Here's a look at a host of new and interesting laws that went on the books Jan. 1 in the state

Every year the Legislature passes a number of bills that become law on Jan. 1. Some of these laws only focus on some of us, others affect all of us. The Legislature also plans to discuss bills in the upcoming session that may affect Oregon residents early in the season such as new gun storage, climate change and the governor's budget.

The following laws became effective Jan. 1.

Senate Bill 1562 amends the bill defining strangulation. Until Jan. 1, a person commits the crime by impeding the normal breathing or blood circulation of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck of a person by blocking the nose or mouth. If the victim doesn't die, that defines a Class A misdemeanor, raising it to a Class C felony when committed in the company or witnessed by the offender's or victim's minor child, stepchild or child in the same household.

It expands the definition of strangulation to include conduct that obstructs normal breathing or circulation of a person by applying pressure to the chest. It also reclassifies the transgression as a Class C felony if the victim is a family or household member or intimately related to the offender. While strangulation is considered a Level 6 offense for sentencing in the state guidelines, it becomes a Class C felony when the victim is a family or household member.

House Bill 4050 amends former state laws governing unlawful cockfighting and unlawful participation in cockfighting, which are both Class C felonies. One provision of the law had defined cockfighting to include any person who knowingly manufactures, buys, sells, barters, exchanges, possesses, advertises or offers to sell a gaff, slasher or other sharp implement designed for attachment to a fighting bird with the intent that those instruments be used in cockfighting. The new bill removed those behaviors and added the offense of unlawful participation in cockfighting.

ORS 496.705 allows the State Fish and Wildlife Commission to initiate litigation to recover damages for taking or killing wildlife. The Legislature in 2016 enacted HB 4046, amending ORD 496.705 and increasing financial penalties to be assessed against those unlawfully killing or taking wildlife with different penalties for different animals.

Because of an appeals decision, sentencing for restitution can only use objectively verifiable economic loses. It legally can't substitute established civil damage amounts authorized by ORS 496.705. Once there is a conviction for the unlawful taking or killing wildlife the court can order a compensatory fine and transfer amounts collected to the State Fish and Wildlife Commission. This measure doesn't preclude State Fish and Wildlife Commission from initiating litigation for civil damages.

Senate Bill 1538 modifies provisions for driving privileges, suspensions, revocations and the ability for people to get driving privileges following a suspension or revocation. This bill eliminates driving license suspensions arising from events unrelated to driving, such as for littering, uncollected payment to the Department of Transportation, failure to use same name, giving false information to a police officer, misrepresentation of age, perjury of false affidavit for certain vehicle transactions and the theft of gasoline.

It also modifies suspensions for controlled substance offenses, minors in possession of alcohol and cannabis offences. It also eases the process for those with a suspended or revoked license to obtain limited driving privileges. As the law stands now, those with a suspended or revoked licenses can obtain limited driving privileges by a probationary or hardship permit. It eliminates probationary permits and streamlines all requests for limited driving privileges into the hardship permit process while establishing rules for the eligibility of a hardship permit.

HB 4055 amends some statutes defining the obligations of a motor vehicle driver following an accident when the accident results in damage to property, injuries to people and/or domestic animals. Former laws provide several degrees of offenses for hit and run or refusing to meet legal objections following an accident. These offenses range from a violation offense for injury to domestic animals to a Class A misdemeanor for damage to property and a Class B or C felony for injuries to people.

These violations are related to people leaving an accident scene before police arrive, without exchanging required information and rendering aid when necessary.

An Oregon State of Appeals court interpreted ORS811.705 to mean that a driver's affirmative legal obligations to remain at the scene and/or provide certain identifying obligations only arises when the driver becomes aware of the damage to people or property. HB 4055 makes changes to the hit and run statutes: changing the language from accident to collision; it applies the duty to exchange information to know or have reason to believe they were involved in a collision; and, most important, it creates an obligation for those who later learning of the accident after they left.

HB 4149 does two things. It precludes a court from conditioning pretrial release on a person agreeing to be tried in absentia if they fail to appear at a court date. It also adds a provision that prevents district attorneys from conditioning a plea offer on the defendant stipulating to the unconstitutionality of a law.

SB 1550 authorizes the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to adopt record keeping requirements for people engaged in taking, landing, buying or selling food fish for commercial purposes or otherwise dealing with food fish for commercial purposes. This will help trace the chain of commercial food fish, a charge for the ODFFW to promote food fish safety and public confidence.

HB 4054 authorizes the Oregon Department of Transportation to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with cities with populations of more than 500,000 residents to remove, store and dispose of personal property from locations that are owned by ODOT. It's intended to allow Portland to work with ODOT to clear unlawful camping sites within the city that are on ODOT property. It sunsets on Jan. 2, 2023.

SB 1559 asks the Bureau of Labor and Industries to prepare a book of uniform standards and procedures of regulations for whistleblower protection. It requires OHA, ODOT and DEQ to develop pilot programs to provide optional pilot programs to provide optional procedures for employees to anonymously disclose certain information.

SB 1536 changes elections of certain mass transit districts to government appointment. However, certain elected directors will continue serving their term until it expires.

HB4005 authorizes a statewide prescription drug cost and price transparency program, which defines manufacture, manufacturer, prescription drug and price and directs the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) to define any new prescription drugs. It requires that prescription drug manufacturers report specified information regarding certain prescription drugs to the DCBS. It also requires drug manufacturers to report production, marketing and research costs, and use of consumer assistance programs and current prices of planned price increases for certain prescription drugs during a certain period.

The bill grants DCBS the authority to impose civil penalties for drug manufacturers failing to comply with reporting requirements as well as grants DCBS to set manufacturer fees to implement the transparency program for rulemaking. It also requires health insurers with a prescription drug benefit to report information to DCBS to hold a public hearing annually regarding prescription drug prices. DCBS must submit an annual report to the Legislature that addresses prescription drug prices and cost containment. While it took effect in March, its first report on drug pricing (without including pricing new drugs) by pharmaceutical manufacturers is due July 1. The first report on new drugs is due March 15. Thereafter the new drug report must be submitted no later than 30 days after the introduction of the drug to the market. Insurers must report drug prices along with their rate filings.

HB 4020 explains criteria for licensing extended stay centers and requires Oregon Health Authority to adopt rules. It requires extended stay centers to report discharge data to OHA on request. Then OHA has to apply for authorization from the centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to receive federal matching funds for services of extended stay centers provided to medical assistance recipients and to permit extended stay centers and ambulatory surgical centers to operate under a single license. It creates new requirements related to hospital financial assistance policies. Hospitals must have written financial assistance policies complying with statutory plain language requirements for consumer contracts. Hospitals have to display policies in publicly accessible areas and provide written copies to patients on request. OHA is required to make a uniform financial assistance application form available that consumers can use with any Oregon hospital. While it took effect in April, the majority of its substantive sections became effective Jan. 1.

HB4104 modifies the requirements for health benefit plan coverage of hearing loss treatments. Insurers must cover costs related to bilateral cochlear implants including programming, reprogramming and repair. It defines a hearing assistive technology system and requires health insurers to cover ear molds, replacement ear molds and hearing assistive technology for pediatric enrollees and students. The bill requires health insurers to provide notice of coverage limits to enrollees and offer education materials. Health insurers are requirement to ensure that enrollees have access to pediatric audiologists. While it took effect Jan. 1, it applies to health benefit plans in 2020.

SB 1534 separates personal support workers from home care workers, but retains the same requirements for both. It required the Department of Human Services to establish minimum training standards and procedures for both jobs beginning Jan. 1. It includes a nonexclusive list of topics that can be included in training with specifics that training must be geographically accessible to all areas of the state and culturally appropriate for workers of all language abilities. Elder law practitioners need to keep an eye on whether the bill impacts availability and cost of in-home care for clients. A potential increase in the cost of such services may affect Medicaid planning when looking at the length resources can last before needing benefits and in determining whether applying for benefits makes financial sense for clients.

SB 1553 amends HB 2536 (2017) by expanding unlawful collection practices and added more requirements that debt buyers must adhere to; it further clarifies that this sub-section of the statute applies to both debt buyers and debt collectors acting on behalf of a debt buyer.

HB4135 updates the Oregon Advance Directive Adoption Committee to review and propose modifications every four years. The current advance directives remain in effect as do advance directives completed on previous forms. The new form should be used from here forward. It will sunset on Jan. 1, 2022 because the Advance Directive Adoption Committee is expected to have a new form by the Health Law then.

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