Dear OSCC Members and Colleagues -
Here's a Week 17 recap of key issues in the Oregon legislature.
It's getting hard to see how the legislature is going to be able to bring this session in for a landing by the Constitutional end date of July 10th. The gulfs between Democrats and Republicans, and between the House and the Senate, seem almost insurmountable.
There is a $1.4 billion difference between available revenue and the budgets that legislative leadership want to pass.
There are not enough votes to pass any of the big budgets. There are not enough votes to pass any increases in revenue. Legislative leadership has been slow to unveil any meaningful reductions in state government costs. There also does not appear to be the necessary votes to pass a meaningful investment into the state's transportation system, either.
In short, it's a mess.
This article from the Oregonian over the weekend is the most accurate assessment of the 2017 legislature as it stands today.
Also of note...this is another important week in the legislature as June 2nd is the next hard deadline of the session. By Thursday, all bills must pass their final policy committee or else they are considered dead. After Thursday, the only committees that will be open are House & Senate Rules, House & Senate Revenue, and any Joint Committee. All policy committees will be closed by the end of the week.
Key Labor Bills:
BOLI Overtime Fix: SB 984 fixes BOLI's bad interpretation on daily/weekly overtime pay and passed the Senate unanimously. But the House is prepared to kill this bill and replace it with House Bill 3458, which includes all the elements of SB 984 that manufacturing employers need but also includes some seriously harmful provisions including a hard cap on hours that an employee may work at 60/hrs per week. OSCC is working hard to strip this provision out of the bill. OSCC can only support the bill if this provision is taken out. OSCC can't support knowingly hurting businesses, especially those in rural areas with workforce shortages, by supporting a bill with a 60 hour workweek limit.
Predictive Scheduling: OSCC is still concerned that SB 828, which implements predictive scheduling for food service, retail and hospitality businesses, will gain traction before the end of session. As part of the bill, business groups including AOI and the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association are seeking a total, permanent statewide ban on local scheduling mandates. Unions are coalescing to try and pass this bill as it is their last major opportunity to pass 'pro-worker' legislation. The unions have even filed a ballot measure on the issue, presumably to pressure lawmakers into passing some version of SB 828 and to force business groups to the table.
Union Organizing & Sick Leave Penalties: OSCC believes it has now killed a nasty bill - HB 2856 - which creates a Community Outreach and Labor Education Program within BOLI to promote awareness of employee rights. The bill takes $2 million of employer-paid money (Wage Security Fund) to fund union organizing campaigns. In addition, the bill also adds punitive damages to Oregon's paid sick leave mandate. OSCC is actively working to oppose this bill in the Ways & Means Committee.
Cleaner Air Oregon: The big bill here is HB 2269, which would increase Title V and ACDP fees to fund the new DEQ 'Cleaner Air Oregon' regulatory scheme. OSCC testified in opposition to HB 2269. We anticipate this will be the major environmental fight of the session. OSCC and business groups are not seeking to kill the bill so much as get the DEQ to work with business in a cooperative way around these regulations. The current proposed regulations will put many manufacturers out of compliance and prove very costly for local business communities and cause a loss of local jobs.
Diesel engine regulations: SB 1008 is the diesel engine regulatory bill that won't die. It is the subject of new negotiations. As it stands now, the bill simply requires the state to do an inventory of all off-road diesel engines in Oregon. OSCC believes it is premature to engage in diesel engine regulation without taking inventory of off-road engines in use throughout the state. But environmental proponents are hoping to score some kind of win with diesel engines, so the bill is undergoing 11th hour discussion and negotiation that would implement California-style regulations on off-road engines. OSCC is actively engaged in this issue.
Liability Costs/Damage Awards: Last week the trial lawyer association took yet another stab - their third - at trying to increase damage awards for negligence and personal injury lawsuits. Having been defeated with SB 487, then SB 737, the trial lawyers stuffed their amendments into HB 2807 and passed the bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. HB 2807 increases non-economic damage limits from $500,000 to $10 million for all lawsuits with the exception of wrongful death suits. This is a perfect case-in-point on why organizations need to stay vigilant until the final gavel drops. The bill is designed to pierce policy limits and force health care providers to settle out of court even on marginal claims. OSCC believes we have a good opportunity to defeat this bill for yet a third time.
Tax legislation of concern to OSCC members includes HB 2067, which blacklists certain countries as 'tax havens' and increases the tax burden on Oregon companies with affiliates located in these 'tax havens.' HB 2067 blacklists some countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland that have significant investment and companies in Oregon. HB 2019, which requires the public disclosure of Oregon sales and Oregon taxes of any company that avails itself of at least $5,000 in Oregon tax credits, is also a bill that OSCC is actively engaged in. OSCC joins its business association partners in opposition to these bills.
Also of note, the Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) proposal being developed by Senator Mark Hass is inching forward, but as of today does not appear to have the votes to advance. There is pressure coming from both the business community and progressive Democrats in opposition to the proposal. The business community is not generally supportive of the GRT due to the significant bottom line impacts to low margin and unprofitable companies, and progressive Democrats believe that Hass' proposal raises far too little (less than $1 billion) in new revenue. The progressives are seeking more than $3 billion in new revenue from a GRT.
We do not see a resolution to this in the offing, other than the legislature continuing to fund state government by use of temporary 'Continuing Resolutions' and coming back into special session after some cooling off has occurred. We do not see a clear pathway to bridging the $1.4 billion budget gap with six weeks left in the legislative session.
Alison Hart, Executive Director
JL Wilson, Legislative Counsel