Oregon Legislative Week in Review: Legislature Adjourns After First Annual Session

The Oregon Legislature adjourned the 35-day 2012 legislative session on March 5 at 8:45 p.m., having performed its constitutional responsibilities of rebalancing the July 2011-June 2013 budget. The Legislative Assembly concluded its work on the 34th day of the session, one short of the constitutional limit approved by voters in 2010.

In addition to the budget and the governor’s education and health care reforms, lawmakers also approved dozens of critical policy measures in the session, including expanding eligibility for Oregon’s Credit Enhancement Fund, thereby helping businesses access capital needed to grow and expand by guaranteeing loans. The Legislature also expanded the number of enterprise zones that can be established by local governments to create jobs.

The Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) worked hard throughout the month to protect credit unions from additional regulations and promote positive legislation. The major accomplishments include:

Oregon Growth Board

The Oregon Investment Act, House Bill 4040, is a comprehensive strategy to support Oregon business and create quality jobs for Oregonians—one that was supported by the NWCUA. The bill adjusts the state’s economic development approach to allow for increased capital for Oregon businesses, create more jobs and foster greater public-private partnerships.

Currently, Oregon’s economic development resources are spread throughout multiple agencies and lack a coordinated strategic framework to prioritize investments where they are most needed. HB 4040 sets such a framework, outlining a streamlined, coordinated approach to the state’s economic development strategy.

Under HB 4040, economic development resources will be coordinated under an Oregon Growth Board, which will establish a unified strategic framework for all economic development resources. Businesses looking to grow jobs in Oregon will be able to find a full menu of assistance options in one place.

“With our background in local communities in Oregon, credit unions have first-hand experience in deploying capital locally,” said Pam Leavitt, contract lobbyist for the NWCUA. “We continue to see how our members are affected by the local economy. We believe the Oregon Investment Act can build on the public-private partnerships that are currently working and improve them by adding leverage from the private sector so we can expand and diversify efforts to grow and improve all our communities.”

Credit unions will hold a seat on the Oregon Growth Board, and Jean Wheat-Palm, president and CEO of Valley Credit Union, testified on behalf of NWCUA to support the legislation.

Elder Abuse Prevention

The Legislature passed a bill that will make major changes to Oregon law with respect to elder abuse, creating important new protections for Oregon’s most vulnerable seniors. House Bill 4084 integrates several recommendations from a work group on elder abuse created in 2011, including increasing the statute of limitation for crimes against the elderly, modifying records-disclosure laws to make sure law enforcement can investigate allegations of abuse, and creating a council to review reporting of abuse to determine root causes of abuse and how it can be prevented.

One of HB 4084’s many elements is a requirement that financial institutions, upon receipt of certification, disclose and provide copies of financial records of any person who is an alleged victim in an abuse investigation.

Credit unions are among those that have the ability to first detect changes in the behaviors of their members with whom they have regular contact. Recognizing elder financial abuse is a crucial step in combating this abuse, and diligent training will put credit unions in a position to help their elderly members and continue to allow credit unions to uphold their members’ trust.

HB 4084 was crafted by a diverse work group comprised of legislators, law enforcement officials, and financial institutions—including Gayle Gustafson of Rivermark Community Credit Union— as well as care providers and state government officials.

Foreclosure

Among the more public issues addressed this session were several foreclosure bills introduced in both the House and Senate. Rep. Gene Whisnant, a leader in the Oregon House, best described the background on the issue:

“The House Republicans agreed early on that they would not hold hearings due to limited committee days on the three House bills which were duplicated by bills introduced in the Senate. The Senate passed two bills: one on mediation and one addressing the “dual track” problem. However, the Senate did not pass these two bills until the last day to move bills from the Senate—Thursday, Feb. 23. The bills were read on the House Floor on Friday, Feb. 24.

“The Oregonian, with many inputs from “Economic Fairness Oregon,” reported on Sunday, Feb. 26, that I had refused to hear Senate Bills 1552 and 1564. The bills were on the co-speakers’ desks waiting to be assigned. Rep. Paul Holvey and I requested on Thursday, Feb. 23,that the bills be referred to our House General Government & Consumer Protection Committee. The Oregonian later corrected the record that I did not receive the bills and, thus, did not refuse to hear the bills which were referred to the House Rules Committee on March 1. I continued working with the House and Senate to reach a compromise which would provide help to ‘distressed homeowners.’ We reached an agreement with all parties on Friday, March 2, with the 22nd amendment. On Monday, we had to add a 25th amendment, which corrected a drafting error. The bill passed the House 56-4, and the Senate re-passed the amended bill 27-3. The new SB 1552 A provided distressed homeowners’ mediation, increased counseling, and solved the ‘dual track’ solution. The non-partisan bi-chamber new bill will help Oregon homeowners stay in their homes.”

The NWCUA worked hard to make sure credit unions did not have to comply with SB 1552, Leavitt said. The legislation exempts trustees or beneficiaries who have commenced fewer than 250 foreclosures during last 12-month period from most of the provisions in the bill. Credit unions will have to comply with the requirement in Section 4a to notify a borrower if the credit union determines that the borrower is not eligible for a forclosure avoidance measure or if the borrower hasn’t complied with the terms of a measure on which the parties had previously agreed.

After receiving the 22nd amendment on Friday night, the Association worked all day Monday to include an amendment that would help annual reporting requirements to the Attorney General. However, the amendment did not have time for a full vetting.

 

Questions? Contact a member of the Association’s Legislative Affairs team:

Jennifer Wagner, Director of Legislative Advocacy
Mark Minickiello, Vice President, Legislative Affairs
Stacy Augustine, Senior Vice President & General Counsel

Posted in Advocacy News, NWCUA.