This week marks the end of week 13 of the Legislative Session. Below is a review of the week.
JWM Agency Report: Regional Solutions
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means met this week to receive agency reports, including an update on “Change in Use of Regional Solutions Program Funds,” from the Business Development Department. Senator Johnson read a brief summary of the report, which requests authorization to use of $60,000 of existing Lottery Bond proceeds for the Rainier Rail project. The JWM Transportation and Economic Development Sub Committee recommended approval. The Joint Ways and Means Committee approved the report without discussion and without objection. View the full committee pony here.
HB 2567 – OR WARN-Act
Requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days’ notice to employees and certain officials before ceasing operations, relocating or ordering mass layoff involving 50 or more employees.
ACTION: Vote out of House 33 Yes, 23 No, 4 Excused.
HB 2968 –Brownfields DEQ Study
Requires Department of Environmental Quality to carry out study and propose recommendations for single, coordinated process for parties to meet certain federal and state requirements for, and to obtain certain releases from liability for, cleanup of hazardous waste.
ACTION: Vote out of the House 53 Yes, 3 No, 4 Excused.
HB 2091 – PUC to use US Fund Moneys to Expand Broadband
The Senate Committee on Business and Transportation held a public hearing and work session on House Bill 2091. Brandt Wolf testified on behalf of the Oregon Telecommunications Association in support of the Bill. OTA proposed this bill in response to a ruling at the PUC that the universal service fund did not cover broadband services, and only landline voice services. The bill updates the USF to current technologies. Mike Dewey testified on behalf of the Cable Telecommunications Association, the CTA is neutral on the bill, but offered an amendment which clarified that the PUC was required to prioritize underserved and unserved areas for broadband and telecommunications. OTA is concerned that because the USF is primarily funded by voice lines it lacks clarity as to what monies would be dictated for which projects. Mr. Brandt responded that it was his belief, that similar to the FCC funding system, the allocation of funds and priorities of projects are best left to the PUC rulemaking process. Sam Pastrick on behalf of Oregon Citizens Utility Board supports the legislation from a consumer standpoint of greater broadband access, and echoed the sentiments of Mr. Brandt regarding CTA’s amendment. Brian Conway of the PUC held out that the PUC took no position on the bill, but believed that the bill would end the previous practice preferring the use of certain materials (e.g. Copper over Fiber) in favor of a market based approach allowing industry to determine the preferred technology for a project funded under the bill. Further, Mr. Conway was unclear what the amendment added to the legislation and found the “prioritizing” of underserved/unserved language unclear stating, PUC thinks of the projects being funded as “high-cost” (i.e. rural areas that are underserved or unserved). All parties agreed that putting the 8.5% cap into statute was a positive step. Sen. Riley wanted to be clear that on what HB 2091’s effect would be on overall broadband service, Mr. Conway responded that the bill will expand the availability of broadband. No amendment was proposed, and the Committee moved to send HB 2091 to the floor with a do-pass recommendation.
ACTION: The Committee sent HB 2091 to the floor with a do-pass recommendation; Sen. Beyer will carry the bill.
HB 2133: Caps Cogeneration Facilities – Small Scale Renewable Mandate
Caps electricity generated by any single biomass facility that may be used to meet requirement that certain percent of electricity in this state be electricity generated by small-scale renewable energy projects or biomass facilities up to 20MW.
ACTION: The House passed HB 2133 with 36 ayes votes, 19 no votes and 5 members excused. (No votes: Barreto, Bentz, Esquivel, Hack, Hayden, Helm, Lewis, McLane, Nearman, Noble, Olson, Parrish, Post, Reschke, Brock Smith, Sprenger, Stark, Whisnant, Wilson)
HB 2244 – Greenlight Oregon Labor Rebate Fund
The Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue held a work session on House Bill 2244. Sen. DeBoer supports HB 2244, but thinks the premise of crediting a payroll tax back to the business that is paying it, is an odd set-up. Sen. Boquist is concerned that the revenue impact will double by the 2021 sunset date, and he hopes the members of the film community will report back to the legislature at that time regarding the successes or failures of the tax credit. The committee sent HB 2244 to the floor with a do-pass recommendation.
ACTION: HB 2244 was sent to the Senate floor with a do-pass recommendation, Sen. Riley will carry the bill.
HB 3213 – Broadband Technology
The Senate Committee on General Government and Accountability held a public hearing on House Bill 3213. Rep. Nathanson testified that broadband is the new infrastructure super highway, and is as essential to the modern economy as roads, water, and electricity were to the old economy; ensuring rural access to broadband technology will encourage investment in Oregon. Rep. Nathanson testified that the only change this bill makes is adding information on Broadband’s effect on Economic Development and Local, State, and Regional Economies to the required report from the Oregon Broadband Counsel. Sen. Riley stated he believes at this point, fiber is the technology leader with no challenge on the immediate horizon, and that Oregon is so far behind in accessibility that it is time for the State to catch-up with other states.
ACTION: No action taken.
HB 2242 – Traded Sector Business Development Projects
The Senate Committee on Business and Transportation held a public hearing and work session on House Bill 2242. John Saris, Finance Manager at Business Oregon, testified that HB 2242 intends to maintain its initial intent of supporting traded sector activities in emerging businesses. The face of manufacturing has changed in the 30 years since the original bill was passed, and manufacturing is now predominantly in intangible goods and services such as software and marketing. However, the original bill was aimed at facilities and equipment used in old market manufacturing, not headquarters or business offices, this bill would redefine those facilities to be included. Sen. Girod asked why should a rural Senator vote for this bill? Mr. Saris used an example of a meat packing company in eastern Oregon that wanted to build an HQ to handle all of its marketing, sales, and research and development. Under the current law this facility is not eligible, limiting the availability of funding to the emerging business; the changes in HB 2242 would make that project eligible. Sen. Girod, next inquired about a 15% capped set-aside in another portion of HB 2242, which he thought limited the amount of funding to rural communities to 15% of the total fund. Mr. Saris explained that, if, and only if, the department is unable or does not give out loans to emerging businesses in traded sectors, up to 15% of the budget will be dedicated to use for shopping centers, food selling businesses, and retail and service businesses that are not otherwise a traded sector business, in rural communities. Mr. Saris explained that in all his time at Business Oregon he has never seen this triggered. Sen. Girod sought clarification of traded sector, which is any company that produces a good or service which enters a market where national or international competition exists. Mr. Saris reiterated the goal of Business Oregon is to support businesses where a capital gap exists, and can be met through the fund, those businesses are predominantly small companies from outside metropolitan areas. In the work session, Sen. Girod stated he didn’t like the drafting, but that he would vote for what is an otherwise good bill.
ACTION: HB 2242 sent to the Senate floor with a do-pass recommendation. Sen. Beyer will carry the bill.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Contributed by: Amanda Dalton | AOC Consultant