Oregon’s 2023 Legislative Session adjourned on June 25, 2023, wrapping up one of the most dynamic and dramatic sessions in recent history. In January, the session commenced with swearing in a new Governor, new Senate President, and thirty legislators new to their positions (many of them new to the Capitol altogether). The first few months were mostly congenial, with bi-partisan efforts tackling housing and semiconductor recruitment. The political rifts emerged in the spring as Republicans pointed to procedural and process requirements to slow bills aimed at abortion access, gender-affirming care and gun safety. The political posturing by both sides led to the longest legislative standoff in state history; a six-week boycott of the Senate floor by Republicans and one Independent. The stalemate broke in mid-June. Along the way, the Secretary of State resigned and several state agencies and several legislators and political organizations faced scandals that loomed over the Capitol with lingering questions about the eligibility of several Senators to run for re-election.
Oregon Bio maintained its advocacy efforts consistently despite the swirling political storm, focusing on incentives for biotech companies and policies that impact our members businesses. We worked throughout the session to advocate for reinstating a qualified research activities tax credit, an effort that ultimately resulted in a new R&D tax credit for the semiconductor industry (including some biotech operations), but the final version was narrower than we had hoped. Oregon Bio also joined other business and economic development organizations to push for extension of our key property tax abatement program for capital investment – the Enterprise Zone. The program is now extended through 2032, but with some changes that will reduce the total savings in favor of providing revenue to schools. We have many members, large and smaller, who have used this tool, and we will watch carefully over the coming years to see whether the reforms will change the tool’s effectiveness. More generally to tax incentives, Executive Director Liisa Bozinovic joined other business associations and pushed for a longer-term focus on Oregon’s tax competitiveness and will continue to work with other organizational leaders on the topic. On the budget side, we shared the success of the Oregon Bioscience Incubator with legislators and budget committees, and worked to protect any gaps in funding for the Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute.
We saw positive outcomes on the policy front as well. Oregon Bio worked to ensure that recommendations for prescription drug oversight didn’t include limits on the payments allowed for certain drugs, particularly high-cost, yet innovative treatments or restrict direct patient assistance for therapies. We coordinated with our members and partners to ensure patient safety by excluding medical devices from proposed legislation allowing repairs to FDA approved devices by non-OEM affiliated entities. Our work with BIO facilitated legislators to re-draft a bill to ensure that the benefits of the Medicaid 340b pricing program paid for by manufacturers would flow to patients and not intermediary entities like pharmacy benefit managers. Finally, we worked closely with legislative leadership and the Oregon Health Authority to start addressing the process and transparency challenges with the Medicaid coverage process run by Oregon’s Health Evidence Review Commission. These are just a few of the key issues we focused on, and our education and advocacy will continue
Oregon Bio’s success in advancing our biotech ecosystem through policy work is due to the hard work and engagement by our member companies, our Government Affairs Advisory Committee and all those who testified, wrote letters or provided feedback on the many bills we tracked and worked on this session.
Washington state lawmakers wrapped up their work on May 16, 2023, by adopting a $69 billion operating budget for the next two years that funds pay raises for teachers and state employees, and devotes new money to mental health, emergency housing, and rental aid. This year’s budget doesn’t include any general tax increases although a tax on capital gains, passed in 2021, is expected to bring in about $1 billion over the next two years. A bid to raise the state tax on the sale of high-end real estate failed, as did legislation to reform the 1% cap on the growth of property tax collections. Special education funding received a boost of $417 million, and lawmakers voted to raise the cap on the per-district and per-student funds the state allocates.
While the Oregon Bio legislative team followed many bills this past session, three bills – 2SHB 1745, ESHB 1155, and HB 1269 – were particularly relevant for the bioscience sector.
1) Improving diversity in clinical trials, 2SHB 1745 (Thai D-41). The Review Board for state agencies is codified and defined as the IRB established pursuant to 45 C.F.R. Part 46, as the designated IRB for the DSHS, the DOH, the L&I, and other state agencies. The Review Board must establish a diversity in clinical trials program to encourage participation in clinical trials of drugs and medical devices by persons who are members of demographic groups underrepresented in clinical trials. The Review Board must compile and share information and resources in an accessible fashion to assist entities in Washington that conduct clinical trials with increasing diversity of participation. Signed by the governor on May 11, 2023.
2) My Health, My Data Act, ESHB 1155 (Slatter, D-48) had a very bumpy ride during the session. This legislation was requested by the Attorney General and provides a consumer the right to access, delete, and withdraw consent from the collection, sharing, or selling of their consumer health data (a private right of action). A regulated entity must establish a secure way for a consumer to submit a request to exercise any health data rights and respond to the consumer within 45 days of receipt of the request in writing of any action taken or not taken. Additionally, consumer health data may not be collected or shared without prior consent. Supporters said the bill was an urgent response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Opponents of the bill said the legislation is too broad. This bill was highly negotiated throughout the session and signed by the Governor on April 27, 2023.
Oregon Bio worked with our life science partners to ensure exemption language was contained in the bill regarding personal information collected, used or disclosed in compliance with specified state and federal laws governing human subject research.
3) Prescription Drug Advisory Board (PDAB) legislation, HB 1269 (Riccelli, D-5) was a top priority for Oregon Bio and its members in the 2023 Session. Life Science Washington, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, and Oregon Bioscience Association penned a joint letter in opposition to HB 1269. HB 1269 would remove protections for innovative medicines, rare disease drugs, and physician-administered drugs as well as legislative oversight and industry involvement in the Washington Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB). Those provisions were included by the Legislature after much stakeholder input to protect the ability for Washington companies to develop cutting-edge therapies and to help provide Washingtonian patients with access to the best medicines. Given the complicated and untested nature of how the PDAB would set payment limits, HB 1269 would put the PDAB in a position to make cutting-edge cancer therapies invented and manufactured in Washington inaccessible to Washingtonians and put Washington’s top-10 life science cluster at risk.
The PDAB was established in the 2022 Session (2SSB 5532), and numerous stakeholders came together in good faith to work out a compromise solution. HB 1269 died in the House but is available to be taken up in the 2024 Session.
Oregon Bio’s success in advancing our biotech ecosystem, especially in Southwest Washington, through policy work is due to the hard work and engagement of our member companies, our Government Affairs Advisory Committee, our partner organizations, and all those who testified, wrote letters or provided feedback on the many bills we tracked and worked on this past session.