The 2022 Legislative Session officially came to a close on March 4, three days earlier than the official deadline. Having finished all their legislative actions early, the House and Senate both declared sine die (or last day) on Friday, marking the end of another historic session. As to be expected, FoFF had several legislative victories and also made great progress on legislative proposals that are likely to be back in future sessions. A quick round up of bills FoFF actively supported included:
Farmworker Overtime | HB 4002
Status: PASSED Senate: 17-10 House: 37-23
As an active coalition partner, FoFF actively supported HB 4002, which ensures overtime compensation is expanded to Oregon’s agricultural sector workers. The bill, as passed, sets maximum allowable hours an agricultural worker may work before overtime compensation is required. The maximum starts at 55 hours/week for year 2023 and 2024, 48 hours/week for year 2025 and 2026, and ultimately phases into a 40 hour/week overtime requirement effective in 2027. HB 4002 also created a refundable tax credit for agriculture sector employers to offset cost increases — notably, the refundable tax credit is more generous for smaller farmers and producers, particularly dairies with fewer than 25 employees.
Passage of HB 4002 wouldn’t have been possible without all of the support that FoFF members provided through legislative outreach, written and verbal testimony, and our organizations active participation in the coalition efforts.
OSU Extension Cluster Higher | SB 1532
Status: NOT PASSED
SB 1532 would have ensured more technical assistance be provided to small agricultural producers across Oregon by investing additional staffing resources in OSU Extension’s Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems. This legislation also included a directive for the Oregon Business Development Department (OBDD) to conduct a study on organic agriculture and organic products. The bill was passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire committee and unfortunately the Legislature did not ultimately take any further action on SB 1532 before they adjourned this session.
While funding, unfortunately, was not allocated for the OSU Extension Services staffing called for in SB 1532, the legislature did provide $600,000 for the Oregon Business Development Department (OBDD) to conduct an emerging sector study/analysis that will include data on organic agriculture and organic products. FoFF will be tracking this work happening at OBDD and looks forward to any potential legislative or policy proposals that come out of the study. .
Natural & Working Lands | SB 1534
Status: NOT PASSED
As part of FoFF’s participation in the Oregon Climate Action Plan, FoFF shared strong support for SB 1534, which would have built on work that Oregon’s Global Warming Commission (OGWC) has led to address some of the challenges climate change has caused for agriculture producers in Oregon. SB 1534 would have laid a foundation for the state to provide financial incentives for agricultural producers, along with a robust and knowledgeable technical assistance system to ultimately increase carbon sequestration on natural and working lands. Despite the bill receiving a very strong public hearing during the session and ultimately passing out of the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Committee, it unfortunately did not get any further legislative action and wasn’t taken up before the Legislature adjourned. FoFF will keep working with the OCAP coalition to ensure that the Legislature finishes this necessary work in future sessions.
The 2022 Legislative Session was once again conducted in a virtual world. While the challenges of holding a virtual session have certainly presented themselves over the past two years, there is one upside that many argue should continue permanently: the ability for all Oregonians to testify virtually rather than in person. In-person testimony can limit the voices of Oregonians unable to make the commute to Salem (or take the time off from work needed to do so). Virtual testimony removes this barrier.
The opportunity to testify from anywhere in the state made for some exciting public hearings. The most notable of the session revolved around farmworker overtime (HB 4002), which generated so much input from the public and members of the legislature that legislative leadership created an entirely new committee just to address this legislation. This historic piece of legislation passed on March 3.
Many other long-awaited pieces of legislation passed this session, especially to address the rising costs of living such as financial assistance for housing, health care, and child care. The legislature also passed legislation to add more summer learning programs for kids, build back our workforce, address public safety, and slow climate change. Both chambers made impressive progress on their priorities — nearly half of all the legislation introduced this session passed (a whopping 47%).
In total, the Legislature passed 127 measures.
Of the passed measures, 73 started in the House and 54 started in the Senate — meaning the House passed nearly 43% of its total introduced legislation, and the Senate passed just over 53%.
Most measures are now awaiting signatures from the Governor and subsequent implementation — ready to become law, pending any veto notices issued by the Governor.
Despite it being a short session with just 35 days to work on legislation, both chambers had impressive accomplishments. In short sessions, legislators typically focus on technical fixes to long-session bills or simple legislation, but 2022 proved different: with Oregon’s economy booming at an unprecedented rate, members took the opportunity to push for big investments and robust legislation.
Some of the highlights for the Senate Democratic Caucus included a $400 million package of investments to reduce homelessness; $132 million invested into the behavioral health workforce; $200 million towards building career pathways in the health care, manufacturing and construction workforces; preserving access to the Oregon Health Plan for 400,000 Oregonians; and $100 million to recruit and retain our education workforce.
The House Democratic Caucus celebrated many of the same victories this session, along with the coordination of pilot programs to respond to Oregon’s housing crisis; $100 million invested into child care; $300 million to increase summer learning support; $100 million towards rural infrastructure projects; expanding Oregonians’ access to high-speed broadband; increasing access to loans for small businesses; generating $600 one-time payments to working families; and several key investments in community-based violence prevention programs and climate resilience projects.
While working on these historic investments, the Legislature was dealing with significant changes in membership and leadership — with a record number of retirements due to the upcoming election. Over the past several months, the Legislature had to appoint a new House Minority Leader, a new House Majority Leader, a new Speaker of the House and a new co-chair to Oregon’s joint budget committee.
Now that the session has ended, we’re turning the page and entering a whole new season: campaign season. Several other retirements are on the horizon as campaigns begin for Oregon’s new congressional and legislative districts.
While midterm elections are always critical for state politics, this year’s midterms will be an especially exciting time — with new districts in play, an open Governor’s seat, and a growing number of planned retirements, this will be an election season to pay special attention to for both parties, whose makeup in the Oregon Legislature is sure to change for 2023.
March 8 is the final day for Oregonians to file as a candidate on the 2022 ballot. After this date, the candidates for each major party will be finalized and more aggressive campaigning will begin. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for an interesting primary election, just around the corner on May 17.