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Looking Forward to Challenges, Opportunities of a New Year

Happy New Year!

As we look ahead to the coming year, the OBI team is excited, focused and ready.

2024 will bring another legislative session, more state agency rulemaking and an enormously consequential election. The state’s employers will continue to face many challenges, including public safety, the difficulty of attracting and retaining workers, rising prices, a growing tax burden, a constantly shifting and shockingly complicated regulatory environment, and more.

The team at OBI remains resolved in delivering on our promise to you, our members. As the voice of business in Salem, we will continue to advocate for pro-growth policies that would allow Oregon to reclaim its position as a competitive economic engine, a place where job creators are appreciated and allowed to thrive.

I won’t belabor all of the work we have planned here. The article would be too long, and we’ll keep you in the loop as projects unfold. You can always find the latest at www.oregonbusinessindustry.com.

Today, I simply want to say, “Thank you.”

It is our pleasure to advocate every day for a healthy, prosperous economy. Sure, such advocacy is more difficult on some days than others – especially in Oregon. But that’s part of what motivates us.

The rest of our motivation comes from you. Knowing that we represent employers of all sizes, in all industries, and from all parts of our great state — all of which are driving the local and state economy forward — is humbling and inspiring. And we cannot do it without your membership and support.

The engagement of members is critical as well. Please keep us posted about the impact of state policy on your business. Consider telling colleagues, vendors, business partners and others about OBI and the work we do. Consider supporting the OBI Foundation or OBI Candidate PAC to help further leverage our association’s collective strength.

Again, thank you. Thank you for your membership, your engagement and for your work driving Oregon’s economic prosperity.

Here’s to a successful 2024!

Sincerely,

Angela Wilhelms

President & CEO

Appeals Court Invalidates State Climate Program Rules

The Oregon Court of Appeals issued its opinion Dec. 20 in the challenge to the Climate Protection Program. The court did not analyze all of the arguments brought by challengers. It analyzed one and stopped there, finding that the Environmental Quality Commission violated procedural requirements for certain notifications. For that reason alone, the court determined, the rules are invalid.

By way of background, three challenges were filed and then combined: one from OBI and a coalition of businesses and business groups, one from the three natural gas suppliers in Oregon, and one from the Western States Petroleum Association. While the court ruled on procedural grounds, OBI believes that other fatal flaws in the agency’s authority and promulgation exist as well. However, the court did not discuss various other arguments raised by appellants because its narrow analysis was itself enough to invalidate the rules.

Thanks to the groups that joined OBI in this litigation, and thanks to the team at Stoel Rives for their work. That work will continue. The EQC can ask the Oregon Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals’ decision and, as noted, there are other issues raised by challengers. In the meantime, OBI will continue to work with a coalition of stakeholders on policy proposals that are practical, solutions-focused, and feasible both in terms of available technology and costs.

Feb. 2 Webinar: Legislative Session Preview

Oregon’s 2024 legislative session will begin on Feb. 5 and end lot later than March 10. During those 35 days, legislators are expected to address Measure 110, which decriminalize the use of hard drugs and affects related addiction and behavioral health issues; consider significant funding to ease 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, leave-law alignment and adjustments to Oregon’s pay-equity law that will 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.

Jan. 25 Webinar: Q&A with Treasurer Tobias Read

On Jan. 25, Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read will join 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.

The webinar will run from 10-11 a.m. Following introductory remarks, Read will answer questions from webinar attendees.

Go here to register.

Wilhelms Op-Ed Urges Lawmakers to Hit ‘Pause’ on New Taxes

In a Dec. 24 Oregonian op-ed, OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms urged state lawmakers to commit to a multiyear moratorium on new taxes. Wilhelms and coauthor Jason Brandt, president and CEO of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, cited the recommendations of the Portland Central City Task Force, which determined that recent increases in local and regional taxes had eroded the city’s competitiveness and contributed to Multnomah County’s outmigration.

Rapidly escalating state taxes similarly have affected employers from Ontario to Klamath Falls, Wilhelms and Brandt wrote. So, while conditions might be particularly difficult in Portland, they’re tough all over.

Wilhelms and Brandt pointed to an Ernst & Young study commissioned by the Oregon Business & Industry Research and Education Foundation, which determined that Oregon’s state business tax burden increased a staggering 43% between 2019 and 2022. Oregon’s combined state and local business tax burden is now 8% above the national average and exceeds those in neighboring states California, Idaho and Washington.

In addition to calling for a temporary halt to new taxes, Wilhelms and Brandt urged legislators to establish a state-level version of a tax advisory group recommended by the Portland task force. The city advisory group would review local and regional taxes and recommend changes needed to maintain economic competitiveness. Creating a state-level advisory panel is not a new idea. The Legislature in 2023 considered a bill, SB 45, that would have created a task force on tax competitiveness to suggest changes that would improve the state’s business climate.

Due Date Extended for Oregon Civics Bee Sign-Ups

The essay due date for the inaugural Oregon Civics Bee has been extended to Jan. 22. This change gives participants an extra two weeks to pen an essay of up to 500 words that identifies a community problem and proposes a solution.

The contest, which offers cash prizes of up to $1,000, is open to middle-schoolers throughout the state. The bee’s top 20 essayists will be invited to Salem to participate in the Oregon Civics Bee’s quiz competition, which will take place May 30 in Willamette University’s Hudson Hall. The Oregon Civics Bee champion will be invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s National Civics Bee in the fall.

The top three finishers at the Oregon Civics Bee will receive cash prizes. First place will earn $1,000, second place $750 and third place $500. The winner of the National Civics Bee will receive $10,000.

Essays should be submitted online using the portal on the Civics Bee website (see link below).

If you’d like to spread the word about the Bee, OBI has created a flyer you can send to employees, organizations or families you know whose middle-schoolers might like a chance to flex some civics muscles and perhaps earn a cash prize.

Go here for the Civics Bee website

Go here for the Civics Bee flyer

Policy and Rulemaking Updates

Warehouse Bill: During the 2023 legislative session, OBI and allied business groups worked to prevent the passage of laws inappropriately regulating work environments and imposing new liability for discrimination based on caste and age. While the Oregon Legislature will not reconsider the bills on caste or age discrimination during the upcoming session, OBI has learned that the bill imposing new liability for so-called hostile work environments at warehouse jobsites will be back. This year’s draft is more workable than last year’s, as it would not impose liability for arguably any employee performance expectation or create a private right of action. However, it still would limit employers’ use of quotas and restrict how businesses manage employees who can’t meet those requirements. OBI and other groups are working to ensure this bill does not needlessly burden Oregon’s supply chain, which would increase prices and delay the delivery of products to customers.

Title V Report: The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) finalized a report on the Title V air quality permitting program fee structure in the waning days of 2023. The report was required by HB 3229, which passed during the 2023 session. The law increases fees for Title V permit holders by 83% over the 2023-2025 biennium. The report describes the Title V program, challenges with existing fee structures and potential fee structures that could make program funding more stable and predictable. The agency does not make recommendations on preferred fee structures and notes that it will continue to engage in conversations with Title V permit holders and other interested parties as it prepares the 2025-2027 agency request budget.

State of the State: The Northwest Environmental Business Council will hold its annual State of the State event Jan. 20. Panelists, including OBI’s Sharla Moffett, DEQ Director Leah Feldon and others, will discuss various regulatory and legislative environmental initiatives. The event often features spirited conversation among state regulators, industry and environmental activists. Click here to register for this year’s event.

Notable News

Microchip Grant: OBI member Microchip Technology won $162 million in subsidies Thursday from the federal CHIPS Act, including $72 million for an $800 million expansion already underway at Microchip’s semiconductor factory in Gresham (The Oregonian).

Bridge Cost: Planners for the effort to replace the Interstate 5 bridge revealed Jan. 3 that it is going to be more expensive than previously thought. Program leader Greg Johnson didn’t put a number on the growing price tag, but he said the replacement project is falling victim to a “continuing creep of costs” (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Rent Assistance Audit: Oregon’s housing agency wasn’t prepared to manage an emergency rental assistance program that spent $426 million during the COVID pandemic and still can’t determine how many Oregonians were helped by the money, according to a scathing new audit (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

New Laws: New Oregon laws that took effect Jan. 1 are aimed at the state’s biggest crises and needs, from affordable housing to the exploding fentanyl addiction crisis to mental health (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

Legislative Priorities: Housing, behavioral health, drug addiction and education will be the clear priorities for the upcoming five-week legislative session, top ranking lawmakers say (The Oregonian).

Energy ‘Droughts’: Drops in solar and wind energy production, also known as energy droughts, could potentially last for hours in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Portland Property Taxes: The commissioners overseeing the city of Portland’s parks and fire bureaus are exploring placing an $800 million joint fire and parks bond on the November 2024 ballot. If passed, the property tax bond would fund repairs of existing facilities, among other capital projects (Willamette Week).

Corporate Transparency Act Will Affect Millions of Businesses

The Corporate Transparency Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, will affect millions of small businesses across the country. Notably, it requires businesses that meet certain criteria to submit a Beneficial Ownership Information Report to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has produced an article that outlines what small businesses should know about the law. It’s worth checking out. You can find it here. A Treasury Department press release can be found here.

The Corporate Transparency Act is intended to combat illicit activity such as tax fraud, money laundering and financing for terrorism, according to the Chamber. To do that, it captures information about beneficial owners with specific U.S. businesses operating in or accessing the country’s market. Beneficial owners are people who, directly or indirectly, have a significant ownership stake in a company. They must own at least 25% of a company’s shares or exert a comparable level of control over the company’s equity.

Businesses will not be assessed a fee for submitting Beneficial Ownership Information Reports, according to the U.S. Chamber, and electronic forms will be available on the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s site.

Welcome, New OBI Members

Welcome to the employers below, who joined OBI in December:

  • Advanced Mechanical, Inc.
  • Thompson Pump & Irrigation, Inc.
  • MP Plumbing Co.
  • DCN Management
  • Arock Technologies
  • LEVER Architecture
  • WT Equipment, Inc.
  • 4th Dimension Recovery Center
  • AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP
  • Umpqua Aggregate Resources Excavating & Paving LLC
  • Impact NW
  • NW Total Home
  • Siri Produce
  • Pro-Gro Mixes & Materials
  • Impact of Oregon
  • Meadows Outdoor Advertising
  • Ramboll
  • RDD Enterprises LLC
  • Beaverton Foods
  • Coastal Home Health & Hospice

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.