Unfortunately, while the good die young, there are some issues around the capitol that just won’t go away no matter how many times they’ve been killed. We are seeing that this year around encroachments on the Indoor Clean Air Act (ICAA). SB 799 would create a carve-out in the ICAA to allow sampling of products in “vape shops.” While the bill technically limits sampling to nicotine-free products, the majority of “e-juice” contains nicotine and regulation and monitoring for compliance would be challenging. In addition to the public health concerns this bill presents, we have local governments who have passed ordinances prohibiting said sampling and there is no clear allowance in the bill for local regulation. The bill was heard in Senate Health Care on Thursday, March 30th with public health advocates strongly opposed – including Senator Taylor, the Cancer Society, the Lung Association, the Oregon Coalition of Local Health Officials (CLHO), Multnomah County, the League of Oregon Cities (LOC), and AOC. While a work session has not been scheduled, a discussion in the Democratic Caucus is possible.
Similarly, the vape community tried to make inroads in the House this week as well. Representative Helm introduced HB 3345 to explicitly add common areas of multi-unit housing to the ICAA and to increase the set-back for smoking in public from 10 feet to 25 feet from the entrance of any building. During the public hearing on March 27th, a -1 amendment was discussed that would use this bill as a vehicle for the vape sampling carve-out. This bill has also not been scheduled for a work session, and advocates are working to ensure that it does not move forward with any exemptions to the ICAA.
One of the more interesting proposals this week in the world of health care came from Senator Steiner Hayward. On March 30th, the Senate Health Care Committee heard her proposal, SB 997. The bill would allow the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) to penalize employers with 50 or more employees who have employees working at least 32 hours per week who are on the Oregon Health Plan. The original bill says 20 hours per week but Senator Steiner Hayward’s -2 amendments would increase the threshold to 32 hours. The rationale is that “affordable” is subjective, and when employers offer health insurance to employees at a significantly higher cost than Oregon Health Plan (OHP), it makes sense for the employees to choose OHP instead of their employer-offered plan putting an increased cost on the state. The proposed penalty would be 90 percent of the cost of a standard “silver” health care plan. Funds collected would be used to help offset Oregon’s Medicaid costs, to increase reimbursement rates for providers in health profession shortage areas and medically under served areas, to provide assistance to providers serving at least 30 percent OHP patients, and to help reimburse safety net providers serving the uninsured (e.g. local public health and mental health providers). The bill exempts public employers. While revenue-raising, as the bill is a penalty and not a tax, it does not require the higher threshold a tax proposal would for passage. If you would like to watch Senator Steiner Hayward’s presentation and explanation of the bill, click here.
In addition to her efforts to increase revenue, Senator Steiner Hayward shared some of her thoughts regarding the budget with members of the Human Services Coalition of Oregon (HSCO) on Monday, March 27th. As Co-Chair of the Ways & Means Human Services Subcommittee, the Senator reiterated her need for data regarding programs and budgets as she will focus resources into services than can provide evidence of improved outcomes or cost savings. She indicated she would not be prioritizing new proposals or pilot projects in this session. Most notably of all, she stated that if there is new/additional revenue, programs that have been historically underfunded, but produced good outcomes would be her priority, and she gave specific mention to mental health and pubic health.
Contributed by: Stacy Michaelson | AOC Health and Human Services Policy Manager