OBI advocates on behalf of a strong and healthy business climate for Oregon.
Our government affairs team represents more than 1,600 member businesses each year in Salem on policy issues that impact business and industry and the economic vitality of our state. Visit this page often for updates and useful resources during each legislative session.
OBI Policy Team
Start date: January 11, 2021
Below, you’ll find a weekly recap of what happened at the Capitol last week, and the latest information on legislation that impacts Oregon’s business community. If you have questions about bills or the legislative process, or would like to get involved, contact any member of our policy team.
If you have thoughts or questions about a bill, you can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ensure your feedback is directed to the appropriate staff member.
Opposing Additional Taxes & Tax Increases
- SB 137, a technical process bill, had a hearing last week. OBI’s Scott Bruun testified in opposition to a proposed amendment, which would raise taxes on potentially thousands of Oregon small businesses by disconnecting from the tax provisions of the federal CARES Act, including provisions net operating loss carry-backs for businesses that loss money as a result of the pandemic. These aspects of the CARES Act were passed by Congress on a bipartisan basis to help businesses weather a global economic storm. No action was taken on the bill or amendment, but we do think it will be back in some form later during the legislative session.
- The other big issue is SB 312 which is scheduled for a hearing on Feb 10. This is a corporate tax disclosure bill which would create significant competitive disadvantages for Oregon-based corporations. OBI will be testifying against the bill and working hard to assure that the bill is taken off the table.
Advocating for a Pause on New Employment Regulations
- Last week, Paloma Sparks testified in opposition to an amendment on SB 169, which is related to noncompete agreements. This amendment would have increased the payment required to enforce a noncompete after the employee has left employment from a minimum of $50,000 to $75,000. Enforcement of these agreements is already costly, and this change would make it even harder. The bill, without the proposed amendment, will limit the term of the agreements to 12 months instead of the current 18 months and makes them void unless an employer can show they have met the requirements of the law.
- HB 2205, which would allow group and individuals to sue on behalf of the state for any violation that is punishable with a civil penalty, is expected to be amended. The amendment will narrow the bill to laws enforced by BOLI, OSHA or the new PFMLI division. This could seriously damage these agencies and their focus on remedying violations, not just punishing violations.
- HB 2818 allows for wage claims to be paid for out of the wage security fund. This is another bill that was negotiated in 2020 and likely would have passed had timelines not run out. We remain concerned about relying too much on the wage security fund, particularly in a recession when it might be needed, but don’t have strong objections to the bill at this point.
- The co-chairs of the Management-Labor Advisory Committee presented to the House Business and Labor committee on Monday, Feb. 1. They shared their findings from the various conversations and research proposals for a workers’ compensation presumption. The Workers’ Compensation division also presented research on filings related to COVID-19. We expect HB 3025, the workers’ comp presumption bill will be posted soon.
- HB 2489 would change the current independent contractor test by adding a new question: Is the worker’s service outside the usual course of business? If the answer is ‘NO’ then the individual will no longer be considered an independent contractor and will be reclassified as an “employee.” This concept, which has been introduced several times, has garnered significant opposition from the business community over the last few years.
Ensuring Environmental Policy Proposals Consider Economic Impacts
- SB 286 and SB 289, two environmental justice bills, will receive a hearing in Senate Energy & Environment next week. In our review of the bill, we had concerns that provisions in the bill would create a new complex layer of analysis and reporting on environmental justice impacts in the formal rulemaking process. DEQ Director Richard Whitman reported last week that an amendment will be offered to ensure that the bill standardizes consideration of environmental justice issues in an efficient way. This is an encouraging development and we look forward to reviewing the amendment.
- HB 2592 would require creation of new “producer responsibility organizations” to fund recycling, litter prevention, upgrades to recycling facilities, and to reimburse local governments for transporting recyclables. The bill would also limit use of “advanced recycling technologies,” threatening local jobs and the long-term viability of companies operating in Oregon. We anticipate the DEQ’s version of this bill to be the primary vehicle, but stakeholders will continue to monitor this concept.
Addressing Health Care Cost and Pandemic-related Issues
- HB 2508 would require reimbursement of health services delivered via by telemedicine. The bill had its first public hearing last week. There is broad support for this bill as well as concern for some of the language relating to privacy issues and parity of reimbursement. The amendments for some of these technical fixes have not been released yet, we will keep monitoring as the bill develops.
- SB 65 which transfers the COFA exchange back to the Oregon Health Authority from the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCSB) had a public hearing this week. Both agencies are sponsoring this bill to increase the efficiencies of the insurance market. Rep. Salinas testified this bill would lay the groundwork for the public option she is working on.
Ensuring a Level Playing Field for All Oregonians in Campaign Finance Reform Discussions
- With the November passage of the constitutional amendment allowing campaign contribution limits, we expect to see a bill pass in this session. OBI will be focused on ensuring that any campaign finance legislation (expected to be via HB 2680) treat all participants fairly. A stakeholder group has been formed, which OBI is coordinating.
Supporting Common Sense Education Improvements and Workforce Development
- HB 2570 directs the Department of Education, in consultation with STEM Investment Council, to develop statewide, long-term strategic plan to provide computer science education. This bill is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday, February 9 and OBI is looking at submitting written testimony in partnership with OBC to support the measure.
- HB 2414 directs the Department of Education to coordinate with student CTE organizations to support programs that look to increase student achievement in career and technical courses. We will keep monitoring this bill as it does ask for General Fund money to establish a grant program to allow school districts to provide summer and after-school CTE courses.
Supporting Economic Assistance for Businesses Recovering from Covid-19 Shutdowns
- OBI’s Paloma Sparks testified on Jan. 21 to the Senate Committee on Labor and Business about the 2021 unemployment insurance tax increases. She urged the committee to think creatively about solutions so that the burden of layoffs and UI utilization caused by government ordered shutdowns are not solely felt by businesses.