The last two months of the 2023 Legislative Session saw important victories that will benefit Oregon families. Among the consumer wins this session is legislation to protect us against toxic chemicals, expand broadband access, enact safeguards for personal data, and take action to address Oregon’s housing crisis.
The historic six-week Senate walkout derailed the momentum seen early in the session. As a result of the walkout, the remaining lawmakers instead prioritized budget bills for a potential special session, which made it challenging to advance key policy issues in the closing weeks. When the walkout ended, with just over a week to spare before Sine Die*, legislators rushed to address as many bills as possible, but some simply did not have the time or votes to pass. OCJ-championed legislation on debt collection and insurance protections were among the unseized opportunities lawmakers left on the table. These bills included elements to strengthen our enforcement laws, which underpins our ability to hold businesses and bad actors accountable and deter them from making choices that exploit and take advantage of individuals and families throughout Oregon.
During this legislative session, OCJ’s policy team has intentionally uplifted consumers’ powerful stories as we advocate for bills that support Oregonian’s needs across the state. We have deepened our relationships with legislators, advocates, and our inaugural policy cohort members and actively listened and responded to the needs of our organizational and coalition partners, providing testimony and support in service of shared goals.
The journey toward meaningful change is long, but we can pave the way together through determination and collaboration. Our commitment to a more equitable and abundant Oregon remains strong. Together we will realize a brighter future for all Oregonians, where people always come first.
*Sine Die means “Without fixing a day for a future meeting” and is the last day of a Legislative Session. Sine Die was June 25, 2023 this year.
Policy Wins for Consumers
Toxic Free Products
Passed with bipartisan support, two bills will take essential steps to protect the health and safety of Oregonians, particularly children. Under the leadership of the Toxic Free Coalition and at the request of OCJ’s Policy Cohort, we joined in pushing for strengthened protections surrounding toxic chemicals found in cosmetics and children’s products.
- 🏅Toxic Free Kids (HB 3043) builds on the success of Oregon’s Toxic Free Kids Act by bolstering protections for children’s health and streamlining business reporting requirements. The components of this bill will roll out over the coming two and a half years. The first step in January 2024 will be to align with the State of Washington’s more comprehensive list of harmful chemicals.
- 🏅Toxic Free Cosmetics (SB 546) requires Oregon Health Authority to adopt and maintain a list of selected high-priority chemicals used in cosmetics. The core elements of this bill take effect January 1, 2027.
Reliable, high-speed broadband access is necessary for Oregonians to access employment, education, health care, and public services and make and maintain connections. Its expansion represents more than a nice to have but a step toward racial, economic, and disability justice.
- 🏅HB 3201 will support broadband access, affordability, and use. An initial workgroup process led to the bill’s development to expand broadband capacity across the state.
- Excitingly, Oregon recently received notice of nearly $700 million in federal funding from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, part of the Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative. Without the policy changes in HB 3201, Oregon would not have been eligible for all available federal funds.
The legislature acted to address Oregon’s housing crisis this session. Through our involvement with both The Stable Homes for Oregon Families coalition and the Fair Shot for All coalition, OCJ contributed to the advocacy that saw priority policies, HB 2001 and SB 611B, become law.
- 🏅HB 2001 reforms eviction law to give people more time following notice of non-payment before being taken to court so they can secure rent assistance. It allocates more than $80 million for emergency rent assistance and displacement prevention services, requires that landlords accept payment at any point in the process, and mandates the dismissal of eviction cases upon payment.
- 🏅SB 611 puts a rent increase cap of 10%, from July 6 forward, on any new rent increases (for properties older than 15 years).
Progress toward a Fair Shot
OCJ is a member of Fair Shot for All, Oregon’s economic justice coalition of over 30+ organizations. All four of the coalition’s priorities advanced this session, representing some big wins toward a more just state:
Oregonians impacted by the trauma of wildfires and other natural disasters have some relief with the passage of two bills that mitigate the insurance claims process and offer greater transparency regarding rate setting and wildfire risk.
- 🏅HB 2982 lets insurance customers settle their claims of destroyed personal property following a major disaster at 70% of the insured value without completing a household inventory. This bill became law on May 16, effective September 23, 2023.
- 🏅SB 82 provides greater transparency for property owners regarding how insurance companies view their property’s wildfire risk and how mitigation actions can affect their rates. This bill became law on May 8, effective January 1, 2024.
It is currently illegal under Oregon law to call someone on the do-not-call list or to make scam robocalls. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. This law encourages telemarketing providers to monitor the traffic they allow through their systems or be held responsible.
- 🏅HB 2759 holds telemarketing companies accountable for illegal robocalls, including if they know—or actively avoid knowing—that these calls are happening on their lines.
During this session, Oregon became the twelfth state in the nation to enact consumer privacy legislation. It advanced following the essential passage of policy to enact a data broker registry to ensure Oregonians have a tool to identify and set limits on the sale of their data.
- 🏅HB 2052 provides that a data broker may only collect, sell, or license brokered personal data if they first register with the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS).
- 🏅Oregon Consumer Privacy Act (OCPA) (SB 619) is a comprehensive data privacy bill championed by the Oregon Attorney General. This bill gives Oregonians necessary rights over their personal data, with specific obligations imposed on companies interacting with these data.
OCJ provided supportive testimony for OCPA, stressing the importance of providing individuals the right to hold companies accountable when they don’t follow the law. Despite the disappointing removal of this provision from the final bill, this law still provides Oregonians with valuable safeguards for their data.
Addressing transcript holds as a means of debt collection will protect students and graduates by addressing a system barrier mainly affecting first-generation, BIPOC, and low-income college students, standing in the way of their educational and career success.
- 🏅SB 424 prohibits public and private colleges and universities in Oregon from withholding transcripts as a debt collection practice. This bill will first apply to the 2024-25 academic year, and each Oregon post-secondary educational institution must report on the number of current and former students who owe a debt for the 2023-24 academic year and the institution’s policy and procedures for phasing out transcript holds.
Missed opportunities and unfinished business
HB 2008, the Family Financial Protection Act of Oregon, was among OCJ’s priorities this year. The legislation proposed updates to our state’s debt and consumer protection laws to reflect the reality families face. HB 2008 aimed to create a pathway for Oregonians to financially recover when navigating collections rather than becoming stuck in a cycle of poverty. Disappointingly, this legislation did not move forward, having remained in the House Rules Committee at the end of the session.
We are incredibly proud of our work, and that of our dedicated partners, to raise awareness about the urgent need to reform our debt laws. Through these efforts, we were able to elevate the stories of Oregonians experiencing the impacts of our unfair and outdated laws. These included the stories of John, who had a debt collector wrongly wipe out his entire bank account, and also Bonnie, a senior in Scappoose living on a fixed income and at risk of losing her home.
OCJ was a proponent of a package of bills to ensure the insurance industry is accountable to Oregon consumers. Regrettably, neither bill advanced this session, with business interests prevailing over those of the people.
HB 3243 sought to add insurance to the long list of industries subject to the Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA). It remains the only industry in the state not subject to Oregon’s primary consumer protection law. This bill would have prohibited insurance companies from deceiving, lying to, or stealing from their customers during the claims process. And HB 3242 sought updates to Oregon’s Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act (UCSPA) to ensure that individual Oregonians and small businesses can protect themselves if the insurance company harms them during the claims-handling process.
Car Sales and Purchasing
HB 2801, one of OCJ’s 2023 legislative priorities, sought to end the practice of yo-yo financing in car purchases. Instead, car sales would not be issued on contingent financing but on agreed-upon terms with consumers, where loan payment details were clearly outlined and honored by the auto dealers negotiating the loan. This legislation did not move forward this session due to significant opposition from the auto dealers.
We also advocated for the passage of HB 2920 to prohibit using credit scores when setting auto insurance rates. This bill additionally faced significant industry opposition and did not move forward this session.
Car sales are among the most financially impactful consumer purchase. Car sales and purchasing remain an important issue area, and we will pursue other pathways to improve this process for Oregon families.
Right to Repair
Right to Repair (SB 542) would have required manufacturers to make available replacement parts, software, physical tools, and any documentation or schematics necessary for repair. By doing so, consumers could economically and safely repair items they own, either by themselves or by having options about where to have their items repaired. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee On Rules on April 25 and remained there at the end of the session.
While the above issues did not advance this session, our commitment to realizing real change in these areas has remained unchanged. OCJ will be involved in several legislative workgroups (which will convene this summer and fall) to ensure consumer voices are central on likely issues such as warranties for consumer products, a portable rental application system, and auto purchasing.
Putting people first is our priority.
In the months ahead, our policy team will confer with partners and legislative champions as we determine our next steps. The short session may see the reintroduction of some of these bills; others may wait until the 2025 long session. As we look to future legislative sessions, we know that our legislators must continue to grapple with issues around debt collection, insurance protections, and inequities in credit scores, among others. They need to hear the stories and experiences of Oregonians to understand the positive impact that robust consumer laws can have on our state.
As we foster and build on our relationships and collective presence in Salem, OCJ is committed to strengthening and expanding consumer rights and ensuring consumers’ ability to hold bad actors accountable when they don’t follow the law. We will continue to push for policies where people come first.
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