Labor-backed bills moving in short session


Oregon lawmakers are about halfway through the 2024 “short session,” a 35-day session often referred to as a legislative sprint. Feb. 19 marks a cut-off date: If a bill isn’t scheduled for a hearing in its “chamber of origin,” it will be dropped.

Here’s a look at some of the labor-backed bills up for consideration:

  • Labor standards for offshore wind projects (HB 4080): The top priority for the Oregon AFL-CIO this session, HB 4080 would require prevailing wage and the use of apprentices on  offshore wind projects. The Biden administration plans to boost the nation’s clean energy production by building offshore wind farms — including two potential sites near Coos Bay and Brookings. HB 4080 would require the Department of Land Conservation and Development, the state agency that will review and regulate proposals for offshore wind projects, to consult environmental, fishing, tribal, and labor groups in its decision-making process. It’s a hefty bill for a short session, but this could be the last chance for Oregon lawmakers to set labor standards for offshore wind, said Representative Dacia Grayber, the bill’s chief sponsor. The federal government can begin the leasing process that kicks off these projects as soon as October 2024. A work session for HB 4080 was scheduled in the House Business and Labor Committee for Feb. 14, after this issue went to press.
  • Behavioral health worker safety (SB 1594): In response to an increase in injuries and deaths on the job, Oregon AFSCME proposed this bill to form a work group to recommend safe staffing standards for behavioral health workers for lawmakers to consider in 2025.  A public hearing and possible work session for SB 1594 was scheduled in the Senate Committee on Health Care for Feb. 14, after this issue went to press.
  • Stopping drug use on public transit (SB 1553): Under current state law, anyone who interferes with public transportation by blocking a public transit vehicle, hurting a driver, or staying inside a vehicle or station without permission can be charged with a misdemeanor. An amendment proposed for SB 1553 — a bill to study Oregon’s addiction crisis — would add a new crime to the list: illicit drug use while waiting or riding a public bus, light rail train, or other public transit vehicle. The amendment was proposed by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 and the Oregon Transit Association in response to an increase in reports that rivers and drivers felt unsafe because of increased drug use — specifically fentanyl — on public transit vehicles. A work session for SB 1553 was scheduled for Feb. 14, after this issue went to press.
  • Public safety worker retirement updates (HB 4045): In Oregon, police and firefighters qualify for increased retirement benefits through the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), which recognizes the dangerous and physically stressful nature of their jobs. HB 4045 would extend those benefits to almost 3,200 public safety workers who don’t currently qualify, despite working in similar conditions. That includes 911 call center operators, Oregon State Hospital employees, and district attorneys. The bill also would lower the retirement age for police and firefighters from 60 to 55, so they could access retirement benefits sooner. On Feb. 8, the house committee voted 7-0 to send the bill forward to the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which sets budget policies. (The Legislature’s committee deadline does not apply to bills in certain committees, including Ways and Means).


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