Legislative update: PERS, pot and electric vehicles

As the 2017 legislative session heads past the halfway mark, it’s crunch time for many bills awaiting time on the floor.

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Here’s a brief look at a few bills and where they stand.

SB 559: One of many proposals aimed at reforming the Public Employees Retirement System, this bill would change the way final average salaries are calculated. Currently, PERS benefits are based on an average salary of three years. SB 559, sponsored by Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, and Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, modifies the process to include the last five years of salary history. The bill had a public hearing in February, and was the subject of a recent legislative panel tasked with PERS reform. However, no further action has been scheduled.

HB 2556: Introduced by Rep. Jodi Hack, (R-Salem), the bill restricts the sale of marijuana paraphernalia to dispensaries, physicians, grow and processing sites. Industry experts prounounced the bill dead on arrival, but that hasn’t happened — yet. The Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation held a public hearing March 28 to consider the proposal.

No further action has been scheduled

SB 863: The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Prozanski and Rep. Lininger, offers protections for marijuana customers in light of threats by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to crack down on states with legalized marijuana.

It will require marijuana retailers to destroy customer identification within 48 hours of collection. This methodology isn’t unusual, in fact it’s the rule in Colorado and Alaska, and discouraged in Washington. But Oregon’s legislators want to ensure consumers of the state’s largest new industry are protected from federal prosecution.

The bill has passed in the Senate and has its third reading in the House today, where it’s also expected to pass. If approved, the bill goes into effect immediately.

HB 2242: (filed at the request of Gov. Kate Brown for Business Oregon)

This bill is designed to expand the definition of “traded sector activities” for purposes of the Oregon Business Development Fund (also known as Business Oregon) and the Industrial Development Bond program. The OBDF is a direct loan program for Oregon businesses. As a revolving loan fund, the proceeds go back into the fund providing loans for other businesses. 

The bill, in its third House reading today, will allow new technologies and industries to benefit from the loan program.

“Software is a good example,” says , Business Oregon spokesperson Nathan Buehler. “There are many growing software firms that could really benefit from these programs, but because of the  dated language currently in statute that focuses on manufacturing, they’re excluded currently.”

HB 2510/2511: Oregon has more than its fair share of electric vehicles, 2-4 times more than the national average in fact. But charging stations are lacking. In attempt to increase the number of stations available and encourage residents to purchase EVs, Rep. Phil Barnhart, D- Eugene, has proposed two bills designed to let commercial and residential tenants install charging stations on site.

This isn’t Barnhart’s first bill supporting electric vehicle charging development. A 2013 bill he proposed to allow condominium and planned community tenants the right to install stations was put into law in 2014. Both bills have third readings in the House today.