2016 Legislative Session Final Report
79th Legislative Assembly


The 2016 Legislative Session

The 79th Legislative Assembly convened on February 1 and adjourned on March 3.  Originally, the intent of the short session was to rebalance the budget and make modest technical fixes, known as housekeeping bills. In reality, the short session is an opportunity to take on major and contentious issues as long as your party has the votes.  This session, the Democrats — with commanding majorities in both chambers —had the votes.

House Speaker Tina Kotek has dubbed the short session, the ‘turbo-session.” Here’s a turbo-history: During the first short session in 2010, the Legislature passed major overhauls to health care championed by Governor John Kitzhaber. In 2012 they tackled education reform, expanding early childhood programs, and creating the health insurance exchange. In 2014, lawmakers took on Cover Oregon problems, marijuana legalization and gun control. This session, they passed landmark minimum wage legislation, affordable housing reform and a clean energy bill. All of these bills were top priorities for Democrats.

The Republican minority employed new tactics — refusing to waive the requirement to read bills out loud in their entirety and denying quorum for evening and weekend sessions — to run out the clock. In the end, they were successful in blocking a gun control bill, retail tobacco licensure, debt collection and bonding authority for Tri-Met. Look for this strategy to be used again.

Here’s what you won’t see happen during a short session: extraordinary votes. The Constitution requires that bills raising revenue receive three-fifths majority for passage. The Constitution also requires that bill reducing criminal sentences, as approved by the people, requires a two-thirds majority for passage.

Everything else is on the table.

High profile issues

Minimum wage, clean energy, affordable housing

Lawmakers passed a minimum wage bill, which would make Oregon’s rate the highest in the nation. The increases will differ by three geographic regions, with the top rate in the Portland metro area. the first 50 cent increase goes into effect July 1, to $9.75. By 2022, it will be $17.75 in Portland, $13.50 in midsize counties and $12.50 in rural areas. This bill was a priority for Democrats and for labor groups. Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, was the champion for this issue.

They also passed SB 1547, a clean energy bill, designed to phase out the state’s reliance on coal power. It requires power companies to eliminated coal-fired resources from their electrical supply by Jan. 1, 2040, and caps rate increases at 4 percent. This bill was backed by environmentalists as well as Pacificorp and Portland General Electric. 

Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, led the charge on affordable housing. Ultimately, legislators passed HB 4143, which bans rent increases for the first year of tenancy for month-to-month renters and requires 90 days notice for increases afterwards. Additional legislation would establish a fast track housing program to expand the supply of affordable housing for low-income households. An estimated 40 percent of all Oregonians are renters. 

Budget allocations also will provide: 

  • $8 million to increase emergency housing assistance to community agencies around the state; 
  • $2 million to increase support for homeless shelters; 
  • $2.5 million in lottery bonds for the preservation of existing affordable housing; 
  • $2.7 million for foreclosure counseling and $200,000 in additional support for Legal Aid Services of Oregon to help low-income Oregonians deal with housing-related issues.


Revenues are up for the short-term; long-term outlook is hazy

The revenue forecast was released on February 12. Is the recession around the corner? Mark McMullen, the State Economist, thinks probably not in the short term, but he was cautious about the long-term outlook. A slowing stock market and corporate revenue could mean less general fund available in 2017 when lawmakers will attempt to address transportation funding and the underfunded PERS liability, estimated to be $20 billion or more.  

Since the December forecast, the general fund is up $36 million and lottery funds are up $24.8 million.  The state’s total operating budget for the biennium, which ends June 30, 2017, is $18 billion dollars with $800 million in reserves. A proposed ballot measure, which would raise $5 billion per biennium by taxing large corporations on their gross receipts, may provide some flexibility in the state budget. It may up for a vote in the general election. 

Why is the budget environment so important? It determines whether or not state services are enhanced, maintained or cut. Fees (called other funds) may be increased to cover general fund shortfalls. The budget also is a determining factor in whether a policy bill with a price tag (called a fiscal impact) will be approved.

Priority Issues for physicians

Wrongful Death 

For the second session in a row, the wrongful death bill, backed by trial lawyers, died in the Senate. HB 4136, which would triple the cap on non-economic damages to $1.5 million, passed the House. It’s likely to surface again during the 2017 session. Supporters say this bill will get larger awards to victims. Legislators who didn’t back this bill were primarily concerned about the lack of access to health care providers in rural areas. 

Pay Parity for Nurses and PAs

The Oregon Nurses Association backed the bill (SB 1503) to repeal the 2018 sunset for pay parity for primary care providers. Physician organizations raised concerns about the impact of the policy on healthcare workforce development, recruitment and retention. The Oregon Health Authority has agreed to work with stakeholders over the interim to see what can be accomplished with existing data. 

Opioid overdose prevention

The OMA, physician organizations including OR-ACEP and OPPA, the OAHHS, Multnomah County and other health organizations were successful in passing a bill to address the opioid overdose epidemic. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program will be integrated with the Emergency Department Information Exchange to allow front-line providers to more easily access information while still preserving privacy protections. Pharmacists also will be able to dispense Naloxone over-the-the counter. Legislators told moving stories during testimony and floor debate about how opioid addiction had affected their families.  

Coordinated Care Organizations 

Major reform is on hold until 2017; minor fixes provide certainty for CCOs and patients

Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, and Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, both proposed CCO reform bills during the short session. Bates is co-chair of the Ways and Means Human Services budget-writing committee and Greenlick chairs the House Health Care committee. Their bills did not advance given their complexity but both of them have indicated they intend to work over the interim to refine the concepts and reintroduce them for next session.

The CCO bills sponsored by minority party members did advance this session. Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville, sponsored a bill that would prohibit clawbacks from CCOs unless they are required to demand payment by federal law. Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg, passed a bill to prohibit the Oregon Health Authority from retroactively changing terms of the CCO contracts unless required to do so by the Centers for Medicaid Service.

Looking ahead to the 2016 election season

State Legislative Races

March 8 is the deadline for candidates to file for election or re-election to the Oregon Legislature. Long-time leaders such as Senate President Pro-Tem Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland, and Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, co-chair of the full Ways and Means Committee, are not returning. Sen. Chip Shields, member of the Senate Health Care Committee, will not file for re-election. Rep. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, has announced he would run for Shields’ open seat. D-Portland, Rep. Brent Barton, D-Oregon City, and Rep. Jim Weidner, R-Yamhill, also have indicated he won’t be running for re-election.

House seats are for two-year terms. Senate seats are four-year terms.

Ballot measures

Legislation passed on the minimum wage and clean, renewable energy may have averted ballot measures for these issues. An initiative petition to increase the corporate minimum tax when Oregon sales exceed $25 million is still active. Anti-immunization advocates are seeking a constitutional change to enshrine their ability to refuse any “government-imposed” medical procedures for themselves or their children, except under court order. In order to qualify for the ballot they will need to collect 117,578 signatures. Health care providers and organizations are lining up in opposition. 

Over 80 initiative petitions have been submitted as of March 3. Most won’t move forward because they lack the necessary signatures or political support.

An active interim and a preview for bills in 2017

The interim is the period when legislators, state agencies and stakeholders work on upcoming legislation. During a short session, approximately 300 bills are introduced. During a long session, there may be up to 3,000. 

State agencies submit their legislative concepts to the Governor’s Office for consideration in April of even-numbered years and also prepare for the biennial state agency budgets. The deadline for members and committees to to submit requests for drafts of measures to be filed pre-session is September 26, 2016. Look for informational hearings during May 2016 Legislative Days and previews for committee bills during the September 2016 Legislative Days.

Summary of Major Health Care Legislation

Information about these bills was compiled from a variety of sources including legislative staff measure summaries, public testimony, news media and legislative updates from stakeholders and community partners.

Bills that passed

HB 4017 Basic Health Plan Blueprint

What the bill does: Requires Department of Consumer and Business Services in collaboration with Oregon Health Authority and stakeholder advisory group to report recommendations to interim committees of Legislative Assembly related to health for blueprint for Basic Health Program.

Background: In 2015, the Legislative Assembly enacted House Bill 2934, directing the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to convene a stakeholder advisory group to examine key policy issues relating to the federal Basic Health Program (BHP) in the context of Oregon’s health care system. The BHP is a health coverage option for individuals with incomes between 138 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) and individuals from 0-200 percent FPL who are lawfully present in the United States but do not qualify for Medicaid due to immigration status.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Rep. Greenlick, Oregon Health Equity Alliance; Oregon Primary Care Association.

HB 4075 School Safety Tip Line

What the bill does: Would replace the School Safety Hotline established by the Department of Justice with a new Department of State Police tip line for anonymous reporting of information concerning threats to schools safety. Amendments were added to require rules be developed in consultation with state and local government behavioral health care providers. Appropriates $1 million dollars to fund the tip line.

Background: In 2014, House Bill 4087 created the Oregon Task Force on School Safety. The Task Force included representatives from police, fire, school administration, teachers, and policy advisors on public safety. One of the charges to the Task Force was to, “Examine models for existing protocols for school safety and incident response and consider whether standardized statewide school safety and incident response protocols would be appropriate.” In response to that charge, the Task Force recommended establishing and funding a statewide tip line for reports of threats to student safety.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: State Police, Sheriffs, Association of Oregon Community Health Programs, Oregon School Employees Association. 

HB 4014 Cannabis

What the bill does: Creates a youth prevention program, alters regulations around residency, and requires the OHA to develop recommendations on clinical guidelines for physicians who prescribe marijuana and report to specific legislative committees on rules adopted or steps taken on recalling contaminated or unfit cannabis and other products derived from cannabis. It also allows medical growers, processors and retailers to transfer their inventory to their new line of business when they become Oregon Liquor Control Commission licensees. The proposal also would alter penalties for cannabis-related crimes

Background: In 1998, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 67 to allow medical use of marijuana within specified limits. In 2014, Oregon voters approved Measure 91 allowing the sale, regulation and taxation of marijuana into a recreational market for people over 21 years of age. Both of the measures were modified during the 2015 Legislative Session, primarily in House Bill 3400 A (2015). Some of these changes include requiring licensees of the recreational system or registrants of the medical system to be Oregon residents for at least two years.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Joint Interim Committee on Marijuana Legislation.

HB 4107 CCO Contracts

What the bill does: Prohibits the Oregon Health Authority from retroactively changing terms of the CCO contracts unless required to do so by the Centers for Medicaid Service. The intent is to give assurances to CCOs and to patients that disruptions will be limited unless it’s an absolute emergency.

Background: This bill is in response to the OHA’s decision to change the terms of the CCO contracts mid-year in 2015, after consultation with CMS. As a result several CCOs were subject to a clawback of several million dollars and some CCOs received additional payments.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville, FamilyCare.

HB 4124 EDIE/PDMP/Naloxone

What the bill does: Streamlines the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for front line health care providers through integrated access with the Emergency Department Information Exchange. Allows pharmacists to dispense Naloxone, a prescription medication that reverses heroin and prescription opiate overdoses. 

Background: Oregon’s rate of non-medical use of prescription pain relievers ranks second highest in the nation, with almost one out of four Oregonians having received a prescription for opioid medications in 2013. According to the Oregon Public Health Division, there were 154 deaths from opioid overdoses in 2014.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland. OMA, OR-ACEP, ONA, OPPA, OAFP, OAHHS, OHSU, Oregon Health Leadership Council, Multnomah County, various other hospitals and provider groups.

HB 4141 CCO Service Areas

What the bill does: Clarifies criterion for determining CCO Service Areas.

Background: The OHA filed rules during 2015 to define the process for a service area change. This issue became politically charged due to a legal dispute between OHA and Family Care over contract provisions. Legislative Counsel determined the rule gave the Authority complete discretion “In determining that a CCO would no longer be serving all or a portion of its service area.” 

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Rep. Cedric Hayden R-Roseburg, Family Care.

SB 1503 NP/PA Pay Parity

What the bill does: 

Background: The Oregon Nurses Association backed the repeal of the 2018 sunset for pay parity for primary care providers. Amendments negotiated by the OMA were added, which would require the Oregon Health Policy Board and the Department of Business and Consumer Services to collect additional data on the impact of the pay parity law. The intent is to keep the conversation going on payment reform.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Oregon Nurses Association.

Interim Action: The OHA has also agreed to work with provider groups over the interim to look at the impact of the 2013 law NP/PA pay parity law on healthcare workforce development, recruitment and retention.

SB 1558 Student Health Record Disclosure

What the bill does: Prohibits disclosure of records from college or university student health centers, mental health centers or counseling offices, except to specified entities within the college or university. The bill clarifies that medical records are not student records; thus, they belong to the students and not the institutions they attend. This privacy protection is intended to help students experiencing abuse, trauma or crisis who turn to their campus-based health centers for support.

Background: Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, introduced this bill on behalf of a student at the University of Oregon. School officials used her student counseling records against her in a lawsuit involving the U of O. This bill clarifies that student health records are protected under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and not under the lesser protection of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which would allow student records to be viewed by university administration in certain instances.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Senators Gelser, Knopp, Representative Lininger.

Bills that died in committee

HB 4100 CCO Reform (Greenlick Bill)

What the bill would have done: Modify the requirements for CCOs in 2018 and 2023  in order to expand community involvement and transparency in CCOs.

Background: In 2011, the Legislature passed SB 1580, which implemented the Coordinated Care Model intended to oversee the integration of physical, dental and mental health services for Oregon’s Medicaid members.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland

Interim Action: Rep. Greenlick intends to form a workgroup over the interim.

HB 4136 Wrongful Death

What the bill would have done: Triple the $500,000 limit on non-economic damages recoverable in wrongful death actions.

Background: ORS 31.710, enacted in 1987, limits the amount awarded for noneconomic damages in wrongful death and other actions to $500,000.

Session Action: Physician organizations strongly opposed this legislation, concerned that the increase would disrupt the stability of the medical malpractice insurance market and lead to increases for professional liability insurance premiums. This could have an adverse impact especially on rural Oregonians and their access to care. 

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Rep. Gallegos, Oregon Trial Lawyers.

HB 4147 Firearm Transfer Criminal Background Checks

What the bill would have done: Prohibit transfer of firearm by dealer or private party for 10 business days if Department of State Police is unable to determine whether recipient is qualified to receive a firearm.

Background: Oregon statutes requires some form of background check to be completed by the gun dealer or seller prior to the purchaser taking possession. The background check is completed through the Oregon State Police, which provides a unique approval number for allowed sales or transfers, or will alert the seller or dealer that the individual is disqualified from taking possession of the firearm. In some cases, the Department is not able to immediately determine whether the purchaser is qualified or disqualified. In the case of a sale through a gun dealer, if the Department is unable to verify the purchaser is qualified or disqualified by the end of the dealer’s next business day, the dealer may deliver the handgun to the purchaser.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Rep. Williamson.

SB 1531 CCO Reform (Bates Bill)

What the bill would have done: Increase transparency around metrics, contracts, global budgets, required services, and reporting for CCOs.

Background: Sen. Alan Bates, a physician, engaged the 16 CCOs in multiple meetings on this bill, which ultimately didn’t advance. The most contentious provision was an evergreen’ clause which allows contract renewals for CCOs unless they don’t meet minimum standards. The bill also prohibited clawbacks for payments already made to CCOs.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Sen. Alan Bates, CCOs

Interim Action: Continued negotiations over the controversial provisions. 

SB 1559 Licensure of Retail Tobacco Stores

What the bill would have done: Require retail tobacco stores in the state must be licensed to be licensed by the Department of Revenue.

Background: Oregon has  the highest illegal sales of tobacco to minors in the nation. Only nine states do not require a license to sell retail tobacco products. Multnomah County recently enacted a tobacco retail licensure program. However, the Coalition of Local Health Officials and the American Heart Association opposed this bill because of the preemption to counties to enact their own programs. This bill was ultimately tabled as part of the deal to adjourn sine die.

Chief sponsors/key legislators and/or interest groups: Sen. Monnes Anderson and Sen. Steiner Hayward.

Interim Action: Health Care advocates testified in support of an amendment to SB 1559, the tobacco retail licensing bill, to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21. Senator Steiner Hayward, the chief sponsor of the amendment, said this concept will be postponed until the 2017 session.

For more information about these bills or any other legislative issues, please contact Katy King Government Relations and Public Affairs at KatyKing01@gmail.com





For more information about the legislative process, please contact Katy King.

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