Newsletter website featured image

Lawmakers Hear Campaign Finance Proposal

Oregon is one of a few states that have no limits for campaign finance contributions. Instead, Oregon has a longstanding tradition of robust transparency with regard to campaign contributions and other money spent on behalf of candidates. Voters, the media, candidates, activists and anyone else can find who gives what to a candidate.

For many years, legislators and campaign finance reform advocates have taken stabs at putting limits in place. OBI has consistently said that it has no objection to limits on contributions as long as a new system is fair, constitutional and easy for everyone to follow. Further, OBI has a strong desire to see Oregon’s tradition of transparency maintained, if not enhanced through improved reporting tools.

Advocates behind Initiative Petition 9 are gathering signatures to put an incredibly complex system on the ballot for voter approval in November. This system would establish limits so low that we’d likely see a proliferation of dark money in elections, just like at the federal level. Further, OBI believes many of the measure’s provisions are unconstitutional, including those that exclude businesses and business associations (like OBI, industry groups and your local chamber) from directly supporting candidates.

Fortunately, legislators are interested in a better path forward and have asked OBI and other organizations representing employers, workers and various issues to come together to develop a campaign finance system that meets the requirements of constitutionality, access to participation, fairness, and—importantly—enhanced disclosure and transparency.

On Feb. 23, such a proposal received a hearing before the House Committee on Rules. Though HB 4024 took shape quickly during this year’s legislative session, it is the culmination many years of conversations and draws language from prior bills as well as current proposed ballot measures.

The proposal largely adopts federal campaign contribution limits, allowing candidates to maintain control over their own messages, as OBI Director of Political Affairs Preston Mann testified.

The proposal itself is highly detailed, as any proposal that first imposes limits must be, but it is not complicated. At a high level, it adopts federal limits for contributions made by persons and various committee types to candidate and other political committees, and it creates small donor committees to allow grassroots organizations to leverage their collective strength.

As evidence of the fairness with which the proposal treats traditional opponents, OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms testified jointly with Felisa Hagins, political director of the Service Employees International Union Local 49. Among other things, their testimony provided context for this session’s reform proposal.

“We would likely not be here today were it not for the very real likelihood that – absent action by this Legislature – Oregonians will face competing ballot measures this November,” Wilhelms explained. “This competition could result in a messy combination of laws that will add clutter, confusion and chaos into Oregon’s campaign finance system.”

Not only does HB 4024 preserve the ability of candidates to raise enough money to make themselves heard, but it funds much-needed improvements to ORESTAR, Oregon’s antiquated online disclosure system and requires the secretary of state to generate certain reports for the public.

The proposal discussed Feb. 23 is not final. Further amendments are forthcoming to fix drafting errors, further clarify intent and improve the proposal based on robust stakeholder input.

To learn more about HB 4024, go to the Legislature’s website here. Go here to watch a recording of the Feb. 23 committee hearing during which Wilhelms testified. A user-friendly grid showing proposed contribution and spending limits can be found here.

Share Your Thoughts on Oregon’s Business Climate

The Oregon Legislature is in the middle of another session, state agency rulemaking is underway for many new and revised policies, and a consequential election is around the corner.

Please take a few minutes and complete OBI’s annual business survey. OBI, in partnership with the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce and your local chamber, wants to hear from businesses across the state about a range of issues related to the state’s business climate, including taxes, regulations and the cost of labor and supplies.

Your responses will help us make the case for bills that help promote a healthy private sector and against bills that will limit the ability of businesses to operate and hamper economic growth.

This survey should take just a few minutes to complete, and an individual company’s answers will remain confidential. Go here to participate.

Legislative Updates

Feb. 22 marked the half-way point of the 2024 session, which must end on or before March 10. Many speculate that legislators will try to end on Friday, March 8. Internal legislative deadlines have driven a fast pace in this short session. Many bills died on Feb. 19, the deadline for bills assigned to policy committees in their chamber of origin to pass out of those committees. Many bills survived, either because they were indeed passed as required or they were in (or sent to) a committee exempt from those deadlines. Several key bills for OBI are in these exempt committees. There is a different rhythm and tempo at this point of the session as most of the meat-and-potatoes committee work has been completed and legislators are spending an increasing amount of time on more complicated issues or on the floors of both chambers debating bills.

Measure 110 Reform

One of the Legislature’s stated goals this session is to reform Measure 110 so communities can respond to Oregon’s drug crisis, which has caused homelessness to explode statewide, exacerbated urban crime and led to a 41% increase in overdose deaths from 2022-23. The first drafts of the bill, HB 4002, were widely panned by law enforcement, local governments and business leaders for being too weak to get people off the streets and into treatment. Many viewed imposing only a class C misdemeanor, which would carry a maximum of only 30 days in jail for possession of hard drugs, as only slightly more effective than current law at moving offenders into treatment. The newest draft of HB 4002 will receive a public hearing on Monday, Feb. 26. This version would end Oregon’s drug decriminalization experiment and impose a new “unclassified” misdemeanor that would carry a jail sentence of up to six months for drug possession. It also would recognize the voters’ supposed intent to establish a health response to the crisis by offering offenders 18 months of probation instead of forcing them to enter the criminal justice system immediately. This would ensure offenders have multiple chances to complete treatment. With those changes, along with provisions making it easier to prosecute drug dealers and significant investments in behavioral health services, law enforcement and local governments are widely believed to be in support of the bill. OBI believes that changes to Measure 110 must give law enforcement and communities the tools they need to combat Oregon’s drug crisis. OBI will support the newest draft of HB 4002, which creates those tools.

Taxpayer Confidentiality

OBI believes that state law must state clearly that the public disclosure of taxpayer information is prohibited at both the state and local levels in Oregon. The issue arose following of a recent public records request for taxpayer information in Portland. The city denied the request, and the issue is currently tied up in litigation. OBI is leading the effort to pass amendments to HB 4031 to clarify the existing prohibitions against public disclosure of taxpayer information. It is important for the Legislature to act this session. The amendments received a public hearing last week, and OBI expects an informational hearing this week prior to a vote. OBI is optimistic this bill will move this session.

Daylight Savings

SB 1548, which would establish standard time in Oregon year-round, passed unanimously out of a Senate committee Feb. 15. The bill fared less well when it went to the full Senate for a vote, failing on Feb. 20 by a 15-15 vote. The split was bipartisan, with Democrats and Republicans on both sides. Arguments in favor focused primarily on the perceived health benefits and convenience of not changing clocks twice a year. Arguments in opposition focused almost exclusively on the challenges of being out of sync with neighboring states and the potential ramifications for travel, border businesses, and employees and customers who commute across state lines. After dying on the Senate floor, the bill was sent to the Senate Rules Committee, where amendments were introduced that would move Oregon to permanent standard time only when California and Washington did the same. SB 1548 is scheduled for a vote in that committee Feb. 27.

Medical Practice

OBI is closely monitoring HB 4130A, which seeks to strengthen Oregon’s Corporate Practice of Medicine (CPOM) doctrine to ensure that medical professionals control the operation of medical practices. On Feb. 19, the -6 amendment dropped just prior to the work session in the House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care. The committee adopted the amendment and sent the bill to the House floor, where it was approved 42-12. (OBI is told that several legislators voted “yes” only to move the bill forward in hope that it would receive needed fixes in the Senate.) While the -6 amendment addressed concerns raised by OBI and the Secretary of State’s Office about the compliance process and administrative dissolution of corporations, the amendment created new concerns. The sponsor has clearly indicated an intention to give affected practices seven years to comply before enforcement action can kick in. However, language in the -6 amendment would open them up to enforcement immediately if the secretary of state so chose. OBI has flagged the problem and will work on it in the Senate. Until then, OBI is back to being opposed.

Canola Farming

HB 4059 passed the House and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Committee this week. OBI had concerns about the bill and several amendments due to tight restrictions and punitive enforcement fines on canola crops. Ultimately, the -9 amendment was adopted, reverting to current regulatory restrictions on canola crops with a sunset in 2028. While the amendment does not resolve the overall concern about limiting canola production, it avoids inappropriate, permanent regulation on canola until a reasonable, comprehensive solution can be found. OBI was concerned in part that the bill went significantly beyond recommendations by the Oregon Department of Agriculture canola work group and had no scientific basis. OBI objected more broadly to the bill’s potential impact on other genetically engineered (GE) agricultural products since there is global scientific support for GE crops and their role in meeting future food production needs. OBI filed testimony opposing the bill.

Hazardous Materials

HB 4044 requires the Department of Environmental Quality to conduct a study on earthquake-induced inhalation risks statewide. It is modeled after a study commissioned by Multnomah County and authored by Portland State University last fall. Although the potential impacts described in the report are serious and earthquake preparedness is critical, the report shows significant fear-based bias and raises more questions than it answers. The bill is clearly intended to gather information for future regulation at industrial and manufacturing facilities, which would add significant compliance costs. Ironically, facilities that use highly hazardous substances are regulated already by the EPA’s Risk Management Program. OBI testified against the bill and has met with bill sponsor to discuss its concerns. The sponsor insists that the study is needed, and OBI will seek to reframe the study, eliminate bias and narrow the scope so the resulting report is balanced and useful. The bill has been sitting in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means for several weeks, and its chances of moving are unknown.

Notable News

Intel Foundry: Intel named a major contract manufacturing client Feb. 21, announcing that it will make custom chips for Microsoft. It’s a big step forward for Intel’s new contracting business, which the company calls Intel Foundry (The Oregonian).

Semiconductor Workforce: If Oregon wants to improve its status among the nation’s leaders in semiconductor manufacturing, it’s going to need the workforce to get there. A new study from ECONorthwest looked at the workforce gaps the state needs to fill to meet this goal (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

School Enrollment: The number of students attending public school in Oregon hasn’t bottomed out yet, four years after a pandemic-fueled exodus. Before the pandemic, about 580,000 students attended public school in Oregon. Now, there are around 547,400, according to state data, which is based on fall attendance records (The Oregonian).

Drug Poll: Oregonians remain strongly in favor of rolling back drug decriminalization and support tougher penalties for drug possession, echoing the results of a poll taken six months ago, according to a new survey commissioned by proponents of repealing Measure 110 (The Oregonian).

DA Contribution: The Drug Policy Alliance, the deep-pocketed drug policy reform group that backed Oregon’s Measure 110, has given Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt his biggest contribution yet in his bid to retain the office (Willamette Week).

Fentanyl Deaths: Yearly fentanyl overdose deaths in Oregon grew by an estimated 1,500% since before the pandemic, by far the largest increase in the United States, federal data show (The Oregonian).

Tax Investigation: The Oregon Health Authority apologized last month for failing to publish a study showing an increase in beer and wine taxes would barely diminish harms from excessive drinking, saying officials inadvertently lost track of doing so amid a staggering COVID workload. That’s not true, public records show (The Oregonian).

Bend Tree Code: Bend loves its trees. Now, its City Council will have a chance to pass rules making it more difficult for property developers to get rid of them. A special committee developing a new tree code is recommending certain percentages of trees be protected on private land (The Bulletin).

PGE Rates: Portland General Electric expects to file a new general rate case soon. What that means for electricity prices remains to be seen, but with affordability concerns top of mind, company officials indicated the request will be narrowly tailored to bring two big battery energy storage projects into rates (Portland Business Journal).

UPS Layoffs: UPS plans to eliminate its day sorting operations at a Swan Island facility in Portland, putting 321 mostly part-time employees out of work, the company notified state officials on Feb. 20. The company said the closure was due to a decline in package volume (The Oregonian).

Green Hydrogen: Nearly a year after Alcoa Corporation announced an agreement to sell its closed Intalco Works aluminum smelter to a Canadian energy company, the prospective buyer continues to hold its cards close to the vest. Executives with Calgary-based AltaGas Ltd. are now offering a few more clues about their plans to redevelop the sprawling complex near Ferndale, Wash., to produce “green” hydrogen (Salish Current).

Solar Contributions: In the week prior to the 35-day session of the Oregon Legislature, a little-known political action committee whipped out its checkbook. Records show the Clean Energy for Oregon PAC contributed nearly $100,000 on Jan. 29 to lawmakers crucial to the prospects of a bill that would remove state oversight of new energy facilities proposed on federal lands. The Clean Energy for Oregon PAC is nearly entirely funded by a single company: NewSun Energy, a Bend- and Tucson-based solar developer (Willamette Week).

Campaign Updates: Metro Council President Lynn Peterson announced Feb. 20 that she is withdrawing from the 5th Congressional District race, setting up a head-to-head competition between state Rep. Janelle Bynum and Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the May Democratic primary (The Oregonian). Former Portland Mayor Sam Adams is preparing to run for a seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. Adams, who served as Portland mayor from 2009 to 2013, last sought a political comeback when he ran for City Council in 2020 (Willamette Week). The Democratic primary for Oregon state treasurer is growing increasingly competitive with the addition Feb. 22 of a third candidate, state Sen. Jeff Golden of Ashland. Golden confirmed will run against another Democratic lawmaker, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner of Portland and Jeff Gudman, a former city councilman from Lake Oswego who previously ran as a Republican (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

Common Sense Institute Releases Oregon Reports

The recently launched Oregon chapter of the nonprofit Common Sense Institute on Feb. 22 released its first Oregon Economic Competitiveness Report, which displays Oregon’s ranking relative to other states according to seven metrics. The index covers a 12-year period that began in 2011. Oregon’s overall rank in 2023 was 27th nationally.

The metrics used by the report include gross domestic product per capita, labor force participation rate for people aged 18-64, net business creation, inequality, the percentage of people in poverty, median household income and net interstate migration.

This month, the Oregon chapter also released chart showing state and regional price increases for basic consumer goods and services between 2002 and 2023. The chart is the centerpiece of the organization’s “Prices in the 21st Century – Oregon” report, which uses Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Gasoline, home values and college tuition experienced the greatest cost increases during this period. All of these, as well as the cost of household energy, medical care and food, outpaced inflation. By contrast, the costs of recreation, household furnishings, apparel and durables increased at a slower rate than inflation.

The Common Sense Institute was founded in 2010 by business and community leaders concerned about the partisan tenor of policymaking in Colorado. CSI develops data-driven policy analyses, including recent reports on men’s labor force participation in Colorado, the 20-year transformation of the state budget, and the impact of commercial property taxes, to name just a few.

CSI’s Oregon chapter is the nonpartisan organization’s fourth. In addition to Colorado, it operates in Arizona and Iowa. The institute has affiliates in Indiana and Utah.

OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms serves on the Oregon chapter’s board of directors.

OBI Accepting Visionary Award Nominations

Is there a person or organization you’d like to nominate for OBI’s highest honor, the Oregon Visionary Award? If so, please let us know.

The Oregon Visionary Award recognizes people, employers and organizations that strengthen Oregon’s economy and contribute significantly to shared prosperity by developing solutions to significant problems. Winners are honored at OBI’s annual Vision Oregon Event, which will take place this year on Oct. 23 at the Portland Art Museum.

The 2023 recipients of the Oregon Visionary Award are Families First Childcare Center and the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center (OMIC R&D). Go here to learn more about these organizations. Even better, watch the videos shared at the 2023 Vision Oregon Event. You can find the Families First Childcare Center video here and the OMIC R&D video here.

Please send nominations for the 2024 award to obi@oregonbusinessindustry.com, and be sure to explain how nominees have contributed to shared prosperity by developing solutions to significant problems.

Oregon Business Academy Seeks Volunteers

The Oregon Business Academy is looking for volunteers from businesses to help with this summer’s Business Week, a seven-day summer program for rising 10th through 12th graders held at Oregon State University.

Business Week brings together leaders from a variety of industries to help educate and inspire Oregon’s future workforce. Volunteers can serve in various roles, including as company advisers, judges and mock interviewers. Go here to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

Business Week teaches the fundamentals of building and running a company. Teams of participating students create and run companies, compete against other student companies, explore career fields and meet some of Oregon’s top executives. They also get a taste of college life by living on campus.

Business Week is offering two options, June 23-29 and July 28-Aug. 3. Enrollment for participating students is $1,495, but scholarship support is available for qualifying students. Registration will end March 31.

Learn more about Business Week here.

OBI is a proud supporter of the Oregon Business Academy. Check out our 2023 profile here.

Check Out OBI’s Member Benefits

OBI offers members a range of programs that can save money or help small businesses offer benefits normally available only to much larger companies. Benefit programs include:

  • HealthChoice: Helps businesses with fewer than 100 employees offer comprehensive health-care benefits through our partnership with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon.
  • CompSAFE: Helps eligible companies enjoy workers’ compensation discounts through SAIF Corporation.
  • Fuel Program: Helps members save fuel costs through our partnership with Ed Staub & Sons.
  • ODP Business Solutions: Helps OBI members save money on office furniture, supplies and other services.
  • LegalPLUS: OBI members receive 15 minutes of free legal consulting per month from Innova Legal Advisors.

Go here to learn about all of OBI’s member benefits.