On July 6, 2015, at 6:04 p.m. the 79th Session of the Oregon Legislature adjourned “Sine Die.” Over the 155 days of the session, the 90 elected members of the Oregon Legislative Assembly convened the 2015 Legislative Session amid uncertainty around the strength of the Oregon economy, a looming Supreme Court decision regarding the PERS reforms adopted by the legislature in 2014 and investigations into possible misconduct by Governor John Kitzhaber and First Lady Cylvia Hayes. Eleven days after the start of session, Governor Kitzhaber announced his resignation and five days later Secretary of State Kate Brown was sworn in as Oregon’s 38th Governor. While most pundits expected chaos and a rough leadership transition to ensue, Governor Brown moved quickly to solidify her leadership team and to partner with Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney.
Culture in the 2015 Legislative Session
Overall this was a very successful legislative session for culture in Oregon—we were able to increase available funding in budget bills and stop legislation that would have harmed the cultural sector. An overview of policy and funding legislation is below.
SB 441 – Cultural Trust Modernization – Enacted
SB 441 made technical changes to the statutory language guiding the Trust, changed the method for determining how much of Trust revenues and earnings should be distributed, added staff and increased funding for administration. The bill replaced the current 7.5% of distributions that were dedicated to Trust administration with $400,000, adjusted annually by an index. This legislation did not impact Cultural license plate revenues, which will continue to generate approximately $400,000 annually to market and promote the Trust. The bill clarified ambiguity in existing law, to allow the Trust board of directors to solicit contributions and invest trust funds.
The bill allows the Trust board to distribute between 50% and 60% of monies raised for and earned from the Trust. The bill also changed the formula for the distribution of the earnings once the board has determined the percentage to be distributed. As a result of the bill:
- 50% of the amount disbursed goes to the Cultural Development Grant Program;
- 25% is distributed to Oregon Counties and Tribes through the Community Cultural Participation Grant Program; and
- 25% is distributed among statewide cultural partners
HB 5030 – Cultural Resources Economic Fund and Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grants – Enacted
HB 5030 funds $2.5 million in new grants for the OREGON MAIN STREET REVITALIZATION GRANT PROGRAM, to be administered by the State Historic Preservation Office.
As it relates to cultural infrastructure, the Coalition worked with the co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee to continue previous legislative efforts to fund cultural infrastructure projects. This year’s funding is another step toward a long-term goal of establishing an ongoing commitment in the legislature to fund cultural capital construction projects in each biennium that the state invests in economic development through lottery-backed bonds. During the 2013 Legislative Session the legislature created the Cultural Resources Economic Fund and provided $1.5 million in funding for the Confluence Project’s interpretative art installation at Celilo Falls and $250,000 to the High Desert Museum in Bend.
The legislature indicated that the purpose of these grants would be to leverage art and cultural resources to create vibrant public spaces that integrate art and cultural and natural amenities, sustain Oregon’s rich arts and cultural experiences and enhance a strong sense of place and community identity; and to create jobs, expand business and tax revenues and enhance the economic vitality of Oregon communities, in keeping with the purpose of the Oregon Lottery.
The legislature voted to fund the following projects within the Cultural Resources Economic Fund in 2015:
OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL in the amount of $2 million for a multi-theatre renovation and modernization project that will improve access to the Festival’s two oldest theatres and provide improved access to free public performances on The Bricks for all visitors, regardless of mobility.
PORTLAND JAPANESE GARDENS in the amount of $1.5 million to expand its visitor and educational facilities in its Cultural Crossing project that will incorporate new gardens, state-of-the-art educational facilities and other visitor amenities.
OREGON PUBLIC BROADCASTING in the amount of $600,000 to renovate its facility to include more flexible, accessible multi-purpose space; new radio studios; and the construction of a multi-media studio to allow OPB the flexibility needed to create video and audio programming such as debates, town halls and musical performances.
AURORA COLONY HISTORICAL SOCIETY in the amount of $400,000 to finance the construction of a storage facility for historical artifacts.
SB 5502 – Department of Administrative Services – Enacted
The Department of Administrative Services provided special appropriation funding to OREGON PUBLIC BROADCASTING in the amount of $750,000 and OREGON HISTORICAL SOCIETY in the amount of $1,125,000.
SB 5525 – Business Oregon Budget – Oregon Arts Commission – Enacted
Business Oregon’s budget appropriated $4,115,924 for the OREGON ARTS COMMISSION and set an expenditure limitation for the OREGON CULTURAL TRUST at $8,260,870. In addition, the budget approved a new permanent position to support the Percent for Art program. An additional position for the Cultural Trust was funded in SB441.
SB 5528 – State Parks and Recreation Department – Enacted
This budget contains the STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE and the HERITAGE COMMISSION, which manages various heritage and preservation programs and provides grants and technical assistance for heritage and historic preservation efforts statewide. The portion of the budget directly lined out as supporting heritage/historic preservation programs was $6,400,000, including FTE and grant programs. Related bills that expanded historic preservation efforts for historic commercial areas were HB5030 and HB 3526. Membership in the Oregon Main Street Network, which is administered by the State Historic Preservation Office, is a requirement for funding through the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Program, administered by SHPO. Additional staffing was provided to launch and administer this program.
ADDITIONAL POLICIES SUPPORTED BY THE COALITION:
It was an active session for moving policies that strengthen arts and culture in Oregon and stopping legislation that would harm the sector.
HB 699 – Exemptions to Cosmetology Regulation – Enacted
Representative Jennifer Williamson introduced legislation to expand an existing exemption that allows combing hair or applying hair spray without a cosmetology license while preparing an individual for a theatrical performance, to also be able to style hair through the use of a comb, brush, blow dryer or curling iron, or by any other method. The proposed exemption did not adequately cover current practice. Working with Rep. Williamson and Rep. Paul Holvey, the bill was expanded to allow the application of temporary makeup and styling hair by any method needed to prepare an individual for a professional film or video performance or a theatrical performance without requiring a cosmetology license or being subject to the regulation of the Health Licensing Office or Board of Cosmetology. Whatever the current practice is, the law now allows these practices to be used without the possibility of a fine. It does, however allow the Health Licensing Office or Board of Cosmetology to disseminate guidelines to offer guidance on sanitation and hygiene best practices.
HB 3042 – Designates April 14 of each year as Honorary Artists of Oregon Day – Enacted
This bill was introduced by Representative Debby Boone at the request of a burgeoning high school artist who felt that having a day to celebrate artists would encourage more young people to pursue artistic endeavors. The chosen date, April 14, happens to be the student’s birthday.
HB 3526 – Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant Program – Enacted
HB 3526 establishes the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant Program Fund in the State Parks and Recreation Department for the purpose of providing grants on an annual, competitive basis with the purpose of funding efforts to acquire, rehabilitate and construct buildings on properties in designated downtown areas statewide in the hope that the facilitation of community revitalization efforts will lead to private investment, job creation or retention, establishing or expanding viable businesses or creating a stronger tax base. All grant recipients must be members of the Oregon Main Street Network, which is administered by the State Historic Preservation Office. The bill directs the department to make the funds available statewide while concentrating funds and resources in those areas of the state with the greatest need for main street revitalization and economic development, with a minimum of 50 percent of the funds being reserved for projects in rural areas. The department must give priority to grant proposals for projects that are located in traditionally underserved communities, including rural areas and communities that demonstrate significant financial barriers to efforts to redevelop or rehabilitate downtown areas.
LEGISLATION OPPOSED OR AMENDED BY THE COALITION
This session there were a handful of measures that had the potential for adverse impacts on the cultural community. Although some were introduced in complete ignorance of these potential impacts, we were able to engage in the process and either amend the bills to eliminate our concerns or to prevent the bills from moving forward in the process.
HB 2137 – Imposes sales tax on sale, transfer or display of works of art priced at or above $250,000 – Failed
This bill had disastrous potential to stifle the purchase and public viewing of fine art. The bill would have placed an 8.75% sales tax on the storage, use or other consumption in this state of any work of art having a sales price of $250,000 or higher. As many museums in Oregon work with private collectors across the nation to exhibit their rare pieces, that practice would effectively end if the legislation passed. Stopping this bill was an early and ongoing effort of the session. We were able to share the ramifications of the bill with the House Revenue Committee Chair, who sponsored the bill, and the members of the committee. Those efforts effectively stifled the bill. However, because the bill remained in the Revenue Committee and potentially could have moved at any time throughout the session, this legislation was closely monitored until Sine Die.
SB 913 – Creates offense of trafficking in animal parts – Failed
This bill created a ban on and criminal offense for the sale or transfer or any item containing ivory, black rhino horn or mammoth tusk. This created an unintentional problem for musicians who, as they progress in skill, seek out finer instruments to match their abilities. Many of these instruments are old and possess fittings of ivory. We were able to work with the proponents of the bill to get a broad exemption for transactions involving a musical instrument, pick, bow or other item designed for playing a musical instrument that contains ivory or ivory product if the ivory or ivory product is less than 20 percent of the musical instrument or item by volume. Ultimately the bill failed due to opposition by the National Rifle Association and an insufficient exemption for knives and guns. If the issue arises in future sessions, proponents of the bill are aware of our concerns and will start with language that provides a workable exemption for instruments.
SB 105 – Sunset Advisory Committee – Failed
SB 105 was one of a handful of bills intended to create a legislative review and oversite committee over for the State’s boards and commissions. SB 105 sunsetted the statutory language that created each board and commission according to a rotating schedule. In short, the board or commission would be eliminated unless the legislature affirmatively acted to continue the board or commission. The boards of both the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust were included in the bill. The bill was not able to gain momentum due to the potential fiscal impact of the review process and by the efforts of a number of boards and commissions, as well as ourselves, in reaching out to key legislators to make sure none of these bills moved forward.
POLICIES IMPACTING CULTURAL NONPROFITS:
This session saw a significant number of bills aimed at businesses. The issue with the broadest statewide impact was paid sick leave.
SB 454 – Statewide Mandatory Paid Sick Leave – Enacted
This bill requires employers who have at least 10 employees to provide 40 hours paid sick time for those employees, beginning Jan. 1, 2016. The bill requires employers with fewer than 10 employees to implement a 40-hour unpaid sick time program for employees. Portland is the exception and will maintain its current standard of paid time off for six employees or more. If an employee leaves employment within 91 days of being hired, but returns to work with the same employer within 180 days, the employer is required to restore all unused accrued sick leave.
The bill sets a minimum rate of accrual at one hour sick leave for every 30 hours worked and it requires that an employee to be allowed to earn and use up to 40 hours sick leave per year. The bill allows for these hours to rollover to the following year and allows the employer to cap paid sick leave in a given year to 40 hours and cap available sick leave to 80 hours in total. Alternately the employer can cash out unused sick leave at the end of the year, rather than allow employees to rollover their paid sick leave.
The bill requires employees give advance notice of intent to use paid sick leave, under certain circumstances, and allows the employer to require medical verification, under certain circumstances, provided the employer is willing to cover the costs of the medical verification. In addition, the bill includes provisions that prohibit an employer from retaliating or discriminating against employees who inquire about or use sick leave.
The bill classifies violations as unlawful practices under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, provides for a private right of action and preempts local governmental authority on matters related to sick leave. Businesses with 10 or more employees must implement a paid sick leave program by January 1, 2016 or already have in place an equivalent paid sick time program. Fines and civil penalties through BOLI will not be assessed until 2017.
The 2015 session proved to be a strong one for the cultural community, despite political upheaval and budgeting uncertainties. In addition to our priority legislation, which modernized the Cultural Trust, we amended a number of bills that, left unattended, could have had negative consequences on the cultural community. We successfully advanced needed staffing increases in partner agencies, garnered additional funding for capital construction projects and passed bills that supported arts and culture in Oregon.
The Cultural Advocacy Coalition is a 501c(4) member-funded, non-partisan advocacy organization formed to lobby in Salem to create a thriving environment for art, heritage and the humanities throughout Oregon. The Coalition is led by a volunteer board representing a broad cross-section of the statewide cultural community and is represented in Salem by veteran lobbyists, the Victory Group.