The Portland Business Alliance released the annual State of Economy report it commissions. OBI is proud to support this work as part of the Value of Jobs Coalition, which includes PBA, OBI, the Oregon Business Council, Greater Portland Inc. and the Port of Portland. The report is sobering. You can see the findings here, including a supplement on the state of downtown and Portland’s central city. Among other things, the report quantifies the migration of Portland-area residents to Clark County, Wash., which features lower taxes. The report has received quite a bit of media coverage and has some elected officials taking our state’s competitiveness seriously.
Semiconductors and More
The first comprehensive legislative concept put in front of the Joint Semiconductor Committee was inadequate. OBI and other stakeholders have been aggressively lobbying to improve the package by making the eventual legislative proposal consistent with the recommendations issued last summer by the Oregon Semiconductor Competitiveness Task Force. This includes necessary land use and tax incentive reform. OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms testified on Feb. 22 about the good first steps and the need to do more. OBI also remains committed to make sure that this package is not just about semiconductors, but about a healthy ecosystem for manufacturing of all types. Scott Bruun will testify Feb. 27 on SB 4, the primary vehicle for the package.
Throughout the week, meanwhile, Bruun will testify on a host of other bills in OBI’s Growth and Innovation Roadmap that are important not just to the semiconductor conversation, but economic development and overall competitiveness. These include HB 2257 and HB 2663, which would extend and fund Oregon’s Industrial Site Readiness Program; SB 134, which would extend the sunset of Oregon’s enterprise zone program to 2032; and SB 699, an R&D tax credit bill that should be amended to include the full recommendations of the task force.
Tax Competitiveness Task Force
Scott Bruun testified in support of SB 45 before the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. Another bill in OBI’s Growth and Innovation Roadmap, SB 45 would create the Oregon Tax Competitiveness Task Force to analyze all aspects of Oregon’s current tax system, compare that to other states, and then make policy recommendations to the Legislature to improve Oregon’s competitive position. OBI is optimistic that the committee chair is interested in moving the bill.
Labor Peace Agreements
The House Committee on Business and labor will hold a public hearing on HB 3183 on Feb. 27. The bill would require an applicant for any OLCC-related cannabis license or renewal to consent to a labor peace agreement. LPAs are effectively contracts between an employer and a union where the employer agrees to remain neutral during a union organizing campaign. It is already illegal for employers to interfere with employees who exercise their rights relating to organizing. This legislation is likely preempted by the National Labor Relations Act.
A public hearing on HB 3152 is scheduled for March 1. The bill targets natural gas consumers by eliminating programs that incentivize upgrades to high efficiency natural gas infrastructure in residential buildings. It also would establish the Public Utilities Commission as an environmental regulator rather than a utility regulator and prohibit ratepayer funds from being used to install natural gas line extensions to residences. OBI will testify in opposition.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Environment will hear SB 546, which would require the Oregon Health Authority to create a list of high priority chemicals used in cosmetic products. This bill would broadly disfavor “classes of chemicals” and would result in Oregon regulating cosmetics more than any other state except for California. The “classes of chemicals” approach is not rooted in science and would lump together chemicals even if there were no proven harm. The bill likely would serve as a first step in a series of much more burdensome regulations.