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
Other Key Issues Coming up This Week
East Portland Chamber of Commerce
March Government and Economic Committee Meeting
Location: Adventist Medical Center –
10123 SE Market St, Portland OR 97216;
Main Hospital Building Lower Level, Conference Room
Date and Time: March 13, 2019 @ 7:30 am
Whatever your city and state representatives do at City Hall or in Salem, it affects business. The more you know, the better you can plan, prepare and influence. Today's speakers will share information that will enable you to do just that!
J.L. Wilson is the principal of Public Affairs Counsel, a Salem-based public affairs firm and a leading provider of government affairs, campaign, association management and survey research services for 37 years. Prior to joining Public Affairs Counsel in 2014, Wilson had a 15-year history in association management as past Executive Director of NFIB/Oregon and past Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at Associated Oregon Industries. Wilson has also been a full-time lobbyist representing business interests since 2000. Before starting his career as an association manager and lobbyist, he served as Legislative Director for two Speakers of the Oregon House.
Ashley Henry, Executive Director for Business for a Better Portland will be speaking. Ashley leads the organization’s efforts to engage Portland’s business leaders in the civic processes that shape the direction of the city. She is passionate about ensuring that our community’s business leaders are connected with strategic opportunities to bring greater shared prosperity to all Portlanders. Just five months after launching BBPDX, the organization was recognized by the Portland Business Journal as one of the region’s Top 25 Chambers of Commerce. Ashley was also personally named as “One of 18 To Watch in 2018” by the Portland Business Journal.
April 10 - Dr. Lisa Skari, MHCC & Dr. Jessica Howard, PCC
2019 Legislative Report - Week 6
Dear OSCC members and colleagues -
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.
2019 Legislative Report - Week 3
We have now completed three weeks of the 2019 legislative session. The upcoming week appears to be an abbreviated week with several committees being cancelled or otherwise not scheduled to meet this week.
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.
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:
In 2010, The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in the case of Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc., v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, and found that the use of medical marijuana, though authorized by state law, was an "illegal use of drugs" under federal law, which preempts state law in these circumstances.
The Court held that employers can lawfully take adverse employment actions against employees based on their use of federally-illegal drugs. It upheld an employer's right to implement 'zero tolerance' drugfree workplace policies.
In 2014, employer rights were again upheld by Oregon voters who voted in support of Measure 91, which specifically precluded "amend[ing] or affect[ing] in any way any state or federal law pertaining to employment matters" (Section 4. Article 1).
Maintaining a drug-free workplace ensures the safety and well-being of employees, the public, and the customers they serve. Furthermore, employers with federal contracts are required to maintain drug-free workplaces as a matter of federal law.
The Drug-Free Workplace Act requires employers who receive grants or contracts from the federal government (construction companies, hospitals and long-term care facilities, among others) to ensure that their workplaces are drug-free. Drug testing will not reveal whether an employee with marijuana in his or her system used it during working hours or during “non-working hours” (a term in SB 379 that might be interpreted to include meal breaks), much less whether the marijuana was used on the employer’s premises or not. This would make it impossible for an employer to comply with the federal requirements.
The exception in SB 379 for off-duty marijuana use that impairs employees’ performance on the job cannot be implemented, because currently, there is no recognized test for whether an employee is “impaired” by the use of marijuana (off duty or not). Current testing protocols can do no more than confirm whether an employee has marijuana in their system, not whether it results in impairment or being “under the influence.”
Without a drug test that measures impairment, an employer's efforts to maintain a safe work environment are compromised.
Both the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Oregon disability law require an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability and the treatment of a disability with medication, including situations in which off-duty use of medication affects the employee’s performance at work. A well-developed body of federal and state case law tells an employer whether an accommodation is or is not “reasonable.” SB 379, on the other hand, imposes no such limitation: an employer may not limit employees’ off-duty use of any lawful substances except to the extent it causes an impairment at work or relates to a bona fide occupational qualification.
We are expecting to see additional early activity on a handful of key policy and budget items that Democratic legislative leaders have identified as key priorities, including:
- Transportation fuels are considered "covered emissions," meaning there will be fuel cost increases;
- Residential, commercial, and industrial natural gas rates will increase under the bill and ratepayer assistance options are limited; and
- Legislative counsel has determined that cap-and-trade is not a tax and is, therefore, exempt from Constitutional requirements for a 3/5th supermajority vote.
Key Issues Coming up This Week
In his annual Portland land use report, Peter Frye will cover the following topics:
This meeting will be at 7:30a in the Columbia and Willamette Rooms in the Pavilion Building, 10000 SE Main (not at our typical location).
March 13 - Oregon State Chamber of Commerce update on Legislative action
2019 Legislative Report - Week 1
The 2019 legislative session is now underway in Oregon.
The 2019 Legislature has already introduced over 1,700 bills. OSCC expects another 1,000+ pieces of legislation to be introduced over the next six weeks. Of the 1,700 bills that have been introduced thus far, OSCC is keeping an eye on:
OSCC expects that several hundred new bills will be introduced this week. We will continue to screen all new legislation for impact on our local business communities.
As with previous sessions, OSCC expects that the Senate will be the backstop on bad business bills. Although Democrats have expanded their majority to 18-12 in the Senate, a handful of key moderate Democrats will still control the flow of bills that pass. Senators Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), and Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) will be the key bloc of Senators who will decide just how aggressive the legislature will be on issues of taxes and other progressive policies that will impact business.
Early Activity on Major Issues
We are expecting to see early activity on a handful of key policy and budget items that Democratic legislative leaders have identified as key priorities, including:
Other Issues Coming up This Week
Your GEAC committee is working to keep on top of the bills coming up for consideration and will let you know when we need your help in letting legislators know your approval or disapproval of bills they will be voting on.
Connie Shipley, your GEAC contact, 503-830-1028
Legislative Update - January 22, 2019
We hope everyone had a wonderful MLK weekend. The 2019 Oregon Legislature is now officially upon us!! Today is Day 1.
We are already at work analyzing the 1,500 bills that have been introduced to date. Some of these proposals address legitimate needs, but details matter in legislation - especially in tax legislation and especially when there are so many proposals on the table at the same time.
Here's a list of major revenue-related proposals that are drawing attention in Salem.
Gross receipts tax (GRT): Despite voters' overwhelming rejection of Measure 97 in 2016, this concept remains a favorite of some influential legislators. Portland voters approved a citywide gross receipts tax on large businesses in November. The existence of a GRT in Portland will give proponents a toehold to push for a similar approach statewide. However, a GRT remains a particularly difficult tax for low-margin businesses, regardless of size.
Business activities tax: The Oregon Business Plan has floated a business activities tax (BAT) as an alternative to a GRT. The BAT, used in Washington, does not create the same concerns about pyramiding (being applied multiple times in the supply chain) as the GRT. However, it still would raise business costs and, depending on details of a specific proposal, could affect some businesses more than others.
Corporate tax rates: If neither of those ideas gathers support of 60 percent of both chambers, the Legislature could default to keeping the current tax structure and increasing the corporate tax rate. Meanwhile, the Governor's budget proposes an increase in the corporate minimum tax.
Small-business taxes: Small businesses have been in the crosshairs of revenue hunters in the Legislature for the past two sessions. In 2017, the House voted to roll back portions of the small-business tax deal that were part of the 2013 "grand bargain," but the bill failed in the Senate. In the 2018 short session, the Legislature disconnected from a portion of the new federal tax law that benefited small business. Senators Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) and Herman Baertschiger (R-Grants Pass) have sued, contending that legislation violates the state Constitution. Meanwhile, Governor Brown, who is named in the lawsuit, has proposed more rollbacks of small-business tax benefits - trimming a tax break that passed in the 2018 session with her support.
Other business taxes and fees: The long list of legislative concept drafts presented in the House Revenue Committee last week during Legislative Days includes an assortment of technical tax adjustments that would increase taxes paid by businesses. Also, some tax credits could be eliminated through the tax credit review process.
Kicker reform: The idea of ending or diverting the "kicker," which returns money to individual taxpayers when revenues exceed state economists' projections by more than 2 percent, has been kicked around for years. In 2012, Oregonians voted to designate the corporate kicker for education funding. Now, similar proposals to use the personal kicker for targeted uses such as PERS or education, have support. Kicker reform is one revenue option included in the latest version of the Oregon Business Plan, which was unveiled earlier this month.
Property taxes: The discussion about reforming Oregon's property tax system has amplified in recent months. The goal would be to eliminate inequities that lead to landowners with similar properties paying differing rates. Even by revenue reform standards, this would be a complicated process, and, therefore, is less likely than some of the other revenue proposals. However, targeted bills aimed at businesses' property taxes could gain traction. For example, one bill would limit the property tax exemption for nonprofit hospitals to the amount spent on charitable care, reduced by the sum of all amounts of compensation reported in excess of $1 million for any individual directors or employees.
Alcohol and tobacco taxes: Increasing tobacco taxes is a common revenue proposal, one that is included in the Governor's budget. Although the Governor has backed off of talk of a higher beer and wine taxes, her budget does propose increasing alcohol costs another way - by increasing the markup on liquor at state stores by 5 percent.
Medicaid taxes: The Governor's budget proposes a mix of taxes and fees to make up for a projected shortfall in Medicaid funding. The money would come from: increased hospital taxes, expanded taxation of health insurance plans, higher cigarette taxes and an assessment on businesses with a large share of employees who qualify for Medicaid.
Transportation taxes: The 2017 Legislature passed a transportation package, and taxes to pay for improvements are beginning to kick in. These include increases in gas taxes, higher registration and title fees, a 0.1 percent payroll tax, a bicycle excise tax, and in 2020 a new way of treating vehicle fees based on miles per gallon.
Carbon taxes: Representatives of the Governor's office presented a carbon-price proposal to the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction during Legislative Days last week. The model being discussed is a cap-and-trade system. Dozens of decisions remain that will determine the cost of this program to businesses, but under any scenario there will be significant costs. The question, is which businesses and consumers will pay, and how much. If a cap-and-trade bill passes, higher fuel and energy costs are all but certain.
As you can see, raising revenue will be one of the dominant themes of the 2019 Session.
OSCC will keep members apprised as the discussions roll out.
In an effort to help you know what you need to know about the new Pay Equity Guidelines that have just been put into effect, please go to the information at
These are provided by the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce. Below is the introductory letter from the Chair of the OSCC:
December 3, 2018
Dear OSCC members & colleagues,
Last month, the Bureau of Oregon Labor & Industries released their final rules for employers and employees on Oregon’s groundbreaking Equal Pay Act, passed by the 2017 Oregon legislature. The new law that goes into effect on January 1, 2019 requires that employees be paid equally for comparable work regardless of gender or any of Oregon’s ten other protected classes.
We believe this will be the most challenging human resources issue for most of our Chamber members over the next year. Further complicating matters – and increasing the level of urgency – is that lawsuits are allowed based on violations of the law starting on January 1st.
The guide, which you can view here, provides helpful information for your members as they prepare to comply with the new law. The guidance includes an overview of the law, frequently asked questions, a guide for employers on self-evaluations, a sample checklist of policies and practices, and a calculation tool created to assist employers in determining where they have potential wage gaps between employees.
As the leading grassroots business organization for our local business communities, we think it’s critical that every local business in every corner of our state has access to the best available information on how to implement the new law. We hope you will find that this tool provides great value to your members.
CEO, Tualatin Chamber of Commerce
Chair, Oregon State Chamber of Commerce
The East Portland Chamber of Commerce is working to host a Town Hall on this subject soon.
East Portland Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization | PO Box 90186 | Portland, OR 97290 | 503-788-8589