Tuesday, April 4, was Fiscal Committee Cutoff, the last day to read in opposite house committee reports from House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees. Just 18 days remain for the 2023 Legislative session, assuming it finishes up on schedule. The WR government affairs team continues to work diligently on several bills of great importance to our members.
HB 1155 Health Data Privacy — House Bill 1155, which relates to health data privacy, continues to be a challenging bill for retailers this session. The bill seeks to protect sensitive healthcare data not currently covered by the federal HIPAA Law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). As presently written, the legislation is very broad and would unintentionally include many non-sensitive healthcare products and services, such as numerous over-the-counter medications, vitamins, health foods, health-related clothing, devices, and tools.
WR supports consumers having access to and control of their personal data. However, as currently drafted, this bill will be problematic for retailers to know what is and isn’t covered—leaving them exposed to unwarranted lawsuits and legal action.
This bill passed out of committee on 3/22/23 with an extended effective date of one year out, which would set the effective as March 2024 rather than 90 days after adjournment. Helpful per se language was removed from the enforcement aspect and the bill remains in a weakened state.
WR has been meeting with the AG’s team and working with Senator Manka Dhingra to gain further clarity on the bill’s definitions. The Senator plans to add an additional 90 days extending the date to June 2024, to assist small businesses with implementation. WR continues to have significant concerns about the legislation as written and will be sending a letter to the full House today. The bill could potentially be brought up for concurrence as early as Friday.
SB 5352 Concerning vehicular pursuits — Senate Bill 5352 addresses the 2021 legislation HB 1054, which increased the criteria for police pursuits from reasonable suspicion to probable cause that an individual has committed specific crimes before initiating a chase. SB 5352 would allow law enforcement officers to begin a pursuit if they reasonably suspect that an individual in the fleeing vehicle has committed or is currently committing a violent crime, sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence, escape, or driving under the influence. The bill also includes amendments that require additional training for law enforcement officers and mandates better communication with local authorities during pursuits to protect bystanders. The bill does not cover retail theft.
The bill has made it out of committee and has become significantly watered down, excluding property crimes. If the bill gets further weakened, law enforcement will likely oppose the bill. It remains unclear whether the bill will make it out of the House. WR supports changes to the bill to include property crimes which continue to plague retailers across the state.
SB 5187 & HB 1140 ORC Task Force Funding – Operating Budget — WR met with the House and the Senate budget writers regarding funding for the Attorney General’s ORC Task Force in anticipation of their budget proposals. We continue to urge for the inclusion of funding for the task force and have testified to that end. The Senate budget included $2.265 million, and the House approved $1.1 million. We will continue supporting full funding of the task force.
SB 5217 Ergonomics — SB 5217, which repeals the voter-approved initiative to prohibit promulgating ergonomics (e.g., musculoskeletal injuries) rules, passed the Senate March 1 along partisan lines. The bill authorizes the Department of Labor (L&I) and Industries to adopt only one rule per year for an industry with ergonomic claim rates of more than twice the state average for such injuries. Significantly, the Senate adopted several amendments on the floor to (1) delay implementation for three years, (2) clarify that industry sub-classes that do not meet the injury thresholds are not subject to new rules, and (3) increase technical assistance staffing suggested by WR. The bill also encourages L&I to refrain from rulemaking if an industry’s claim rate is declining, even if its ergonomic claim rate is more than twice the state’s average. The bill is expected to be voted on by the entire House before April 12.
SB 5217 includes WR’s technical assistance and suggested language. We are currently working on an amendment to clarify the bill’s intent that the Department of L&I can only create one rule per year, per industry. WR remains opposed to this bill.
HB 1762 Warehouses — SHB 1762, a proposal brought forward by the Teamster’s Union, would strictly regulate quotas and punitively enforce safety, meal, and rest break requirements in most warehouses. The coalition is reinforcing warehouse employers’ commitment to the safety and well-being of their employees, and Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) data on claims shows that safety performance continues to improve in the sector.
The coalition also points out that the L&I already has the authority to enforce meal breaks, rest breaks, and safety conditions in warehouses. Recent media reports demonstrate L&I has been able to take enforcement actions under the current rules and regulations. It should be noted that SB 5217 empowers L&I to establish regulations aimed at minimizing musculoskeletal injuries and grants L&I additional regulatory measures if such injuries surpass twice the state’s average claims rate within warehouses. (Note: WR anticipates SB 5217 will pass the House.)
This bill continues to be very active and is expected to be voted on by the entire Senate soon. There will likely be many amendments offered. WR remains opposed to this costly and burdensome legislation.