On Tuesday the Oregon House floor session was adjourned following the confirmation of a colleague who has tested positive for COVID-19, and who had been present during the March 15 and 16 floor sessions.
On the advice of Marion County Public Health officials, legislators and staff who are showing no symptoms are being asked to self-quarantine for 10 days, and those displaying symptoms are to be tested and quarantine for two weeks. We are continuing to conduct our remote committee work as scheduled.
The earliest we can resume floor sessions is Monday March 29. We had been scheduled for morning and evening floor sessions for most of the week to try and make headway on the consideration and passage of dozens of bills.
The passage of bills in the House Chamber is taking additional time this session, creating a backlog of mostly uncontroversial bills.
Bills can be read by title only if Representatives agree, or they must be read in their entirety. Currently every bill up for a floor vote is being read in its entirety.
One bill up for consideration is HB 2111 which changes the name of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission to reflect the additional duties of the OLCC. Given it is 170 pages in length, it will take approximately 10 hours for the clerk to read this one bill aloud. This could take several floor sessions to accomplish.
When Oregon voters approved annual legislative sessions, they established time limits. The length of the odd-year session is 160 days, and the 2021 session will end no later than 11:59 p.m. on June 28, 2021. Every bill that has not been approved by both chambers by that time will be dead. While the Governor can call the legislature back in for Special Sessions, any legislation that was not approved, will have to be reintroduced and begin the legislative process anew.
Food Box bill
One of my bills that is waiting to be read on the House Floor is HB 2693, the “Food Box” bill, which deals with apprenticeship training facilities.
This past year, Local 290 Plumbers and Steamfitters wanted to work with another non-profit on food distribution for families struggling due to the pandemic. Attorneys determined that participation in the food drive and distribution would require a temporary lease of part of the training facility. That lease would cause the loss of their Oregon Property Tax exemption, and so the community assistance program had to be cancelled.
HB 2693 will offer relief from these rules so non-profits can work together to help the community. Hopefully, I will be carrying this bill on the House Floor next week.
Support for substitute teachers
I’ve signed on as a chief sponsor for HB 3130 to support Oregon Substitute Teachers. HB 3130 provides that certain substitute teachers are considered employees of school districts and are eligible for retirement benefits and health benefit plans. This would only apply to a small percentage of substitute teachers who work 600 hours per school year in order to qualify.
Substitute teachers perform their jobs on school property, during school hours and under the direction and supervision of the school principal. Those who would qualify, work nearly every day and are essential to the cohesive operation of our public schools. There was overwhelming testimony in support of HB 3130 from individual substitute teachers, the Oregon Substitute Teachers Association, Licensed Substitute Teachers and Tax Fairness Oregon. A public hearing was held this week in Oregon House Committee on Business and Labor and a Work Session is scheduled for March 29th on the bill.
As always, please remember that I can best serve your interests when I hear from you. If you have a comment or concern about pending legislation, please reach out to my office. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Capitol building remains closed, so email is probably the best way to have your opinions recorded. If I can help you navigate an issue or problem with a state agency, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Rep. Brad Witt serves House District 31. He may be reached at: