Short legislative session cut shorter

Oregon lawmakers adjourn, controversial bills left in limbo

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On Mar. 3, the Oregon Legislature adjourned their 2018 regular session one week ahead of schedule. Several key bills were passed by lawmakers during the hectic 28-day session, including a measure that expanded the ban on the purchase of firearms for domestic abusers and a net neutrality bill that passed with bipartisan support.

However, several potentially landmark bills, including the “cap-and-invest” Clean Energy Jobs Bill designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, weren’t able to get through the legislature in the shortened session. Another measure that would allow public school teacher unions to negotiate over class sizes also failed to make it through the session.

Even though the more complex and controversial bills were sidelined by Democratic leaders at the beginning of the session, members of the Senate leadership were pleased with the work the legislature was able to accomplish in just under four weeks.

“I don’t think there are many legislatures in the nation who can accomplish so much in 28 days,” Senate President Peter Courtney said in a press release after the session adjourned. “That is remarkable in a time when Congress and many legislative bodies are fighting and
breaking down.”

Governor Kate Brown was also impressed with what the legislature was able to accomplish. All five bills that Gov. Brown proposed passed during the session, including an opioid monitoring system and a prescription drug-pricing transparency program. Gov. Brown’s highest priority, however, was closing a loophole that allowed people convicted of domestic violence or stalking of a non-married partner to purchase firearms. Previously, the law only applied to people convicted of domestic violence within a marriage. The bill is the first gun-control legislation passed in the U.S. since the shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.

“I proudly signed #HB4145 into law today,” Gov. Brown said on Twitter. “We know that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed. Closing the Intimate Partner Loophole will help save lives.”

Two other key bills were passed in response to recent changes in federal law. House Bill 4155 creates new rules regarding net neutrality in Oregon by barring state and local governments from contracting with internet service providers that don’t abide by the old rules. While it doesn’t prevent ISPs from prioritizing content to private consumers, it represents one of the first challenges to the FCC’s decision to end net neutrality regulations at the federal level.

Senate Bill 1528 is an adjustment to Oregon tax laws that severs the state’s close alignment to federal tax policy and prevents multimillion-dollar businesses from claiming a second deduction on their state taxes. While it’s not yet clear whether Gov. Brown will sign the bill into law, supporters of the bill claim that it will prevent a $140 million loss in tax revenue this year.

With the 2018 session now over, legislators will return to their home districts and prepare for next year’s session. House and Senate leadership both acknowledge that the Clean Energy Jobs Bill will be their top priority in 2019, despite their inability to pass it this year.

“We are looking forward to continuing that work toward a bill that makes sense for all of Oregon [by] lowering carbon emissions and creating a stronger clean energy economy,” House Majority Leader Ginny Burdick said.

The 80th Oregon Legislative Session has no scheduled start date but will likely convene after the start of the new fiscal year in June.