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Keizer Middle-Schooler Wins Inaugural Oregon Civics Bee

Thomas Morgan of Keizer won the inaugural Oregon Civics Bee Thursday and has earned the right to represent Oregon at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s National Civics Bee in Washington, D.C. Thomas was one of 19 finalists who participated in the Bee, which was moderated by Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read.

Presented by U.S. Bank and organized by Oregon Business and Industry in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the competition began in November 2023. Sixth, 7th and 8th graders throughout Oregon were invited to submit essays explaining how they’d use civics principles to address problems they identified in their communities. A panel of judges chose the 20 best essays, whose writers were invited to participate in last week’s Civics Bee, which took place at Willamette University in Salem. One student could not attend because of sickness.

The Bee consisted of a quiz-style competition moderated by Treasurer Read. The top five scorers then made the case for their essays in front of a panel of judges, which included OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms, U.S. Bank Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking Steve Isaak and CFM Advocates Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jessica Adamson. In his essay, Thomas made the case for public funding for Keizer’s community library.

The top three finishers in the inaugural Oregon Civics Bee received cash prizes. Grace Kim of Eugene was the runner-up, and Shivani Nirmal-Shankar of Sherwood finished third.

OBI to Present Sept. 25 Employment Law Summit

Does your business need help understanding the complexities of state and federal employment law? You’re in luck. On Sept. 25, OBI will host a full-day Employment Law Summit in Wilsonville. Legal experts will cover a variety of employment topics, including:

  • Paid Leave Oregon
  • Scheduling, overtime and break laws
  • The latest from the National Labor Relations Board
  • Reasonable accommodations under ADA
  • Navigating noncompete and nondisclosure agreements
  • Case law update

The summit is open to everyone but will be particularly helpful to HR staff and managers of small and medium-sized businesses. Continuing legal education and HR credits pending.

Registration is $175 and includes all materials and lunch.

Those who register before July 1 will receive a $50 discount.

The summit will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Wilsonville, which is located at 25425 SW 95th Ave.

Go here to register.

State Economists Predict Additional $532 Million in Revenue

The Office of Economic Analysis released the quarterly Oregon Economic and Revenue Forecast Wednesday. In a presentation to the Joint House and Senate revenue committees, state economists said economic data remain stable but noted increased future uncertainty due mainly to the unexpected persistence of high interest rates.

General economic outlook and Oregon population

The economic outlook is stable. Economists noted again that the biggest challenge to future economic growth is the tight labor market. Oregon’s population growth has stalled over the last few years, with projected growth of only 0.6% over the next 10 years. During testimony Wednesday, one economist characterized this phenomenon as the “greatest threat to the regional economy.” One attending committee member noted that improved efficiency will be needed to bridge any potential gaps in economic output caused by flattening population growth. This is a primary reason why OBI advocates for policies that help private employers invest in equipment, machinery and processes that improve efficiency and production.

Manufacturing output also was a key discussion point. Oregon is seeing a slowdown in manufacturing sales and manufacturing employment. Broadly speaking, these factors are driven primarily by flattened demand due to high interest rates. While the effects are widespread, the economic report pointed out the disproportionate negative impact on the aerospace industry and related metals supply chains.

Revenue forecast

The June report increased excepted tax revenues to the state by $532 million. While tax trends have consistently exceeded expectations, this quarterly bump is much higher than most were anticipating. Unlike the $500-plus million that was “found” in the last forecast, which was primarily related to unspent money from the 2021-23 biennium, the $532 million from the current forecast is mostly related to higher than expected personal and corporate income tax returns. This is a significant increase, obviously, and increases (again) the total expected 2023-25 biennium general fund and lottery budget to $36 billion. That puts those funds $1.8 billion higher than the forecast when the budget was set ($34.2 billion). This further strengthens the case that new taxes and tax increases are not needed. 

Reserves

The state has two reserve accounts, the Rainy Day Fund and the Education Stability Fund. The June forecast indicates these two funds combined hold $2.5 billion. Add that to the ending balance (revenue not allocated), and the state has total effective reserves of $3.7 billion.

Kicker

Finally, state economists predict a 50% chance that there will be a personal kicker in 2025 (credited on 2026 taxes). It is currently projected to be $582 million.

OBI Member Profile: NIC Industries

NIC Industries, Inc. is not yet a household name. But its products will be familiar to anyone who’s wandered the car-care aisle at Walmart or shopped for protective trim, paint and tire coatings on Amazon. Quietly, White City-based NIC Industries has become a big deal. Founded as a powder-coating shop 40 years ago, it is now one of the 25 largest paint manufacturers in the country.

 

Most retail customers encounter NIC Industries through its Cerakote Ceramic Coatings division, which produces do-it-yourself coatings for home and auto use. NIC Industries has two other divisions, however. One, Cerakote, manufactures liquid ceramic coatings applied by trained professionals and hobbyists alike. The second, Prismatic Powders, manufactures high-quality powder coatings offered in more than 6,500 colors.

Go here to learn more about NIC Industries.

Business Tax Increase Proposal Gathering Signatures

Initiative Petition 17, which proponents call the “Oregon Rebate,” is actively gathering signatures to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. The proposal would dramatically expand the corporate minimum tax on Oregon sales above $25 million annually. The measure, expected to raise billions each year, calls for all revenue raised to be redistributed equally to everyone in Oregon (regardless of tax filing status, age, etc.).

The proposal is alarming for many reasons, and OBI is doing a lot of research to understand all of its many implications. For example, businesses with sales under $25 million may still be adversely affected by pass-through costs, stymied economic activity resulting from the tax, or future modifications to the scale or rate. Consumers will be hit with higher costs. The tax also is ubiquitous in its application – think insurance, housing, food, gas and utilities, medical costs and prescriptions and a host of other goods and services.

This proposal is backed by California-based activists who want to experiment with a statewide universal basic income through Oregon’s citizen initiative process. The proposal has not yet qualified for the ballot, and proponents have until July 5 to submit the requisite number of valid signatures. OBI will monitor this closely.

In the meantime, if you want to be on a list to learn more about this proposal and the “no” campaign (should it qualify), please go here.

Worrisome Signs During Legislative Days

Many members of the business community took note recently when House leaders split the Business and Labor Committee into two committees, the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee and the Labor and Workforce Standards Committee. Informational hearings held during last week’s Legislative Days did little to dispel their concerns.

At a hearing before the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee Wednesday, the financial regulation division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services described the ways in which it oversees insurance companies and financial institutions. Comments by committee members throughout the presentation implied that agency enforcement did not protect Oregonians adequately and suggested that other methods – like increased lawsuits against insurance companies – would be more effective. OBI consistently pushes for enforcement by agencies rather than through lawsuits, particularly with respect to insurance regulations, as litigation increases prices for Oregonians while clogging the state’s burdened court system.

Meanwhile, the Committee on Labor and Workforce Standards held hearings focused on several government programs requiring project labor agreements (PLAs). OBI and other business groups have opposed legislation that would require PLAs, labor peace agreements and other prescriptive measures that would place significant and unjustified burdens on businesses. While OBI and others successfully opposed an extremely broad PLA during the 2023 session, similar legislation focused on offshore wind projects passed in 2024. PLA requirements significantly reduce the number of companies eligible to compete for government projects, which inevitably increases costs. OBI will watch for such proposals during the 2025 session.

In the Oregon Senate, committees also discussed legislation that might surface during the 2025 session. Notably, members of the Labor and Business Committee suggested that the construction industry was disproportionately responsible for wage theft. This focus on a single industry is worrisome, as it raises the possibility that the Legislature will resurrect a failed 2024 bill that would have held general contractors responsible for the failure of subcontractors to pay workers. Such legislation, which OBI and others successfully opposed this year, would close Oregon’s construction industry to new subcontractors while punishing general contractors for behavior by other companies. OBI will oppose such a bill if it resurfaces in 2025.

Finally, the Senate Labor and Business Committee held a hearing on the status of noncompetition agreements both in Oregon and nationwide. Oregon last changed its statute regulating noncompetition agreements during the 2021 session after much negotiation and compromise. However, action at the federal level has created momentum for the Legislature to take up the issue again. Noncompetition agreements are valuable tools business use to protect sensitive trade secrets from competitors, and OBI stands ready to oppose efforts that will undo the compromise reached in 2021.

Listening Tour to Gather Input for Transportation Package

This week, the Joint Committee on Transportation will begin its statewide listening tour for the 2025 transportation package in Portland. The committee will hold roundtables and public hearings in 13 cities from June through September to learn Oregonians’ transportation priorities. OBI will be working with partner organizations and local chambers over the summer to encourage business representatives to participate in these sessions and deliver the message that transportation investment is important to the business community.

 

Though the committee has yet to articulate any details of the package, it has released a concept paper that includes increasing funding for ODOT’s operations and maintenance activities, funding projects such as the Rose Quarter interchange and I-205 Abernethy Bridge expansion, addressing the disproportionate cost burden on freight users under current funding formulas and increasing revenue from passenger vehicles, particularly hybrid and electric vehicles. The Portland listening session will be held June 4 from 5-7 p.m. in the Moriarty Auditorium at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus.

Contact sharlamoffett@oregonbusinessindustry.com if you would like more details.

Notable News

Ag Overtime: Two years ago, Oregon lawmakers passed a new law requiring growers to provide farmworkers with overtime pay – a requirement opponents said could drive small, family-owned farms out of business. In response, the state crafted a zero-interest loan program to help farmers cover that cost. But despite extensive outreach and marketing, much of the $10 million made available through the program remains untapped a year later, data shows (The Oregonian).

Mattress Tax: Anyone buying a mattress in Oregon may soon see an extra charge on their receipt: a fee to cover the state’s new mattress stewardship program, which could launch as soon as this summer. Once the plan is finalized, Oregon will be the fourth state in the country requiring consumers to pay into a mattress recycling program. That will help fund recycling sites around the state, where people can drop off old mattresses for free (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Oregon Birth Rate: Oregon has one of the lowest birth rates in the nation, according to newly released federal data from 2022. The state had just about nine births for each 1,000 residents. Only Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont — the latter being the lowest in the nation at 8.2 births per 1,000 residents — had fewer (The Oregonian).

NW Natural CEO: Oregon natural gas utility NW Natural will have a new top leader next year with the retirement of CEO David H. Anderson. NW Natural announced May 24 that Anderson will retire April 1, 2025, and that he will be succeeded by Justin B. Palfreyman, its current president (Portland Business Journal).

Portland Tax Confusion: In recent days thousands of Portland-area residents appear to have received emails from Portland’s Revenue Division telling them they owed fines for regional taxes they’d already paid (The Oregonian).

Wineries Sue PacifiCorp: Dozens of Oregon wineries and vineyards have sued PacifiCorp over the deadly 2020 wildfires that ravaged the state, alleging that the utility’s decision to not turn off power during the Labor Day windstorm contributed to blazes whose smoke and soot damaged their grapes and reduced their harvest and sales. In the latest lawsuit to hit the utility over the fires, some 30 wineries and vineyards in the Willamette Valley accused PacifiCorp of negligence and requested over $100 million in damages (Associated Press). Meanwhile, Oregon utility regulators rejected a proposal by PacifiCorp to protect its shareholders from paying huge sums of money to wildfire victims in future lawsuits (The Oregonian).

Utility Price Caps: Electric and gas rates are on the rise, and it’s being felt by Oregonians across the state. Now, there is a push to put limits on how much an electric or gas utility can raise energy rates in one year (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Bend Project Halted: A city of Bend hearings officer halted progress on a controversial four-story mixed-use development based on “procedural issues” with the developer’s application. The proposed development would have created 40 residential units and commercial space in an area predominantly composed of single-family homes (The Bulletin).

Soup Plant Closure: Campbell Soup Co. plans to lay off a total 330 workers by summer 2026, when it permanently closes its Pacific Foods manufacturing plant in Tualatin, the company notified state officials May 28 (The Oregonian).

Glass Plant to Close: Vitro Architectural Glass, which has operated for almost three decades in southeast Salem, is closing this summer and laying off 37 workers (Salem Reporter).

Oregon Minimum Wages to Increase July 1

Oregon’s three minimum wages will increase July 1. The wage in the Portland metropolitan area will rise to $15.95 per hour. The “standard” wage, which applies to all or parts of 18 counties in northwestern and southwestern Oregon, will jump to $14.70 per hour. And the nonurban wage, which applies in the rest of the state, will jump to $13.70 per hour.

Oregon’s standard minimum wage is adjusted annually based on the increase, if any, in the Consumer Price Index. The Portland metro wage is set $1.25 above the standard wage, and the nonurban wage is set $1 below the standard wage.

Go here for a wage-increase schedule and here for a wage map.

Bend Chamber a Finalist for National Award

The Bend Chamber of Commerce has been named one of 12 finalists for the 2024 Chamber of the Year award presented by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

The annual award recognizes chambers that have demonstrated organizational strength and affected key community priorities like education, transportation, economic prosperity and quality of life.

The finalists are grouped into four categories based on annual revenue, membership, area population and other factors. Finalists in the Bend Chamber of Commerce’s category include the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry from Appleton, Wisc., and the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce from Sarasota, Fla.

Chamber winners will be announced July 17 at ACCE’s Annual Convention in Dallas.

DEQ Schedules Extended Producer Responsibility Webinars

The Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled a series of webinars to help producers understand their obligations under Oregon’s extended producer responsibility packaging law, which will become effective July 1, 2025. It’s important for any business that uses plastic materials in packaging or shipping to understand whether it is affected by this law. Click here for a decision tree.

The four webinars are aimed the main categories of products covered by the law. The webinars are tailored to these producer types:

  • Food serviceware (June 11)
  • Printing paper and paper products (July 16)
  • E-commerce (Aug. 6)
  • Retailers and contract manufacturers (Sept. 10)

OBI is highly engaged in rulemaking for this law. If you have questions or want to receive EPR-specific updates, please contact Derek Sangston at dereksangston@oregonbusinessindustry.com

Go here for an overview of each webinar and registration details.

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:

  • 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.