Jobs Report: Oregon added 8,700 jobs in June, well above the average rate of about 6,200 over the preceding 12 months, according to The Oregonian. The unemployment rate in June was 3.6%.
Manufacturing Jobs: Oregon’s manufacturing sector has recovered almost all of the jobs it lost during the pandemic, according to The Oregonian. Manufacturing wages have increased as well, rising 8.4% during the past year.
Tech Employment: Tech employment in Oregon has surpassed the level set during the dot-com peak, according to The Oregonian. A boom in semiconductor jobs has driven the recent surge.
Semiconductor Bill: The U.S. Senate on July 19 advanced a bill that provides an unprecedented investment in the domestic semiconductor industry. According to the Portland Business Journal, the CHIPS Act needs an additional vote in the Senate and a vote in the House, both of which could happen next week.
Learn about the New Paid Leave Oregon Program
Paid Leave Oregon, formerly known as the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program, will host weekly community conversations via Zoom through the end of August to help employers, employees and others learn more about the program, which goes into effect Jan. 1.
Tuesdays, 3-4 p.m.: Conversaciones Comunitarias de Licencia Pagada (Zoom meeting held in Spanish)
Thursdays, 3-4 p.m.: Community Conversations about Paid Leave (ASL and Spanish interpretation provided)
Fridays, 10-11 a.m.: Community Conversations about Paid Leave (ASL and Spanish interpretation provided)
To register, please click on the meeting. If you need to participate by phone, Zoom will provide you with the conference line date above number after you register. If you need an accommodation, including language translation and interpretation, please email email@example.com no later than three business days before the forum with your accommodation request. Note: These are not OBI-sponsored events. Any questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
OBI has held three webinars so far on the new program, two of which provide a general overview of the program and the third an overview of the program’s equivalent plan option. This option allows employers to meet the requirements of the paid leave law without participating in the state’s program.
Recordings of overview webinars can be found here and here. The presented content is the same in these two webinars, but the questions from participants differ. A recording of the equivalent plans webinar can be found here.
Paid Leave Oregon will be funded by a 1% tax on wages, of which 40% will be paid by employers and 60% by employees. Contributions will begin on Jan. 1, 2023. Employees may begin to apply for benefits on Sept. 3, 2023. OBI remains involved in the rulemaking associated with this program. We have a number of concerns, including the program’s treatment of equivalent plans and its complicated and potentially burdensome interaction with the Oregon Family Leave Act and Family and Medical Leave Act.
Follow OBI’s Manufacturing and Innovation Roadshow
From Aug. 3 to Aug. 17, OBI’s Manufacturing Council of Oregon will introduce policymakers and community leaders to more than 20 manufacturers across the state, underscoring the importance of this very diverse sector, its extraordinary contributions to Oregon’s economy and the policies necessary for its continued success.
The inaugural Manufacturing and Innovation Roadshow and its signature bus will visit makers of semiconductors, tools, food products, dental equipment and much more during a journey that will touch at least 15 counties. The Roadshow will begin with a tour of the Silicon Forest before heading to the coast and Willamette Valley. It will visit southern, central and northern Oregon and conclude at the Port of Portland, Oregon’s gateway to the world.
Don’t Miss OBI’s Oct. 19 Vision Oregon Event
Don’t miss OBI’s second annual Vision Oregon event, which will take place Oct. 19 at the Portland Art Museum from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. At the event, OBI will present its highest honor, the Oregon Visionary Award, and attendees will have opportunities to network and hear from top Oregon business leaders. We will provide more details and open registration as the event approaches.
Prior to 2021, the Vision Oregon event had been known as the Statesman Dinner, a longstanding tradition highlighted by the presentation of the Statesman of the Year Award. Recipients of that award include Phil and Penny Knight; U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith; the late Portland Mayor Vera Katz; and Gert Boyle, the late chair of Columbia Sportswear.
The recipients of last year’s inaugural Oregon Visionary Award are Bill and Karla Chambers, of Stahlbush Island Farms; Alando Simpson, CEO of City of Roses Disposal and Recycling; and Rogue Food Unites.
Interim Task Force and Rulemaking Update
Urban Density: The Land Conservation and Development Commission adopted permanent Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities during its July 20-21 meeting. The rules establish stringent regulations in designated areas that prohibit parking and limit auto-dependent uses. The rules state that no vehicle parking, circulation, access or loading will be permitted for new development in cities subject to the rule, which will have major effects on drive-throughs, freight delivery, network transportation services and car dealerships. OBI and others have pointed out that the rules will create problems, include complicating the delivery of supplies to businesses. Cities, too, have major concerns about the rules, and some are contemplating a lawsuit.
Interstate 5 Bridge: Regional and state governing bodies have been voting this month on a bridge design advanced by the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program. The city and port of Portland approved the design July 13, Metro Council on July 14 and the bistate legislative committee July 21. This design includes three lanes, plus one auxiliary lane in each direction. Auxiliary lanes are short stretches of roadway between entrances that provide extra room for merging and improve the flow of traffic. It also includes a partial interchange at Hayden Island and light rail in combination with express bus transit. Planners had contemplated a design that includes two auxiliary lanes in each direction but opted instead for half that number. Joined by dozens of other business groups, OBI has submitted a letter to policymakers that advocates for additional capacity. The letter echoes an op-ed cosigned by Angela Wilhelms; Portland Business Alliance President and CEO Andrew Hoan and Oregon Trucking Associations President Jana Jarvis that appeared in The Oregonian May 25. Members of the Oregon-Washington legislative committee on the bridge indicated that the current design is open to changes if it’s determined that meeting future freight demands cannot be met. The committee spent significant time at the July 21 meeting discussing right-sizing the bridge. Sharla Moffett testified at the hearing. Construction is expected to begin in 2025.
COVID Rules: Oregon OSHA has begun the process to make its COVID rules permanent. The rules were scaled back temporarily in March to eliminate masking requirements in most workplaces, and without additional action the more stringent rules will go back into effect. OSHA proposes to make the scaled-back rules permanent. OBI has asked the agency to repeal the COVID rules in their entirety, as the current and proposed rules contain no metrics that would cause them to be suspended. Also, the rules would continue to require masking in medical settings, which are defined very broadly and include workplaces, such as pharmacies, in which mandatory mask usage presents an unreasonable burden.
Agricultural Overtime Rulemaking: The Bureau of Labor and Industries has begun rulemaking to implement House Bill 4002, the 2022 law that removed the agricultural overtime exemption. Overtime hours thresholds will be phased in over five years, beginning with 55 hours in 2023 and falling to 40 hours by 2027. The comment deadline, which originally was July 21, has been extended to Aug. 22 as significant questions about implementation remain. OBI will continue to urge BOLI to focus primarily on education as family farms adjust to this new reality.
Universal Health Care: Following the release of a draft proposal for a universal health care plan, the Task Force on Universal Health Care has held a series of virtual listening sessions covering different parts of the state. The universal health care plan would be supported by an employer payroll tax and a personal income tax. Combined, these taxes would raise more than $21 billion per year. Morgan Beltz submitted a comment letter this month. The proposal will be revised in light of public comments before it is submitted to the Legislature by the end of September.
Paid Leave: The Oregon Employment Department published the final round of proposed rules for the Paid Leave Oregon program June 29, and these address appeals, benefits, contributions and equivalent plans. The department also made significant changes in response to comments Paloma Sparks submitted May 24. Additional rulemaking hearings will take place July 23 and July 26, during which Paloma plans to submit additional comments. The comment period closes Aug. 1. OBI and Paid Leave Oregon have conducted three instructional webinars and intend to conduct more. Links to webinar recordings appear below.
Electronics Recycling: DEQ has scheduled two workshops to modernize the state’s E-Cycles Program. The modernization effort will change the number of recycling locations and the mechanism for measuring recycling. Driving the need to modernize is the fact that the electronics are much lighter now than they were back in 2009, when the E-Cycles Program began operations. The first workshop took place July 13, and the second will take place Aug. 10, after which DEQ expects to propose legislation for the 2023 session that, among other things, will ensure that every community has at least one electronics recycling location.
Portland Fuel Ordinance: Portland City Council has postponed action on a proposed ordinance that would block the expansion of terminals that store petroleum products. OBI joined the Portland Business Alliance and several other organizations in opposing the proposal, which is a virtual carbon copy of an ordinance that the state Land Use Board of Appeals has blocked on two previous occasions.
Air Permitting: DEQ has extended the comment period for proposed air permitting rules until Aug. 1. OBI will be submitting comments. The proposed rules contain foundational changes in the permitting program that will be far more resource-intensive for regulated business as well as DEQ, delay the issuance of permits and exacerbate the agency’s backlog of expired and administratively extended permits. The proposed rules will substantially raise the cost of compliance and slow the issuance of permits without substantially improving air quality. They also will conflict with the air permitting program established by the Legislature. The rules are being fast-tracked in order be adopted in November before a new governor is seated.
Recycling: The Oregon Recycling System Advisory Council (ORSAC) will advise DEQ on policy proposals related to Oregon’s recycling system. ORSAC is a product of the 2021 Recycling Modernization Act, which will revamp the state’s recycling system by, in part, shifting the cost to producers and manufacturers of packaged items and paper products. The act also requires the creation of a statewide recycling list and public education. ORSAC will serve as the policymaking body for the system and help set fees that ultimately will be paid by producers and manufacturers categorized as producer responsibility organizations. A rules advisory committee (RAC), which includes Paloma Sparks, has been formed to weigh in on specific policy proposals that DEQ is developing to present to ORSAC. The first rulemaking meeting took place on July 20 and focused on fees and the structure of producer responsibility organizations.
Clean Fuels Expansion: We are monitoring the rulemaking process to expand Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, which reduces the “carbon intensity” of road fuels by increasing the use of low-carbon fuels and other alternatives. The rulemaking is a product of Gov. Brown’s executive order 20-04 to reduce state greenhouse gas emissions. It follows a worrisome trend in which agencies increase the stringency of regulatory programs beyond the requirements included in the executive order that triggered them. While the executive order recommends reducing the carbon intensity of fuels below 2015 levels by 25% by 2035, DEQ is recommending a 37% reduction. Business representatives have argued that the state should take a more pragmatic approach and avoid unrealistic targets, focusing instead on reasonable and achievable goals. Their comments can be found here. Sharla Moffett will submit additional comments.
Bridge Health Care Task Force: The 2022 Legislature created a task force to help low-income Oregonians who stand to lose Medicaid coverage that is guaranteed during the recently extended federal COVID emergency. The Joint Task Force on the Bridge Health Care Program is still in the data-gathering and modeling phase, which involves assessing the market impacts of various bridge plan options. The state has submitted the first Medicaid waiver to create the bridge plan.
Workforce Grants: The Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) has issued a request for applications for Workforce Ready Grants. This round of grants will focus on capacity-building for workforce programs. A total of $9.8 million will be available for a wide range of activities, including the hiring of staff and buying equipment. Recipients must be workforce service providers or community-based organizations, but these may collaborate with industry associations, training partners and similar entities. The application deadline for this round of grants is Aug. 13. For more information, go here.
‘Student Voice’ Task Force: The Joint Task Force on Student Success for Underrepresented Students in Higher Education – aka the Student Voice Task Force – has wrapped up a series of in-person and virtual meetings on campuses across the state. The task force next will examine specific issues raised during its site visits, including student aid and wraparound services. This work will inform the task force’s policy recommendations for the 2023 Legislature. The Legislature created the task force in 2021 to develop policy and funding proposals to help students from populations with comparatively low higher-education enrollment.
Watch Recent Webinars
OSHA Heat and Smoke Rules
Watch a recording here.
Experts with Oregon OSHA provided an overview of the recently adopted heat and smoke rules and answered questions from OBI members.
Union Organizing Dos and Don’ts
Watch a recording here.
Attorney Nicole Elgin with Barran Liebman LLP explained what managers and supervisors should know, do and not do when confronted by a union organizing drive.
Oregon Business Plan Update
Watch a recording here.
Oregon Business Council President Duncan Wyse delivered a midyear progress report on the Oregon Business Plan and answered questions from webinar participants.
Student Success Act Implementation
Watch a recording here.
Officials with the Oregon Department of Education joined OBI to discuss the implementation of the 2019 Student Success Act, which generates roughly $1 billion per year for education through the state’s corporate activity tax.
OBI Members Can Save with HealthChoice
Many businesses struggle to attract and retain qualified employees. Offering an affordable and flexible health-care plan can help. Through the collective strength of OBI’s HealthChoice plans, Oregon’s small businesses can command the buying and negotiating power of much larger companies when providing health insurance options.
OBI offers HealthChoice plans through a partnership of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon. Plans feature:
A full range of health care coverage options, from preventative care to catastrophic eventsAccess to the largest network of providers in every corner of the state
- Flexible options for premiums, deductibles and benefits
- ACA-compliant coverage for you and your employees
- Affordable options and add-ons like dental and vision
- Options for wellness and healthy lifestyle programs
- Local support staff for claims and administrative management
If you are interested in learning more please contact The Partners Group, the managing general agent for OBI HealthChoice, by emailing email@example.com.