon:  The Governor’s Big Workforce Investment Bill

Future Ready Oregon is designed to remove barriers to training for low-income, people of color, rural Oregonians, and those who are formerly or currently incarcerated.  It has the potential to make a huge difference in moving many Oregonians onto career pathways and prosperity.  In Ways and Means, assigned to the Education Subcommittee, awaiting scheduling.


HB 4002: Farmworker Overtime

HB 4002 is 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.

Negotiations are still ongoing in an effort to find a compromise.  The variables being discussed are how quickly to get to a 40-hour threshold and how much financial support the state will provide to farmers to help with the transition (and how great a difference between small and large operations), and whether there should be the same for all agricultural industries.  Farmers are also still insisting that work performed during peak harvest and planting seasons should be exempt from any limits. IOf course, this is when it's needed most!)  

Current Status: Passed from Senate Labor and Business to Senate Revenue (to resolve the level of the tax credit that would be provided to agricultural employers.).




Additional Brief COVID Updates and Links


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 (senatordembrow.com), 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.


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dembrow signature

Senator Michael Dembrow
District 23

email: Sen.MichaelDembrow@oregonlegislature.gov
web: www.senatordembrow.com
phone: 503-281-0608
mail: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR, 97301