Oregon’s short legislative session comes to an end
A brief look at some of the activities of Western Washington County lawmakers during this year’s short session in Salem.
The Oregon Capitol building in Salem. Photo: Chas Hundley
The short 2022 session of the Oregon Legislature has come and gone (did you blink?) And in this era of rapid inflation and soaring food and gas costs, lawmakers passed $2.7 billion in new spending, with the lion’s share going to child care, education, homelessness, housing, job training and mental health.
The 2022 session also marked the end of the political career of longtime lawmaker and Senate Speaker, Sen. Peter Courtney (D-Eugene), whose name has been synonymous with Oregon politics for some 30 years. .
Courtney is the longest-serving lawmaker in state history, and the last piece of legislation he introduced, SB 1504, which will ban greyhound racing on July 1, passed the House and Senate. .
For the record, Oregon is not one of the seven states where greyhound racing takes place – Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia – but it is not illegal. Greyhound racing is now illegal in 40 states, and Oregon was one of four states, including Connecticut, Kansas and Wisconsin, where there are no active racetracks, but the practice is still legal.
New spending affecting many farmers in western Washington County includes forcing them for the first time in history to pay overtime to Oregon farmhands who work more than 40 hours a week.
Farm workers were excluded from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which created overtime pay. Many farm owners and employers say paying overtime is too expensive for their already low-profit-margin businesses.
The bill gives farm businesses some time to prepare by requiring them to start paying overtime to farm workers in 2023 and 2024 who log more than 55 hours in a work week, 48 hours in 2025 and 2026, and finally 40 hours from 2027.
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On the local front, the six legislative representatives from western Washington County did not all achieve the results they set out on Feb. 1, but there were some victories for lawmakers.
Rep. Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro) wrote an email to this newspaper which, even though the bills she introduced did not pass, provides an example of making lemonade when life gives you Lemons.
“(We still passed) important laws that will improve the lives of Oregonians,” McLain wrote.
HB 4053, introduced by Rep. Suzanne Weber (R-Tillamook), passed both houses and now sits on Governor Kate Brown’s desk awaiting her signature to make it law. Sen. Rachel Armitage (D-Scappoose), in her first month as an elected official, near the end of February also signed on to be the bill’s co-lead sponsor.
HB 4053 requires the ODOT to conduct a review of Oregon Route 6 and report its findings to the Joint Transportation Committee by September 15, 2023.
At least seven people have died on the road in 2021, and many more have died over the years on Oregon’s Highway 6, which stretches from Banks and through Gales Creek to Tillamook, but the highway also has many structural shortcomings, and as Weber has said on many occasions, few guardrails, clearances, and passing lanes. Cell service is also spotty in several areas, particularly toward the top, and emergency responders arrived at the crash scene later than they might have been had phone calls been made. immediately passed.
The report will study the condition of Route 6 and review deficiencies, recommendations for road repair and improvement, and provide cost estimates for all of this.
Weber said the ODOT’s focus has long been on Route 6, and while safety is of the utmost importance, the highway is the economic artery of Oregon’s northwest coast.
Freshman Rep. Nathan Sosa (D-Hillsboro), sworn in hours before the start of the 2022 session, scored his first win as co-lead sponsor of HB 4114, which requires district school board members to file audited financial statements with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission to disclose potential conflicts of interest with business relationships in their area.
Sen. Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro) told this newspaper she was disappointed that SB 1590, which would have directed the Department of Education to develop a statewide strategic plan for the teaching computer science to K-12 students across Oregon, has not been successful but she plans to start talking with Governor Brown to get the ball rolling.