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How You Can Support Bill Allowing Signing, Retention Bonuses

The House Business and Labor Committee is considering a bill that would allow employers to use an important tool in addressing significant workforce shortages. It is HB 3205, which would allow both public- and private-sector employers to use signing and retention bonuses, which Oregon restricts.

In addition to harming employers, Oregon’s effective prohibition on signing and retention bonuses hurts employees. It robs them of the additional income they deserve. A wide-ranging coalition of employers supports this bill, but its passage is far from guaranteed.

One way you can help is to send an email in support of HB 3205 to members of the House Business and Labor Committee or to your own legislator. By following this link and providing your name and email address, you can send an automated letter of support to every member of the House Business and Labor Committee. To find your own legislators, go here.


OBI Member Employees Win ‘Women MAKE’ Awards

Three employees of OBI member companies are among the 2023 recipients of The Manufacturing Institute’s Women MAKE Awards. The annual awards, announced at the start of Women’s History Month, recognize women who have made significant contributions to the manufacturing industry or have been identified as emerging leaders.

This year’s recipients include a pair of Nike employees. Melissa Rhinehart is director of production planning for Nike Air Manufacturing Innovation, which produces air soles. Zoe Espinosa, a process engineer with Nike Air Manufacturing Innovation, has been recognized as an emerging leader.

This year’s honorees also include Ann Kelleher, executive vice president at Intel Corp. Kelleher also serves as general manager of technology development, which develops Intel’s semiconductor process and packaging innovations.

The awards ceremony will take place April 20 in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the awards and this year’s winners here.


Notable News

Retail Crime: Oregon Public Broadcasting writes about a pair of bills that would address organized retail crime, noting OBI’s support for both.

Campaign Finance: The Oregonian writes about a pair of bills that would limit campaign contributions, neither of which had yet had a hearing. One, House Bill 3455, is sponsored by Gov. Kotek, and the other, House Bill 2003, is sponsored by House Speaker Dan Rayfield.

Power Line Decision: The Oregon Supreme Court on March 9 rejected a challenge to a proposed electrical transmission line between Boardman and Hemingway, the Baker City Herald reports. The ruling affirms an Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council decision to issue Idaho Power a site certificate for the project, on which the company hopes to start construction this year.

State CFO Resigns: Oregon Chief Financial Officer George Naughton, who’s served under four governors, will leave his position, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The resignation occurs as the Legislature is preparing to produce a biennial budget.

Portland Break-Ins: Almost 80% of small Portland business surveyed report that they have suffered either break-ins or vandalism over the previous 12 months, the Portland Business Journal reports. The survey was conducted by Bricks Need Mortar, an organization that formed in 2020 in response to mandated business shutdowns.


Legislative and Rulemaking Updates

Hiring, Retention Bonuses: On March 13, the House Committee on Business and Labor will hear testimony from a coalition of employers – both public and private – in support of HB 3205, OBI’s proposal to exempt hiring and retention bonuses from Oregon’s Equal Pay Act. Due to the restrictions imposed by the Equal Pay Act, Oregon employers are struggling to recruit employees and keep their current employees from accepting jobs in other states – especially Washington. Oregon is the only state with these types of restrictions. Employers need the flexibility to offer hiring and retention bonuses, especially given workforce shortages.

Beer, Wine Tax Hike: OBI has been advised that an amendment to HB 3312 is forthcoming. The base bill is a placeholder “study bill,” and the purported amendment would impose an approximately 1,200% increase in beer and cider taxes and a more than a 500% increase in wine taxes. The increases would reach those levels over five years. The bill is the House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care, where it likely has the votes to pass. From there, it has a subsequent referral to the House Revenue Committee, where its path is much less certain. Given the extraordinary damage these tax increases would do to Oregon’s beer and wine producers, distributors, bars and restaurants, OBI will strongly oppose the bill. Such increases would require a three-fifths vote of both legislative chambers, so the ultimate chance of passage is minimal.

Housing: OBI is watching the housing conversation closely. Housing is a priority of Gov. Kotek and all four caucuses in the Legislature. HB 2001 A, a broad housing bill focused on housing production, youth homelessness, agricultural workforce housing and modular housing, is working through the system. This bill is currently in the final stages of work in the Joint Ways and Means Committee. A recent amendment added $12.3 million in funding to the bill. That supplements the $155 million proposed in HB 5019, a related budget bill. Costs notwithstanding, the challenge at this point with the package is that little is being done about overall workforce housing. Nor is there any substantive language addressing the state land use or regulatory hurdles that drive up housing costs. OBI will continue to focus on this as session continues.

Building Proposals: An informational hearing and public hearings will be held on SB 868, SB 869, SB 870 and SB 871 in Senate Energy and Environment this week. The genesis of these bills was the Reach Code legislation considered in the 2021 session, which, rather than passing a bill of high concern, established the Resilient Efficient Buildings (REBuild) Task Force. REBuild met for a year and provided recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in residential and commercial buildings. The bills would enact a variety of provisions, including requiring the installation of 500,000 residential heat pumps by 2030, authorizing additional rulemaking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, and adopting new energy efficiency standards and water conservation measures for existing large commercial buildings, among other provisions. Amendments were posted March 10, and OBI is evaluating those to determine a response.

Retail Crime: The Senate Committee on Judiciary heard testimony on the organized retail crime package on March 8. This package would establish and fund new tools for law enforcement, prosecutors and private loss prevention units to combat organized retail crime throughout the state. The bills – SB 318 and SB 340 – were well received, and there was no opposition testimony submitted to the record. Another part of that package, SB 900, which would provide $5 million to bolster local retail theft enforcement operations, will have a public hearing March 15.

Agricultural Restrictions: SB 85 was introduced as a placeholder. The substance has now been issued through the -1 amendment, which would prohibit the renewal or issuance of permits for confined animal feeding operations of a certain size. This, again, targets an important economic sector in Oregon and would cause greater reliance of various animal products from outside the state. It would also leave small producers without a place to send their livestock for processing or finishing. The agriculture sector is heavily reliant on selling seed, feed and processing services to one another. OBI will provide opposition testimony.

Permitting Proposal: HB 3179 will receive a public hearing March 16 in the House Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources and Water Committee. The bill seeks to speed up permitting for renewable energy facilities and eliminate review processes that repeat federal or other state review processes. OBI will offer testimony noting that permitting processes across many sectors and permit types need improvement, including the permitting challenges identified in the semiconductor task force report.

Estate Tax: The House Revenue Committee held another hearing March 7 on HB 2624, which would increase Oregon’s estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million and index it for inflation going forward. While the committee is looking at this bill seriously, its actual prospects will likely come down to the end of session and resource availability after the May 17 revenue forecast. Of note, Oregon is now tied with Massachusetts for the lowest (worst) estate tax exemption level in the nation, but it looks like the Massachusetts Legislature is poised to raise its exemption to $3 million during its session this year. Oregon then would stand alone.

Mandate Review Proposal: On March 6, OBI testified in support of HB 3157, which would establish a Health Insurance Mandate Review Advisory Committee to review proposed legislation that would expand mandated coverage for specified procedures or by specified providers. New coverage mandates are frequently proposed, and each is reviewed on its own rather than in the context of other proposals or the entire system. Further, all analyses of fiscal impacts focus solely on the mandates’ effects on the state. Assessments of the cost of premiums to employers and employees are not required. That would change under the proposed bill. The advisory committee would help establish a more holistic review for new mandates.


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 access benefit packages normally available only to larger employers. OBI offers HealthChoice plans through a partnership with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon. Plans feature:

  • A full range of health care coverage options, from preventative care to catastrophic events
  • Access 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

To learn more please contact your agent or reach out to The Partners Group, the managing general agent for OBI HealthChoice, by emailing