Oregon Legislative Update: 2015 Session in Review

The 78th Oregon legislative session officially ended on July 6 at 6:05 p.m. when, keeping with tradition, the gavels of the speaker of the house and senate president jointly fell, closing a grueling five-month session.  “Sine Die” came after final work on all of the department budgets, passage of new laws to regulate the recreational marijuana industry, a retirement investment package and passage of the children toxics law.

All bills that did not pass out of committee officially died and must be reintroduced in a future session.  The Oregon Legislature will convene next February for a short 35 day session.

The session began with the swearing in of former Governor John Kitzhaber in January and his resignation a month later. Kate Brown was sworn in as Oregon’s 38th Governor on February 18. Brown gave a six-minute speech calling for additional ethics reforms, more transparency in government and vowed she and her staff would not take any compensation other than their respective salaries. Prior to election to the Oregon House, Brown was a family law attorney. She also served as a senate majority leader prior to being elected secretary of state. 

The policy work of the 2015 session began with a quick introduction, debate and passage of several bills considered “unfinished business” by immediately passing legislation to reform class-action lawsuits, mandate universal voter registration and make permanent the controversial low-carbon fuel standard. 

In addition, the Democrats introduced a package of bills they called a “Fair Shot for All,” which aimed to:

  • Ensure all Oregonians earn paid sick days;
  • Raise the minimum wage;
  • End profiling;
  • Provide a method for people to save for retirement; and
  • Create job opportunities for people with prior convictions and arrests.

After a quick start, negotiations on several key policy bills stalled and by the end of the session many of these issues — including raising the minimum wage, passing a comprehensive transportation package and securing money for Capitol renovations — quickly divided the Democrats in the House and Senate.

The Oregonian reported only a week after session of the “Family Feud,” stating that “a battle between the Oregon Legislature’s top Democratic power brokers altered the outcome of the session.” 

Senate President Peter Courtney said, “Every session has accomplishments and disappointments. This session was no different. In some ways it was tremendously successful. In other ways it was historically difficult.

“We had the earliest co-chairs budget in history. We passed the biggest ever budget for K-12 schools and did it in April. We suffered the devastating loss of a governor under agonizing circumstances.

“We provided $300 million to make our schools’ buildings safer and more efficient. We funded more than $1 billion of construction projects statewide, which will create thousands of jobs. We made new investments in mental health. We couldn’t come together and pass a transportation plan.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Tina Kotek said, “The work of the 2015 Legislature focused on creating real and lasting opportunity for all Oregon families by leveling the playing field and breaking down barriers that stand in the way for too many Oregonians.

“This session will be remembered as the year we put opportunity for working families first. We made education a top priority because every Oregonian deserves a fair chance to succeed. We focused on leveling the playing field because too many women and working families have been left behind by the economic recovery. Together, the Legislature made progress that will benefit families in every corner of Oregon.”

NWCUA Priorities

Despite the tensions, credit union bills sailed through the Legislature. “Our advocates in credit unions throughout Oregon made this success possible,” said Pam Leavitt, NWCUA’s policy advisor. “Their relationship building, fundraising and sharing of the impact they have in the region paved the way for these bills.”

The following credit union priorities were passed into law during the session.

NWCUA-sponsored Senate Bill 582 updating the Oregon credit union charter was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown, and goes into effect January 1, 2016. The bill:

  • Allows Oregon’s state chartered credit unions the option to provide reasonable compensation to their Directors;
  • Removes the membership share requirement for state chartered credit unions;
  • Clarifies that foster children are eligible for membership; and
  • Removes the requirement that the DCBS approve new branches.

House Bill 2893, which allows Oregon financial institutions to offer prize-linked savings accounts, was signed into law on May 21 and goes into effect on January 1, 2016. The bill authorizes Oregon financial institutions to offer “savings promotion raffles,” commonly known as prize-linked savings, like the Save to Win program in Washington State.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News.