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  • October 20, 2020 5:45 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    Amidst the chaos of the global pandemic, OR-OSHA is moving forward with proposed changes to two administrative rules that would stack the deck against employers: OR-OSHA’s Proposed Amendments in General Administrative Rules to Clarify Employer’s Responsibilities and OR-OSHA’s Proposed Increase of Certain Minimum and Maximum Penalties for Alleged Violations.
     
    These rule changes are about agency convenience in contested cases, NOT about employee safety.
     
    Oregon law says that for an employer to be liable for a serious violation, OR-OSHA must prove that the employer knew, or with the “exercise of reasonable diligence” could have known, of the violation. Recently, the Oregon Supreme Court made clear that the burden is on OR-OSHA to prove what is "reasonable" and what is "diligence" under the circumstances of each case. But these rules will change that Court ruling.

    1. OR-OSHA’s proposed rule redefines “reasonable diligence” to make employers strictly liable, so that the agency can easily win a contested case.
    2. It also makes the “unpreventable employee conduct” defense entirely useless.
    3. In a different rulemaking, OR-OSHA’s Administrator is given unlimited discretion to impose huge penalties: $13,538 for any “serious” violation and up to $135,382 for any “willful” violation. These enormous fines could be assessed for just two paperwork violations!

    Without strong opposition, OR-OSHA will adopt these rule changes at the end of October! Oregon’s businesses are already under immense pressure from OR-OSHA and are struggling to stay afloat during COVID-19. Without your immediate action, employers could be subject to strict liability and sweeping fines!
     
    Submit your comments today to OPPOSE these proposed rule changes. Comments are due by October 30th.


  • August 11, 2020 5:19 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    Yesterday, the Oregon Legislature convened for a one-day session - the second special session of the summer - to focus on balancing the state budget.

    The Legislature voted to pull $400 million from the Education Stability Fund to keep the State School Fund whole, and voted to trim another $400 million from lottery and general fund programs.

    On balance, the legislature opted to keep Oregon's $9 billion K-12 budget unharmed and worked to plug the $1 billion shortfall using the aforementioned cuts and other budget maneuvers, including "re-shuffling" of expenses and "sweeps" of dedicated funds.

    The session was another example of the "top-down" executive decision-making that's been so prevalent during the COVID pandemic. Decision-making is in the hands of a very few legislators with very little input from legislators and the public.

    For example, Democratic leaders announced on Monday morning that they would not hold any public hearings on the slate of bills.  Most bills were not made public until the weekend, so only the most seasoned observers even knew where to look to understand what was going on. Decisions on legislation were already made before the legislature convened.

    The bills that passed included:

    • SB 1701 to allow part time workers to earn up to $300 per week before unemployment benefits are reduced.
       
    • SB 1703 to give the Employment Department access to Revenue Department data during the COVID emergency for the purpose of processing unemployment claims.
       
    • SB 5722 adjusted and revised several capital construction projects in order to shift costs.
       
    • SB 5723 cut nearly $400 million in costs for the current biennium.
       
    • HB 4301 placed additional limits use of choke holds and police use of force.
       
    • HB 4302 modified fees and requirements for mineral exploration, mining operations, gas and oil drilling and exploration and geothermal well drilling operation.
       
    • HB 4303 transferred $400 million from the Education Stability Fund to the State School Fund.
       
    • HB 4304, the "sweeps" bill, transferred money from various dedicated administrative accounts to further alleviate budget shortfalls.
       
    • HB 5221 made changes to allocation of lottery funds to account for precipitous drops in lottery revenues.

    Bills that did not pass:

    • SB 1702 was the one unscripted shocker of the session. The bill which would have streamlined the process for classified education employees to receive unemployment benefits. But the bill failed in committee when Senator Johnson (D-Scappoose) joined Republicans in voting against the bill, saying that the bill gave the appearance of putting these workers "at the front of the line" for receiving benefits when others have been waiting due to Employment Department failures.

    The Oregonian's reporting of the special session can be found here.

    We are expecting one additional special session in September that could be populated with several controversial issues, including:

    1. Legislation to disconnect Oregon from certain provisions of the CARES Act related to tax treatment for business losses and interest expenses for certain businesses.
       
    2. Consideration of liability reform to provide temporary and targeted liability relief for companies facing lawsuits related to COVID.
       
    3. Consideration of a liability shield for medical provides and health care facilities acting within the scope of COVID-19 guidance from the Governor's office, OHA and others.
       
    4. A workers' compensation compensability presumption for COVID claims.

    If you have any questions or feedback stemming from the 1-day session, please don't hesitate to reach out.



  • August 07, 2020 9:02 AM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, the Oregon Legislature is now set to pass an ill-conceived proposal that would effectively impose $225 million in taxes on Oregon businesses struggling to recover from the staggering impacts of the COVID-19 shut downs. 

    This tax increase affects small, local businesses – not corporations!  These tax incentives were passed by Congress to ensure small businesses could keep some amount of cash flow when they were being shut down by government orders.  Now the Oregon legislature wants to steal this money back from small business!

    But instead of admitting this is a new tax burden on struggling businesses, they will say this is simply a technical change, impacting only a few wealthy Oregonians. That’s simply not true. Many Oregon businesses will lose much-needed cash if this tax increase  moves forward.

    WE NEED YOUR HELP TODAY.

    Please contact the Governor and your legislators and tell them THIS PROPOSAL ISN’T FAIR to thousands of Oregon employers struggling to survive – and put hundreds of thousands of unemployed Oregonians back to work.

    Email your legislators today and tell them this sneak attack isn’t fair and ask them to oppose this backdoor tax increase. The Legislature is set to meet in special session on Monday, and all signs are that this bad idea is set to be fast-tracked through the process. ACT NOW. 

     



  • July 22, 2020 4:15 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    Governor Brown announced today additional face covering and business guidelines in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

    Effective Friday, July 24th:

    Face Coverings

    • Face coverings will be required for all Oregonians ages five and up in indoor public spaces and outdoors when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.
       
    • Face coverings will be required even in cases of physical exertion indoors, and outdoors when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.

    Businesses

    • The maximum indoor capacity limit is capped at 100 for all venues in Phase II counties and for restaurants and bars in Phase I or II counties.
       
    • Restaurants and bars will be required to stop serving customers at 10:00 P.M statewide.

     You can view the full press release here.


  • July 13, 2020 1:49 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    OSCC will be holding a one-hour Q&A session with Oregon Michael Wood, Administrator, Oregon Occupations Safety & Health Administration and Val  Hoyle, Labor Commissioner, Bureau of Labor & Industry regarding guidelines for face coverings during COVID-19. The webinar will be held on July 15th, from 10-11am. This invitation is open to our chamber and  chamber members. 

    July 15, 2020: 10:00 - 11:00am
    Join: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/671263645 

    Please send your questions by 5pm July 14th to: 
    jessicac@oregonchamber.org

  • July 07, 2020 11:48 AM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    As the deadline approaches to make estimated Corporate Activity Tax (CAT) payments for the second quarter, the Oregon Department of Revenue reminds taxpayers of relief available to those businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    As adopted in the Oregon administrative rule 150-317-1500, the Department of Revenue will honor a business taxpayer's good-faith efforts to comply with the CAT and not assess penalties if they document their efforts to comply, including how COVID-19 has impacted their business.

    If businesses know they'll owe $10,000 or more in annual corporate activity tax in 2020 and can pay, they should make estimated quarterly payments and comply with the law to the fullest extent possible.

    However, penalties will not be assessed for underestimated quarterly payments or for not making a quarterly payment for the Corporate Activity Tax, if businesses don't have the financial ability to make the estimated payment. If businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 and are finding it difficult to calculate or pay an estimated quarterly payment, they should keep documentation showing:

    • Their inability to pay a quarterly payment because of insufficient funds due to COVID-19.
       
    • Their inability to reasonably calculate a quarterly payment or annual tax liability due to their business being impacted by COVID-19.
       
    • That the taxpayer is unclear at this time whether the business will owe corporate activity tax in April 2020 due to COVID-19 impacts, after taking into consideration exclusions and subtractions in the law.

    Businesses uncertain about their economic future due to the COVID-19 crisis, or those that have been closed during this crisis and have no ability to determine that they will owe a tax this year, won't be penalized.

    Registration for the CAT is still required. Businesses must register within 30 days of reaching $750,000 in Oregon commercial activity in the calendar year. Registration is available through Revenue Online and the department offers a series of online resources to help with registration on the CAT page of the agency's website.

    Taxpayers with general questions about the CAT can email 

    cat.help.dor@oregon.gov or call 503-945-8005.


  • July 06, 2020 7:15 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    Join: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/671263645  

    Please mark your calendar for a liability protection round table discussion this Wednesday, July 8, 2020 from 9:00-10:00 am. This invitation is open to your chamber as well as your chamber members. 

    On this call, we will be discussing two primary questions:

    1. How is your business complying with current health and safety guidelines? (including steps taken, costs incurred, etc.)
       
    2. What would be the impact if a claim were filed against you and your business?

    This information will provide guidance for OSCC as we continued to advocate for timely, targeted and temporary liability protections to shield employers from legal risk when following the appropriate public health guidelines to protect employees and customers as a result of COVID-19.


  • June 29, 2020 2:18 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    On Friday afternoon, the Oregon legislature concluded a 3-day special session to address various policy issues including policing reforms, COVID-response, and various other items which that included some bills that failed during the 2020 short session.

    With respect to policing reforms, the legislature passed bills to: (1) ban the use of chokeholds, except when the use of deadly force is justified; (2) restrict the use of tear gas, and require police to give people time to disperse before using it; (3) make it more difficult for third-party arbitrators to overturn or reduce disciplinary action taken against police officers; (4) create a public online database of disciplinary actions of police officers that must be checked as part of the hiring process; and (5) require officers to intervene to prevent or stop another officer engaged in misconduct.

    With respect to COVID response, the legislature passed bills to: (1) direct both residential and commercial lenders to defer mortgage payments until after September 30th (HB 4204); (2) extend the residential and commercial moratorium on no-cause evictions until September 30th (HB 4213); (3) grant temporary emergency shelter siting authority for local governments to develop low-barrier shelters for unsheltered homeless who are at high-risk of virus transmission; and (4) protect federal CARES Act payments from garnishments.

    Other bills included (1) HB 4210 which prevents a court from suspending a drivers license for failure to pay court fines; (2) SB 1601 which prevents citations from being issues for expired drivers licences, permits and registrations through December 31st; (3) SB 1603 which levies a cell phone tax to support projects for planning or developing broadband service infrastructure in Oregon; and (4) HB 4202 which makes clarifications and business- supported "fixes" to the new Corporate Activity Tax.

    In a development sought by the business community, a workgroup will be convened to discuss and craft liability exemptions for employers and organizations that are in compliance with the Governor's COVID-related executive orders and guidance.

    We are expecting legislative discussions to pivot toward liability issues and budget re-balancing in preparation of a 2nd special session to be held in late July or early August.


  • June 23, 2020 3:10 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    Tomorrow, the Oregon legislature will convene in a special session to address various policy issues including policing reforms, COVID-response, and a laundry list of other items which will include some bills that failed during the 2020 short session. 

    The list of ancillary bills under consideration changes by the hour - we do not yet have a clear sense of what all of those issues will be as discussions about the total slate of bills are happening out of public view.We do know, however, the core grouping of bills that will be considered. You can see them hereWe will reiterate that this special session is not focused on the state budget (which is currently $1.8 billion in deficit). There will be a follow-up special session later this summer that will include some painful budget decisions. It is likely that legislators will want to see if any additional revenue materializes - either through federal legislation or increased state revenues - before making those decisions.

    The special session tomorrow will pose unique challenges that threaten to derail it altogether. First, the logistics of the session - social distancing, a capitol building closed to the public, and limits on the number of people in closed spaces will test the limits of how the legislature can conduct its business in a timely way. Second, the politics of the session are challenging as there appears to be little agreement on which bills to pass coupled with an ever-expanding list of bills being sought by legislators. In short, there doesn't appear to be a plan.

    To follow the session, access this link: https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2020S1/2020-06-24


  • June 17, 2020 3:52 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    OSCC calls on Oregon Legislature to add liability protections for businesses to Special Session agenda

    Governor Kate Brown officially called for a special session of the Oregon legislature on June 24th to deal with policy issues including policing reform, COVID response, and some consensus bills from the failed 2020 short session. However, liability protections for businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 is not currently listed as an agenda item. 

    Please contact your legislators by 5pm TODAY and ask them to add liability protections to businesses affected by COVID-19 to the Special Session agenda. You can use this link to find your legislator.


    OSCC joined with coalition partners on a letter to the legislature as well, which you can view here. Please use this as talking points. If you are you worried about coronavirus liability-despite the fact that your business has done its best to adhere to Governor Brown's public health guidelines, the Governor and legislators need to hear from you today! Tell your story to help inform this important policy decision. 

    http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001mwjvD1ULkjMzQkbwYlrU5kbQSU_M06BJ-TBpGV9PqjJ4dg5rjFY_adO2VXumfwwi2enV-EM4BDYL-0iiUF-_4uHj_gppY2DNfim_VHmK8VC4V9gSo5QcYMLPJ5Qov4LIoYzpmCg-8i7HejnxUF57nAWWJxgfuZsGvQQGFWEtHDJoRLb1ApNP0c_rOLrJnn2QUwLero9kIXAaY53AYD5xilYTwHoSmXmc&c=ktI7bVcmSEl3_gO_evcnur4ElIPxs7F2IkKNmniy8xHFiqL6H6SluA==&ch=tK0v3upEbAMn7Y86ASzbasbJhAdl1GXbwvv6dJj2LZFqk4LnRLV7Gw==

    Please contact your legislators by 5pm TODAY and ask them to add liability protections to businesses affected by COVID-19 to the Special Session agenda. You can use this link to find your legislator.



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