LAT TUESDAYS

The Mission of the BACC Legislative Action Team (LAT) is to serve as an advocate for Chamber members and the business community in local and state issues impacting quality of life, growth, and profitability of member businesses and their employees. Purpose is to increase the Chamber’s influence in the development of public policy concerning issues of critical importance to the future of the Bay Area and its businesses. Gets in on the action at the Oregon legislative sessions and helps shape local government decisions that will maintain a healthy business climate. Conducts candidate forums during election years.

Join the BACC LAT which meets the first and third Tuesday, 7 am for video teleconferences, conference room at SWOCC (5th floor, room 505 Tioga Hall).

Contact: Tom Burdett 541-756-7142 tom@bntpromo.com

Legislative Update: March 19, 2019
The 2019 legislative session is starting its ninth week, and the BACC is pleased to share with you this weekly update from the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce:

What’s Happening (OSCC Political Observations)

This is the week that Senate President Peter Courtney is slated to return to the legislature from his 10-day ‘medical leave.’ Many have speculated that President Courtney will take the opportunity to step away from leadership and the legislature, but we have no reason to believe this is the case. We expect him to return.

We continue to be amazed that every major revenue-raising proposal is still on the front-burner so far this session. There continues to be a full court press by legislative leadership to pass a major business tax increase and a carbon pricing bill (cap and trade) and a paid family leave system, and another round of Medicaid taxes. The cumulative tax impact of all of these measures could easily approach $5 billion per biennium!

Finally, the flood of new 2019 legislation has ended. New bills are now coming out in a trickle. As of this today, about 2,500 pieces of legislation have been introduced for the 2019 legislative session. This represents approximately 90% – 95% of all the legislation we expect to see in 2019.

From this point forward, every legislator has five (5) priority bills that they can introduce. This means we could potentially see another 450 bills introduced, but it is more likely that we’ll see just a fraction of that amount.

The next few weeks will be intense due to looming deadlines. Bills need to be posted for committee votes by the end of Friday, March 29th in order to receive further consideration. By Tuesday, April 9th, all bills need to be voted out of their original committee in order to survive.

Activity on Major Issues

  • Cap & Trade. (HB 2020) On Monday, the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction heard from the Oregon Department of Forestry about sequestration on Oregon forestland.  The report explained that Oregon forests sequester half of all carbon that we emit annually (31 million metric tons of carbon). The presentation was eye-opening, particularly since Oregon’s carbon reduction goals that were set in the early 2000s were developed without acknowledgment of the sequestration potential from Oregon’s farms, forestlands, or even urban tree stands. In light of this new information,the state is already well-on-its-way to meeting the carbon reduction goals established by the bill.  The Joint Committee is still working on amendments to HB 2020, which should be available at the end of the week.We are expecting brand new amendments, and perhaps a total re-write of the bill, to be unveiled this week. We are not anticipating major improvements to the bill, but because the amendments are being closely guarded, we really have no idea what the new amendments will include. There are currently not enough votes to pass this bill, but we believe a bill will pass. It will likely undergo numerous re-writes over the next few months to accommodate concerns from OSCC and others who represent businesses that will be impacted.
  • Kicker. (HB 2975) OSCC missed this bill, as did every other business group, but House Republicans found out at the 11th hour that HB 2975 included an accounting change that reduced the upcoming kicker by over $100 million by transferring this money into the next biennium. HB 2975 has the effect of adding an additional $100 million of revenue into the 2019-21 budget by taking it out of the $748 million personal income kicker due to taxpayers next year.
  • Corporate Tax Increases. We still believe the committee is leaning toward selecting a Commercial Activity Tax, which is a pure gross receipts tax, as the basis for implementing a new business tax. The debate here is how much the legislature wants to raise. House Democratic leadership wants to raise business taxes by $3.4 billion per biennium. Senate Democratic leadership wants to raise business taxes by $2 billion. We want all chambers and businesses to understand that the Commercial Activity Tax is being discussed ‘in addition to’ current business income taxes, not ‘in lieu of.’
  • Age Discrimination. (HB 2818)  On Wednesday, House Business & Labor Committee held a hearing on HB 2818, which makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to seek the age of an applicant or to include certain words or phrases in recruitment that suggest age preference. The most problematic part of HB 2818 is the penalty structure. Under this bill, a court may award liquidated damages equal to twice the economic compensatory damages awarded or $25,000, whichever is greater.  OSCC has joined a coalition business groups to oppose HB 2818.

Other Key Issues Coming up This Week

  • Lawsuit Damages. (HB 2014) We were very surprised to see this bill posted for a committee vote on Monday afternoon in House Judiciary. OSCC testified alongside local physicians and health care providers against HB 2014 in testimony that far outweighed the trial lawyer proponents. HB 2014 would repeal Oregon’s legal limit of $500,000 on non-economic damages in personal injury and negligence lawsuit claims. OSCC, health care groups, and business organizations are opposing this legislation because it is a significant factor in driving up health care costs and general liability costs for employers.
  • Lodging Taxes. (SB 595) We continue to be amazed at the movement of SB 595, which allows local government to use 30% of all new local lodging taxes to fund “affordable, workforce housing.” It passed the Senate Housing Committee two weeks ago and now gets consideration in the Senate Finance & Revenue Committee this week.
  • OregonSaves. (SB 164) OSCC has been working with the Treasury on an amendment to SB 164, which is scheduled to pass out of committee next week. As a reminder, SB 164 would assess civil penalties to businesses that fail to comply with the Oregon Retirement Savings Program requirements. OSCC joined other employer groups in supporting the -3 amendment to SB 164:
  1. Gives all businesses, regardless of size, two years to get in to compliance;
  2. Caps civil penalties, so businesses are not on the hook for unknown costs; and
  3. Ensures that training and education are the first steps towards compliance.
  • 2% Kicker. (SJR 23) The Senate Finance & Revenue Committee will be considering the referral of a ballot measure that would put all 2% personal kicker monies into an account to fund education.

ACTION ALERT

  • OSCC has issued an ACTION ALERT for HB 2498 (Independent Contractors) for the House of Representatives. THANK YOU FOR THE GREAT RESPONSES. OSCC is literally changing the outcome on this legislation! Let’s continue to pour it on! To date OSCC has generated 201 letters to legislators on this bill.
  • OSCC has issued an ACTION ALERT for HB 2020 (Cap & Trade) for all legislators. PLEASE RESPOND ASAP WITH YOUR MESSAGE. To date, OSCC has generated 208 letters to legislators on this bill. Our goal is 1,000.

Save the Date for Family Leave Hearing!

On Monday, March 25 at 6pm, the House Business & Labor Committee and Senate Workforce Committee plan to host a joint public hearing on paid family & medical leave bills that would SIGNIFICANTLY alter Oregon’s business climate.  We need local Chambers to show up that evening to speak out about the impact of this extreme legislation!  An action alert will follow later this week.

What do the bills do?

HB 3031 (requires 3/5 vote)

  • Applies to employers with 1+ employees
  • Mandates 32 weeks of paid and protected family and medical leave each year
  • Establishes new payroll tax of up to 1%:
    • 0.5% paid by employers
    • 0.5% paid by employees
    • Creates state run family insurance program
    • Doesn’t allow employers to provide substantially similar plans/ currently existing plans

HB 3140 / SB 947 (don’t require 3/5 vote)

  • Expands OFLA eligibility to 1+ employees
  • Expands family member definition
  • Mandates 24 weeks of paid and protected leave AND an additional 24 weeks of unpaid family and medical leave each year
  • Requires 100% of employee wages to be paid 100% by employers while employee is on leave

Legislative Update: March 13, 2019
The 2019 legislative session is starting its eighth week, and the BACC is pleased to share with you this weekly update from the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce:

What’s Happening (OSCC Political Observations)
What a week!

First off, Senate President Peter Courtney takes a 10-day ‘medical leave’ to deal with the stress of the session and its impact on his Grave’s Disease. There is wide speculation that he may not return. We aren’t able to separate fact from fiction at this point, so our assumption is that he will return. If he does not return, the trajectory of the session and the Democrats’ ability to pass major progressive legislative priorities is certainly imperiled.

The second major event of the week was the release of the Ways & Means Co-Chairs’ 2019-21 budget blueprint. The budget proposal only left K-12 and Medicaid harmless. All other state programs, including early education, higher education, and CTE were cut short of ‘current service levels.’ The hue and cry that ensued, primarily from the government employee unions and higher education advocates, added more fuel and momentum for additional business taxes.

Finally, we have grown increasingly concerned that SAIF Corporation will indeed be targeted for a raid of its workers’ compensation claims reserves to buy down PERS rates for K-12. We have reached this conclusion as it has become clear that any increase in business taxes will be absorbed almost totally by increased PERS costs within two short years. This would make it much less likely that business and/or voters would approve of any additional taxes.

We are getting the distinct impression that Democratic leadership will try and force a choice to buy down PERS rates: either suspend the $748 million personal ‘kicker’ and divert it to paying down PERS rates for K-12 schools or face the prospect of taking a similar amount out of SAIF’s reserves.

Activity on Major Issues

  • Cap & Trade. (HB 2020) We are expecting brand new amendments, and perhaps a total re-write of the bill, to be unveiled the week of March 18th. We are not anticipating major improvements to the bill, but because the amendments are being closely guarded, we are unsure of what the new amendments will include.
  • Independent Contractors. (HB 2498) OSCC was very successful in getting quick grassroots feedback into the House Rules Committee in opposition to HB 2498. As a quick reminder, HB 2498 would have turned Oregon’s independent contracting laws upside down, jeopardizing thousands of jobs.  OSCC joined several other business organizations to testify last Monday. We were joined by Keizer Chamber’s Dan Kohler, who spoke about about the detrimental impacts to insurance, funeral home, and salon contractors. The Committee is weighing options as it considers a different path forward. Thank you to Bend Chamber and all who weighed in!
  • Corporate Tax Increases. It is becoming clearer that the Revenue Subcommittee of the Joint Student Success Committee is starting to hone in on a new Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) as the basis for adding new revenue to the state’s K-12 system. There is an outside chance the committee may support a Business Activity Tax (which allows deductions for capital expenditures), but early indications are that Democratic leadership is favoring the CAT, which in its current modeling, would be a straight 0.48% tax against a company’s topline sales. This would be in addition to Oregon’s corporate income tax. The subcommittee is clearly trying to raise a net $1 billion extra per year from Oregon companies.
  • Lawsuit Damages. (HB 2014) OSCC testified alongside local physicians and health care providers against HB 2014 in the House Committee on Judiciary. HB 2014 would repeal Oregon’s legal limit of $500,000 on non-economic damages in personal injury and negligence lawsuit claims.  OSCC, health care groups, and business organizations are opposing this legislation because it is a significant factor in driving up health care costs and general liability costs for employers.

Other Key Issues Coming up This Week

  • Employment contracts. (HB 2489) OSCC is closely watching HB 2489, which would substantially shift the relationship between employers and employees in Oregon. The bill eliminates an employer’s ability to enforce agreements if they aren’t written and disallows employment contracts of longer than two years. A preliminary hearing is scheduled this week in House Business and Labor.
  • OregonSaves penalties. (SB 164) This bill is tentatively scheduled for a work session on Thursday. SB 164 would add penalties to the Oregon Retirement Savings Program, which passed in 2015. OSCC worked with the Treasury and other business stakeholders to address our concerns with the initial bill, and these changes will be reflected in a -3 amendment.
  • Age discrimination. (HB 2818) The House Committee on Business and Labor is planning to host a hearing on HB 2818 on Wednesday. This bill makes it clear that employers may not screen job applicants based on age and adds new and substantial penalties to violation of age discrimination laws.

ACTION ALERTS

Legislative Update: March 05, 2019

The 2019 legislative session is starting its seventh week, and the BACC is pleased to share with you this weekly update from the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce:

What’s Happening (OSCC Political Observations)

The legislature continues to be a very tumultuous and uncertain place. The Senate is currently mired in a leadership struggle as a handful of progressive Democrats and some Republicans are looking to topple Senate President Peter Courtney. This leadership struggle is taking up precious bandwidth in the Senate and is bogging down the process as Senators are more focused on the leadership issues than anything else.

The death of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson this past week also cast a pall over the session, both emotionally and from a process standpoint. The Governor has the lawful ability to appoint a successor to the late Secretary Richardson, and has stated her intention to find a ‘placeholder’ who will promise not to run for election in 2020.

This upcoming week is going to represent a major milestone in the 2019 session as the ‘Co-Chairs Budget’ will be released. This is the legislative response to the Governor’s budget that shows how state budget writers would craft the state budget with available resources. It is the first key budget blueprint that shows how the state’s money would be allocated without any additional tax increases. The ‘Co-Chairs Budget’ provides the budgetary foundation for all additional tax and revenue discussions. Usually, it will spawn advocacy for additional taxes and budget investments.

Activity on Major Issues

  • Cap & Trade hearings provided a dose of reality.  Hearings in the past week in Newport, Baker City, The Dalles, and Bend provided lawmakers with the stark reality that not all Oregonians are clamoring to pay more for their gasoline, natural gas or electricity to put only a very miniscule dent in Oregon’s greenhouse gas reductions. In what was expected to be a showcase for the organizing strength of the environmental activists, something else happened….regular working Oregonians showed up and voiced their displeasure with HB 2020 and its associated costs.
  • Medicaid taxes passed. Final passage of the first major Medicaid funding bill, HB 2010, happened this past week. The bill raised over $500 million and will go a long way to closing the state’s $623 million budget gap. OSCC issued a floor letter on HB 2010. Our intention was to make sure that legislators understood that HB 2010 will raise over $291 million per biennium from local businesses. It was the first major business cost increase from the 2019 session.
  • Rent control passed. The statewide rent control bill, SB 608, also passed the House and became law as Governor Brown quickly signed the bill. It is the first statewide rent control bill in the nation and limits annual rent increases to 7% plus CPI on buildings over 15 years old.
  • OSCC opposed HB 3022 which overturns Oregon’s landmark workers’ compensation reforms. OSCC testified against HB 3022 last week, a bill that would have reversed many key, cost-saving provisions in Oregon’s workers’ compensation system. Before 1990, Oregon had the highest frequency of workplace injury claims, third highest medical costs, and sixth highest premium costs. Today, we have some of the lowest rates in the country and safety programs that help reduce workplace injuries. Oregon’s workers’ compensation insurance system is one of the last remaining competitive advantages for Oregon companies and OSCC will vigilantly safeguard the system from being compromised.
  • Oregon revenue forecast added another $67 million to state coffers for the upcoming 2019-21 budget cycle. The state is experiencing a rush of short-term revenue that will slightly ease the budget crunch for the upcoming budget cycle. The “kicker” rebate projection was also increased to a whopping $748 million.

Other Key Issues Coming up This Week

  • Independent Contractors. (HB 2498) On Monday afternoon, the House Rules Committee will consider importing California’s troubled Dynamex decision. In April 2018, the California Supreme Court determined that independent contractors must meet a new strict “ABC” test in order to maintain their status. That decision impacted 2 million independent contractors in California, making them employees! Now Oregon is looking to follow suit. HB 2498 would add a new test to Oregon’s independent contractors: “Do you provide a service different from the business you are working for?” If the answer is “no,” HB 2498 would reclassify you as an employee of the business. Implications are broad-doctors, hairstylists, insurance agents, realtors, and many others will be impacted if HB 2498 passes.
  • Lawsuit Damages. (HB 2014) This bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Judiciary this Tuesday. HB 2014 would repeal Oregon’s legal limit of $500,000 on non-economic damages in personal injury and negligence lawsuit claims. OSCC, health care groups, and business organizations have traditionally opposed this legislation because it is a significant factor in driving up health care costs and general liability costs for employers.
  • Transient Lodging Taxes for workforce housing. (SB 595) This may clear its first hurdle this week in the Senate Housing Committee. SB 595 would allow local governments to use previously dedicated TLT funds and apply them to local workforce housing development. Currently, 70% of these revenues are statutorily dedicated to tourism and tourism promotion. If the committee approves the bill, it will be forwarded to the Senate Finance & Revenue Committee.
  • OregonSaves penalties. (SB 164) This bill is scheduled for a work session on Thursday. SB 164 would add penalties to the Oregon Retirement Savings Program, which passed in 2015. OSCC worked with the Treasury and other business stakeholders to address our concerns with the initial bill, and these changes will be reflected in a -2 amendment.

ACTION ALERT

  • OSCC has issued an ACTION ALERT for HB 2020 (Cap & Trade) for all legislators. PLEASE RESPOND ASAP WITH YOUR MESSAGE. To date, OSCC has generated 174 letters to legislators on this bill, well short of our goal of 1,000.
  • OSCC has issued an ACTION ALERT for SB 379 (Workplace Marijuana Accommodation) in the Senate. PLEASE RESPOND ASAP WITH YOUR MESSAGE TO SENATORS! (Senators only) To date, OSCC has generated 72 letters to Senators on this legislation, well short of our goal of 250.

OSCC continues to ask for your assistance to shine a light on the negative impacts of cap-and-trade!  Individual chambers can start by joining the  Partnership for Oregon Communities.  The Partnership will coordinate grassroots voices with concerns about the rising costs of fuel and energy.  Email jessicac@oregonchamber.org to join the coalition.  OSCC will follow up as we learn of opportunities for public testimony and engagement with the legislature.

 

Legislative Update: Feb. 19, 2019
The 2019 legislative session is starting its fifth week, and the BACC is pleased to share with you this weekly update from the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce:

We have now completed four weeks of the 2019 legislative session. No deadlines are imminent. Committees have a full two months to work on current legislation. New bills continue to dribble out at a very slow pace – about 1,800 pieces of legislation have been introduced so far.

What’s Happening (OSCC Political Observations)

Our observations are largely unchanged from last week.

The two major bills that are moving quickly – rent control (SB 608) and the first Medicaid funding bill (HB 2010) – will likely get very close to final passage this week.

The other major bill now in full swing – cap and trade (HB 2020) – will get a public hearing in the Capitol on Monday night, a public hearing in Springfield on Friday, and a public hearing in Medford on Saturday.

Additionally, as we noted last week, the legislative conversations are now underway on a major business tax to fund K-12 education. This discussion is happening in the Joint Student Success Committee on Tuesday evenings. Already, it appears there are major hurdles to passing additional tax revenues for schools – namely the potential cumulative effect of all the tax and regulatory bills that Legislative Democratic leadership wants to pass before considering a new business tax for schools.

Activity on Major Issues

This week will be a very busy week of new policy discussions which will impact the local business communities across Oregon:

  • Medicaid Funding will likely pass the House and maybe even the Senate. (HB 2010) This is the bill that will implement the first stages of Medicaid funding proposed by the Governor – the Hospital provider tax ($98 million) and the insurance/provider tax ($410 million). OSCC has ascertained that $291.6 million of this package will be a direct tax on small business health insurance premiums. This is the first direct tax on local business in the 2019 legislative session.
  • Rent Control will get a Senate vote this week. (SB 608) After passing the Senate last week on a party-line vote of 17-11, we expect this bill to pass quickly out of the House Human Services Committee on Wednesday this week. SB 608 has two key features: (1) it limits rent increases to 7% plus CPI in all buildings over 15 years old, and (2) disallows no-cause evictions after one year.
  • Cap & Trade public hearings now in full swing. (HB 2020) There will be three hearings on Cap & Trade this week. Monday evening at 5pm in the Capitol. Friday at noon at the Springfield City Hall. Saturday at 9am at Central Medford High School.  OSCC participation will be needed. OSCC has issued an ACTION ALERT with messaging points.
  • Small business tax cut repeal. (SB 211) OSCC is disappointed, but not surprised, to see the Senate Finance & Revenue Committee taking up the issue of repealing Oregon’s lower tax rates for pass-through businesses on Tuesday. Oregon’s ‘small business tax cut’ law currently imposes lower tax rates on the first $5 million of business income. SB 211 would apply lower tax rates to only the first $415,000 of business income and then would completely repeal the ‘small business tax cut’ altogether starting in 2026. We do not yet know how this issue will develop.

Other Key Issues Coming up This Week

  • Unemployment Insurance for Federal Employees. (SB 722) We will be watching this issue closely as legislators are looking to extend unemployment benefits to federal workers (who do not pay into the state system) in the event of a federal government shutdown. It appears the financial impacts of the legislation are negligible, but it does represent an additional demand on the state unemployment system which is neither paid for nor accounted for.
  • Property taxes. The Senate Finance and Revenue committee will take testimony on proposals to repeal property tax limits (Measure 50). We do not believe this issue will get traction in 2019, but we do believe that momentum is gradually growing for property tax reform that would loosen current limits or re-establish market value as the basis for tax assessments.
  • Transient Lodging Taxes for workforce housing. (SB 595) Interesting proposal in Senate Housing Committee this week that would allow local governments to use previously dedicated TLT funds and apply them to local workforce housing development. This represents yet another potential fight for TLT funds, which to date, are 70% dedicated to tourism and tourism promotion.
  • Broadband Deployment / Cell Phone Taxes. (HB 2173, HB 2184) An interesting debate is taking shape on the issue of broadband deployment and fully capitalizing the Oregon Universal Service Fund (OUSF) which finances broadband infrastructure. Currently, landline carriers must pay into the OUSF (this money is collected in a tax on customers) while wireless carriers are exempted. HB 2184 would eliminate the exemption on wireless carriers, which would translate effectively into a ‘cell phone’ tax. This issue pits the landline carriers versus the wireless carriers. In the meantime, traditionally conservative rural groups (ie The Oregon Farm Bureau) are supporting the tax. The House Economic Development Committee is hosting this debate. OSCC does not yet know the direction of this issue.
  • Bans on single-use checkout bags, polystyrene containers. The House Environment and Energy Committee will host a public hearing on legislation to ban the use of single-use plastic checkout bags and polystyrene containers that are popular for take-out food. The plastic bag ban is HB 2509, and the polystyrene container ban is HB 2883.
  • Health care data. (SB 703) The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider legislation this week that would ban the HIPAA -compliant transfer of de-identified data without individual consent.  SB 703 could have significant impacts on medical research, observational analyses and the development of genetic-based medicine. The bill was introduced at the request of Hu-manity.co, a company seeking profit from sale of its blockchain technology platform.

ACTION ALERT

OSCC asks for your assistance to shine a light on the negative impacts of cap-and-trade. Individual chambers can start by joining the  Partnership for Oregon Communities. The Partnership will coordinate grassroots voices with concerns about the rising costs of fuel and energy.  Email jessicac@oregonchamber.org to join the coalition. OSCC will follow up as we learn of opportunities for public testimony and engagement with the legislature.

The Mission of the BACC Legislative Action Team (LAT) is to serve as an advocate for Chamber members and the business community in local and state issues impacting quality of life, growth, and profitability of member businesses and their employees. Purpose is to increase the Chamber’s influence in the development of public policy concerning issues of critical importance to the future of the Bay Area and its businesses. Gets in on the action at the Oregon legislative sessions and helps shape local government decisions that will maintain a healthy business climate. Conducts candidate forums during election years.

Join the BACC LAT which meets the first and third Tuesday, 7 am for video teleconferences, conference room at SWOCC (5th floor, room 505 Tioga Hall).

Contact: Tom Burdett 541-756-7142 tom@bntpromo.com

Legislative Update: Feb. 4, 2019

The 2019 legislative session is starting its fourth week, and the BACC is pleased to share with you this weekly update from the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce:

What’s Happening (OSCC Political Observations)

Two major bills are moving quickly – rent control (SB 608) and the first Medicaid funding bill (HB 2010).

One other major bill is now in full swing – cap and trade (HB 2020).

Additionally, the legislative conversations are now underway on a major business tax to fund K-12 education.  This discussion is happening every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the Joint Student Success Committee (Revenue Subcommittee).  To date, the committee is looking at other state taxing models that utilize gross receipts – Washington, Nevada, Ohio, and others.  At this point, it looks most likely that the committee will recommend a gross receipts-based tax and not additional increases to the state’s corporate income tax.

 

Activity on Major Issues

We are expecting to see early activity this week on a handful of key policy and budget items that Democratic legislative leaders have identified as key priorities, including:

  • Medicaid Funding will likely pass Ways & Means this week (HB 2010).  This is the bill that will implement the first stages of Medicaid funding proposed by the Governor – the Hospital provider tax ($98 million) and the insurance tax ($410 million).  Local hospital systems will support this bill because it eliminates the true tax that was levied on hospitals in 2017-19.  However, the bill also increases taxes on commercial health insurance policies from 1.5% to 2%.  These taxes will be passed through directly to small business customers.
  • Rent Control will get a Senate vote this week (SB 608).  We expect this bill to pass the Senate as early as Tuesday.  SB 608 has two key features: (1) it limits rent increases to 7% plus CPI in all buildings over 15 years old, and (2) disallows no-cause evictions after one year.
  • Cap & Trade legislation is now in full swing (HB 2020). OSCC members got a major boost last week as NW Natural clearly articulated the huge cost increases on their natural gas customers if HB 2020 were to pass.  They gave legislators a handout that showed massive cost impacts to residential, small commercial, and industrial ratepayer.  The invited testimony on HB 2020 will continue on Monday this week. Public testimony kicks off on Friday afternoon at 1:00 PM and is scheduled again on February 18 at 5:00 PM.  OSCC participation will be needed as the public hearings go around the state in the coming weeks.
  • Single use straw ban (SB 90).  This issue seemed to stall as committee members pressed for exemptions from the ‘straw ban’ for convenience stores and drive throughs as well as a local preemption that would prohibit more stringent local regulations.  Environmental advocates oppose carve-outs and appear to now want to let cities and counties move forward with a patchwork of local regulations.  Although SB 90 appears stalled for now, we don’t believe we’ve seen the last of this issue in 2019.
  • Workplace marijuana accommodation (SB 379). In a touch of irony, the proponents for the workplace marijuana accommodation bill were late and almost missed the hearing.  OSCC submitted joint testimony with the general business community in opposition to this measure.  OSCC has an active ACTION ALERT on this issue.  Please contact your senator and ask them to say ‘no’ to SB 379.

 

Other Key Issues Coming up This Week

  • Small business tax cut repeal. (SB 211)  OSCC is disappointed, but not surprised, to see the Senate Finance & Revenue Committee taking up the issue of repealing Oregon’s lower tax rates for pass-through businesses.  Oregon’s ‘small business tax cut’ law currently imposes lower tax rates on the first $5 million of business income.  SB 211 would apply lower tax rates to only the first $415,000 of business income and then would completely repeal the ‘small business tax cut’ altogether starting in 2026.
  • Liabilities for Employment Discrimination. (SB 726)  Watch out for this bill.  This could be very similar to the wage equity bill of 2017 where it is politically impossible to oppose but will have far-reaching impacts on business. This bill started out as targeting sexual harassment, but has morphed into a general employment discrimination bill that creates a new 7-year statute of limitations and holds officers and principals personally liable for discrimination.  OSCC is monitoring this bill closely as there is lack of agreement on potential impacts.
  • Workplace Marijuana Accommodation.  (HB 2655) This is the House version of SB 379 that would make it an unlawful employment action to condition employment based on refraining from the off-duty use of cannabis.  While the bill contains an exception for jobs where the work cannot be performed while impaired, there is currently no easy test to determine if someone is impaired while at the workplace.  OSCC is opposing this legislation in the Senate because it is a direct affront on an employer’s ability to enforce a workplace drug-free policy.  A hearing is posted on the bill this Tuesday in the House Business and Labor Committee.  We do not expect the House to move its version.

ACTION ALERT

  • OSCC asks for your assistance to shine a light on the negative impacts of cap-and-trade!  Individual chambers can start by joining the Partnership for Oregon Communities.  The Partnership will coordinate grassroots voices with concerns about the rising costs of fuel and energy.  Email jessicac@oregonchamber.org to join the coalition.  OSCC will follow up as we learn of opportunities for public testimony and engagement with the legislature.