The 2023 Oregon Legislative Session commenced this month with the swearing-in of a new Governor, a new Senate President, and almost 30 new Legislators across both chambers. Oregon Bio is analyzing over two thousand new bills and developing a strategy to protect our members’ interests while advancing our biotech ecosystem in Oregon.
Tina Kotek takes over as Governor of Oregon, continuing to articulate an agenda that envisions addressing housing and homelessness, behavioral health, education outcomes, and retaining and recruiting manufacturing, most notably, semiconductors. In addition, her agenda presents opportunities on issues Oregon Bio has worked on for several years, including tools to recruit and retain manufacturers and incentives like research and development tax credits.
The are plenty of new faces, even as Democrats return with solid majorities in both chambers: 35-25 in the House and a 17-13 advantage in the Senate. The biggest change isn’t in the political balance per se but rather in the high rate of turnover, with 22 new House members and seven new Senators (albeit a handful of which moved from the House to the Senate this year). These changes include a new Senate President, Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego), and a House Speaker who just took the big gavel last year in Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), meaning the 2023 session will have a different feel than prior years. Oregon Bio has anticipated these changes and challenges, and worked throughout 2022 to strengthen relationships with leadership and get to know incoming members.
The Governor and Legislature’s focus on recruiting semiconductor manufacturing and the related package to do so is highly aligned with tools that can expand biotech in Oregon. Recommendations include extending the “Enterprise Zone” program which allows local governments to extend temporary property tax abatements for expansion or new investment in manufacturing sites. Oregon Bio members in both the pharmaceutical and medical device space currently use this program which only allows for an abatement if a company pledges increases in quality jobs that exceed local average wages. Similarly, extending the Regionally Significant Industrial Site program – a staple of the semiconductor package – would also facilitate biotech companies accessing shovel-ready industrial sites.