The fourth week of session is underway and lawmakers are focused on wrapping up remaining policy bills and finalizing the budget. The Legislature has until March 6 to conclude its business, but it is likely that adjournment will take place early next week.
One of the most hotly contested and politically divisive issues of session—raising Oregon’s minimum wage—passed out of the House and Senate and is now headed to Governor Brown for her signature. Once fully implemented in 2022, it is estimated this increase will cost UO an additional $13.4 million each biennium. Other major issues of the session include affordable housing and clean energy.
To research and monitor all bills, visit the Oregon Legislative Information System.
Higher Education Legislative Agenda:
HJR 203A & HB 4092A - Universities’ Investment in Equities: HJR 203 is a legislative referral to voters and HB 4092 is its companion ballot title bill. The referral asks voters to amend the Oregon Constitution, creating a formal exception for the seven public universities from the prohibition against the state investing in stock. These measures were approved by the House (55-1 and 55-2) and are now in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 4072 - University Venture Development Fund (UVDF) Reauthorization: Extends the UVDF tax credit for six years, enabling donors to receive tax benefits for contributions to a fund that supports the transition of university inventions from the laboratory to marketplace. This bill is scheduled for a House floor vote today, February 24, 2016.
Increased Funding for Universities: Universities entered this session seeking additional operating funds that would be focused on student completion initiatives. At UO, this would be mean further investments in programs like Graduation Assistance Grants and PathwayOregon. In light of tight revenue projections and other factors, it appears there may be no additional funding for the remainder of this biennium. We continue to work with stakeholders on any possibilities for future funding.
HB 4146B - Statewide Lodging Tax: Increases the statewide lodging tax by 0.8%. Revenue from this tax goes into a fund distributed by Travel Oregon. Part of the fund is distributed on a pro rata basis to each region of the state to help make tourism-related investments. This bill was approved by the House (37-20) and is headed to the Senate for consideration.
Capital Construction Project Requests: UO has no capital project requests this session. However, we are supportive of emergency project requests from PSU, SOU, and OIT. It is likely these requests will be funded.
Other Bills UO is Monitoring:
SB 1532A: Raises the base minimum wage to $13.50 per hour by 2022 (Eugene is subject to the base wage), establishes a higher minimum wage ($14.75 by 2022) for employees working within urban growth boundary of Portland metro area, and a lower minimum wage ($12.50 by 2022) for those working in 18 nonurban counties. The Senate approved this measure on a 16-12 vote and the House approved the measure on a 32-26 vote.
SB 1558A: Limits disclosure of records of college or university student health center, mental health center or counseling center, or records of health professional retained by college or university. The bill was passed by the Senate (28-0) and is scheduled for House floor vote this week.
SB 1586: Requires universities to undertake a number of activities to encourage students to register to vote. The seven public universities submitted a statement in support of the bill with amendments (UO worked with stakeholders to craft these amendments). The bill is currently in the Joint Ways & Means Committee where it is scheduled to receive a public hearing in the General Government Subcommittee.
HB 4021A: Directs the State Treasurer to study possible refinancing mechanisms for student loans. The seven public universities submitted a statement in support of this bill. It was approved by the House (54-6) and is scheduled for a Senate vote this week.
SB 1540: Directs the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to conduct an evaluation on providing tuition waivers for students at community colleges and public universities who are pursuing math-related degrees. This bill was approved by the Senate (27-1) and is scheduled for a House vote this week.
HB 4019A: Requires universities to provide in-state tuition to dependents of Oregon residents who leave the state to serve in public service organizations. This bill was approved by the House (59-0) and is scheduled for a Senate floor vote this week.