Newsletter website featured image

DEQ to Restart Climate Protection Program Rulemaking

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced Jan. 22 that it would not appeal a December ruling in which the Oregon Court of Appeals determined that the agency had violated disclosure requirements when developing rules for the Climate Protection Program. Instead, the agency will redo the rulemaking process, which typically takes about 12 months, it noted.

The issue was before the Court of Appeals thanks to legal action filed by OBI along with other business and business association stakeholders. That action was ultimately joined with two separate challenges to the rule — one by the state’s natural gas suppliers and one by the Western States Petroleum Association. Key to the challenge by OBI’s coalition were multiple important procedural and authority issues. The court’s ruling addressed only one of these many arguments. It did not weigh in on the others, as this violation alone was enough to determine that the program’s rules were invalid. Thus, simply reengaging in the same process and fixing this one issue would not be enough to remedy the other fatal flaws.

Following the announcement, OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms said, “We look forward to engaging with stakeholders in a robust policy development conversation in the appropriate venue and at the appropriate time.” She noted, however, that DEQ’s proposed rules “have already proven to be – and will continue to be – an inflexible and ultimately very costly path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” OBI will continue to work with other stakeholders in pursuit of a program that is practical, solutions-focused, and feasible both in terms of costs and available technology.

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.

Feb. 2 Webinar: Legislative Session Preview

Oregon’s 2024 legislative session will begin on Feb. 5 and end no later than March 10. During those 35 days, 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.

Join members of OBI’s government affairs and political affairs teams on Friday, Feb. 2, for a preview of the 2024 session. The webinar will run from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and allow plenty of time for questions.

Go here to register.

Policy and Rulemaking Update

Cleaner Air Oregon: On Jan. 24, the Department of Environmental Quality presented a five-year status report to the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) on Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO), a regulatory program adopted in 2018 in response to a U.S. Forest Service study showing elevated levels of heavy metals in moss. OBI and several business representatives spoke during the public forum, emphasizing the incredible complexity of the program, which involves high compliance costs as well as a protracted timeline. Business representatives told the EQC that costs for air consultants, attorneys and source testing ranged from $300,000 to more than $1 million – even before paying to install emissions control technology. One family owned, rural business spent $480,000 over a two-year period, which consumed its entire profit in both years. A different business spent nearly $900,000 evaluating emissions from its facility. An additional $6-8 million would have been required for emission controls. However, ordering and installing the equipment would not have been possible within the program’s enforceable deadlines. Ultimately, the business shut its Portland operations and shifted production to other facilities around the world. The testimony of businesses prompted at least two commissioners to ask the DEQ about the program’s costs and timeframe, which can stretch to five years. OBI will follow up with a letter to regulators and policymakers discussing needed program improvements.

Housing Bill: An adequate housing supply is critical for employers and employees in every part of the state. During the 2023 legislative session, OBI supported HB 3414, which would have simplified and streamlined the process by which communities make land available for housing construction. The bill died during the last days of the session. As part of her housing agenda, Gov. Tina Kotek will sponsor a bill containing similar provisions during the 2024 session. The bill concept still requires critical amendments, however. This likely will be a contentious bill, as it was in 2023, but OBI hopes that lawmakers will approve the needed housing reforms this year.

Contractor Bill: This session, the Legislature will consider a bill that would impose extremely onerous requirements on construction contracts for offshore wind projects unless contractors chose to enter into so-called workforce development agreements. Those agreements would require contractors to enter into project labor agreements, labor peace agreements and agreements to use domestic chains for manufactured products. While it would not impose project labor agreements throughout the construction industry, as SB 850 from the 2023 session would have, this bill would raise the cost of wind projects developed in Oregon waters, making it harder for Oregon to leverage the substantial investment the federal government has made in such projects. OBI will work to ensure that this bill does not become law.

Measure 110 Plan: The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response released a plan Jan. 23 to respond to soaring overdose deaths and widespread open-air drug use on Oregon streets. The plan includes a proposal to recriminalize the possession of most drugs by making possession a Class C misdemeanor. That would undo a key tenet of Measure 110, the novel decriminalization measure Oregon voters approved in 2020. The recriminalization proposal drew immediate rebuke from advocacy groups on the left who have formed a coalition called Oregonians for Recovery and Safety. They say it would mark a return to the failed war on drugs. Republicans and groups on the right, meanwhile, say the threat of being charged with a Class C misdemeanor doesn’t provide enough incentive for people with substance use disorder to seek treatment (Willamette Week). OBI supports legislation that will increase safety for downtown businesses, their employers and customers. We are concerned that the plan will do enough to have a noticeable impact but know that the proposal is not the final bill.

‘Hush-Hush’ Tax Study: This month, members of a legislatively mandated task force on alcohol prices and addiction has begun meeting to study the cost of alcoholism in Oregon and ways the state can beef up prevention and treatment services. One mandate of the task force is to examine the benefits and drawbacks of increasing taxes on wine and beer. Oregon’s Health Authority already knows the answer – but it’s kept the findings of a $60,000 study it commissioned hush hush. The agency never publicly released the 2021 ECONorthwest study, which had clear findings indicating that raising alcohol taxes would do little to curb heavy drinking and its impacts (The Oregonian).

House Speaker: House Democrats nominated Rep. Julie Fahey of Eugene to succeed Rep. Dan Rayfield as the next Oregon House speaker during a caucus meeting Jan. 22. Rayfield, a Democrat from Corvallis, will stay on as House speaker through the five-week short session that begins Feb. 5, meaning that Fahey won’t ascend to the speaker role until at least March. Even so, Democrats opted to vote for a new speaker during an evening meeting in Salem, settling on their succession plan ahead of the short session (The Oregonian).

Campaign Finance: Gov. Tina Kotek says campaign finance limits will not come up this legislative session, so voters will almost certainly decide the issue through one or more ballot measures in November. Oregon voters will likely face multiple measures, each of which would limit how much individuals and groups can donate to candidates and which may include provisions that allow for significant taxpayer-funded matching of contributions to statewide and legislative candidates (The Oregonian).

Notable News

Portland Recovery: As Portland’s comeback plateaus, some are talking about a different vision for the city’s core. They want a long-term plan that would accept that workers won’t return to their offices in large numbers and that planning for the downtown’s future needs to take that into account (The Oregonian). Meanwhile, The Oregonian also asks whether new tax incentives will encourage employers to retain their presence downtown.

Portland Crime: After years of record gun violence, Portland saw a drop in homicides and shootings in general in 2023. According to Portland Police Bureau data, Portland recorded 73 homicides in 2023 — 22 fewer than the record 95 homicides in 2022. It also saw a 16% decrease in non-fatal shootings, where a victim was only injured. And there was a 22% drop in overall shootings, recording 289 fewer shootings in 2023 compared to 2022. Other crimes, like assault, car theft, and burglary, also declined last year (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Insurance Opinion: The Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion in late December with little fanfare that could have a monumental impact on both the state’s insurance industry and consumers alike. In Moody v. Oregon Community Credit Union, a divided court affirmed a 2022 decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals allowing policyholders whose claims are wrongfully denied to collect not only what was owed to them under their insurance contract, but also damages for emotional distress (Portland Business Journal).

Graduation Rates: Oregon’s high school graduation rate plateaued in the pandemic’s wake, new data released Jan. 25 from the Oregon Department of Education shows. The 81.3% of the class of 2023 who graduated on time is identical to the rate posted by the class of 2022, which was Oregon’s second highest graduation rate (The Oregonian).

Hood River Bridge: The U.S. Department of Transportation has granted $200 million toward a Columbia River Gorge bridge project, covering more than one-third of the cost to rebuild the bridge. The Hood River-White Salmon Bridge received a federal grant toward replacing the 100-year-old span, which is named for the Oregon and Washington towns it connects. The bridge is expected to cost $520 million (The Oregonian).

Bend Teacher Contract: After seven months of contract talks, a mediator will be asked to help negotiate an agreement between Bend-La Pine Schools and the union that represents its 1,000 teachers, school psychologists and librarians (The Bulletin).

Enrollment Open for Business Week

Registration is now open for Business Week, a seven-day summer program for rising 10th through 12th graders held at Oregon State University.

Administered by the Oregon Business Academy, 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 is $1,495, but scholarship support is available for qualifying students. Registration will end March 31.

Learn more about Business Week and register here.

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

Jan. 31 Webinar: U.S. Chamber Small Business Update

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley will discuss the state of small business in 2024 and highlight topics and issues every small business owner should be aware of including:

  • regulatory issues affecting small businesses
  • 2024 economic outlook and trends
  • updates on ongoing challenges and issues affecting small businesses
  • the thriving startup boom and how entrepreneurs can leverage resources available to help start, run and grow their businesses.

The webinar will begin at 9 a.m. PST. Go here to register.

OBI’s Angela Wilhelms among PBJ’s Executives of the Year

The Portland Business Journal has named OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms one of its 2024 Executives of the Year. Wilhelms and her fellow honorees were chosen by a selection committee from many community nominations, according to the Journal. They’ll be honored during an April 18 lunch event at the Hilton in downtown Portland.

The honorees include executives from several OBI members, including:

  • Don Antonucci, Providence Health Plan
  • Terry Peterson, Pacific West Bank
  • Nicole Janssen, Denton Plastics
  • Josh Lyons, KeyBank
  • Kregg Arntson, PGE Foundation
  • Andrew McGough, Worksystems Inc.
  • Drew Anderson, Umpqua Bank
  • Dan Occhipinti, Pacific Seafood Group
  • Chris Hemmings, Summit Bank
  • Andrew Hoan, Portland Metro Chamber

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.