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  • November 19, 2020 3:12 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    Three significant issues that need to be brought to your attention:. 

    1.    State Revenue Forecast. The quarterly revenue forecast issued Wednesday morning provided a little bit of good news for legislators - the state now has $97 million more in its coffers since the last quarterly forecast in September. This completes a near-unbelievable total comeback from the $2+ billion revenue loss that was forecast in the midst of the pandemic in May.

    A cautious note was struck by the state economist, however, as these projections were finalized before Governor Brown’s 2-week economic “pause” that will largely close restaurants, gyms and other businesses through December 2nd.  The economists predicted that the “pause” would largely be felt through declines in lottery revenues, but would only amount to about $26 million in losses if the restaurant closures were limited to only two weeks.

    2.      House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) calls for emergency special session in December. The Speaker called out the unlikelihood of a Federal relief package in 2020 and indicated that she would like to spend state reserve funds to assist businesses and the unemployed. Specifically, she called out her desire to spend $100 million “to keep Oregonians housed and stabilize the rental market” as her primary objective.

    We are not surprised at the prospect of another special session prior to 2021. Before the Speaker’s announcement, we believed a special session was likely next week. We will keep you apprised as we gain more information on a prospective December session.

    3.      Legislative Election Results are now finalized. The last race to be called was House District 52 which saw Democrat incumbent Anna Williams hold off challenger Jeff Helfrich by 84 votes. The race was in doubt until yesterday’s final numbers at 4pm.

    The final count in the Senate: 18 Democrats, 12 Republicans. No change.

    The final count in the House: 37 Democrats, 23 Republicans. Republicans gained one seat, but Democrats retained their “supermajority.”

     The last bit of intrigue will come from a fight for the Speakership of the House. Representative Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) is looking to forge a coalition to unseat current House Speaker Tina Kotek. 

    Although Kotek won a majority of support from her caucus for a 4th term as Speaker, the challenge will spill out onto the House floor on the first day of the 2021 session when the entire House, including 23 Republicans, will cast their vote for Speaker. 31 votes are needed to secure the position of House Speaker. 


  • November 18, 2020 4:59 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    The Oregon legislature and Governor Brown approved $20 million more to Business Oregon’s Emergency Business Assistance Grant Fund. The application for this new round of funds will be available beginning this Thursday on Business Oregon's websiteApplications will be reviewed on a first-come first-served basis.

    The grants are available to small businesses that have seen lost revenue due to the pandemic, and that meet a minimal set of requirements.

    Businesses are eligible to receive up to $200,000 in grant funding as detailed in the grant application. To be eligible, a business must show it was prohibited from operations by the Governor’s Executive Order 20-12, or demonstrate a 25% reduction in sales over a 30-day period in 2020 compared to a comparable period in 2019.

    This Thursday, the application form and additional details will be found on Business Oregon’s website in multiple languages. Grants will be reviewed on a first-come first-served basis, and will be allocated so that there is an equitable geographic distribution of funds as dictated by the Oregon Legislature. 

    Visit Business Oregon's website here for more information.

    Governor Brown also announced that the state will commit $55 million in financial assistance to support Oregon businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. These funds will be allocated to counties to distribute to businesses who have been financially impacted, with a priority for the hospitality industry, businesses impacted by the freeze, small businesses, and women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and Tribal-owned businesses.

    The $55 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds will be allocated to counties, with each county receiving a base of $500,000 plus a per capita allocation of the remainder of the funds. The counties will be responsible for deciding how businesses apply to receive funds and communicating the application process to businesses.

    The Governor’s Office anticipates that funds will be distributed to counties within the next several weeks. Businesses who are interested in applying should contact their county for more information. 

    Read full press release here.


  • November 13, 2020 2:51 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    In a press conference today, Governor Brown announced a statewide two-week freeze to help curb the rise in COVID-19 cases.

    The freeze will be in effect November 18th - December 2nd.

    Businesses

    • Work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and close offices to the public
    • Restaurants are delivery and take-out only
    • Grocery stores and pharmacies are limited to 75% capacity and should encourage curbside pick up
    • Retail stores and malls (indoor and outdoor) are limited to 75% capacity and should encourage curbside pick up

    Must Close

    • Gyms and fitness organizations
    • Indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities, and indoor pools and sports courts
    • Zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities, and outdoor pools
    • Venues that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events

    Social Gatherings

    • Limited to no more than 6 people total, from no more than 2 households – indoor and outdoor
    • Limited faith-based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors
    • No Indoor visitation in long-term care facilities

    The Two-Week Freeze does not apply to or change current health and safety protocols for:

    • Personal services (such as barber shops, hair salons, and non-medical massage therapy)
    • congregate homeless sheltering
    • outdoor recreation and sports
    • youth programs
    • childcare
    • K-12 schools
    • K-12 sports currently allowed
    • current Division 1 and professional athletics exemptions, and
    • higher education

    — all of which can continue operating under previous guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority.


  • November 13, 2020 1:28 PM | Connie Shipley (Administrator)

    The new Oregon OSHA Temporary COVID-19 rules require that businesses establish a notification process that provides notice within 24-hours if an employee has been exposed to someone confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19. This requirement goes into effect on Monday, November 16th.

    OR-OSHA has just released the model notification, which you can view here.

    The COVID-19 infection notification process includes:

    Employers must establish a process to notify exposed employees that they had a work-related contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, as well as to notify affected employees that an individual who was present in the facility has confirmed COVID-19. 

    Exposed employees include:

    • Those who were within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 individual for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more, regardless of whether one or both of them were wearing source control
    • Those who worked in the same facility or in the same well-defined portion of the facility such as a particular floor

    This excludes settings where patients are hospitalized on the basis that they are known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19.

    The notification process must include the following elements:

    • A mechanism for notifying both exposed and affected employees within 24 hours of the employer being made aware that an individual with COVID-19 was present in the workplace while infectious or otherwise may have had work-related contact with its employee(s) while infectious; and

    Note: OAR 333-018-0016 requires such cases to be reported by healthcare providers and laboratories within 24 hours of identification.



  • 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.


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