Week 4 in the 2022 Session

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Michael Dembrow

February 27, 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.

Here’s  another effort to catch you up on some of the legislative action from the last week—Week 4 of this 5-week session.

As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, starting last week most of the action shifted over to Ways and Means, with policy bills being referred to the different Ways and Means subcommittees.  As I mentioned, those that were referred and then scheduled for work sessions were on track to make it all the way to the floor.  And that’s indeed how things played out.  Ways and Means met on Saturday and passed the remainder of the policy bills, which are now taking their place in line for floor votes.  (Senate bills go first to the Senate floor, as House bills go first to the House floor.)

As I write this, the good people at Legislative Fiscal, Legislative Counsel, and Publications are busy putting the final touches on all the big budget bills: the Capital Construction, bonding, rebalances, and various investment packages for Housing, Rural Revitalization, Climate, Summer Learning, etc.  The final allocation decisions have been made, and the budget bills will be taken up in the Capital Construction Subcommittee tomorrow morning at 10.

You’ll find them all at the Capital Construction Committee agenda page here. To see the actual appropriations, go to the Amendments tab for each bill. The amendments will show the final decisions. (As I write this, they have not yet been posted; however, they should be available within an hour of the committee meeting—i.e., by 9 am.)

And then it’s just a question of the individual bills waiting their turn in line on the floor. It’s hard to tell how long this will all take.  Some of these bills are VERY long, so with the bills required to be read in their entirety, it will be a long, slow slog—we’ll be on the floor all day and likely evenings and next weekends.

I'll be "carrying" a half-dozen or so of the bills for which I've been the chief proponent.  "Carrying" means giving the overview of bill, explaining its contents for the record, and providing any necessary arguments in support.  The carrier also needs to be prepared to answer any questions that come up from other legislators.  In "normal" times (i.e., non-COVID), we have committee staff sitting with us or nearby in case we need to consult them for help in answering questions.  But with COVID restricting who can be on the floor, we're on our own.

Bills will likely move more quickly in the Senate because we have fewer members who will want to speak on bills (and also, I think we’re running the computer reader at a faster pace).  But ultimately every bill needs to make it through both chambers. That could well take us close to the constitutional deadline of midnight on March 7.

It’s also possible that as we approach the end, Republican legislators will agree to grant “rules suspension,” which requires a 2/3 vote (i.e., 20 in the Senate, 40 in the House), and would allow the normal timelines (not to mention bill reading) to be suspended.  We’ll see.

I will add that there’s still the possibility that some bills that are in the Rules or Revenue Committees could pop out at this point, but I wouldn’t count on it.

I’ll give you an update in tonight’s newsletter on the bills that I’ve been tracking.  As you’ll see, those bills that were unassigned last week remain stalled and will almost certainly need to wait for the long session in 2023 for further action.  Those that were assigned last week have made it through Ways and Means and should get their initial floor votes in the next few days.

I’ll again end tonight’s newsletter with a few recent COVID links and updates.

My next session newsletter, which I’ll send out once the session is completed, will include a rundown of the bills that passed and those that failed. Though my poor heart has been broken by a few of the failures, overall, this is shaping up to be an extremely consequential session.  I’ll provide an explanation of just why I believe that to be true.

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


Coming from the Capitol (Maybe):  March Constituent Coffee!!!

Saturday, March 5, is the first Saturday of the month, and that means it’s time for our regular constituent coffee from 9 to10:30.  It’s not clear if we’ll be on the floor that morning, but with the session scheduled to end on March 7, I think it’s likely.  So I’ll probably have to do it from a side room in between votes.  Should be interesting!

This will be a chance for us to catch up on the end of session.  By then, pretty much everything should be known, and we’ll likely spending the session with my taking you behind the scenes on the bills that did and did not pass, and do some looking forward on next steps for the latter.

Hope to see you there!  You can register for the coffee here.

If any last minute changes arise, I’ll let you know in Thursday’s newsletter.

Also, Reps Smith Warner and Pham and I will be holding a post-session zoom town hall on Wednesday (March 9) evening.  I’ll put the registration details in Thursday’s newsletter.


Bills I’ve Been Leading On or Following Closely

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 Ways and Means on Thursday and should be on the Senate floor on Tuesday.  I’ll be carrying it to the floor.

SB 1568:  Compassionate Medical Release

This was my second personal priority bill.  As I mentioned last week, 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 consequently remains stalled in Ways and Means and will not move forward this session.  I promise you, though, that it will be back next time.

SB 1521: Superintendents Protections

Again, this was the bill designed 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 state and federal laws (or directives that come with the force of law) 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 two weeks ago, then the House 31-25 on Friday.  Because it picked up an amendment in the House (a good one, one that further clarifies what is meant by “force of law”), It comes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote tomorrow morning. That will happen before we do any other business in the morning, I’ll carry it, and I expect it to pass.

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 passed full Ways and Means on Thursday.  I'll be carrying it on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

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 voted out of Ways and Means on Saturday and should hit the House floor midweek. I’ll be carrying it when it gets to the Senate.  The total allocation package is $100 million.

Summer Learning Programs

The $150 million package of summer learning programs will be part of the one of the final budget bills coming before the Capital Construction Subcommittee tomorrow morning, eitheR HB 5202 or HB 4156.

’m extremely excited about this investment, which is going to make a huge difference for many kids and families all over the state.  We’re already in the middle of discussions around the different focuses for the learning and enrichment programs.  You can read about the plan in this press release.  And here’s a press release about our entire Education package.

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.  Voted out of Ways and Means on Thursday.  I’ll be carrying it on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

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.

Sadly, this one also hit a barrier at the end, a combination of Republican pushback and concerns raised by some of the licensing boards questioning these changes.  It too will be back.

SB 1543 Universal Representation

Provides access to legal representation for Oregonians who are facing deportation. This is one that failed to move last session, despite a lot of support and effort, but is now on track to passage.  Voted out of Ways and Means on Thursday. Senate vote tomorrow morning!

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.

Current Status: Voted out of Ways and Means on Saturday.  Senate vote in the next few days. I'll be carrying.

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.

Voted out of Ways and Means on Thursday. Senate vote on Tuesday.

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

SB 1534, which would have defined the role of carbon sequestration and storage in our natural and working lands as part of our climate action goals, and dedicated some funding to work on developing incentive programs, will not move forward as a bill or, it appears, as part of a funding package.  This is one of my personal disappointments for this session. Oregon is in a privileged position to tap the value of our natural and working lands as part of both Climate Action and Rural Revitalization.  Again, we’ll begin the effort to bring it back as soon as the session ends.  Status Report: Not moving this session.

Other Ag/Forestry/EJ Bills

A tri of bills related to ag, forestry, and environmental justice are continuing to move forward this session: 

 SB 1501 (Private Forest Accords): the product of a successful negotiations between timber interests and environmentalists brokered by the Governor. Voted out of Ways and Means on Saturday. Senate vote midweek.

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. Voted out of Ways and Means on Thursday.  Senate vote on Tuesday.

HB 4077 :  Makes significant improvements and commitment to the Environmental Justice Task Force. Voted out of Ways and Means on Saturday. House floor vote midweek.

SB 1576: Product Stewardship for Mattresses

This bill will create a recycling program for mattresses, funded by a small surcharge on new mattresses, similar to what we do for paint and electronics.  It’s one that has been in the works for some time, with most of the work on it done by Logan Gilles, my former Chief of Staff, and the late, beloved Lawanda Manning.  I’m happy to report that it passed the Senate on Friday. It will have its House vote midweek.

Here’s reporting on the bill from the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

$400 Million Housing Package

We learned this week that the green light has been given for a huge investment package to address the homelessness/housing crisis that exists all over the state. Here are the details from Senate Housing Chair Kayse Jama.

Cooling Bills

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. The two have now been combined into one. HB 4058, which would have created a program to distribute air conditioners and other cooling devices to people in need, has been amended into  SB 1536, which limits the ability of landlords to prohibit cooling units from being installed in rentals.  Voted out of Ways and Means on Saturday. Senate floor vote midweek.

Other Judiciary Bills: 

SB 1510 (Transforming Justice): This is a combination of several criminal justice reform elements, which died at the end of the 2021 session.  It was worked on and developed in the interim, gaining increasing support.  Voted out of Ways and Means on Thursday.  Senate floor vote will be on Tuesday.

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.  Although a workable compromise appeared to have been reached, time has run out and the bill appears to have stalled.  It too will be back in 2023.

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 is another second effort for a bill that I had hoped would have passed in 2021.  This time it is on track to passage.  Voted out of Ways and Means on Thursday.  Senate floor vote on Tuesday.

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.

As I mentioned last week, the parties and the chambers have been engaged in deep negotiations in an effort to find a compromise between the needs of the workers and the financial viability of agricultural operations, particularly those of small family farms.  The variables being discussed included the question of 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. (Of course, this is when it's needed most!)  

In order to move this along, the presiding officers (Senate President and Speaker of the House) created a new joint Committee on Farmworker Overtime, which had public hearings on a compromise bill (HB 4002B) on Thursday afternoon and passed it on Thursday night.  The bill is scheduled for a floor vote in the House tomorrow! 

It should pass, though it is doubtful that any Republicans will be supporting. Still, this is a huge step forward for worker rights and social justice.


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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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