It seems everyone in Salem has different legislative priorities this session. The majority party has announced their agenda, which includes a minimum wage increase, affordable housing, and clean energy legislation. I believe there is not enough opportunity for citizens to testify, nor for legislators to make sound discussions in order to create the best policy for Oregonians within the 35 day period. This is why my legislative priorities remain simple and non-controversial.
Here is the short list of bills I am championing:
- HB 4072 - In my October newsletter I discussed the benefits of the University Venture Development Fund (UVDF) between higher education and the business community. Oregon's UVDF provides an innovative way to ensure that great ideas benefit the state by providing up to 60% in Oregon income tax credits for donors who support the transfer of university research to Oregon's commercial marketplace. This bill is scheduled to appear in the House Committee on Revenue on Feb. 4th.
- HB 4071 - This bill is a follow up of HB 2522 from the 2015 Legislative Session. I described HB 2522 in my June Newsletter, Righting Wrongs. HB 4071 extends Medicaid coverage to the COFA (Compacts of Free Association) Islanders. The bill provides a 9-1 federal match that would ensure about 1,000 to 1,500 Islanders receive the proper health care they are in dire need of. The cost to Oregon would be about $1.5 million. On Feb. 1st, HB 4071 passed unanimously through the House Committee on Health Care and onto the Joint Ways & Means Subcommittee on Human Services.
- HB 4086 - I support this bill because it provides an extension of unemployment benefits, up to an additional six month, to workers who have been locked out of work, such as ATI Oremet in Albany. This lock-out has created serious financial stress on many families, especially in the Albany area. This bill is scheduled for public hearing and possible work session on Feb. 5th in the House Committee on Business and Labor.
- HB 4094 - There are no banking options for medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational retailers given that marijuana (MJ) is federally classified as a Schedule I drug. This bill removes the criminal liability from state law to allow banks and credit unions to bank with, lend to, lawful MJ businesses. This is an important step in reducing risk and providing security for banks, credits union, and the public. The bill is scheduled to have a public hearing and possible work session on Feb. 3rd in the House Committee on Business and Labor.
- HB 1556 - This bill protects the most vulnerable populations in Oregon through an update to the definition of "physical injury." The proponents of this bill recognize that children, the elderly and persons of special needs can be easily manipulated by their abusers. The bill allows the prosecution to prove injury to this special class of victim by independent testimony of witnesses and experts, thus insulating the victim from further abuse or undue influence. Indeed, the current law in Oregon has significant gaps which allow the abuser to do so. Senate Bill 1556 will close this gap by creating a new definition of physical injury which applies only to these vulnerable victims. Rather than require an infant child or incapacitated victim to testify about how much pain they experienced, judges and juries will be able to hear testimony proving such injury through independent expert witnesses and investigators. Such an approach is simply common sense. The Senate Committee on Judiciary will have a public hearing on the bill on Feb. 5th.
- SB 1571 - This bill addresses untested sexual assault forensic evidence kits. I support this common sense approach to better process these kits and identify suspects in prosecuting sex crimes. The bill was first heard on Feb. 2nd in the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
- HB 4099 - This is a small legislative fix as a result from SB 856 from the 2015 Legislative Session. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) was directed to implement child sexual assault programs to better protect our youth. HB 4099 directs ODE to work with relevant agencies to best implement sexual assault awareness programs. HB 4099 is scheduled for a public hearing and possible work session on Feb. 3rd.
As always, thank you for the support. I will send weekly updates throughout the 2016 February Session.
Until next week,