SALEM — The morning after being told they will be working overtime Saturday and on the Fourth of July, lawmakers put in another long shift on the legislative assembly line, putting together and taking apart bills by the dozens.
The biggest action Thursday was the House voted 46-19 to approve a bill requiring large employers to give their workers a week’s notice before changing their hours. Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver voted no. Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, had an “excused absence” for the day.
The bill passed the Senate 23-6 on June 22, with Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, carrying it after he negotiated with Democrats for amendments desired by business groups. The bill now goes to Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign it into law.
The bill will include everything from fast-food franchises to hospitals who have more than 500 employees in the world. Beginning in July 2018, they will have to let workers know their hours are being changed at least seven days in advance. That will move up to 14 days in July 2020. Workers also must have at least 10 hours between shifts to rest.
During public hearings, lawmakers heard from workers who said sudden schedule changes meant frantically trying to find child care or missing significant family events. Business owners called the rules an unrealistic burden that will cost them headaches and their customers higher prices.
Oregon is the first win for a group called the Fair Workweek Initiative, which is also pressing for the law in California, Ohio, North Carolina and Connecticut.
Some of the most significant activity took place away from the House and Senate chambers. Democrats inserted an amendment into a Senate bill before the House Rules Committee. It switches the timing of elections that result from initiative challenges to bills approved this session be held in January 2018 instead of November 2018, as the law currently directs.
Republicans said it was an attempt to control the outcome of votes on taxes and other issues by suppressing voter turnout, which is historically lower for one-issue special elections that would be required in January than in general elections.
The November 2018 election will include the governor and other major races on the ballot.
Transportation plan still in works
Most lawmakers and all of the public are waiting for the official rewrite of the once massive 10-year road building legislation that a bipartisan panel worked on since February. Earlier this week, reports were the group was deadlocked on the combination of projects and taxes. But Brown on Wednesday said a bipartisan deal that paved over many of the differences had come together.
Realizing they had bit off more than they could politically chew, leaders of both sides are scaling way back. The final draft is still to come, but lawmakers familiar with the negotiations say the legislation has cut its $8.2 billion price tag in half. Gone are most of the major projects to rebuilding the Interstate 5 and I-205 in and around Portland. The sheaf of taxes on cars, bicycles, income and other fees are likely to survive, though in significantly reduced form. The final product is not expected until after the weekend.
Back to work
For most of the 2017 session that began in February, lawmakers met Monday through Thursday, then went home for a day of district work and the weekend.
Friday sessions started being scheduled earlier this month as the backlog of bills required more votes. The House started meeting in the morning, breaking for lunch, then meeting again in the afternoon. With just a little over a week left until the July 10 deadline to adjourn, lawmakers were told Thursday night they will be working every day except Sunday. That includes Saturday and the Fourth of July.
So, it’s back to work for the 30 senators and 60 House members.
Among the many bits of legislation to be dealt with Friday is a long list of price increases for court services. Among the changes before a House-Senate subcommittee: marriage ceremonies will rise $5 to $110, changing your name or legal sex will go up $6 more to $117, and filing for divorce will cost you $14 more, to $287.
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