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New laws take effect in 2016

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A number of bills passed during the 2015 Legislative session will take effect this week, some which will affect businesses around the state.

Business

Paid sick leave will become mandatory at companies with 10 or more employees as Senate Bill 454 takes effect. Affected businesses will need to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, or one and a third hours for every 40 hours worked, allowing employees to earn and accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.

Under House Bill 2007, employees will be allowed to inquire about, discuss and disclose information about their wage or the wages of other employees. Employers were previously allowed to take action against employees who made such inquiries.

HB 3025, also known as “ban the box,” will prevent employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history on a job application. The law does not prevent an employer from taking the conviction into consideration when making a hiring decision, but the applicant can’t be excluded from initial consideration by being required to disclose that conviction. The legislation also does not apply to law enforcement agencies or workers in the criminal justice system, among several other exceptions.

SB 552 provides protections for home care workers. The law requires home care employers to pay the worker overtime wages, provides regulated periods of rest (24 consecutive hours of rest each work week), at least eight consecutive hours of rest if the worker lives in the home of employment, and various other requirements.

SB 278 makes it illegal for unlicensed payday and title lenders to deposit a consumer’s check, withhold money or collect interest, fees or charges on loans. The bill also clarifies that illegal loan agreements made by an unlicensed lender are void if made on or after Jan. 1, 2016.

Drivers

The new “motor voter” bill, HB 2177, registers eligible voters when they sign up for or renew their driver’s license, permit or identification card.

SB 411 allows auto insurance consumers to receive up to the full amount of underinsured coverage if they are injured by an at-fault, underinsured driver, in addition to any claims payments they receive from the insurance policy of the at-fault driver. Also, personal injury protection (PIP) medical benefits are extended to two years; insurance companies are limited in seeking reimbursement of PIP benefits from claim settlements. These provisions apply to auto insurance policies issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2016.

Health Care

HB 2879 allows pharmacists to prescribe birth control, reducing the need for women to visit a doctor for their contraceptive prescriptions. HB 3343 requires insurers to cover a full year of birth control, reducing gaps in coverage and access.

SB 93 allows consumers to receive up to a 90-day supply of most prescription medicines under their insurance plans when consumers have a sufficient number of authorized refills available. SB 144 requires health insurance plans to provide coverage for telemedicine services. All health benefit plans, including any self-insured or public employee health plans, must cover health care services delivered by videoconference. These provisions apply to health plans issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2016.

HB 2758 guarantees patients the right to have protected health information sent directly to them instead of to the person who pays for their health insurance plan (the primary account holder). These provisions apply to health plans issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2016.

HB 2850 requires an insurer to get the name and contact information for an alternate person to receive premium bills before issuing a long-term care insurance policy. It also requires that in order for a lapse in coverage to be effective, an insurance company must provide written notice — including why the policy will lapse — at least 30 days before the policy lapses.

Public Safety

SB 525 aligns Oregon law with the federal Violence Against Women Act to keep firearms away from domestic abusers.

Environment

SB 324 reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuel by 10 percent over the next 10 years, with the intent of leading to cleaner air, fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and the development of a homegrown alternative fuels industry. This law is being phased in beginning in January, with full compliance measures starting April 30, 2018.

Education

HB 2832 requires all contracts between public universities and third-party financial institutions for disbursement of student aid monies to comply with federal consumer protection guidelines. It also prohibits transaction fees, inactivity fees and revenue-sharing policies.

Marijuana

Medical marijuana dispensaries will start collecting a 25 percent tax on the retail price of recreational marijuana products on Jan. 4, 2016, thanks to HB 2041. OLCC plans to start issuing licenses to retail facilities in late 2016. Retail sales at licensed facilities will be taxed at 17 percent. Cities and counties can adopt an additional local tax of up to 3 percent on retail sales. Starting July 1, 2017, revenues will go toward the Common School Fund, mental health, alcoholism and drug services, Oregon State Police, city and county law enforcement and Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment services. Cities and counties that choose to prohibit licensed facilities will not receive any marijuana tax revenue disbursements.