PORTLAND — Lawmakers in Salem have a packed schedule ahead from now through April 18, the deadline for all proposals to advance out of their initial policy committee. What that means is, save for some exceptions, the window for introducing new bills this year is pretty much closed and Senate and House committees that handle education, health care and other policy-related topics have scant time to advance any bills still awaiting their first vote.
It signals a big shift into the final stages of the 2017 legislative session, giving Oregonians a much better idea about where things are headed for the upcoming $1.6 billion-budget deficit, pension reform, health care, taxes and education funding — the most important issues of the year.
Here's an outline of some key items to look out for amid the frenzy next week:
The House Health Care Committee has roughly 50 bills up for vote on its meeting agendas next week, including House Bill 3391, sometimes called the Planned Parenthood bill that'd require Oregon health plans, with the exception of religious-based plans, to fully cover abortions, birth control and other reproductive services at no extra cost to the enrollee. A first hearing and possible vote is also in store for Republican Rep. Julie Parrish's week-old proposal, House Bill 3428, which would fold government employee health plans into the state's Coordinated Care Organizations, potentially solving the bulk of the state's upcoming budget shortfall.
On Monday, the Senate Business and Transportation Committee will hold its second discussion and then vote on Senate Bill 374, a measure designed to get Oregon driver's licenses, permits and personal identification cards in compliance with the 2005 federal Real ID Act. Under the proposal, Oregon DMV offices would be authorized to issue various forms of ID that comply with the federal standards currently being implemented in phases. Federally-compliant Oregon IDs, however, would be issued only by request of the applicant, rather than automatically for all applicants. Oregon's extension to comply with the federal rules expires in June, meaning Oregonians won't be able to use their state-issued IDs at U.S. airports beginning in January_that is, unless the state can get another extension, which lawmakers hope SB 374 will do.
Senate Bill 863, which would ban legal pot shops from keeping logs of their recreational marijuana customers' personal information in their internal databases, is set to make its way to Gov. Kate Brown following an expected vote by the House chamber on Monday. Should Brown sign it into law as is expected, pot retailers will have 30 days to destroy any paper trail they've been keeping of their customers' names, birthdates, addresses, driver's license numbers or even the recreational pot products they've purchased on certain dates. Businesses would also be banned from such record-keeping in the future, as is already the case in Alaska and Colorado and discouraged in Washington state. SB 863 is designed to shield pot users from risks of being exposed should federal drug agents step up enforcement of the marijuana prohibition.
The House Business and Labor Committee hosted two lengthy meetings this past week delving into five different proposals that would essentially create a legal pathway for ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to operate anywhere in Oregon while also setting rules and regulations for those employers and their drivers. Portland's largest taxi service, Radio Cab Company, is behind four of those proposals, such as House Bill 3157 — which would give the state Transportation Department, rather than cities and counties, regulatory authority over privately-owned taxis and ride-sharing companies. Radio Cab is also pushing for state-required background checks by fingerprint of Uber and Lyft drivers through House Bill 3043. Extensive background checks in Massachusetts bucked more than 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers from the roadways last week.