During the first special session of 2020, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 4212A (commonly referred to as the “omnibus” bill), which was signed into law by Governor Brown on June 30, 2020. The bill contains a variety of statutory changes aimed to provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. The contents of HB 4212A can be summarized as follows:
- Public Meetings
- Allows local governments to hold all meetings by telephone or video conference, including taking public testimony, as long as a method is provided for the public to listen
- Protects CARES Act recovery rebate payments from garnishments issued on or before September 30, 2020
- Judicial Proceedings
- Authorizes the Chief Justice, during emergency period and 60 days thereafter, and upon finding of good cause, to extend or suspend time period or time requirements in rule or statute in specified court proceedings
- Authorizes presiding judge of circuit court to extend custody and postpone trials upon finding of good cause (COVID-19 added to definition of “good cause”)
- Authorizes Chief Justice to direct or permit electronic court appearances
- Extends statute of limitations in civil actions 90 days from end of state of emergency if statute of limitations falls within period of emergency.
- Emergency Shelters
- Temporarily waives siting, design, and zoning regulations for local governments to create shelters to provide support for people experiencing homelessness
- Establishes a pilot program for remote notarization via video technology.
- Enterprise Zones
- Allows extensions of enterprise zones terminating on June 30, 2020 to terminate on December 31, 2020
- Individual Development Accounts
- Authorizes use of an individual development account (IDA) for emergency expenses
- Race and Ethnicity Data Collection and Reporting
- Requires health care providers to collect data on race, ethnicity, preferred language, English proficiency, interpreter needs, and disability status when provided health services related to COVID-19.
- Physician Assistants
- Authorizes physician assistants to provide patient care within their scope of practice without entering into a practice agreement during a state of emergency declared by the Governor.
Perhaps just as important as the contents of HB 4212A are the amendments that were left on the table. Under one amendment, individuals, business entities, and public bodies would not be liable for damages arising out of acts or omissions that complied with guidance regarding COVID-19 unless the damages arise out of gross negligence or reckless, wanton, or intentional misconduct. Despite hearing an abundance of public testimony regarding limitations of liability, the committee did not adopt the amendment. However, it is possible that the limitations of liability concept will be revisited in subsequent special sessions later this summer.
In addition to HB 4212A, the legislature passed two bills providing relief to homeowners, businesses, and tenants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. HB 4204 provides for a moratorium on foreclosures and HB 4213 extends the moratorium on evictions, both through September 30, 2020. For further information on HB 4204 and HB 4213, please review this post.