Capitol Connect WP image

Senate Work Resumes as Republican Walkout Ends

Senate Republicans ended their six-week walkout on Thursday under the terms of an agreement that called for significant changes to bills regulating abortion and guns. In return, Republicans agreed to waive a constitutional requirement that bills be read in full before receiving a final vote.

Senate Democrats agreed to change a controversial provision in House Bill 2002, which expands access to abortion and gender-related health care. The provision would have allowed children of any age to obtain abortions without parental consent. It now will require parental permission for children under 15 to end pregnancies unless at least two health-care providers recommend otherwise.

The agreement also fundamentally changed House Bill 2005, which would have increased the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, allowed cities to ban concealed weapons in public buildings and outlawed untraceable “ghost” guns. Only the ghost gun provision now remains.

The Senate passed both bills later on Thursday. Because they had been amended, the bills will now head back to the House.

Meanwhile the agreement freed up hundreds of bills to pass the Senate in short order, including those that would fund state agencies and affect Oregon employers. On Friday, the dam broke in earnest. The Senate confirmed 64 executive appointments to boards and commissions and then passed 38 different budget bills, mostly agency budgets.

While most budget bills earned some degree of bipartisan support, one notable exception is SB 5225, the $35.1 billion Oregon Health Authority (OHA) budget, which passed on a party-line vote. The OHA budget is one of the state’s largest expenditure areas. The 2023-25 budget is a 7.4% increase over the 2021-23 budget. While the budget does include extensive federal funds, the General Fund portion for 2023-25 represents a 44% increase (to $5.6 billion) over the prior biennium. The increase reflects growing caseloads, expanded eligibility under Medicaid 1115 waivers, and replacement of one-time federal monies related to COVID. OHA reports that in 2022 it provided medical benefits for 1.7 million Oregonians, which is more than 40% of the state’s population.

All 38 budget bills passed by the Senate on Friday will now be taken up in the House. Conversely, more than 30 agency or commission budget bills that originated in the House are now waiting for Senate action. All of the above will be wrapped up this week.

OBI plans to release a redesigned session report toward the end of July.


OBI Announces Manufacturer of the Year Awards

OBI’s Manufacturing Council of Oregon will present its inaugural Manufacturer of the Year Awards on Oct. 6, which also will mark Manufacturing Day. Awards will be presented for excellence in each of three areas: innovation, environmental sustainability, and workforce and community impact.

OBI will accept nominations for the awards until Aug. 15, and nominations may be submitted by the company itself or a third party. Nominees need not be OBI members, but they must be based in Oregon or have significant operations here.

To learn more about the awards and nominate a manufacturer, go here.

OBI will celebrate the contributions of Oregon’s manufacturing sector throughout 2023. In addition to the inaugural Manufacturer of the Year Awards, OBI has launched the annual Coolest Thing Made in Oregon competition, which allows Oregonians to vote on the coolest product made in the state. And this fall, OBI will conduct the second annual Manufacturing and Innovation Roadshow.


Dates Set for 2023 Manufacturing and Innovation Roadshow

OBI’s 2023 Growth and Innovation Roadshow will take place Oct. 2 to Oct. 4, making stops in the northern Willamette Valley, Columbia River Gorge, northeastern and central Oregon. The tour will be followed on Oct. 6 by the presentation of OBI’s inaugural Manufacturer of the Year Awards (see item above) at a Manufacturing Day event in the Portland area.

OBI will release more information when it becomes available, including stop locations and instructions for those who’d like to join the tour.

Go here to learn more.


Legislative and Rulemaking Updates

Budget Bills: OBI expects the release of amendments on Wednesday for HB 5006, the capitol construction budget, and SB 5506, the so-called “Christmas tree” bill. These budgets are generally the last ones adopted each session. Both bills are currently sitting in the Joint Ways and Means Capitol Construction Subcommittee. OBI expects the House and Senate to act on these bills near the end of the week.

Retail Crime: SB 900, which would provide grant funding for local law enforcement to conduct sting operations to combat organized retail crime, is scheduled for a Senate vote this week. The $5 million investment in SB 900 is a significant step in Oregon’s battle against the coordinated crime syndicates. While its counterpart, SB 318, did not move out of the Joint Subcommittee on Public Safety, OBI believes that some, if not all, of the funding for the analyst and investigator positions SB 318 would have created will be included in the Legislature’s end-of-session “Christmas tree” bill. That funding is important, as it would help to provide statewide coordination of local efforts to prosecute organized retail theft

Interstate Bridge: Although specifics aren’t available yet, OBI expects language to appear in up to three different bills that would: commit $1 billion in funding to the project over several biennia; fund some amount in a budget bill for this biennium, probably $250 million; and address necessary language for funds secured by bonds. Fortunately, it appears that Oregon will cross the finish line with its $1 billion funding commitment before any of the federal grant applications are due. The primary question involves the funding mix (for example, general obligation bonds versus highway trust fund dollars).

Contractor Liability: HB 2057, which would make general contractors liable for wages subcontractors failed to pay their employees, has long been parked on the Senate president’s desk. OBI and other business stakeholders have worked to create opposition among as many senators as possible. The bill would not help victims of bad actors any more effectively than the current BOLI process but would increase construction costs and result in fewer opportunities for new construction companies. The bill has not yet made its way to the Committee on Rules, which likely means the coalition was successful in securing enough opposition to ensure that the bill won’t move forward this session.

Omnibus Climate Bill: The Joint Committee on Ways and Means adopted the -3 amendment into HB 3409 last week. The bill now includes all or parts of 15 bills relating to climate. The amended bill awaits action by the full House, which is scheduled for Tuesday. Although the package includes some non-controversial components, it includes several worrisome provisions. Most problematic are the language in SB 522 establishing a new state greenhouse gas reduction target (which would almost certainly open up recently completed, complex rulemaking in numerous agencies) and bills stemming from the state’s Rebuild Task Force. Among these bills is SB 870, which would allow municipalities to adopt different building codes.

Insurance Bills: HB 3242 would allow lawsuits against insurance companies for “bad faith” actions under the Unfair Settlement Practices Act. It is scheduled for a full Senate vote this week. While the bill was amended to clarify it would not apply to the workers’ compensation system, medical malpractice claims or litigation defense attorneys, the increased litigation it would almost certainly cause would increase insurance rates for every Oregon. While OBI’s opposition has been clear, business stakeholders have had to focus almost entirely on killing HB 3243, which is far more harmful. HB 3243 would allow lawsuits against insurance companies under the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act for violations of the Unfair Settlement Practices Act. It would have catastrophic effects on Oregonians and the insurance marketplace. The bill would allow both first- and third-party claims, impose punitive damages and apply to virtually any insurance claim – potentially even those made under the state’s own government-run paid family and medical leave insurance program. Fortunately, it appears increasingly likely that HB 3243 will fail this session.

State Bank Task Force: On June 14, the House passed HB 2763B with just 31 votes. The bill would create a State Public Bank Task Force to study and make recommendations about the role, risks and rewards of a state bank in Oregon. The task force would consist of 19 people: four legislators (one from each caucus) and 15 people appointed by the governor, each of whom would represent a specific constituency. The list of topics on which the task force would conduct its analysis is long and complicated. It includes, among other things, serving as a depository for community banks and credit unions, providing financing for local government infrastructure projects, serving cannabis businesses and providing student loans. The bill awaits action in the Senate.

Apprenticeship Mandates: HB 2649 seeks to do a few things. It would change Oregon’s apprenticeship requirements in public works contracts by increasing the percentage of apprenticeship hours from 12 to 15 by 2027. It also would expand the types of public works contracts to which that requirement applied, adding ODOT projects and every higher education project. It would penalize contractors that fail to meet the requirement even if they tried to comply in good faith. Employers already struggle to meet the current 12% threshold, as there aren’t enough apprentices in the pipeline. The bill passed the House with only 33 votes, and OBI is working to prevent passage in the Senate.

Toxic Free Kids: HB 3043 would expand Oregon’s Toxic-Free Kids Act by increasing the number of high priority chemicals that must be removed from certain products to include “classes” of chemicals. This would substantially increase the number of products that would be regulated in Oregon and Oregon alone. It is not clear how many chemicals would be added, as many of the bill’s provisions would be left to agency action. Oregon’s economy is too small for the national supply chain to accommodate such state-specific regulation. Manufacturers and retailers would be far more likely to stop selling affected products in Oregon. The bill will likely be voted on by the full Senate this week and pass.

Cosmetic Ban: SB 546 would ban the sale of cosmetic products in Oregon that contain specified “high priority chemicals of concern.” It is likely to pass the Senate this week. Like HB 3043 (see above), this bill would impose Oregon-specific requirements on manufacturers and retailers. If SB 546 passes, people shopping for beauty products will see fewer and more expensive options.


Notable News

Oregon Unemployment: The state’s jobless rate fell below 4% for the first time in nearly a year in May, The Oregonian reports. Employers added 3,600 jobs last month, largely in the finance, hospitality and logistics sectors. May’s rate, 3.7%, matched the national unemployment rate.

DMV Breach: A data breach discovered June 12 may have compromised Oregon Department of Transportation records that include personal information for about 3.5 million Oregonians, according to KGW. Accessed data involves driver’s licenses and state ID cards.

Utility Fees: The city of Portland on June 13 shelved a plan to revise fees charged to private utilities, The Oregonian reports. Commissioner Carmen Rubio said she pulled the plan because amendments proposed by fellow councilors would have reduced fees charged to place utility lines and build cell towers in the public right of way.

Recycling Layoff: The Owens-Brockway Glass Container recycling plant in Northeast Portland announced that it will lay off 81 people, representing 70% of its workforce, next month, The Oregonian reports. Owens-Brockway’s parent company attributes the decision to a slowdown in the regional wine market.

PBA Rebrands: The Portland Business Alliance announced June 15 that it will rebrand as the Portland Metro Chamber, The Oregonian reports. PBA says the new name will better represent its work and geographic scope.


Aug. 4 Webinar on PFML Program Changes

Employees will soon be able to file requests to receive benefits under Oregon’s paid family and medical leave insurance program, Paid Leave Oregon. Meanwhile, the Oregon Legislature this year made several statutory changes to bring Paid Leave Oregon into better alignment with the Oregon Family Leave Act.

In other words, there’s a lot for employers to know before Sept. 3, when Paid Leave Oregon benefits begin.

To bring employers up to speed, experts with the Oregon Employment Department will provide an overview of the program, discuss updates and answer questions on Aug. 4. The online webinar will run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The webinar is supported by OBI’s CompSAFE program, which helps qualifying businesses save on workers’ compensation insurance through a partnership with SAIF, Oregon’s not for profit provider of workers’ compensation insurance.

Go here to register.


Enter U.S. Chamber’s ‘Top Small Business’ Contest

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is taking applications for its Top Small Business award program, which spotlights the most innovative and successful small businesses in the country.

To be eligible, applicants must be for-profit businesses in operation for at least one year. They must have fewer than 250 employees or gross revenues of less than $20 million for 2021 and 2022.

The winner of America’s Top Small Business 2023 will receive a $25,000 cash prize. The U.S. Chamber will award additional non-cash prizes, including prizes for finalists. Information about prizes can be found here.

Find out more about the contest and apply here.

Applications must be submitted by Friday, July 3.


OBI Members Can Save on Furniture, Supplies and Services with New Benefit

Whether your business wants to save on office furniture, cleaning supplies or remote working technology, OBI’s partnership with ODP Business Solutions can help.

After setting up an online account, OBI members can shop for a wide range of goods and services and even receive free next-business-day delivery on qualifying orders of $50 or more. To make the process as simple as possible, ODP provides experienced account managers and a range of payment options, including single account billing and consolidated billing for multiple locations.

Go here to learn more about this benefit and register for an account.