2017 Government & Economic Affairs Blog


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  • April 24, 2017 10:22 AM | Deleted user


    Dear OSCC Members and Colleagues - 

    We are going to take a pause this week and let things settle.

    Monday and Tuesday are going to be the single busiest set of days for committees as they rush to pass bills to beat the Tuesday deadline (all bills must pass out of their original committee by Tuesday at 11:59 pm). At this point we are all mostly spectators. 

    We have never seen anything like we're witnessing now. The unprecedented logjam of bills waiting for passage on the final day will undoubtedly be a spectacle - and there will be casualties. There's just too many bills and too little time. In some cases, committees are scheduling 40-50 bills for a committee vote in their final 2-hour committee.

    Next week's report will be more definitive, but let's recap what we do know.

    Here's what we know from the past week:

    It was another interesting week on the tax/revenue front. OSCC has reason to believe that the emerging strategy of the legislative leadership is to pass an "all cuts" budget and then refer a tax increase measure to the ballot in order to add back programs that will be cut in the newly-adopted budget.

    This strategy has many holes, not the least of which is that there are probably not enough Democratic votes to pass the kind of cuts that this strategy will require (we can guarantee that no Republican will assist in this strategy).

    But nonetheless, it was a significant departure from the bipartisan, cooperative tone that had defined the first two months of the session, most notably in the Senate.

    Here are the bills that are still alive as we approach the Tuesday, April 18th deadline:

    Labor:
    SB 301: would effectively preclude employers from enforcing zero tolerance drug policies. We are deeply disappointed this bill has been kept alive in Senate Judiciary. Scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.

    SB 828 / HB 2193: would implement predictive scheduling with amendments mainly targeting hotels, restaurants and retail establishments. We were disappointed to see both the House and the Senate bill kept alive. SB 828 is scheduled for a vote on Monday, as is HB 2193.

    HB 3087: Paid family leave, which would require 12 weeks of leave for qualifying events and is slated to be funded by .5% tax on employees and .5% payroll tax, is scheduled for a committee vote on Tuesday.

    SB 292: unlawful employment action for "workplace bullying," was mysteriously kept alive in Senate Judiciary. Scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.

    SB 1040: would implement local union security agreements and prevent local right to work measures. Scheduled for a vote on Monday.

    SB 997: was kept alive. The bill would levy fines on all employers with 50 or more employees who do not provide private health insurance for employees. Scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.

    On the good side, both SB 984 (fixes BOLI's bad interpretation on daily/weekly overtime pay) and SB 329 (preempt local employment law mandates) were kept alive. Both are scheduled for votes on Monday.

    Energy & Environment:
    One key 'cap and trade' bill is now dead, SB 557. The other, HB 2135, is still alive and scheduled for a vote on Monday.

    SB 1008: the costly mandate for diesel engine retrofits and replacements - is still alive and scheduled for a vote on Monday.

    On the good side, HB 2669, 'Community Right to Know' was killed.

    Air Quality:
    The big bill here, HB 2269: which would increase Title V and ACDP fees to fund the new DEQ 'Cleaner Air Oregon' regulatory scheme was voted out of committee on a 5-4 party-line vote and sent to the Ways & Means Committee.

    HB 2236: was also kept alive which requires the DEQ to conduct a study and develop recommendations relating to emissions of air contaminants from industrial sources.

    SB 197: a disaster for the dairy industry - is scheduled for a vote on Monday. It allows for the DEQ to adopt a program for regulating air contaminant emissions from dairy confined animal feeding operations. We believe this bill will die, but will confirm next week.

    Liability:
    SB 737 (formerly SB 487): which would eliminate the $500k cap on non-economic damages in civil lawsuits, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote. As of right now, we expect this to be the first major bill of the session to be defeated and sent back to committee. Stay tuned on this one.

    Taxes & Budget:
    OSCC has reason to believe now that the House Revenue Committee will take up the issue of corporate tax disclosure, HB 2019. We have not seen the amendments, but we believe now that this will be a legitimate threat.

    We also believe there will be a real attempt to scale back the small business tax cut passed by the legislature in 2013. This is one issue that we expect that Republicans may assist Democrats in raising revenue. Republicans have shown a willingness to consider eliminating the lower tax rates for LLP's. The bills to watch here are SB 164 and SB 165.

    Tourism and TRT Funding:
    HB 3260:
    authorizes coastal counties to impose local transient lodging taxes on residential short-term vacation rental properties by submitting the issue to county voters. The bill has received some attention in the House Revenue Committee and is still alive.

    Breaking new on Tourism and TRT Funding (as of 10am today):
    The House Committee on Economic Development & Trade did not move forward with either HB 2744 and HB 2768. These bills are now dead.

    HB 2744: amended the definition of "tourism-related facility" to include improvements to real property that have the substantial purpose of supporting, promoting or accommodating tourism or tourist activities.

    HB 2768: expanded the definition of "tourism promotion" for purposes of local transient lodging tax revenue expenditures.

    Also of note, all tax and budget issues are still alive. Any tax bill residing in the Revenue Committees, or budget bill residing in Ways & Means, is not subject to deadlines. OSCC will monitor these bills until the very end of session.

    OSCC expects that the Ways & Means Committee will be engaged in an inordinate amount of policy work this session as committee chairs punt critical bills to Ways & Means to keep them alive.

    Again, OSCC will give you a precise accounting for all the bills that will remain in play after the Tuesday deadline. It will easily be the most active two days of the session this week, but after April 18th, OSCC will have a very solid understanding of all the bills in play for 2017 and will be able to focus efforts appropriately.

    Alison Hart, Executive Director
    alisonh@oregonchamber.org
    503-231-5421

    JL Wilson, Legislative Counsel
    jlwilson@pacounsel.org
    503-363-2182

  • April 11, 2017 7:39 PM | Deleted user

    Dear OSCC Members and Colleagues - 

    So much for big deadlines. The first major deadline produced almost no changes to OSCC's outlook for the week.

    All bills needed to be scheduled for a vote in their original committee by Friday, April 7th. Nearly every single bad bill was scheduled. Almost nothing fell off of our radar. Committee chairs just couldn't bring themselves to tell anyone "NO," and consequently, nearly every bill was kept alive until April 18th.

    We will be working feverishly until the 18th, when all bills must pass their original committee. Our hope is to neutralize many of the bad bills (and hopefully pass a few good ones) between now and the 18th. See the links below for bills and amendments, hearing schedules, and recorded testimony.

    Here's what we know from the past week:

    It was an interesting week on the tax/revenue front. The week started with a press conference from the government employee unions imploring the legislature to pass a "game changing" tax increase on Oregon businesses. By Wednesday, TV ads were running in opposition to the legislature's consideration of a new gross receipts tax. And by this weekend, Senator Mark Hass, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was blasting those TV ads as 'amateur' and 'lazy.' The OSCC assessment is still the same. We are skeptical that the legislature will embark on a corporate tax increase. We believe that increased tax revenues from a growing economy will take enough pressure out of this budget cycle to allow legislators to cobble together a budget without a general tax hike.

    Here are the bills that are still alive as of the Friday, April 7th deadline:

    Labor:
    SB 301 would effectively preclude employers from enforcing zero tolerance drug policies. We are deeply disappointed this bill has been kept alive in Senate Judiciary.

    SB 828 / HB 2193 would implement predictive scheduling. We were disappointed to see both the House and the Senate bill kept alive. SB 828 has been modified with amendments that are still unacceptable to OSCC and we will continue to strongly oppose.

    HB 3087 - paid family leave - was kept alive.

    SB 292 - unlawful employment action for "workplace bullying," was mysteriously kept alive in Senate Judiciary.

    SB 1040 would implement local union security agreements and prevent local right to work measures.

    SB 997 was kept alive. The bill would levy fines on all employers with 50 or more employees if any employees working 20 hours or more are not privately covered with employer-sponsored health insurance. 

    On the good side, both SB 984  (fixes BOLI's bad interpretation on daily/weekly overtime pay) and SB 329  (preempt local employment law mandates) were kept alive.

    Energy & Environment:
    The key 'cap and trade' bills were all kept alive - SB 557  and HB 2135.

    SB 1008 - a costly mandate for both on-road and off-road diesel engine retrofits and replacements - was kept alive.

    On the good side, 'Community Right to Know' that would have increased regulatory programs on chemical storage reporting - HB 2669 was killed. 

    Air Quality:
    The big bill here - HB 2269 - which would increase Title V and ACDP fees to fund the new DEQ 'Cleaner Air Oregon' regulatory scheme was kept alive.

    HB 2236 - requiring the DEQ to conduct a study and develop recommendations relating to emissions of air contaminants from industrial sources was also kept alive.

    SB 197 - allowing for the DEQ to adopt a program for regulating air contaminant emissions from dairy confined animal feeding operations - a disaster for the dairy industry - was kept alive. 

    Tourism and TRT Funding: Both HB 2744 and HB 2768 were kept alive in the House Economic Development and Trade Committee. These bills would allow local government much more latitude to spend state TRT money on 'tourism-related' projects not related directly to tourism promotion.

    Liability: SB 737 (replacing SB 487), which would eliminate the $500k cap on non-economic damages in civil lawsuits, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote. It is expected to be the first real showdown of the session in the Senate in which a close vote is expected.

    Transportation: The much anticipated transportations funding package is not affected by session deadlines.

    SB 115 - the bill that would prohibit leaded aviation fuel - died.

    Taxes & Budget: All tax and budget issues are still alive. Any tax bill residing in the Revenue Committees, or budget bill residing in Ways & Means, is not subject to deadlines. OSCC will monitor these bills until the very end of session.

    OSCC will keep you informed on how these bills unfold over the next ten days. It will easily be the most active ten days of the session. However, after April 18th, OSCC will have a very solid understanding of all the bills in play for 2017 and will be able to focus efforts appropriately.

    This is where the rubber hits the road. We will most likely be reaching out for testimony from Chambers and their members during this time. Please be prepared to act quickly.

    Alison Hart, Executive Director
    alisonh@oregonchamber.org
    503-231-5421

    JL Wilson, Legislative Counsel
    jlwilson@pacounsel.org
    503-363-2182

  • April 09, 2017 7:46 PM | Deleted user


    Dear OSCC Members and Colleagues - 

    The next 2 ½ weeks are traditionally among the most important of the legislative session. This is where we start to see bills formally die, which means OSCC can focus on areas of most importance during the second half of the session.

    All bills must be scheduled for a vote in their original committee by this coming Friday, April 7th. Furthermore, all bills must pass their original committee by April 18th. 

    Historically, this has been the most meaningful set of deadlines as most legislation will fall by the wayside. But as we've warned, gamesmanship will also keep many bad bills alive until the very end. OSCC will keep you fully apprised, but we also look forward to seeing some potential threats go away.

    Here's what we know from the past week:

    OSCC continues to believe that there are not enough votes to pass any sort of tax increases - with the exception of a gas tax (for a transportation package) and a health care provider tax (to fund state Medicaid). No matter what you read in the Oregonian (this article actually goes into great depth on the issue), we are very hard pressed to believe that there are enough votes for any tax increases beyond these two taxes.

    And while we believe that the legislative leadership will give serious consideration to referring a gross receipts tax to the ballot, perhaps as soon as November of this year, we are still very skeptical that the stars would line up to actually follow through with this. Business would likely oppose, and the magnitude of the tax likely wouldn't be enough to get the unions interested in funding another pro-tax measure.

    OSCC opposes HB 2269, which would increase fees by up to 20% on Title V and ACDP holders in order to provide start-up funding for the DEQ's and OHA's 'Cleaner Air Oregon' regulatory program. OSCC testified in opposition to this bill as the 'Cleaner Air Oregon' regulatory framework issued by DEQ would likely result in many Oregon manufacturers being unable to meet the standards. OSCC is also concerned that the program will require ever increasing financial commitments from regulated companies. The opposition to these start up fees for the DEQ is becoming a central focus of OSCC and the business community. We will keep you apprised.

    OSCC testified in favor of SB 984, which would legally overturn BOLI's recent interpretation that manufacturing employers are subject to both the state's 10-hour daily overtime rate and the federal 40-hour weekly overtime rate. BOLI's new interpretation means that daily and weekly overtime hours are double counted.  While OSCC hopes that SB 984 gains traction, it will be difficult. The unions are strongly opposed. OSCC is lobbying.

    After almost 60 days, the Oregon House finally passed a bill that was strongly opposed by the business community. HB 2005 would mandate 'pay equity' for all protected classes, would switch the burden of proof from plaintiff to employer, and would implement new punitive damages and make each paycheck in which a disparity is claimed as a cause for remedy. Although business offered a generous compromise based on a California version of the law, it was rebuffed by House democratic leadership. The 'pay equity' legislation passed by the House is the most punitive in the nation. It will now go to the Senate for consideration.

    Although we mentioned it last week in our report, business groups were caught flat-footed at the Senate Bill 997 hearing. Only the unions testified.  This bill would penalize employers with 50 or more employees if any employees working 20 or more hours per week are not privately covered with employer-sponsored health insurance. And while we said that we did not expect this bill to advance, it looks, in fact, that business will have to make up ground and rally to push back on this bill.

    Here's what's coming up this week:

    Paid Family Leave proposal is scheduled for a work session in committee this week. House Bill 3087 implements a 0.5% income tax on employees and 0.5% payroll tax on employers to fund a 12-week paid family leave program on business of all sizes. Because the program is funded with a tax, the legislation requires a 3/5th supermajority of legislators to approve it. This gives business considerable leverage in defeating the proposal. We do, however, believe that the proposal will be kept alive. However, because HB 3087 requires a supermajority of the legislature to approve, we have good reason to believe that the unions are now turning their attention to predictive scheduling (SB 828) as their primary target for 2017.

    Speaking of SB 828, the bill will receive another full public hearing in the Senate Workforce Committee this week. There will be new amendments introduced at the hearing. Here's what we know about them:

    • The amendments will focus exclusively on hotels, restaurants and retail establishments. The provisions from the original bill (Section 3) that implemented wage requirements on all employers who changed or shortened shifts are deleted.
       
    • The bill focuses exclusively on retail, food service, restaurants and hotel employees of businesses with 25 or more employees. OSCC believes that this will encompass many of our local chamber members and OSCC will strongly oppose the new amendments.

    Senate Bill 487 is scheduled for a work session this week. This bill increases non-economic damage awards in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. It will have major repercussions on health care providers as well as the commercial liability market. 

    Several OSCC members have inquired, with concern, about SB 115, which would ban the use of leaded aviation fuel. This bill is being considered again this week - with amendments - that would allow the state Department of Agriculture to set a date to prohibit leaded aviation fuel no sooner than 5 years after the FAA approves an alternative aviation fuel that does not contain lead. Please let us know if you have a concern with this approach.

    Of particular interest to OSCC members:

    The public record is being held open on Senate Bill 828 - predictive scheduling - until COB Tuesday, April 4th.  OSCC members are strongly urged to submit testimony in opposition to the legislation at this email address:  swf.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov

    SB 828 would be devastating for some OSCC members. For OSCC members with retail, hospitality or food service establishments, it would require an interactive schedule-setting process by which employers must accommodate schedule demands of employees. Any changes to those schedules within 14 days of a shift would result in additional compensation.

    As mentioned, amendments for SB 828 have been submitted. Even with the amendments, OSCC strongly opposes this bill. Click here to see our submitted testimony.

    Alison Hart, Executive Director
    alisonh@oregonchamber.org
    503-231-5421

    JL Wilson, Legislative Counsel
    jlwilson@pacounsel.org
    503-363-2182

  • March 31, 2017 1:14 PM | Deleted user


    Dear OSCC Members and Colleagues - 

    To date, the 2017 legislative session has been one of the slowest moving sessions in recent history. Discussions on solving the state's budget deficit and funding a comprehensive transportation plan have seemingly utilized nearly all of the legislature's bandwidth. Very little else is moving. 

    We have long felt that in light of the aggressive anti-business push in 2015 and 2016, this is a good outcome for OSCC members.

    A couple of key things for OSCC members to know. First, probably 99% of all legislation has now been introduced. The playing field is set. There will be very few additional bills introduced from this point forward. Second, we are approaching our first major deadlines that will eliminate many bills from future consideration.

    All bills must be scheduled for a vote in their original committee by April 7th, and all bills must pass their original committee by April 18th. Historically, this has been the most meaningful set of deadlines as most legislation will fall by the wayside.  But gamesmanship will also keep many bad bills alive until the very end. OSCC will keep you fully apprised.

    Here's what we know from the past week:

    OSCC continues to believe that there are not enough votes to pass any sort of tax increases - with the exception of a gas tax (for a transportation package) and a health care provider tax (to fund state Medicaid). We are very hard pressed to believe that Republicans will provide votes for any tax increases beyond these two taxes.

    Where will the new revenue come from? The budget deficit is over $1.5 billion, and we see no compelling evidence that there will be either significant revenue or significant cost savings coming out of the 2017 session. At this stage, OSCC is recommending that members pay attention to SJR 41 or any other proposal that aims to establish a gross receipts tax. We believe that legislators don't think they can raise enough money without turning to a completely different source of revenue - most likely something based on gross receipts. We believe that the legislative leadership will give serious consideration to putting a gross receipts tax on the ballot, perhaps as soon as November of this year.

    Business was given its opportunity to rebut a 'Cap and Trade' proposal. Prior to last week, the House and Senate Environment Committees had only given time to the DEQ and environmental activists seeking to implement a 'Cap and Trade' scheme to tax carbon emissions. But the business community unified and commissioned its own modeling and economic impact study of a 'Cap and Trade' proposal that looks significantly different than those of the proponents and the DEQ. Unlike the modeling performed by the state, the business community modeling - performed by FTI - performed actual economic modeling that shows reduced economic activity, higher costs and job losses - primarily in the manufacturing sector - as a result of 'Cap and Trade.' You can see the FTI report here.

    Paid Family Leave proposal was heard in committee last week. House Bill 3087 implements a 0.5% income tax on employees and 0.5% payroll tax on employers to fund a 12-week paid family leave program on business of all sizes. Because the program is funded with a tax, the legislation requires a 3/5th supermajority of legislators to approve it. This gives business considerable leverage in defeating the proposal. OSCC anticipates that this legislation will be kept alive for the duration of the session, but at this point, the likelihood of passage is slim.

    The House Business & Labor Committee finally passed a 'pay equity' bill that has garnered serious business opposition. HB 2005 would mandate 'pay equity' for all protected classes, would switch the burden of proof from plaintiff to employer, and would make each paycheck in which a disparity is claimed as a cause for remedy. Although business offered a generous compromise, it was rebuffed by House democratic leadership. It sets up a floor fight on this legislation in the House as early as this week.

    Here's what's coming up this week:

    Senate Bill 984 would overturn BOLI's recent interpretation that manufacturing employers are subject to both the state's 10-hour daily overtime rate and the federal 40-hour weekly overtime rate. BOLI's new interpretation means that daily and weekly overtime hours are double counted. SB 984 will get its first hearing in the Senate Workforce Committee this week. OSCC hopes that SB 984 gains traction, but it will be difficult. Just two weeks ago, the Multnomah County Circuit Court ruled in favor of employers on this matter.

    Senate Bill 997 would penalize employers with 50 or more employees if any employees working 20 or more hours per week are not privately covered with employer-sponsored health insurance. We do not expect this bill to advance, but it will receive a hearing in the Senate Health Care committee.

    Senate Bill 487 is scheduled for a work session this week. This bill increases non-economic damage awards in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. It will have major repercussions on health care providers as well as the commercial liability market. OSCC is unclear why the work session is scheduled as there does not appear to be sufficient votes to pass the bill.

    The House Environment & Energy Committee will hear a slew of bills this week with major impacts on food producers. House Bill 2020 abolishes the Department of Energy and replaces it with Oregon Department of Energy and Climate. HB 2236 requires the Oregon DEQ to study and develop recommendations for updating the regulation of emissions of air contaminants from industrial sources.  Finally, HB 2269 levies additional Title V air permit fees on manufacturers, giving DEQ more money to create an emissions regulatory program that would devastate Oregon's manufacturers and rural communities. OSCC will oppose.

    Of particular interest to OSCC members:

    The public record is being held open on Senate Bill 828 - predictive scheduling - until April 4th. OSCC members are strongly urged to submit testimony in opposition to the legislation. Talking points for you and your members are included here. OSCC has submitted the included testimony.

    SB 828 would be devastating for OSCC members by mandating compensation when employee shifts are changed or shortened through no fault of the employer.  For OSCC members with retail, hospitality or food service establishments, it would require an interactive schedule-setting process by which employers must accommodate schedule demands of employees. Any changes to those schedules within 14 days of a shift would result in additional compensation.

    Your voice has an impact. Please take the time to send testimony from your Chamber and ask your members to do the same by April 4th.

    Submit your comments on SB 828 to: swf.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov

    Alison Hart, Executive Director
    alisonh@oregonchamber.org
    503-231-5421

    JL Wilson, Legislative Counsel
    jlwilson@pacounsel.org
    503-363-2182

  • March 20, 2017 2:02 PM | Deleted user


    Dear OSCC Members and Colleagues - 

    The 2017 legislative session is very slowly gaining focus and momentum. The big, defining political discussions of 2017 around the budget (how to solve the state's $1.8 billion budget gap) and transportation (how to pass a comprehensive transportation funding package) are really just now starting to take shape.

    But outside of those two major discussions, the legislature has yet to really pursue any other major themes - no aggressive push for any additional labor, environmental, energy, education or economic development goals are evident.

    On balance, given our recent experiences with the legislature, this is a good development. It represents a sort of "Back to Basics" approach to state government.

    Here's what we know from the past week:

    Chief budget writer calls for $500 million in cuts and $500 million in added taxes. The legislature's chief budget writer, Senator Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin), was the first ranking legislator to publicly announce a framework to balance the budget. Over the weekend, he announced his support for a budget proposal that would cut $500 million in costs and add $500 million in new tax revenue.

    This is a critical opening salvo for a couple of reasons. First, Devlin is a respected legislator who has more influence over the state budget than any other legislator.  Second, the framework is plausible even though it will cause discomfort to all sides of the debate. Democrats will argue that they can't find $500 million in budget reductions. Unions will argue that $500 million in new taxes is nowhere near enough. Republicans will argue that there is no need for additional tax revenue when state revenue is already growing over 8 percent per budget cycle.

    Where will the new tax revenue come from? At this stage, OSCC is recommending that members pay attention to SJR 41 or any other proposal that aims to establish a gross receipts tax. We have reason to believe that legislators don't think they can raise enough money without turning to a completely different source of revenue - either a Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) or a straight Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) similar to the Washington B&O. OSCC believes this is the direction that legislative leadership is going. We believe that the legislature will attempt to put a gross receipts tax on the ballot, perhaps as soon as November of this year.

    Senate's continued focus on PERS reform is surprising, but unlikely to yield much. The Senate Workforce Committee has devoted considerable time and effort in analyzing various PERS reform proposals...far more than would have been expected in a Democrat-controlled legislature. This past week, the committee took inventory of dozens of proposals from the general public on how to save money in the PERS system. But OSCC's analysis is still that significant PERS reform is unlikely and that the legislature may very well turn its attention to other cost drivers (state employee compensation and health benefits) in order to capture cost savings.

    Corporate tax disclosure hearings yielded no new information. The House Revenue Committee heard HB 2019 and HB 2940, both designed to require C corporations to publicly disclose more of their tax information. OSCC opposes this legislation for several reasons. Going into the legislative session, the government employee unions claimed this legislation was among their top priorities, but the hearings on the bill did not yield any new participants or any new information from previous attempts to pass this type of legislation. OSCC anticipates that we may have a real fight on this issue in the House, but it is unlikely the Senate would consider it.

    Here's what's coming up this week:

    The business community response to 'Cap and Trade' will be heard this week in a joint meeting of the House and Senate Environment committees. To date, the committees have only given time to the environmental activists seeking to place emissions mandates and costs on employers. But the business community commissioned its own modeling and economic impact study of a 'Cap and Trade' proposal that looks significantly different than those of the proponents and the DEQ.

    The business modeling, conducted by FTI, shows reduced economic activity, higher costs and job losses - primarily in the manufacturing sector - as a result of 'Cap and Trade.' You can view the FTI report here.

    The House Business & Labor Committee will try - AGAIN - to pass its first bill with serious business opposition. HB 2005 would mandate 'pay equity' for all protected classes, would switch the burden of proof from plaintiff to employer, and would make each paycheck in which a disparity is claimed as a cause for remedy.

    Business groups stalled the bill last week with a major effort to support a compromise 'pay equity' bill that encompasses pay discrimination based on gender, race and ethnicity (so long as burden of proof remains with the plaintiff) and curtailing the bill's many rights of action against employers. See our correspondence here.

    Several key House Democrats have been supportive of the business position and want a compromise bill now instead of being forced to vote on a bill that business does not support.

    However, it appears that Democratic leadership in the House intends to continue its time-honored tradition of steamrolling over the business community this week and passing the original bill.

    Community 'Right to Know' legislation to be heard in the House Environment & Energy Committee.  HB 2669 is being closely watched and strongly opposed by manufacturers and the business community at large. It proposes to amend a long standing agreement struck in 1999. That agreement - existing law - authorizes local governments to establish community 'right to know' regulatory programs of the kind found in the City of Eugene.

    Businesses already publicly report hundreds of chemicals that are stored and released from facilities through state air and water permits, State Fire Marshal reports, federal toxics release inventories, and others. In addition, businesses are constantly improving processes to reduce chemical use and to reduce input and regulatory costs (as required under Oregon's landmark Toxics Use and Hazardous Waste Reduction Act).

    HB 2669 is an overreach because:

    • It removes the requirement that local governments demonstrate the need for the program;
    • It removes protections for sensitive business information, including trade secrets;
    • It removes the requirement that DEQ, OHA, and the State Fire Marshall have an opportunity to provide comment;
    • It requires reporting of chemicals down to the .02 pounds, and
    • It increases maximum annual fees five-fold from $2,000 to $10,000.

    First Hearings on Paid Family Leave. The House will commence hearings on a new paid family leave bill - House Bill 3087 - which grants up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who take time off under the Oregon Family Leave Act. The program is funded by a new 0.5% tax on employees and 0.5% payroll tax on employers.

    The bill extends full benefits to anyone employed for 90 days, and in one of the more curious aspects of the bill, only extends benefits if funds are available. HB 3087 allows for paid family leave to be taken in as little as 8-hour increments.

    The fact that HB 3087 requires a tax means that the bill must pass with a 3/5 supermajority vote, which is unlikely. We also anticipate that proponents will try and find a way to raise the necessary funding in the bill so that the 3/5 supermajority vote requirement does not apply. OSCC will oppose the legislation.

    Alison Hart, Executive Director
    alisonh@oregonchamber.org
    503-231-5421

    JL Wilson, Legislative Counsel
    jlwilson@pacounsel.org
    503-363-2182

  • March 13, 2017 1:19 PM | Deleted user

    Dear OSCC Members and Colleagues - 

    We'll start with some great news this week ... In a highly anticipated court decision, the Multnomah County Circuit Court ruled against the new BOLI interpretation of Oregon's daily overtime statute for manufacturers in the Portland Specialty Baking case.

    As you'll recall, BOLI's new interpretation of Oregon's daily overtime statute was that manufacturing employers were liable for both daily and weekly overtime payments, which allowed for double-counting of some overtime hours. For example, in instances in which an employee might work four 12-hour shifts in a week, an employer would be liable for 16 total hours of overtime (8 hours of daily overtime plus 8 hours of weekly overtime).

    Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Dailey ruled that employers do not have to pay for both daily and weekly overtime. She reasoned that adherence to the daily overtime law (for all daily hours worked in excess of 10 hours per day) would ensure compliance with the federal weekly overtime law and that there was no provision in law that called for double-counting of overtime hours. The decision provides a firm footing for employers to continue to follow BOLI's prior guidance on this critical issue.

    Here's what we know from the past week:

    There was little movement on significant 'anti-business' legislation.  Environmental legislation to regulate air emissions, diesel engines, or tax carbon appears to be relegated to after-hours workgroups. There also appears to be little momentum for labor initiatives such as paid family leave. This is consistent with previous OSCC observations that the legislature would be focusing primarily on budget and transportation - leaving major labor and environment legislation on the sidelines for now.

    Minimum wage 'fix' bills introduced by Rep. Clem (D-Salem) to help agriculture and food processors. Clem's legislation - HB 3317 - redraws the minimum wage map so that the higher minimum wage rates apply to certain MSA's and not counties at large. His other bill - HB 3383 - gives agriculture and food processors a tax credit for the higher minimum wages. Clem found over 30 co-sponsors for both bills, including many democrats who voted for the higher minimum wages in 2016, and believes that Speaker Kotek will agree to some version of his proposals. But it will be a very tough slog to get some sort of minimum wage relief passed.

    Look for taxes that can be passed with simple majority votes. OSCC has cautioned its members that the legislature would look to 'kick the tires' on a new Legislative Counsel legal opinion that gives the legislature authority to raise some taxes without invoking the constitutional 3/5th supermajority voting requirement to raise in the legislature. The Legislative Counsel gave legislators the green light to take away tax deductions and tax credits with simple majority votes. Given the Democratic dominance in the legislature, this provides a tempting path of least resistance to raise revenue.

    The House Revenue Committee is signaling its interest in raising revenue using this method and is eyeing such things as removing or limiting itemized deductions, property tax deductions (HB 2771) and mortgage interest deductions (HB 2006). This will be an issue to keep a very close eye on over the next several months.

    Here's what's coming up this week:

    The House Revenue Committee will continue its focus on corporate tax disclosure. HB 2019 and HB 2940 would add new tax disclosure requirements for Oregon companies. Both proposals would involve public filings of tax information.  This is a significant priority for Oregon's government employee unions who have made this a centerpiece of their 2017 legislative agenda. We expect a friendly audience for this legislation in the House, but a much less receptive audience in the Senate. Business groups, including OSCC, will wage opposition here.

    The House Business & Labor Committee will try and pass its first bill with serious business opposition. HB 2005 would mandate 'pay equity' for all protected classes, would switch the burden of proof from plaintiff to employer, and would make each paycheck in which a disparity is claimed as a cause for remedy. Employer groups have signaled a willingness to agree to a 'pay equity' bill that encompasses pay discrimination based on gender (so long as burden of proof remains with the plaintiff) and banning the practice of requiring job applicants to disclose previous salary history. Several key Democrats are supportive of the business position and want a compromise bill now instead of being forced to vote on a bill that business does not support. OSCC will keep members apprised.

    Major PERS hearings resume in the Senate. The Senate Workforce Committee will continue to take testimony on SB 560 and SB 913, which to date are the major PERS Reform bills of the 2017 session. Among other things, the bills raise the retirement age, lower the assumed earnings rate, re-direct the 6% employee contribution into the pension plan, and spread out 'final average salary' over five years instead of three years. The concepts in both bills are heavily supported by school boards, local government and the business community. The bills are strongly opposed by the unions. 

    Of particular interest to OSCC members:

    Chambers need to make their voice heard on SB 828 or HB 2193 - predictive scheduling. As we mentioned last week, OSCC has reason to believe that this is now the top labor priority for 2017.

    After reviewing the legislative record, only two Chambers (North Clackamas, Albany and a member from Tigard Chamber) have submitted testimony in opposition to the bill. OSCC needs regional Chamber support by way of submitting testimony from your Chamber and your members.

    What you need to know on SB 828 and HB 2193: (1) It requires a minimum of four hours of pay for any food processor that calls an employee into work but the employee does not work the shift in its entirety, or (2) when an employee is told with less than 24 hours' notice that their upcoming shift is not needed or that the hours in the shift have been reduced.

    SB 828 and HB 2193 will hurt local restaurants, hospitality establishments and retailers. It requires an interactive scheduling process in which an employer must accommodate employee scheduling requests. It also requires that schedules be set 14 days in advance. For any changes made to an employee's schedule with fewer than 14 days' notice, it requires one hour of additional pay per any change that does not result in a loss of hours worked, and it requires one-half rate of pay for any scheduling change that results in a loss of hours.

    Here are some resources to assist you in drafting your testimony.  OSCC submitted testimony at the end of February (click here to view). Go to the included links to view business testimony on SB 828 or  HB 2193View the legislation here.

    Action is needed now. Please submit your Chamber's testimony this week. Additionally, send an action alert to your members to submit a letter in opposition. It is important for your member businesses to tell their customized story. OSCC has created business talking points to assist.

    OSCC members should submit testimony on SB 828 to: swf.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov and on HB 2193 to: hbl.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov

    OSCC member testimony is absolutely critical in opposing these bills. Take action now and make your voice heard.  

    Alison Hart, Executive Director
    alisonh@oregonchamber.org
    503-231-5421

    JL Wilson, Legislative Counsel
    jlwilson@pacounsel.org
    503-363-2182

  • March 10, 2017 9:36 AM | Deleted user


    Dear OSCC Members and Colleagues - 

    The 2017 Oregon legislature forged into familiar territory last week with orchestrated hearings on legislation that is opposed and hotly contested by the business community - predictive scheduling (SB 828), removal of non-economic damage limits in lawsuits (SB 487), and a slew of bills regulating carbon emissions.

    But unlike previous sessions, none of this legislation is a fait accompli. The future of all of these issues is tenuous at best.

    OSCC's observations about the framework for the 2017 session is holding steady: (1) Leadership appears to be growing more serious about reducing the cost of state government, particularly in the area of labor costs, (2) there is continuing momentum for a comprehensive transportation funding package, (3) additional revenue generation is now a point of discussion between key bipartisan house and senate negotiators, and (4) there is a growing acknowledgement that PERS is not sustainable under the weight of $22 billion in unfunded liabilities.

    Here's what we know from the past week:

    The commitment to a bipartisan effort on the budget and transportation funding continues to forestall major anti-business legislation. Republicans have made it clear that their engagement in key budget and transportation efforts is contingent on not getting defeated on issues of primary concern to them - primarily business issues. Senate President Peter Courtney has also emphasized his desire for bipartisanship and the avoidance of partisan fights. This is perhaps the defining theme of 2017. The first casualty of this drive for bipartisanship appears to be environmental legislation - carbon pricing and emissions regulations. Once thought a foregone conclusion for 2017, these issues are clinging to life.

    OSCC members did, indeed, catch a break on paid family leave legislation. We anticipated that legislators would find a way to raise the necessary revenue from business and employees to pay for a new paid family leave program without invoking the necessary 3/5th 'supermajority' voting requirement for raising taxes. Thankfully, we were wrong. Legislative Counsel has determined that the revenue needed to fund paid family leave constitutes a tax, and therefore, needs a 3/5th majority of the legislature to approve the legislation. This gives OSCC much greater leverage in defending against this expensive business mandate.

    Predictive scheduling will likely be the primary 2017 labor issue now, but if it survives, it will be greatly watered down. The bill to pay attention to is SB 828. This bill specifically targets restaurants, hospitality establishments and retail stores. But Section 3 of the bill applies to all employers and would set onerous new wage requirements for any shift changes that result from lack of business demand or lack of customers on any given day. OSCC expects that Section 3 will be deleted in an effort to gain support as the bill is currently faltering. OSCC testified in opposition.

    The House Revenue Committee began hearings on increased business taxes. The House committee heard bills that increase the corporate income tax to 8% (HB 2830) and increase the corporate minimum tax for large S corps (HB 2831). Although we don't believe there is an intention to move these bills independently of a pre-negotiated revenue package, OSCC will oppose these bills.

    OSCC continues to urge members to pay attention to the discussion around SJR 41, which would switch Oregon to a gross receipts tax model.

    Here's what's coming up this week:

    New environmental regulations and taxes will be heard by a special joint House and Senate committee and will now involve informal evening hearings starting this week. This is a classic good news/bad news scenario.

    The good news is that this new evening process essentially signals a 'white flag' of surrender on these anti-business measures for 2017. The bad news is that it represents an ongoing process to tee up these proposals once proponents sense the coast is clear. OSCC will closely monitor.

    As of today, OSCC believes that while there is plenty of appetite (and votes) to move some sort of 'cap and trade' or carbon pricing proposal in the House, there is not enough support in the Senate. But again, as with most of the major non-budget and non-transportation issues that are looming, that could change if bipartisan negotiations on the budget or transportation break down. OSCC will oppose.

    The "other" predictive scheduling bill - HB 2193 - will be heard in House Business & Labor Committee on Monday. Unlike the Senate hearing on SB 828, this bill will share the stage with several other bills, meaning it won't get the full attention of the committee ... an additional signal that SB 828 is the bill to pay attention to. But OSCC will continue to monitor HB 2193 in the event that it becomes the bill that proponents want to focus on.

    The House Revenue Committee will continue its hearings on legislation that would impact business taxes. HB 2771 would discontinue the allowance of being able to deduct property taxes paid.

    The Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee will vote to approve SB 805, which appropriates $9.4 million for the agricultural experiment station and branch stations, Oregon State University Extension Service and Forest Research Laboratory programs of Oregon State University. This is very welcome news for our more rural members, but the legislation faces a tough road in a resource-constrained environment. OSCC will support.

    Of particular interest to OSCC members:

    We are continuing to sound the alarm on SB 828 - predictive scheduling. As we mentioned last week, OSCC has reason to believe that this is now the top labor priority for 2017.

    What you need to know on SB 828: (1) It requires a minimum of four hours of pay for any food processor that calls an employee into work but the employee does not work the shift in its entirety, or (2) when an employee is told with less than 24 hours' notice that their upcoming shift is not needed or that the hours in the shift have been reduced.

    SB 828 has much more stringent provisions for restaurants, hospitality establishments and retailers. It requires an interactive scheduling process in which an employer must accommodate employee scheduling requests. It also requires that schedules be set 14 days in advance. For any changes made to an employee's schedule with fewer than 14 days' notice, it requires one hour of additional pay per any change that does not result in a loss of hours worked, and it requires one-half rate of pay for any scheduling change that results in a loss of hours.

    You can see SB 828 here.

    OSCC members can submit testimony on SB 828 to: swf.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov

    OSCC member testimony is encouraged NOW. Please make the request to your members to send customized testimony. Click here for talking points.

    Alison Hart, Executive Director
    alisonh@oregonchamber.org
    503-231-5421

    JL Wilson, Legislative Counsel
    jlwilson@pacounsel.org
    503-363-2182

  • January 23, 2017 1:08 PM | Deleted user

    Oregon State Chamber of Commerce announces 2017 Legislative priorities Salem, OR – The Oregon State Chamber of Commerce (OSCC) announced today its list of Legislative priorities for 2017. OSCC represents 84 local Chambers of Commerce across the state. 

    “The 2017 OSCC Legislative Agenda is a reflection of our collective desire to see that every Oregon community is able to grow and develop a vibrant local economy that can support each community’s needs. We are good corporate citizens and will come to the table with our colleagues to help develop a revenue platform that business can support. However that cannot take place without meaningful spending reforms that get the most out of every hard-earned taxpayer dollar,” said Colene Martin, OSCC Vice and Legislative Committee Chair. 

    For 2017, OSCC requests that the Oregon Legislature take immediate action to address Oregon’s transportation needs. The OSCC also asks that the Oregon Legislature “pause” on any additional measures that would impose new costs or regulatory challenges for local businesses. Local business communities across Oregon need time to deal with the new 2015 and 2016 laws without additional costs, challenges and uncertainty. 

    OSCC supports: 

    1. Comprehensive transportation funding package (with real low carbon fuel standard cost containment). 
    2. Pre-emption of local employment regulations. 
    3. Expanding eligibility for the 2013 ‘small business tax cut’. 
    4. Increased availability and affordability of workforce housing. 
    5. Increased resources for mental health programs and homelessness prevention. 
    6. Land use/UGB expansion for industrial development and housing. 

    OSCC opposes: 

    1. Predictive Scheduling mandate. 
    2. Employer-funded ‘paid family leave’ program. 
    3. ‘Cap and Trade,’ carbon tax, or Cleaner Air Oregon regulations that imposes burdensome costs on local manufacturers. 
    4. Increasing damage awards for liability, medical lawsuits. 
    5. Elimination of the small business tax cut. 
    6. Taxes not supported by the business community. 

    OSCC is organized to give a voice to the local business communities throughout Oregon in support of policies that enable business success, job growth and income growth in each of Oregon’s local communities. OSCC believes that a healthy business climate, and the jobs that such a business climate creates, is the key to building up local communities, adequately funding social services and making Oregon prosperous. 

    Contact: Alison Hart, Executive Director
    Oregon State Chamber of Commerce
    503-231-5421
    alisonh@oregonchamber.org 

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