First Annual Session Convenes
The first constitutionally authorized Annual Session convened on February 1. While other “short sessions” have been held in February, they were experimental in nature and not sanctioned by Oregon’s constitution.
As expected, the primary focus of the February Session is the projected $300 million budget shortfall. As many as 270 pieces of legislation have been introduced, although given the strict timeline legislative leadership has adopted, it will be an uphill battle to reach the Governor’s desk. That timeline is as follows:
Wednesday, February 1 Legislature Convenes
Monday, February 6 Deadline for bills to be posted for hearing in chamber of origin
Wednesday, February 8 Revenue Forecast
Tuesday, February 14 Last day for policy committees to hold work sessions on bills in their chamber of origin
Tuesday, February 21 Deadline for bills to be posted for hearing in second chamber
Thursday, February 23 Last day for committees to hold work session on bills in second chamber
Wednesday, February 29 Target Sine Die (Adjournment)
Although the target date for adjournment is February 29, the legislature actually has 35 days to conclude business. The legislature held “pre-session” hearings prior to convening in order clear the way for several key issues. Those bills that did not receive a pre-session hearing will be at the bottom of the heap for consideration.
Business Legislation of Interest
HB 4098 would increase annual timber harvests on state forestlands by setting a percentage (95%) of harvestable timber expected to be grown (measured in million board feet). Proponents say that the percentage could drop to 85% but the impact of that drop would be equal to approximately 3,200 jobs. The business community generally supports the proposal as a “jobs bill”; however, the Governor has indicated that he opposes the bill. Should the bill pass, it would apply to timber harvests and expected harvestable timber growth in calendar years beginning on or after January 1, 2013. HB 4098 is currently in the House Agriculture Committee.
HB 4101 directs the Water Resources Department to aggressively pursue development of the Columbia River Basin water resources. The bill would establish the Columbia River Task Force to make recommendations for new allocations of specified amounts of water from sources within the Columbia River Basin. The Water Resources Commission would be required to consider and take action on the task force’s recommendations. While the proposal would likely produce more jobs than HB 4098 mentioned above, it faces a number of obstacles, including opposition from tribes and conservation groups.
HB 4067 represents a very narrow fix for FaceBook with regard to concerns over its enterprise zone agreement. The problem is the sixty year old “Central Assessment” law, a policy adopted by a number of states, originally intended to apply to railroads, telephone companies, and electrical utilities. However, the Oregon Department of Revenue’s application of the policy currently treats FaceBook’s data center as a utility, resulting in the company potentially being taxed on both its tangible and intangible assets held worldwide. The company is located in Prineville and has an Enterprise Zone agreement with Crook County. Representatives of the company state that, had they known about the law in advance, they would not have located in Oregon. HB 4067 would exclude a company owning or leasing a data center in an enterprise zone from central assessment during the period of enterprise zone exemption.
HB 4076 is another attempt to address Oregon’s capital gains tax. The bill, championed by Rep. Matt Wand (R-Troutdale) would reduce the rate of personal income and corporate excise tax on capital gains, if gains are attributable to sale or exchange of investment made on or after January 1, 2012, and before January 1, 2014, and are held for at least three years.
HB 4164 implements the Health Exchange passed via SB 99 during the 2011 legislative session. Both the House and Senate Health Committees held informational meetings during the interim to receive updates on implementation, thus paving the way for a fast track through the February Session. However, as with many well intended concepts, the devil is in the details. Discussions such as the one that occurred in the House Health Committee on February 1 regarding whether employees of the Exchange should have access to their own health coverage rather than be covered under the Public Employees’ Benefit Board (PEBB), may prove controversial enough to slow the bill’s progress.
To view or print out the full text of bills introduced during the 2011 session, or for history and status of bills, go to http://www.leg.state.or.us/bills_laws/
For Committee schedules and agendas, go to Committee Agendas Online
Legislators’ Committee Assignments & Audio of Committee proceedings, and to access exhibits used in testimony, visit: Committee Web Pages
For contact information, including address, telephone number and email address for your legislators, go to http://www.leg.state.or.us/senate/senateset.htm for the Senate and http://www.leg.state.or.us/house/houseset.htm for the House of Representatives. If you are unsure of who your legislators are, go to http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/findset.htm. To listen to legislative proceedings over the Internet, go to http://www.leg.state.or.us/listn/listenset.htm
If you do not have access to the Internet, copies of bills and measure status may be obtained by calling 1-800-332-2313. You may also leave a message for your legislator at this toll free number.