SALEM — Scores of bills died on Tuesday, the second key deadline for the Legislature in 2019.
Among the casualties were bills sponsored by Bend-area lawmakers on issues such as human trafficking and community mental health assistance.
Tuesday was the last day for policy committees, which make up the largest number of panels, to vote on bills. The deadline does not apply to Revenue, Rules and joint House-Senate committees such as Ways and Means.
Lawmakers have scrambled over the past two days to push hundreds of bills down the line or park them in committees safe from the deadline. On Tuesday, committee meetings started at 8 a.m. and were still going at 6 p.m.
Many legislators said they were so busy with committee and floor votes that they likely won’t know the full casualty list of legislation until Wednesday at the earliest.
“Today is a pretty hectic day for us,” Jihun Han, spokesman for Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, said Tuesday. “Rep. Zika and I have actually set aside some time first thing tomorrow morning to go over all the bills that he has either chief sponsored or co-sponsored and see which are alive or dead.”
Han said a preliminary look Tuesday afternoon indicated that much of Zika’s legislative output survived.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said last week that she expected the deadline would have a major impact.
“I think you are going to see more high-profile bills dying on the ninth,” Kotek said.
Kotek’s office did not return messages on Tuesday asking for an update on which bills were still on the chopping block.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said one of his key bills just barely made it past the deadline. The bill would bar employers from asking employees to sign agreements not to discuss or disclose illegal discrimination, including sexual assault.
“Had a work session today,” Knopp said.
Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, said she had six bills that moved out of committee. But she was disappointed that a pair of bills expired Friday. One would have changed the definition of human trafficking.
“Right now, human trafficking isn’t a crime unless the victim has been charged with a crime,” Helt said.
A common example is when someone is arrested for prostitution, then tells authorities she or he had been forced into the situation. Under the bill, a person can be charged with knowingly recruiting or attempting to recruit prostitutes.
“The bill would have allowed for prosecution without the victim having been charged with a crime,” Helt said.
A community mental health bill also did not make the cut, Helt said.
“There was a lot of support for these bills,” Helt said. “I don’t know why they didn’t move forward.”
Part of the problem has been the sheer number of bills — over 2,700 this session — and the dominance on the agenda of bills pushed by Democratic leaders and Gov. Kate Brown to take advantage of the current Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate.
Greg Stiles, spokesman for the House Republican caucus, said many Republican bills had already died at the first deadline on March 29, which killed off legislation in policy committees that had not been scheduled for a vote.
Stiles said many GOP bills were run over by Democrats’ fast-tracked legislation on carbon pollution, gun control, rent control and other issues.
“If it wasn’t part of the Democrats’ utopian package of bills, it wasn’t likely to see any action,” Stiles said.
Both Helt and Zika have sponsored legislation that drew bipartisan support. A Zika-backed bill to qualify Redmond for an affordable housing pilot project passed both the House and Senate unanimously and has been sent to the governor for her signature.
“Zika has to be a pretty happy camper,” Stiles said.
A bill sponsored by Helt to make it easier for students to get credit from advanced placement courses when they go to college unanimously passed the House on Tuesday. It now goes to the Senate.
Lawmakers now have some breathing room, with the next deadline a month away. By May 10, bills that have passed one chamber have to have been scheduled for a work session in the second chamber.
Under state law, the Legislature must adjourn by June 30, though legislative leaders are hoping to hit a target date of June 21 to wrap up the 2019 session.
—Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin