Taxpayer Association: Legislatuive update 3-11

Taxpayer Association of Oregon Update:
By Jim Welsh,

Articles discussed below:

1. Election Law Revisions
2. Elect the President by National Popular Vote
3. Prohibits Employer from Certain Communications with Employee
4. Fee Increase for Nonretail Fuel Facilities
5. Transportation

Election Law Revisions

The House Rules Committee heard HB 2095 which revises election law, as requested by the Secretary of State, with (1) amendments to registration cards received in the office of the Secretary of State or a county clerk, an office of the Department of Transportation or another designated location, (2) amendments to voter registration updates received by a county clerk, (3) amendments that apply to minor political parties that:
(a) Qualify as a minor political party on or after the effective date of this 2009 Act.
(b) Cease to be a minor political party on or after the effective date of this 2009 Act.
(4) amendments that apply to declarations of candidacy, (5) amendments that apply to vacancies, (6) amendments that apply to ballots, and (7) amendments that apply to elections that are held on or after the effective date of this 2009 Act. The greatest changes in this bill may just be in the meaning and application of a single word change from “shall” to “may.”

Elect the President by National Popular Vote

The House Rules Committee heard HB 2588 which enacts Interstate Compact for Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. HB 2588 is supported by a by-partisan group of legislators and was first heard in February. This would be a significant change that would change national elections in close races which we have experienced recently. Small states like Oregon would not have the same opportunities as they have today against the larger populated states such as California. The Electoral College would be eliminated with this bill if Oregon went along with a majority of states that chose to Elect the President by National Popular Vote thus providing a system that always gives the advantage to the larger populated states and urban areas.

Prohibits Employer from Certain Communications with Employee

The Senate Commerce and Workforce Development Committee heard SB 519 which prohibits employer from taking adverse employment action against employee who declines to attend meeting or participate in communication concerning employers opinion about religious or political matters but the bill provides exceptions for religious organizations, political organizations and certain meetings and communications. This bill provides labor unions a disproportionate advantage by limiting an employers communication with employees when referencing “Religious matters,” or “Political matters.” At face value it doesn’t sound too bad but in the definitions “Political matters” includes “Constituent group” which includes labor organizations! Making matters even worse the bill creates cause of action which provides employee protection provisions of civil action, awards (injunctive relief, rehiring or reinstatement, back pay, reestablishment of benefits and seniority) plus treble damages and attorney fees and costs! There is a coalition working together to eliminate or significantly change this bill.

Unprecedented Bad Faith “Second Lawsuit” Law Proposal

HB 2791 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill permits person to bring action against insurer or other person that commits or performs unfair claim settlement practice. The bill also requires notice to Director of Department of Consumer and Business Services in certain circumstance and directs court to award attorney fees in certain circumstances. The bill specifies what may constitute prima facie evidence of unfair claim settlement practice.

When there is a dispute over an insurance claim, a personal injury lawsuit can be common, as those injured seek to recover medical costs, lost wages, damages to their own vehicles or property. But for a decade in California, personal injury lawyers could also file a second suit against the defendant’s insurance company for “bad faith.” And that meant virtually every personal injury lawsuit spawned a second “bad faith” lawsuit. For 10 years, the California legal system, taxpayers and consumers paid higher costs to enrich personal injury lawyers. That’s when California’s Supreme Court struck down the rule. And when the Legislature re-enacted the rule as a law, the state’s voters said, “enough!” They voted by a 3-1 margin to repeal the law.” And, just 14 months after personal injury lawyers passed a similar law in Washington State, more than 1,100 pre-lawsuit notices have already been filed with the state. That’s the legacy of costly “bad faith” laws in our neighboring states — and the likely future for Oregonians if HB 2791 becomes law.

Fee Increase for Nonretail Fuel Facilities

The Senate Business and Transportation Committee held a work session on SB 88 which increases fees for nonretail fuel facilities, and increases fee assessed for customers of nonretail fuel facilities. The bill also conforms unused contingency amendments to nonretail fuel facility operations statute with current version of statute. The previous annual fuel volume requirement of 2,400 gallons will be reduced to 900 gallons per year. The nonretail licensee will be required to pay an annual license renewal fee to the State Fire Marshal in the amount of $300, up from the previous amount of $250 and the licensee will also be required to pay $7.50 per customer, up from $5, who signs a written agreement with the licensee to use the facility.

It wasn’t too long ago that there was an effort to reduce the 2,400 gallon requirement for nonretail fuel facilities but for safety and political reasons, and a strong retail lobby it never gained traction with the legislature. Now that there is a demand for new revenue it will be interesting to see if this proposal will pass with the reduced annual volume requirement and allow more individuals to access the numerous nonretail sites where they can also pump there own fuel.


The Governor’s “Jobs and Transportation Act 2009″
The Senate Business and Transportation Committee held two hearings on HB 2120 which Creates a Transportation Utility Commission and various directives to the Oregon Transportation Commission and DOT. Some of the better proposals in the bill include
“¢ Directive to ODOT to develop least-cost planning model.
“¢ Directs department to include specific request for capital construction funding for sharing offices and other facilities with local government in budget request prepared for Oregon Department of Administrative Services.
“¢ Directs Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) to work with stakeholders to review and update criteria used to select projects within Statewide Transportation Improvement Program
“¢ Creates Timber Counties Safety Net Account within State Highway Fund.
“¢ Expands special county allotment program to provide counties with minimum level of funding from State Highway Fund.
“¢ Extends credit against corporate excise or corporate income tax for corporation that provides motor vehicle insurance issued under mile-based or time-based rating plan.

Some of the not so good proposals in the bill:
“¢ Implements congestion pricing in one or more communities
“¢ Increases vehicle title fees.
“¢ Imposes fee for issuance of first certificate of title.
“¢ Increases vehicle registration fees.
“¢ Increases fuel tax and motor carrier taxes.
“¢ Permits mass transit district to increase payroll tax for district.
“¢ Authorizes transportation districts and mass transit districts to use certain forms of financing without first obtaining voter approval.
“¢ Increases allocation of State Highway Fund moneys for footpaths and bicycle trails.
“¢ Eliminates requirement that county ordinance establishing vehicle registration fees be submitted to electors of county for approval.
“¢ Authorizes Department of Transportation to set registration plate manufacturing fee.
“¢ Increases customized registration plate fee.
“¢ Increases certain vehicle dealer fees.