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Oregon Supreme Court Rules against Walkout Senators

On Feb. 1 the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in favor of Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, upholding her decision to prohibit lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences in a session from running for re-election. The central dispute centered around the plain language of the measure vs. its expressed intent as it relates to which election year the prohibition affects. The state argued in an introductory brief that “None of petitioners’ arguments justify a departure from clear voter intent. Voters intended Measure 113 to bar legislators who accrue ten unexcused absences from serving their immediate term.” The Republican lawmakers have repeatedly said, “We believe the plain language of Measure 113 (allows) for members to run again in 2024 elections.”

As a result of the court’s ruling, the following legislators are prohibited from running for re-election:

  • Tim Knopp, R-Bend (election year: 2024)
  • Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction (election year: 2024)
  • Brian Boquist, R-Polk, Yamhill counties (election year: 2024)
  • Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls (election year: 2024)
  • Bill Hansell, R-Athena (election year: 2024)
  • Lynn Findley, R-Vale (election year: 2024)
  • Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles (election year: 2026)
  • Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek (election year: 2026)
  • Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer (election year: 2026)
  • Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook (election year: 2026)

The aftermath of the decision obviously will be significant. While some of these legislators had planned to retire at the end of their terms regardless of the outcome, others had not. Multiple competitive primaries likely will emerge following the decision. It’s also likely that a number of House Republicans will seek their now-open Senate seats. In the more immediate term, the decision could have major implications for the legislative session beginning on Feb. 5. Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp said days ago that if the court ruled against the Republican senators, his caucus would, “literally have no reason to show up…” for this year’s session.

Legislative Session Begins Today

The 2024 legislative session begins today and is constitutionally limited to 35 days, meaning it will end no later than March 10.

Legislators are expected to address Measure 110, which decriminalized the use of hard drugs and affects related addiction and behavioral health issues; consider significant funding and policy changes to spur housing construction; discuss the state’s complex education funding formula, and much more.

OBI, meanwhile, hopes to see progress on several important issues, including economic development, alignment of Oregon’s overlapping leave laws, and adjustments to Oregon’s pay-equity law that would make it easier for employers to hire and retain workers.

On Feb. 2, OBI’s government affairs and political affairs teams presented a preview of the coming session. Go here to watch a recording of the webinar.

The Capitol Connect newsletter will appear weekly during the session, whose rapid pace will generate many timely policy updates. They will appear here and on OBI’s 2024 legislative session web page, which will feature blog posts on key bills, OBI’s 2024 Policy Principles, the 2023 End of Session Report and more. Check it out here.

Federal Tax Connect

Like many state chambers and manufacturing associations, OBI supports the bipartisan tax legislation making its way through Congress. We are particularly supportive of the pro-growth provisions relating to immediate depreciation for federal tax purposes (rather than the current five-year amortization requirement).

Here’s why this is very important as we head into this year’s legislative session: OBI strongly supports Oregon’s continued connection to the federal tax code, something the Legislature does annually, usually without controversy. That is set to happen in February. There are rumors that some legislators are now considering a preemptive disconnect from the federal tax code to avoid any reduction in revenue to the state because of this altered depreciation allowance.

This is troubling on two fronts. First, it would further erode Oregon’s competitiveness relative to other states, particularly for research-intensive industries. Second, disconnection is a dramatic step that has a host of consequences well beyond expense depreciation. OBI is working with stakeholders and legislators to prevent such disconnection.

Notable News

Preschool Pause: Backers of a plan to put a universal preschool measure on the November ballot in Washington County now say they are reconsidering, after a recent round of polling suggested that voters are in a sour mood and highly skeptical of new taxes (The Oregonian).

BOLI Backlog: BOLI Commissioner Christina Stephenson will ask lawmakers this session for more funding to clear up the agency’s backlog of wage claims and civil rights claims. Among other things, the agency suffers from recruiting and retention problems (The Oregonian).

Portland Housing: The Portland City Council on Jan. 31 approved a slate of new policies intended to lower the cost of building new homes, including an expansion of tax breaks for new apartment buildings subject to the city’s inclusionary zoning mandate. The “regulatory relief” package would also relax 15 zoning and permitting requirements that developers must meet to build housing (The Oregonian).

Dairy Lawsuit: Last year, the Oregon Department of Agriculture changed its definition of a confined animal feeding operation, or CAFO, to include small dairy operations. That means small dairy operators soon will be subject to permitting regulations. On Jan. 24, four small dairy farmers in Oregon filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, asking a judge to stop ODA from enforcing the rule against small dairies (Statesman Journal).

Fentanyl Emergency: Gov. Tina Kotek and leaders from Portland and Multnomah County on Jan. 30 declared a 90-day state of emergency to address the fentanyl addiction and overdose crisis that is plaguing Portland’s central city (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

Treatment Beds: A new study suggests Oregon needs 3,000 new adult residential mental health beds, at an estimated construction cost of at least $500 million, to fill the chasm between its available supply of such beds and surging demand (The Oregonian).

Gas Stoves: Gas stoves can keep high-powered burners, oversize cast-iron grates and other features under new energy-efficiency standards completed Monday by the Energy Department. The final rules, which also cover electric stoves and reflect a September agreement between the appliance industry and environmental and consumer groups, turn down the heat on a debate industry critics said would have forced nearly all gas-stove models on the market to be redesigned (Wall Street Journal).

Bend SDCs: The Bend City Council was poised to give preliminary approval to certain changes to the city’s system development charges, or SDCs, on Jan. 17. Approval was tabled after concerns from local business owners, developers and organizations highlighted worries that increased fees would be passed along to customers. Follow-up discussion on the issue hasn’t been scheduled (The Bulletin).

Beverage Taxes: Oregon wine industry groups denounced the Oregon Health Authority for failing to publicize analysis OHA commissioned that showed big tax increase would likely have a small effect on heavy and binge drinking. The Oregon Winegrowers Association and Oregon Wine Council said in a news release they were “surprised and dismayed” at what they termed a coverup by OHA (Portland Business Journal).

Lawmaker Comments: An Oregon lawmaker suggested earlier this month that Muslims, atheists and other non-Christians are unfit to serve in elected office. State Rep. E. Werner Reschke, R-Malin, made the remarks Jan. 17 in an appearance on “Save The Nation.” Streamed on Facebook, the daily talk show is affiliated with the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, of which Reschke is a member (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Watch Recording of Webinar with Treasurer Tobias Read

On Jan. 25, Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read joined OBI Political Affairs Director Preston Mann to discuss his campaign to become Oregon’s next secretary of state. Read announced in September that he would seek the Democratic nomination for the state’s second highest elective office. The secretary of state oversees elections and audits as well as the Corporations Division. The office holder also replaces the governor should she or he leave office early.

Read was elected treasurer in 2016 and won re-election in 2020. He is prohibited by term limits from seeking re-election. Prior to serving as treasurer, Read represented Beaverton for a decade in the state House of Representatives.

A handful of the topics discussed during the webinar:

  • How the secretary of state can foster a more favorable business climate
  • What Read is hearing from county clerks
  • Campaign finance reform
  • Ranked choice voting
  • Independent redistricting

Go here to watch the webinar.

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:

  • HR Compliance Manuals: Help members comply with the rapidly changing world of employment laws and regulations through our partnership with hrsimple.
  • 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.