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Legislative round-up: What are they working on?

A look at House bills from local legislators


The Oregon Legislature’s regular session kicked off Feb. 3, and the shorter-than-average timeline ends this week.

Here’s a quick check-in on the major bills sponsored by local House representatives, whose pet issues included unclaimed lawsuit damages, state-provided health insurance for legislators, liability in cases of underage drinking and student loan tax relief.

DohertyMargaret Doherty, Democrat, represents District 35, which covers Tigard and Metzger

HB 4094 provides limited legal immunity to anyone 21 or younger seeking medical assistance for excessive alcohol consumption, either for themselves or on behalf of another.

Doherty said she was prompted to sponsor the bill after a constituent told her of her son’s experience of losing a friend to alcohol poisoning while attending Arizona State University.

“A minor in possession charge is a class B violation, on par with a speeding ticket,” Doherty said. “Kids don’t know that, and it’s a real deterrent” to getting help.

There was some opposition to the bill from sheriff’s associations and district attorneys who worried the bill might minimize the severity of underage drinking, or that it would not have a strong enough education component, Doherty said.

She cited statistics that at least one college student dies from alcohol poisoning each year in Oregon.

Status: The bill was signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber on Monday.

HB 4001, introduced Feb. 3, would allow elected or appointed sheriffs, and county-level judges or commissioners, in counties with a population of 110,000 or less to continue collecting a pension as a member of the Public Employees Retirement System.

Status: Though Doherty said the bill “didn’t see the light of day,” she said she was amazed by the ire it attracted.

ParrishJulie Parrish, Republican, represents District 37, which includes Tualatin and West Linn.

HB 4096 would require elected officials statewide who currently enjoy state-provided health insurance through the Public Employees Benefit Board to instead enroll in a plan through the state’s health insurance exchange — that is, Cover Oregon. Upper-level management of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, as well as executives and management of Oregon Health Insurance Exchange, would be required to do the same.

Parris said the bill would not only cut costs for the state, it would show legislators’ solidarity with constituents navigating a new, reformed insurance marketplace.

Status: Introduced Feb. 3, the bill has been referred to both the House Committee on Health Care and the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

HB 4097 would offer a measure of tax relief to anyone paying student loans used to attend and obtain a degree from a college in Oregon. Taxpayers who received loans after Dec. 31, 2007, would be able to subtract the amount of student loan interest from their taxable federal income.

Status: The bill narrowly survived a motion last week to withdraw it from the House Committee on Revenue, where it remains.

HB 4095 would require the Oregon Department of Transportation to inform Internet service providers of any highway projects that involve breaking ground where new Internet cables might be installed, and to coordinate line installation accordingly.

The plan is primarily about bridging the urban-rural divide in the state, Parrish stated.

It is seen as particularly beneficial to rural Oregon, where it can greatly expand broadband Internet access.

Status: Introduced Feb. 3, the bill has affected change without heading to a vote: ODOT director Matthew Garrett reportedly reached out to Parrish and bill co-sponsor Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, and agreed to collaborate with the Oregon Telecommunications Associations to implement the plan as outlined for the Legislature.

Rep. Tobias Read, Democrat, represents District 27, which largely encompasses Beaverton.

HB 4143 addresses how damages are paid in class action lawsuits, and directs leftover damages to the Oregon Rainy Day Fund. Currently, unclaimed damages are returned to the lawsuit’s defendant.

Status: The bill was approved by the House 36 to 21 on Feb. 17, and scheduled for a Senate vote this week.

HB 4144 would restructure the Oregon Investment Council, in part by creating the Oregon Investment Department to oversee and grow the state’s investment pool. The bill aims in large part to avoid significant cuts to PERS.

Status: The bill was introduced Feb. 3, gained significant support, and awaits public hearing this week.

Rep. Chris Harker, Democrat, represents District 34, which encompasses much of Beaverton.

HB 4050 refined HB 2240, passed during the 2013 Legislative Session to bring the state’s insurance code into compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act. Regarding small businesses, HB 2240 defined a small group as one to 100 employees. As a result, only businesses with 101 employees or more could purchase stop-loss policies to protect against high-cost health insurance claims. HB 4050 redefined “small group” as fewer than 51 employees, making more small businesses eligible for catastrophic coverage.

Status: The bill was passed by both the House and Senate last week.

Rep. Jeff Barker, Democrat, represents District 28, which covers much of Aloha.

HB 4035 makes it legal for Department of Corrections officers to keep a firearm in personal vehicles while on duty and while parked in department lots, provided the department hasn’t provided alternative secure storage.

Status: Passed by House and Senate, awaiting governor’s signature.

HB 4036 would expand “assault in the third degree” to include cases where the victim is a patient or employee of a state hospital, if the assailant is a patient of the facility. Currently, assault in the third degree, a class c felony, can be applied to anyone committed to a youth correctional facility who knowingly harms staff members, or to anyone who knowingly harms emergency medical service providers while they are on duty.

Status: Currently in House Committee on Rules, referred by House Speaker Tina Kotek.

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