“For us it will be 35 days of misery…and the after effects will spread to you all.”
Senator Michael Dembrow jokes in front of 150 people at a legislative panel prior to session.

Oregon State Legislature convenes February 1, and the wild ride is under way.

Legislators convened in Salem this week to begin the 2016 legislative session. On the agenda: minimum wage increase, clean energy proposals, solutions for the housing crisis, gun sale loopholes, and reform of Coordinated Care Organizations prior to the next round of federal waivers in 2018. Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature, hope to accomplish these major policy issues during the short session. Republicans say that the short session was not intended to take on these issues. In protest, they have refused to provide the courtesy votes to waive the provision in the House and Senate rules that requires the bills to be read in their entirety. With some bills running hundreds of pages, this procedural maneuver threatens to stall the pace of session. Legislative leaders have put members on notice they may be working evenings and weekends to complete the work before the projected March 6 adjournment.

With knives out, Oregon Legislature starts sprint.



The Big Deal this Week: Minimum wage increase bill passes Senate

Four days into the session, Sen. Michael Dembrow and the Senate Democrats have moved away from Governor Brown’s minimum wage proposal and have put forward their own “3-region” proposal which would raise the minimum wage gradually over six years to three different levels, based on geographic areas. The bill passed the Senate on Friday and now heads to the House. The business community has objected to the 3-region plan, preferring the Governor's 2-region proposal. 

Priority bills for Physicians

House Bill 4136, the bill to triple the cap for non-economic damages for wrongful death lawsuits, passed House Committee with Democrats voting in favor, Republicans opposed.

This bill, sponsored by the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, would raise the cap to $1.5 million. A new provision makes the bill retroactive. That means if the bill passes, some cases in the legal system would be subject to the new limit. It’s uncertain how this will affect insurance policies for physicians which now only cover the $500,000 maximum in statute. Insurers, hospitals and physicians are part of a large coalition opposing this bill. The OMA will issue an action alert for physician associations prior to the February 9 vote on the House floor. Stay tuned.

HB 4124 Improvements to compatibility with PDMP and EDIE. Allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone

Dr. Mike Henstrom, President of the Oregon Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians testified in support of HB 4194, which would streamline the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for front line health care providers through integrated access with the Emergency Department Information Exchange.The bill also would allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone over-the-counter. Rep. Knute Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon, and Rep. Jennifer Williamson, the House Majority Leader, testified in support. Rep. Williamson also proposed an amendment that would allow specially trained pharmacists the ability to dispense two more forms of birth control -- hormonal injections and vaginal rings -- without the need for a doctor’s prescription. This amendment may be contested because of the complexity of the service. A work session is scheduled February 8.

Link to Henstrom’s testimony: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/84712


Senate Bill 1503 A-Eng, repeals sunset on requirement that insurers reimburse licensed nurse practitioners and physician assistants (HB 2902, 2013)

The Oregon Nurses Association is seeking a 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. The bill, opposed by physicians, passed the senate on Friday on a 21-4 vote. More amendments are in the work for the House side.

Health-Related Bills

Coordinated Care Organization Reform

The Senate Health Care Committee and the House Health Care Committee held hearings on bills to reform Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs).

Sen. Alan Bates, a physician, has engaged the 16 CCOs on SB 1531, a bill designed to increase transparency around metics, contracts, global budgets, required services, and reporting for CCOs. No CCOs testified in opposition although several did note that even with lengthy discussions, more work needed to be done on this legislation. The bill contains an ‘evergreen’ clause which allows contract renewals for CCOs unless they don’t meet minimum standards. This provision is in response to the OHA contract dispute with Portland CCO FamilyCare last year. The bill also prohibits from ‘clawing back’ payments already made to CCOs. The bill is up for a work session on February 9.

On the House side, Rep. Cedric Hayden, a dentist, testified on HB 4107, which prohibits the Oregon Health Authority from retroactively changing terms of the CCO contracts unless required to do so by the Centers for Medicaid Service. 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. HB 4107 is up for a work session on February 8.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick’s CCO bill, which would modify the requirements for CCOs in 2018 and 2023, is up for a public hearing and work session on February 8. This bill is designed to expand community involvement and transparency in CCOs.

Mental Health

SB 1558: Prohibits disclosure of records from college or university student health center, mental health center or counseling offices, except to specified entities within the college or university, has a work session scheduled February 10.

HB 4075: 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, is moving forward. This bill includes threats such as cyberbullying or suicide threats. A work session is scheduled February 10.

HB 4011, a bill that would allow certain Oregon State Hospital employees who work with the patient population, to qualify as police officers under PERS, is scheduled for a work session February 10.

Bills or amendments that won’t move forward this session

Tobacco 21

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. Read the OR-ACEP statement here: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2016R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/83884

Mental health reporting

SB 1551, a bill that would authorize specified reporters, including physicians, to report to the Department of State Police Firearms Unit that a person is experiencing a mental health emergency and is a danger to self or others, did not advance.

Expanded background checks for gun sales

A bill to ban the loophole on default gun sales when background checks take longer than three days is dead. http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/02/gun_sales_loophole_hearing_bri.html#incart_story_package. However…a bill to prohibit transfer of a firearm by dealer or private party if the Department of State Police is unable to determine if the recipient is qualified to receive a firearm, is still in play. A work session is scheduled February 10.


Issues are moving at warp speed! The deadline for a bill to have a work session scheduled for bills in the originating chamber was Friday, February 5. The work session must occur by February 11 or the bill is dead. Bills must clear the second chamber no later than February 23. Exceptions exist for bills in joint committees, revenue committees or Ways and Means, the budget-writing committee. 

Amendment Watch

Democratic leaders in both chambers of the Oregon Legislature announced last week that under rules for the short 2016 session, there will be no anonymous amendments to bills. This will allow proponents and advocates to know who is behind various proposals. Lobbyists and advocates often spend time chasing this information down so they can work with the sponsor.

Rules of Session: What is a work session?

A work session is a committee hearing for the purpose of determining if a bill will be voted out of committee. Think of it as a conversation (or debate) amongst the committee members. This is different from a public hearing where testimony is taken. Usually, testimony is not taken during a work session unless by invitation from the Committee Chair. In other words, if the bill doesn’t have a work session scheduled, it’s not up for a vote. For the short session, if a bill didn’t get scheduled for a work session by the initial deadline of Friday, February 5, it’s dead.

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

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