HB 3568, which would broadly limit employers’ use of quotas and performance metrics in warehouse and distribution center operations, is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Rules April 18. OBI and others in the growing coalition against this bill oppose it because its provisions are overly broad, impose burdensome requirements, and are redundant. Oregon OSHA and BOLI already enforce Oregon’s strict workplace safety and rest break laws.
I-5 Bridge Funding
The Joint Committee on Transportation held an informational hearing on a proposal to fund Oregon’s $1 billion contribution to the I-5 bridge replacement project using general obligation bonds. OBI was one of a handful of stakeholders invited to testify April 13 on HB 2098, a placeholder bill that will serve as the vehicle for the funding package. Another hearing is scheduled for April 20. Sharla Moffett’s testimony focused on the need to replace the functionally obsolete and seismically vulnerable bridge to move people and freight efficiently. It also stressed the need to approve a funding mechanism this session to make the project eligible for up to $3 billion in federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. OBI’s testimony noted concern about the impact the proposal might have on Oregon’s total bonding capacity, which is usually deployed to support a wide variety of projects in many different communities.
Two Bad Bills
Two bills opposed by OBI passed by narrow votes last week. HB 2057, which would allow employees of subcontractors to sue general contractors for unpaid wages, passed the House with only 31 votes. The bill would have the unintended consequence of limiting the entry of new construction businesses in Oregon instead of helping workers get paid. Meanwhile, HB 3471, which would bar employers from asking for no re-hire agreements in workers’ compensation settlements, passed the House on a party-line vote. Both now head to the Senate, where OBI will continue to oppose them.
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means is now halfway through its four-stop roadshow, a series of meetings outside of Salem to engage with the public about the state budget. The committee conducted a public hearing at Portland Community College on April 8 and one at the Newport Performing Arts Center on April 14. A meeting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg will take place on April 21, and the final leg of the roadshow will take place on April 28 at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario.
Employee Commuting Rules
On April 14, the Department of Environmental Quality presented draft rules at the fifth rulemaking advisory committee meeting on the Employee Commute Options (ECO) program. Rules are being updated for the existing ECO program, which was adopted in the late 1990s in response to high ozone levels in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. Current rules require employers with more than 100 workers at a worksite to reduce drive-alone commuting by 10% below a baseline. The draft rules propose a 20% reduction in employee commuting in that region.
The rules would expand the program to include all cities statewide with a population greater than 50,000 (there are seven such cities) and require a 15% reduction in employee commuting for employers new to the program. While these numbers may not seem onerous, the program will be difficult and costly to implement, particularly for employers with a primarily in-person workforce and those not located near safe public transit options.
How does it work? Employers must survey a minimum of 75% of their workforce every two years and develop a trip reduction plan that includes such options as telecommuting, free or subsidized transit passes or vanpools, daily stipends for carpoolers, onsite or nearby childcare and eliminating paid parking. Failing to achieve a trip reduction target would not be a violation, but employers would be required to revise their plans (i.e., add more commute options) and demonstrate a good faith effort to implement them. The proposal also requires employers to identify someone whose primary professional responsibility is to implement the ECO program. OBI has engaged heavily in this rulemaking and we are extremely concerned about the direction it is taking.
Plastics Recycling Rules
The sixth and final rules advisory committee (RAC) meeting for the first round of rulemaking for the 2021 Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act (RMA) occurred last week. The 2021 law requires a system-wide change designed to “make recycling easier for the public to use, expand access to recycling services, upgrade the facilities that sort recyclables, and create environmental benefits while reducing social and environmental harms, such as plastic pollution.” The new system will require producers and manufacturers of packaged items, paper products and food service ware to form producer responsibility organizations (PROs) to pay for most of these system changes. The RMA is very complex, and this new system will be as well. OBI’s work on these RACs is focused on supporting producers, haulers and recyclers to help address significant concerns about cost, timing and system responsibilities. We remain concerned that the monumental system changes will be very difficult to achieve in a cost-effective manner by the July 2025 implementation date. A public comment period will occur in May and June, and the second RAC will form and begin work in July.