Less Than a Week Remains

Six Senate Republicans came back on Thursday and Friday to provide quorum and start the sprint to conclude the 2023 session in time for the constitutionally required June 25 sine die (it’s like saying, “We’re done for now, but we don’t know when we’ll meet again”).

The return was a result of Democratic leadership agreeing to significantly scale back two high-profile bills, HB 2002 (abortion and gender transformations) and HB 2005 (various gun restrictions) as well as killing SJR 33, which would have asked voters to enshrine protections for abortion, transgender care, and same-sex marriage in the state Constitution. A few other bills will die behind the scenes as part of the agreement, but that will clear the path for hundreds of other good and bad bills to live or die on their own merits in the waning days.

Senate President Rob Wagner did not agree to waive the unexcused absences accrued by 10 of the 13 members of the Senate Republican caucus. He did, however, agree to waive the $325 per day fines that began accumulating. As part of the deal, Senate Republicans agreed to suspend normal procedural rules in order to fast-track the hundreds of bills backlogged on the Senate floor.

Senate Republicans will still maintain a semblance of procedural control that could allow them to further delay proceedings, but it is expected that those tactics would be used judiciously, if at all.

The schedule going forward has the Senate in a full sprint starting Tuesday until sine die, which can be no later than end-of-day Sunday, June 25.

Although it can be assumed that some bills were advanced or killed behind the scenes, no formal agreement on policy bills has been announced. It is very likely that there will be significant horse trading on bills up until the very end.

Finally, late Monday afternoon, final budget decisions were released. This includes the much-anticipated “Christmas Tree” budget reconciliation bill as well as the list of projects that will be funded with lottery bonds. At first glance, here is what we see for Salem:

    • City of Salem for the renovations of ARCHES and Wallace Early Learning Center sheltering service: $1,850,000.
    • East Salem Community Center for the El Campo Community Soccer Field: $450,000
    • East Salem Community Center for HVAC replacement: $175,00
    • City of Salem to support Navigation Center: $1,900,000
    • Salem Housing Authority to support Yaquina Hall: $1,500,000
    • $250,000 for distribution to Cherriots for the purpose of collaborating with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental
    • Quality, community members in the City of Salem, and economists and business leaders in the City of Salem to study the feasibility of developing a rail streetcar system in the City of Salem.
    • Elsinore Theatre (Historic): $109,368
    • Pentacle Theatre: $14,290
    • Salem Owen Summers Building Service Life Extension: $2,909,970 (b) Salem Owen Summers Building Seismic Strengthening and Life Safety
    • Improvements: $5,500,000
    • Salem Airport Hangar: $2,000,000

These bills are on Tuesday’s agenda for work sessions during the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

Issues We’re Tracking

SB 498A Estate Tax Reforms: This bill would exempt the first $15 million of assets from Oregon’s estate tax for agricultural and natural resource family businesses if those businesses remain in family hands for at least five years after an owner’s death. This is the first significant progress on death tax policy in over a decade. Oregon is one of the few remaining states that levies a tax on estates with as little as $1 million in value.

HB 2009 Economic Development Incentives: This bill would create a narrow Research & Development Tax Credit that would be available only to the semiconductor industry. It would also extend Oregon’s primary economic development tools – the Enterprise Zone program and the Strategic Investment Program (SIP). Although these programs will get extended life under HB 2009, they are likely to have some sideboards applied to them.

HB 3229 Title V Air Quality Fees: This would dramatically increase fees by 83% on Oregon manufacturers that are subject to the Title V air quality program. The manufacturing community was rolled by majority Democrats on the Ways & Means Capital Construction Subcommittee on Friday and is facing the 83% fee hike unless there is sufficient pushback from pro-business Democrats.

Content contributed by Bravio Communications, Salem Chamber staff, and OSCC.

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