“I guess we’re here doing a reverse Shakespeare. We’re not here to bury the Senate president; we’re here to praise him.”
Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, talking about kudos for Sen. Courtney and the end of the era as he steps down after 38 years in office and 20 years as president.
OR-ACEP Priority Bills
Preventing violence against health care workers. HB 4142, which would have
classified assaults on hospital workers as felonies instead of misdemeanors, died in the
Senate after it passed the House on March 1, by a vote of 53-7. Senate President Peter
Courtney had not assigned it to a committee, and ruled out of order a motion by
Republicans on the final day to bring it to a vote of the full Senate. Republicans failed in
an attempt to override Courtney’s decision.
A bill will come forward next session, but OR-ACEP issued a joint release with the Oregon Emergency Nurses Association (OENA). It urged legislators to not wait until 2023 to address the problem of violence in hospitals and the trauma of health care worker assault, but to take decisive action during the interim to develop solutions. Dr. Alex Skog, President-Elect, testified in support. You can see his testimony here . His op-ed was first published in the Portland Tribune (pay wall) and then in newspapers state-wide.
Community Violence Prevention Programs. OR-ACEP also supported HB 4045 , a bill
to create grant funding for hospital-based community violence programs. Dr. Sharon
Meieran, a board member, testified in support and this bill passed. You can read her
testimony here .
The 2022 Legislative Session
The Legislative Assembly convened on February 1 and adjourned on March 4. It was
the last session for Governor Kate Brown and for Senate President Peter Courtney, D-
Salem, who is retiring after almost four decades in office. A new governor will be elected
in the November general election. Senators will elect a new president next year.
The House elected Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, as speaker this session after Tina Kotek
stepped down to run for governor. Unlike the failed 2020 session, this session was
heralded as a bipartisan success with credit going to Speaker Rayfield, House
Republican Leader Vicki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, House Majority Leader Rep. Julie
Fahey, D-Eugene, President Courtney, Senate Republican Leader Sen. Tim Knopp, D-
Bend, and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego.
The minority parties in both chambers slowed down the pace by requiring bills to be read in full prior to floor votes in protest to the HB 4002, the farmworker overtime bill, which Democrats called a human rights bill and Republicans said would devastate the state’s agricultural industry. Once that passed, they waived the bill reading requirement and the session adjourned three days early.
Similar to 2021, the short-session continued to focus on the fall-out from the COVID-19
pandemic, economic hardship and natural disasters, and equity. The Governor passed
her Future Ready legislation to address workforce shortages in the manufacturing, construction and health care sectors. Lawmakers passed legislation to bolster the
nursing workforce, grants to incentivize recruitment and retention of the behavioral health workforce and a package to address the child care workforce crisis. Overtime pay was approved for farmworkers by removing the agriculture exemption in law.
Heat relief for vulnerable Oregonians passed, in recognition of the nearly 100 people who
died during the record-breaking heath wave in June 2021. A bill to improve access to
primary care and behavioral health passed, requiring insurers to pay for three visits
without copays or deductibles and to allow same day physical health and behavioral
health visits with no additional co-pays.
The Legislature also passed a bill to provide a bridge plan for the nearly 300,000 people who could be dis-enrolled from the Oregon Health Plan once the pandemic emergency declaration has expired. Investments of $400 million were made to housing and a modest allocation for homeless youth.
Violence prevention was in the spotlight. A bill to fund community violence prevention
programs in hospitals passed with a $5 million appropriation. A bill to increase penalties
for assaulting hospital workers on the job passed the House 53-7, but arrived in the
Senate too late for referral to a committee. While there was strong support for protecting
hospital workers against violence, some members had concerns the penalties would be
misused against people in mental health crisis or BIPOC communities. The legislature
voted to increase penalties for assaulting or harassing elections workers.