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Bar Bills Move through the Second Chamber
Over the last month, the Oregon State Bar bills have been moving through the House. At the time of publication, all eight of the Oregon State Bar Law Improvement bills have passed out of committee. In addition, Senate Bill 180 and Senate Bill 184 passed the House Floor and are on the way to the Governor for her signature. The final deadline to move a bill out of a House policy committee is May 28, 2021.
Similar to years past, many of the OSB bills were assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. For the first time in more than a decade, the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Janelle Bynum was bifurcated into two subcommittees: the Subcommittee on Equitable Policing, chaired by Rep. Bynum, and the Subcommittee on Civil Law, chaired by Representative Karin Power. The majority of bills were assigned to a subcommittee for a public hearing and a work session. Those bills that passed muster with a subcommittee were then recommended to the full judiciary committee for passage, which took the final vote before a bill was sent to the House floor.
While the Equitable Policing Subcommittee completed its work at the first chamber deadline, the Civil Law Subcommittee continued its work through the end of the second chamber deadline. The subcommittee, made up of six legislators, including five lawyers, led in-depth policy discussions with stakeholders and each other.
The remaining bar bills received a public hearing and a work session in either the House Committee on Business and Labor or the House Committee on Housing. Thank you to the committee chairs, members, and staff for your consideration of these bills.
House Committee on Judiciary
SB 181 – Directs court to consider, in determining amount of award of attorney fees, whether attorney performed services on pro bono basis or award of attorney fees otherwise promotes access to justice. Unanimously voted out of committee on May 24, 2021.
SB 182 – Terminates authority of spouse as agent under certain estate planning documents upon annulment, separation, or dissolution of marriage. Extends liability protections for property held as tenants by the entirety when property is conveyed to certain trust. Modifies procedure for disposition of wills by attorney. Unanimously voted out of committee on May 18, 2021.
SB 183 – Modifies provisions relating to foreign restraining orders. Unanimously voted out of committee on May 18, 2021.
SB 185 – Specifies circumstances under which members of nonprofit corporation and board of directors of nonprofit corporation may discuss issues or take action by electronic means without meeting. Specifies circumstances under which majority of directors may approve dissolution if number of directors in office at time at which directors consider dissolution is less than required by laws of this state or by articles of incorporation or bylaws of nonprofit corporation. Unanimously voted out of committee on May 24, 2021.
SB 768 – Modifies provisions relating to attorneys. Clarifies that Insurance Code does not apply to professional liability fund established by Oregon State Bar. Declares emergency, effective on passage. Unanimously voted out of committee on May 24, 2021.
House Committee on Business and Labor
SB 180 – Requires insurer to notify claimant upon paying $5,000 or more to settle third-party liability claim if claimant is natural person and if insurer or insurer’s agent or other representative, including insurer’s attorney, delivers payment to claimant or to claimant’s attorney, agent, or other representative by draft, check, or other form of payment. Passed the House with a 52-0-7-1 vote.
SB 184 – Modifies laws relating to preference given to veterans in public employment. Passed the House unanimously.
House Committee on Housing
SB 829 – Clarifies rights of possession of real property following execution sales. Unanimously voted out of committee on May 25, 2021.
New Chief Justice Order Updates Mask Guidance in Courthouses
On May 25, 2021, Chief Justice Walters released Chief Justice Order (CJO) 21-016 and a letter to Oregon State Bar licensees. The order provides an exception to the protective face covering requirement found in CJO 20-045 for judges and court staff who show proof of fully vaccinated status. With limitations, judges and court staff who provide proof of fully vaccinated status may remove their masks while in a court facility.
Fully vaccinated judges and staff who have received approval to go without protective face coverings are not required to wear them, unless they are:
(1) Working in an adult jail or correctional facility;
(2) Working in a youth detention or correctional facility,
(3) In a public area of the court facility, such as the front entry, waiting areas, hallways, restrooms, and elevators; unless the Presiding Judge has designated the particular area as an area in which protective face coverings are not required; or
(4) Participating in a courtroom proceeding at which participants are required to wear protective face coverings.
During a court proceeding, a judge will have the ability to permit fully vaccinated participants to remove protective face coverings only while in the courtroom. However, there are some situations where masks may still be required in a proceeding; for example if a presiding judge or a participant in a court proceeding requests that all participants, including the judge and court staff, continue to wear a mask.
The court’s social distancing guidance, found in CJO 21-009, has not been modified at this point.
Economic and Revenue Forecast Up with a Kicker Expected
On May 19, 2021, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) shared the May 2021 Economic and Revenue Forecast with the House Committee on Revenue. The May Economic and Revenue Forecast is used by the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee to finalize the state’s biennial budget.
This most recent forecast was a surprise to many due to the substantial forecasted increase in state revenue. Between the March 2021 forecast and the May 2021 forecast, the OEA increased the forecasted revenue for the 2021–2023 biennium by over $1 billion. This forecasted increase, based on expected economic growth and Oregon’s tax and lottery revenue, coupled with the federal stimulus funds identified in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), could profoundly affect the budget process. Late last summer, the Oregon Legislature met for the Second Special Session of 2020 to make cuts to the state budget. Earlier in the legislative session, the proposed Oregon Judicial Department budget included a cut to current-service-level funding. The substantial increase in expected funding potentially opens the doors to full funding for the courts and their policy proposals.
Public Defense Services Commission (PDSC) Budget Receives Public Hearing
In early May, the Public Safety Subcommittee of the Joint Ways and Means Committee held two public hearings to review the proposed 2021–2023 PDSC budget found in HB 5030. The PDSC budget is split between three divisions: the Appellate Division; the Public Services Account, which holds state funding for contract defense services; and the Contract and Business Services Division, which administers the financial and business processes of the PDSC.
Over two days, the Public Safety Subcommittee received testimony from the PDSC as well as a number of interested parties, including representatives from the Oregon Judicial Department, public defenders from throughout the state, the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (OCDLA), and the Oregon State Bar, to name just a few. Thank you to Joe Piucci for testifying on behalf of the Board of Governors in support of HB 5030. With the release of the May Revenue Forecast, the Public Safety Subcommittee is expected to finalize the PDSC budget in the coming month.
ABA Hosts a Second Virtual Lobby Day
This year the Oregon State Bar, along with Oregon’s civil legal service providers, participated in the American Bar Association’s annual lobby day. Because of the continuing COVID-19 travel restrictions, as well as continued security concerns at the U.S. Capitol, the ABA’s Lobby Day was, once again, a virtual event.
The focus on this year’s Lobby Day was adequate funding for the federal Legal Services Commission and the increased judicial security and safety. President David Wade, Board of Governors Public Affairs Committee Chair Katherine Denning, Ed Harnden (Campaign for Equal Justice), Maya Crawford Peacock (Campaign for Equal Justice), and Monica Goracke (Oregon Law Center) shared their support for both issues with Oregon’s federal delegation. As community members become fully vaccinated, the bar’s delegation looks forward to connecting with our elected officials in district.
Bills of Interest
With the release of the May Revenue Forecast, the Ways and Means Co-Chairs, along with the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, are expected to begin scheduling for policy bills with a fiscal impact. Below is a short list of bills that are currently awaiting a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee.
HB 2158 – Clarifies role of State Treasurer with respect to unclaimed property and escheated estates.
HB 2178 – Modifies provisions relating to fees in tax court.
HB 2230 – Appropriates moneys from General Fund to Long Term Care Ombudsman for purpose of providing public guardian and conservator services to veteran.
HB 2239 – Directs Judicial Department to establish centralized veterans treatment court that counties may opt into beginning July 1, 2023.
SB 571 – Allows persons convicted of felony to register to vote, update voter registration, and vote in elections while incarcerated.
SB 755 – Modifies and provides for implementation of Ballot Measure 110 (2020).
SB 778 – Establishes Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement to operate statewide immigrant and refugee integration strategy.
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2021 Oregon State Bar Officers and Public Affairs Chair
David Wade, President, Oregon State Bar
Kamron Graham, President Elect, Oregon State Bar
Liani Reeves, Immediate Past President, Oregon State Bar
Katherine Denning, Chair, Public Affairs Committee, Oregon State Bar Board of Governors