The 2016 legislative session was as short one (basically, the month of February) and each legislator was allowed only two proposed bills. Beginning last October we worked with several legislators to get legislation proposed that would benefit vaping and the vapor industry. One of them was Senate Bill 1559 which was a licensing bill proposed by Senators Monnes-Anderson and Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward. The bill called for all vape shops (and tobacco shops) to be licensed through the Department of Justice and regulated through OHA.
Early on, NWVA met with the sponsors and told them that we were in favor of the bill as long as sampling would be allowed as part of licensing. The bill was sent to the Senate Healthcare Committee which consists of three Democrats and two Republicans. An amendment for sampling was drafted and our lobbyist began to secure votes for it. The three votes needed to include the amendment were secured prior to the work session of the Senate Healthcare committee. Both sponsors said that they had no issues with Sampling and Senator Hayward agreed to vote for sampling after we gave our word that our lobbyist would work to make sure the bill would pass (as long as sampling was included in the bill). We also informed the sponsors that if our sampling amendment was not included in the bill, we would make sure that the entire bill would fail to pass. On the day of the vote for our amendment, neither sponsor voted for the sampling amendment because the proponents of the bill vowed to kill the bill if sampling was included in it. However, we still had commitments for three votes in favor of the amendment (that’s all that required to pass) so the chair cancelled the meeting. The chairman (Mones-Anderson) then invoked a rare (but within the rules) move to substitute the democratic swing vote of ours by replacing Chip Shields (a Democrat who had agreed to vote for our amendment) with the Senate President, who voted against the sampling amendment so that it failed.
After this move, as previously promised, our lobbyist vowed to kill the licensing bill. The bill subsequently moved to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill changed drastically in this committee and the preemption, stopping all counties and municipalities from regulating vape shops, was changed to only protect larger stores.
Ever since the sampling amendment failed, NWVA’s strategy was to kill this on the Senate floor. This is a very difficult thing to do as the bill only needed 16 votes to pass. There are 18 Democrats eligible to vote and 12 Republicans. The first step was to get the bill on the Republican bad list where no Republican would be allowed to vote for the bill. Our lobbyist met with the Republican Minority Leader and was able to secure the bill on the Republican bad list. The next step was to diligently work moderate Democrats to vote against the bill. Three NO votes were required to kill the bill on the Senate floor. After many phone calls and meetings, our lobbyist was able to secure at least three votes against the bill. Since the bill did not have sufficient votes to pass on the floor of the Senate, and because it was on the Republican bad list, it was ultimately not voted on and traded with two other bills to be killed as an agreement to end the session. This was a huge win for NWVA.
Our lobbyist is now working three issues. He is on the rules board of Multnomah County for their county wide licensing bill. He has already defeated a rule that would forbid vape shops from being located within 1,000 feet of a school. This was yet another win for NWVA. Our lobbyist has also been assigned to an Oregon Health Authority (OHA) rules board pertaining to sales to minors. This committee meets this week for the first time. He is also working against a proposal in Lane County to raise the age of smoking and vaping to age 21.
Finally, the rules for product labeling has been released by the Rules Committee, but was retracted after the FDA Deeming Rules were released. The rules committee is currently reconsidering labeling requirements and we will update you with information regarding this as it is made available.
Will Krause – President, Northwest Vapor Association