Oregon Legislature Adjourns; 2021 Session Advances Credit Unions’ Operating Environment

The Oregon Legislature adjourned “sine die” Saturday at 5:37 p.m., just a day before the constitutional time limit required by law, ending the 81st Legislative Session. Legislators were happy to exit the Capitol as a record-breaking heatwave covered the state.

It was another successful legislative session for credit unions. Two priority bills passed, including HB3079, a bill to update to the Oregon Credit Union Act, and HB3080, a bill to allow financial institutions to scan identification cards to open accounts or for loan documents.

“Oregon credit union advocates have long collaborated to build relationships with legislators and to help pass legislation that helps them serve their members,” said Pamela Leavitt, NWCUA Policy Advisor, Oregon State Advocacy and Grassroots. “Advocating in a virtual setting did not deter them at all. We appreciate advocates’ ongoing efforts to engage with the legislature, telling the credit union story and supporting key bills.”

While HB3079 and HB3080 were the NWCUA’s major focus of the Oregon Legislative Session, Leavitt says, more than 100 other bills potentially impacting Oregon credit unions were tracked.

Here is a brief list of those that passed and some that failed:

HB2009 – The bill that reinstates the moratorium on residential foreclosure was signed by the Governor. NWCUA was successful in making several changes to it, including adding language on the homeowner notification to qualify for protections under the bill.

HB2168 – This bill establishes Juneteenth as a state holiday on June 19, and the bill is effective the 91st day following adjournment sine die.

HB2356 – This bill prohibits certain financial institutions from charging fees to customers for cashing checks drawn on accounts at financial institutions if the check is presented in Oregon. The bill had a hearing and did not pass out of committee.

HB2743 – This bill creates a “municipal bank” as an entity whose organization was directed by local government ordinance or resolution. NWCUA worked with the proponents on an amendment that prohibits the municipal bank from accepting retail deposits from consumers.

HB3398 – This bill amends the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (PFMLI) program. It had a hearing last week in the House Rules Committee. The current law would require PFMLI contributions to begin Jan. 1, 2022, and benefits to begin Jan. 1, 2023. That timeline is simply unreachable for the Employment Department, which is proposing to delay it. Under HB 3398, contributions will begin Jan. 1, 2022, and benefits will begin Sept. 3, 2023. The bill passed the House and Senate and is waiting for the Governor’s signature.

SB137 (-2 amendment) – This amendment came up quickly in the session and NWCUA, along with over 50 business associations, sent a letter in opposition. SB 137-2 would require forgiven PPP loan amounts over $100,000 to be added back as “taxable income” for Oregon businesses that used the program exactly the way it was intended. It is an unfair, retroactive tax increase on Oregon small businesses at a time when Oregon is already projected to bring in more revenue than ever before. The Committee heard testimony opposing this amendment and no one testified in support. The Committee did not act on the amendment, and it failed.

SB765 – This bill makes permanent provisions allowing a notary public to perform a notarial act using communication technology for a remotely located individual under certain circumstances. NWCUA testified in support of this bill. It was signed by the Governor on June 15 and is effective immediately.

Finally, Governor Kate Brown announced that she will lift most of the COVID-19 restrictions beginning June 30 with the state close to the goal of 70% of Oregonians 16 and older statewide having received the first dose of a COVID vaccine.

The six-month-long session was unlike any before, with the legislative work being conducted mostly online in virtual committee hearings. The Capitol building and lobby remained closed to the public and even to some staff. Floor sessions in the Senate and House of Representatives did not start until April. The galleries in both chambers — normally reserved for the public — were utilized to expand the space between lawmakers to vote in a socially distanced setting. Members were only allowed one legislative aide onsite, with other aides and interns working remotely. The virtual session was not without technical challenges, but in many ways, the virtual setting allowed more Oregonians a chance to participate in the legislative process.

The overwhelming impacts of the pandemic, economic crisis, natural disasters, student learning losses, and the unrest seen in the streets have had a profound impact on Oregonians’ daily lives and the need for new investment in our communities.

As in years past, Oregon Democrats controlled the Legislative and Executive branch with Governor Kate Brown; Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek; and Senate President Peter Courtney in leadership. Senator Fred Girod led the Senate Republicans and Representative Christine Drazen led the House Republicans. Both were new leaders for their caucuses.

“Oregon has never had a session like this,” said Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) in media interviews. “The state was on fire. People were out of work. Families were struggling. We were in the middle of a pandemic … but we came in and did the people’s work. We balanced our budget and made big investments in our communities. There were some bitter fights but, in the end, we represented the people well.”

The 2021 session also saw the passage of many additional important pieces of legislation including measures to advance racial equity, a police reform package, wildfire relief, a historic behavioral health package, childcare investment package, a landmark bill to modernize Oregon’s recycling system, and the extension of a commercial rent payment grace period to give local businesses time to access rent relief.

Lawmakers’ work is not yet done. Leavitt reports legislators will be working over the coming months to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts and prepare for the February 2022 short session.

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Posted in Advocacy News.