2017 Legislative Session in Review
Debt Buyer Regulation
The House Committee on Business and Labor introduced and passed HB 2356 that will require entities that purchase debt and subsequently take collection actions on consumers, also known as “debt buyers”, to register with the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). Its passage ensures that debt buyers are compliant with several requirements necessary for consumer protection from fraud and unethical collection practices while providing transparency, disclosure, and efficient court processes. This bill passed out of both chambers successfully and I am very proud of the years of work that went into creating this vital piece of consumer protection legislation.
HB 2191 will require all corporations that operate in the State of Oregon to be registered and obtain a license from the Secretary of State. The corporation will obtain a license if it has a physical address in the State of Oregon and agrees to a certain level of transparency, including allowing permission of the Secretary of State to review relevant corporate documents at will. This bill passed out of both chambers and will now be signed into law. Not unlike the debt buyer bill, I have been working with stakeholders on this bill for several years and am incredibly pleased with its passage. This legislation will help prevent fraudulent entities from operating in Oregon and protect consumers.
Another priority for the Business and Labor Committee was passing House Bill 2005, providing equal pay for equal work. This law further prohibits wage discrimination based on race, color, veteran status, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, disability or age, and outlines remedies for victims of wage discrimination. I was proud to move the bill through the Business and Labor Committee and off the House floor. HB 2005 has been signed into law by the Governor.
Addressing Climate Change
It is important that we recognize not only the future of our planet, but the future impacts climate change will have on Oregon. During the 2107 legislative session, there was considerable conversation and focus on climate change and the importance for Oregon to address these issues sooner rather than later. There were two main legislative concepts that I and others focused on during this session. The first was HB 2135, the Clean Energy Jobs bill. It established a cap on greenhouse gas emissions along with a system of credits, allowances, and investments, to address greenhouse gas reductions and investments to mitigate the impacts of climate change. I am disappointed that this bill did not move forward but am dedicated to moving this work forward in Oregon. Another piece of a strategy for Oregon to address climate change was House Bill 2020. It simply restructures the Department of Energy into the Department of Energy and Climate and gives it the statutory direction to gather the information, analysis and recommendations necessary for state government to take action on climate change issues in Oregon. This reorganization is necessary for state government to effectively take on the challenges that climate change presents to Oregon. I am disappointed that business organizations and utilities in our state (including EWEB) opposed this common-sense approach to enable Oregon to consider its options in addressing climate change.
Modernizing the Forest Practices Act
As climate instability increases, wildfires are becoming a larger threat to our forests, watershed health, and our general fund budgets. For the past few sessions I have been calling for increased revenues from timber harvest taxes to better address our capacity to suppress these wildfires while increasing the protection of our general fund revenues and services (like education). It is my opinion that the focus and priority of these harvest revenues should be funding forest fire suppression, and not funding industry organizations and television commercials touting the quality of Oregon’s Forest Practices Act. This is especially disconcerting when the tax effort to Oregon’s income tax and county property tax systems from the forest industry is greatly diluted by exemptions and Wall Street accounting principles.
In addition Oregon’s Forest Practices Act has proven to be sub-standard compared to other states and inadequate in terms of protecting our watersheds from high stream temperatures and high pesticide contamination levels. To address these concerns I introduced HB 3226, which was drafted with the help of Pacific Rivers and the Center for Sustainable Economy. It proposed updating and increasing protections for watersheds and forestland health. HB 3226 is based on sound science and would help ensure forest management practices that would improve our environment and habitat, and our future economy.
Affordable access to vital reproductive health care services is increasingly important as federal health care threats become more apparent. I firmly believe that cost should not be a barrier to comprehensive reproductive health care access, which is why I am happy to support this bill. I have been an advocate of health care access and rights to reproductive health and I also support funding for Planned Parenthood as a provider. This bill passed and is now waiting to be signed by Governor Brown. I am very pleased with this progressive step toward the health and wellbeing of Oregonians.