ONA’s top priority this session was repealing the 2018 sunset on Oregon’s Nurse Practitioner Payment Parity Law. We achieved this; passing Senate Bill 1503 in February. This victory ensures payment parity for nurse practitioners and physician assistants is preserved indefinitely and that patients can continue to access quality primary and mental health care in Oregon.
Due in part to Governor Kate Brown’s leadership and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, many other progressive policy bills also passed this session. These bills built on economic justice successes from the 2015 session and included measures increasing Oregon’s minimum wage and providing local governments with tools to address affordable housing issues. These issues were top priorities for Democrats, labor and progressive groups and, by highlighting the public health benefits of these policies, ONA nurses and staff were essential to their success.
The 2016 session also had some disappointments, including a tobacco retail licensure bill that underwent significant changes during session and ultimately failed to pass due to partisan maneuvering and disagreement on an e-cigarette tax to curb youth access to tobacco products.
Read on to learn how all of ONA’s priorities fared this session. Please contact ONA’s Government Relations office at (503) 293-0011 for more information or questions on any of the issues discussed in this report.
Preserving NP Payment Parity
Senate Bill 1503 (SB 1503)
This session the Legislature passed SB 1503, which removes the 2018 sunset on Oregon’s groundbreaking Nurse Practitioner Payment Parity law which ONA and NPO worked to pass in 2013. The original 2013 bill was passed after nurse practitioners across the state reported abrupt cuts in their reimbursement rates, particularly in mental health practices.
Keeping the law intact requires insurance companies to continue providing the same reimbursement rates to primary care and mental health nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs) and physicians in independent practice when they provide the same service and bill using the same codes. Removing the sunset on this law ensures NPs and PAs will continue to play a critical role in preventive and primary care in our state.
NP and PA payment parity has already had a significant impact on NPs’ and PAs’ ability to maintain their practices. In many cases it has allowed providers to increase the number of patients they are able to see, expand the type of care they provide or even open additional clinics.
The original payment parity law included a sunset date and created a workgroup to study broader payment reform for all primary and mental health care providers. After the workgroup concluded in 2015 without making concrete recommendations to the Legislature, ONA and NPO proposed repealing the sunset and maintaining payment parity by passing SB 1503. Most physicians groups opposed the bill, stating that broader discussions around payment reforms are still needed. Insurer groups remained neutral.
SB 1503 ultimately passed with strong bipartisan support in both the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives. It is expected to be signed by Governor Brown.
Raising the Minimum Wage
Senate Bill 1532 (SB 1532)
Passing a statewide minimum wage increase was a top priority for Governor Brown, Democratic legislators and the Raise the Wage labor and community coalition this session. After getting certified language for a ballot measure that would raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $13.50 and lift the state’s ban on local governments enacting their own wage limits, the Raise the Wage coalition worked with the Legislature to take action this session.
The session featured minimum wage negotiations led by the Governor between labor and business groups, public hearings and testimony from ONA members and others, and lengthy debate in both chambers before the Legislature successfully passed SB 1532 to increase Oregon’s minimum wage.
SB 1532 is an innovative solution that establishes three geographic minimum wage rates that will rise gradually over the next six years. In Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary the minimum wage will rise to $14.75, on the coast, the Cascade Foothills and the Willamette Valley the wage will rise to $13.50 and in rural eastern and southern counties the minimum wage will rise to $12.50. The increase will ultimately benefit more than 600,000 low wage workers in Oregon, giving more working families the opportunity to be self- sufficient and meet their basic needs.
The bill accounts for the time some businesses may need to prepare for these increases with a gradual phase-in as well as regional economic and cost-of-living differences. SB 1532 represents the most significant action any legislature has taken to increase its state’s minimum wage.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Access
House Bill 4124 (HB 4124)
HB 4124 was sponsored by Representative Knute Buehler from Bend. It was designed to stop prescription drug abuse in our communities and reduce opioid overdoses. HB 4124 passed unanimously in both the House and Senate and is expected to be signed by Governor Brown.
The bill will increase providers and pharmacists’ access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program by creating a connection to the Emergency Department Information Exchange (EDIE). These two databases will now be integrated to allow providers to review an individual’s prescription drug history and recent record of emergency room visits, enhancing providers’ ability to make informed prescription decisions and direct patients with potential addiction issues to appropriate care.
HB 4124 also allows for the opioid overdose rescue drug Naloxone to be distributed by pharmacists without the need for a prescription. Family members and social workers working with populations affected by narcotic addiction issues will now be able to access Naloxone after completing a training program through the Oregon Health Authority. This drug is a highly effective way to halt the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose when administered immediately.
Tobacco Retail Licensure
Senate Bill 1559 (SB 1559)
SB 1559, the Tobacco Retail Licensure bill, sought to require all retailers of tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems in Oregon to be licensed by Oregon’s revenue department. SB 1559 was sponsored by Senators Laurie Monnes Anderson and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward from the Senate Health Care Committee. ONA was supportive of the legislation’s intent.
The introduced bill aimed to improve enforcement of legal tobacco products sales and prevent minors accessing tobacco products. Oregon is one of only 11 states that don’t require tobacco retailers to be licensed. Other areas that have implemented this provision have seen a measurable reduction in youth access to tobacco products.
As part of a compromise with the tobacco and grocery industries, SB 1559 was changed to include a preemption on local governments. This preemption would stop local governments from adopting their own restrictions on tobacco product retailers. This included banning local governments’ ability to regulate a retailer’s proximity to schools or to prohibit sales within pharmacies.
ONA and our public health partners were concerned about these changes. They would have rolled back or limited the progress local areas like Multnomah County have made regulating the sale of tobacco.
ONA worked with legislators during session to amend SB 1559 to allow local governments to limit tobacco retailers’ proximity to schools.
SB 1559 narrowly passed the Senate Health Care Committee and moved to the Joint Ways and Means Committee. Legislators expressed concern over how retailers would be impacted by the legislation and if the short session was sufficient to work out its details.
While SB 1559 passed the Senate, the bill was ultimately mired in late session partisan negotiations and held up by Republican Senate members who refused to report to the floor for quorum unless it was thrown out.
SB 1559 was ultimately referred back to committee and did not pass this session. ONA and our partners will continue our work to develop effective legislation to address this issue in the 2017 session.
Tobacco and Nicotine Prevention
House Bill 4062 (HB 4062)
HB 4062 would have implemented a tax on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and inhalant delivery systems to help prevent youth from accessing tobacco and nicotine products. Following initial discussions in the House Health Care Committee about the health effects of electronic cigarettes, House Bill 4062 did not move forward this session.
Overwhelming data shows youth are the most price sensitive age group. Establishing a sensible point-of-sale tax would deter youth from beginning to use these products, which are a gateway to traditional tobacco product use. However, legislators disagreed about the appropriate taxation strategy to apply to these products.
Toward the end of session, ONA and our public health partners gave testimony during a special hearing of the Joint House Health Care and Revenue Committees to continue emphasizing the importance of this issue and build support for future legislation. A broad coalition of health professionals, community organizations and public health leaders stressed the importance of taking sensible actions to regulate electronic cigarettes and inhalant delivery stems in Oregon to curb youth access.
Many legislators expressed strong support for this effort and identified areas of the legislation to refine in order to build support for future legislation. ONA will continue working with our public health partners and legislative allies to reduce youth access to tobacco products and bring forward new legislation during the 2017 session.
Oregon Center for Nursing Licensure Fix
Senate Bill 1585 (SB 1585)
SB 1585 establishes a $9 surcharge on nurse licenses acquired through examination and indorsement and on license renewals. Previously, nurses indorsing into Oregon were not required to pay a license fee which nurses within the state must do.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Richard Devlin. It directs the Oregon State Board of Nursing and to invest the surcharge fees in the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN) to support workforce research, studies and education to continue advancing the nursing profession in Oregon.
SB 1585 passed the Legislature and is expected to be signed into law.
House Bill 4143 (HB 4143)
HB 4143 is a renter protections bill. It was part of a package of measures legislative leaders passed to address Oregon’s housing crisis. ONA supported HB 4143. Nurses recognize the important impacts housing security, access and affordability have on communities health.
HB 4143 was designed to prevent landlords from issuing no-cause evictions but was later changed as part of a compromise with landlord and housing industry representatives. The final version of HB 4143 prohibits rent increases for month-to-month leases for 1 year and requires landlords give 90-day notice before increasing rent after the first year of occupancy.
HB 4143 passed the House with bipartisan support and the Senate by a vote of 16-9. The Governor is expected to sign the bill.
Transitioning from Coal to Clean Energy
Senate Bill 1547 (SB 1547)
SB 1547 eliminates coal from Oregon’s energy supply over time and requires Oregon’s two largest private utility companies to supply half their electricity from renewable resources by 2040.
SB 1547, also called the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition plan, was the result of cooperation between Oregon’s two largest electric utilities, industry stakeholders, environmental advocacy groups and community organizations. The resulting agreement went through a thorough public review process including numerous hearings in both chambers.
Prior to SB 1547’s passage, the Renew Oregon coalition proposed a 2016 ballot measure to achieve these same goals via public vote. This effort helped encourage industry groups to negotiate a legislative agreement and avoid a costly ballot initiative. SB 1547 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support and the Governor is expected to sign it.
This is an historic agreement will protect our environment and set Oregon on a new course away from harmful coal power and toward clean solar and wind energies. ONA joined this effort to meaningfully address climate change and ensure our communities will be better protected from the negative effects of air pollution caused by dirty energy sources and improve statewide public health.
Thank you for your support this legislative session! Please contact ONA’s Government Relations office at (503) 293-0011 to learn more and get involved with ONA’s advocacy work.