Legislative Update, week six

What is a legal guardian?  Well, it’s someone who’s been appointed by a judge to make important decisions for a person who is considered unable to make those decisions for them self.  The practice of appointing guardians goes way back to Roman times.  Early English courts adopted it and eventually passed it on to the American colonies with other legal traditions. After all these years, Oregon is still trying to get its guardianship laws right.  So last week, the Judiciary Committees heard 5 bills that seek to improve how guardianship works.  DRO has been actively involved.  When a person’s freedom to control their own life can be taken away with the stroke of a pen because of a disability, DRO is going to watch very closely, and, if necessary, jump in.

The week in review

These bills had Public Hearings in the past week:

SB 487 would increase the cap on wrongful death and “non-economic” damage awarded to those wrongfully injured in a lawsuit from $500,000 to $1,000,000. “Non-economic damages” include pain, mental suffering, emotional distress and loss of comfort and companionship.  Powerful testimony was offered by victims of sexual assault and workplace injury.  DRO supports this bill.

HB 2387  Everyone agrees that the spiraling cost of prescription drugs is making health care unaffordable. Everyone does not agree what, if anything, to do about it.  This bill would require drug makers to reimburse health insurers for cost overruns and direct drug companies to give 60 days’ advance notice of price hikes. It prohibits insurers from requiring enrollees to pay for prescription drugs that exceed specified maximums.  It requires information sharing about drug costs and directs insurers to offer at least one health benefit plan that has no deductible or coinsurance requirement for prescription drugs. Let’s just say that witnesses did not reach consensus on the merits of the bill.

HB 2300 is the latest effort to control the costs and encourage the appropriate use of psychiatric drugs.  In recent years, psychiatric drugs have been exempted from some of the cost-controls that may be used for other types of drugs.  The policy challenge is to allow a person to have access to drugs that meet their unique needs while not encouraging the overuse of unnecessarily expensive or unneeded meds.  The text of the bill gives no clues of how that can be accomplished.

SB 501 Would require courts to appoint a lawyer for a person who is the subject of guardianship proceeding when a lawyer is needed to help resolve a conflict in the case and the person cannot afford a lawyer. DRO supports this bill.

SB 502 Would require courts to hold a hearing and appoint a lawyer when the Oregon Public Guardian and Conservator or county public guardian and conservator is asking to be appointed for the person. DRO supports this bill.

SB 503 Would direct the Judicial Department to establish standards and policies to assure the skills of Court Visitors in guardianship and conservator cases. DRO supports this bill.

HB 2630 Would make a number of changes to Oregon guardianship laws to assure adequate safeguards for the person for whom a guardianship is proposed or appointed.  These include notification and information sharing that make it easier for a person to raise concerns with the guardianship court and that a guardianship is no more restrictive than is necessary.  This is a DRO bill.

HB 2217 would restrict a guardian’s ability to limit the communication rights of a protected person. The guardian may get a court order to prevent communication, but must show good cause.  Inappropriate restrictions on communication can be challenged in court. Notice of a change in residence or address of a protected person, admission to a hospital or death of the protected person must be sent to people who are closely related or otherwise connected to the protected person.

DRO submitted the following testimony:

In support of SB 268 (Requires DHS and law enforcement agencies to investigate reports of abuse that occurred at school or in educational setting or that are made by school employees)
In support of SB 487 (Restricts the limitation on awards of non-economic damages to claims in actions for wrongful death)
In support of SB 501 (Requires courts to appoint legal counsel for a respondent or protected person in protective proceeding under certain circumstances)
In support of SB 502 (Requires that courts hold a hearing on a petition to appoint a fiduciary filed by the Oregon Public Guardian and Conservator or county public guardian and conservator)
In support of SB 503 (Directs Judicial Department to establish uniform visitor policies)

Upcoming

Monday

In the Senate Committee on Human Services, 1:00 pm, Hearing Room D.
Work Sessions:
SB 104 Modifies provisions relating to registry of persons who provide care in certain facilities.
SB 231 Establishes a Task Force on Student Mental Health Support.
SB 275 Governs when a lawyer who is helping a person get on SSI can get free medical records.
SB 760 Requires a “public or private official” to report suspected abuse of an adult that is witnessed both on and off work time.
Public Hearings:
SB 363 Directs the Department of Education to conduct a study on methods for improving safety of work environments for staff involved in special education and related services.
SB 711 Establishes a public policy that DHS employees whose employment is terminated for violating a duty to report abuse are not eligible for reinstatement of employment with DHS.

Public Hearing in the Senate Committee On Workforce, 3:00 pm, Hearing Room A.
SB 811 Provides that employees of Oregon State Hospital qualify as police officers under Public Employees Retirement System.

Tuesday

Public Hearings in the House Committee On Human Services and Housing, 8:00 am, Hearing Room E.
HB 2170 Establishes the Office of Oregon Ombudsmen, containing the Long Term Care Ombudsman, the Residential Facilities Ombudsman, the Foster Parent Ombudsman, the Foster Child Ombudsman and the Oregon Public Guardian and Conservator.
HB 2684 Establishes a minimum hourly wage rate of $15 per hour for employees who provide direct care to residents of residential training facilities or residential training homes.
HB 2685 Requires DHS to offer adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities who qualify for comprehensive services at least one placement other than a congregate living arrangement.

Public Hearings in the House Committee On Judiciary, 1:00 pm, Hearing Room 343.
HB 2620 Expands the crime of assault in the third degree to include physical injury to a person working in a hospital while the worker is performing official duties.
HB 2717 Increases penalties for assault committed against an employee of a mass transit district or transportation district if the employee is assaulted while acting within the scope of employment.

Wednesday

In the Senate Committee on Human Services, 1:00 pm, Hearing Room D.
Work Sessions:

SB 95 Requires certain securities professionals to report suspected financial exploitation of an elderly, disabled or vulnerable individual to the Department of Consumer and Business Services and DHS.
SB 239 Establishes a process to determine consent of a resident of a residential care facility or adult foster home to an individually based limitation of certain rights. This brings Oregon into compliance with HCBS regulations.  DRO supports this bill.
Public Hearings:
SB 265 Directs Department of Human Services to conduct monthly, in-person visits with a child or ward in substitute care that include updates on academic status and progress.
SB 834 Requires DHS to develop and present a proposal for creation of a human rights commission to the interim committees of Legislative Assembly related to human services and health no later than September 1, 2017.

Work Session in the House Committee on Judiciary, 1:00 pm, Hearing Room 343.
HB 2630
Makes changes to Oregon guardianship laws to assure adequate safeguards for respondents and protected persons.  This is a DRO bill.

In the House Committee On Health Care, 3:00 pm, Hearing Room E.
Public Hearings:
HB 2392
Modifies requirements for health benefit plan coverage of hearing loss treatments.
HB 2393 Specifies a case manager’s duties in event that the case manager receives notice that person for whom case manager provides services may have life-sustaining procedures withheld or withdrawn. This is a DRO bill.
Work Sessions:
HB 2319
Creates a Mental Health Regulatory Agency.
HB 2304 Adds peer support specialist, family support specialist and youth support specialist to membership of the Traditional Health Workers Commission.
HB 2402 Directs the Center for Health Statistics to establish a program allowing an individual who is homeless to obtain a certified copy of the individual’s record of live birth, free of charge.

Public Hearings in the House Committee On Education, 3:00 pm, Hearing Room F.
HB 2543
Removes percentage cap on calculations for State School Fund distributions for students in average daily membership who are eligible for special education as child with disability.
HB 2649 Directs State Board of Education to adopt by rule complaint process to report school district policy in violation of state law prohibiting harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyberbullying.

More information

HB – House Bill     SB – Senate Bill
Hearing Schedule
Bills
Streaming for hearings and events

Support our work

If you value our work to promote disability rights in state law, please consider a tax-deductible donation. Here’s how your donation can support our work:

  • $35: One face to face meeting with a legislator
  • $50: One DRO staff member can travel to the Capitol
  • $100: One Legislative Update
  • $500: One full day of advocacy during the legislative session

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