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2024 Legislative Session Adjourns

The 2024 legislative session adjourned at 8:16 p.m. on Thursday, three days before the March 10 deadline set by the state Constitution. While the session ended early, it was far from uneventful.

Voters approved even-year short sessions in 2010 to improve budgeting consistency and allow legislators to respond quickly to emerging crises. In the years since, lawmakers have squeezed bills of all kinds, including complex policy bills, into the five-week window intended only for pressing matters. While this year was no exception, legislators focused by and large on measures addressing emerging – or existing – crises. These include high-profile bills to address the harm done by drug legalization, increase housing affordability and reform campaign finance laws under the looming threat of two extreme ballot measures.

This session also proceeded without debilitating partisan rancor, a sharp contrast to the 2023 session, during which a Republican walkout stalled the Senate for six weeks. Most of this year’s potentially controversial bills failed to advance past the session’s second week, and most bills that ended up on the governor’s desk did so with bipartisan support.

Still, the pace was frenzied. OBI’s policy team testified dozens of times, either in writing or in person, while working with legislators and allied groups to support beneficial legislation and to moderate or kill harmful legislation. OBI also was heavily involved in the development of campaign finance legislation that offers a fair and workable alternative to ballot measures that would have barred businesses from participating in campaigns (see item below).

One of the last events of the 2024 session was the coordinated resignation of Rep. Dan Rayfield as speaker of the House, and the election of Rep. Julie Fahey to that role. Although he is not resigning from the House, Rayfield has resigned the speaker role in order to concentrate on his campaign for state attorney general. Prior to her election as speaker, Fahey had been serving as the House majority leader.

In the end, the Legislature passed several OBI priorities and failed to pass others, which OBI will continue to pursue in 2025. OBI also supported session’s marquee housing and drug-criminalization bills, as they address problems that affect employers and erode the state’s economic competitiveness.

Below is a partial list of key bills. For additional information about these and other bills, please see earlier editions of the Capitol Connect newsletter. Legislative Week in Brief blog posts, which contain the policy sections of Capitol Connect newsletters, are available on the website’s legislative session page.

What happened to key bills:

  • HB 4002: Recriminalizes the use of hard drugs, partly rolling back Measure 110. OBI supported. Passed.
  • HB 4024: Campaign finance reform (see below). OBI supported. Passed.
  • HB 4030: Would have changed rules governing ownership of medical practices and use of noncompetition agreements. OBI opposed. Died.
  • HB 4031: Clarifies state law protecting confidentiality of income tax information. OBI supported. Passed.
  • HB 4042: Would have reauthorized the Regionally Significant Industrial Site program and created a $40 million loan fund for it. OBI supported. Died.
  • HB 4044: Would have created study of risks related to earthquake-induced toxic inhalation, creating a path for unnecessary regulation. OBI opposed. Died.
  • HB 4034: Updates Oregon’s connection to the federal tax code. OBI supported. Passed.
  • HB 4050: Would have made it easier for employers to offer hiring, retention bonuses. OBI supported. Died.
  • HB 4080: Applies onerous labor requirements on offshore wind projects. OBI opposed. Passed.
  • HB 4091: Would have created a health insurance mandate review advisory committee. OBI supported. Died.
  • HB 4112: Complex bill that would have applied costly procurement standards for clean energy companies. OBI opposed. Died.
  • HB 4154: Establishes the Semiconductor Talent Sustaining Fund supported by a $15 million allocation. OBI supported. Passed.
  • HB 4165 (and SB 1519, SB 1543): Address cost-responsibility imbalance affecting trucking industry. OBI supports appropriate cost responsibility. Died.
  • HB 5204: Companion to HB 4002 that provides substantial funding for behavioral health and criminal justice. OBI supported. Passed.
  • SB 1515: Improves leave-law alignment and prevents leave “stacking.” OBI supported. Passed.
  • SB 1526: Omnibus tax bill containing important provisions, including reauthorization of Industrial Site Readiness Program. However, funding for the program was not approved, as HB 4042 died. OBI supported. Passed.
  • SB 1537: Gov. Kotek’s priority housing bill. Allocates funding for infrastructure and, importantly, eases the addition of buildable land within urban growth boundaries. OBI supported. Passed.
  • SB 1559: Would have tightened Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions goals unrealistically. OBI opposed. Died.

Budget information

The March revenue forecast identified an additional $550 million in unanticipated revenue, consisting largely of allocated funds state agencies had failed to spend. This raises the total of unanticipated revenue since the 2023-25 legislatively adopted budget to $1.2 billion. This windfall allowed legislators to support the governor’s housing bill, drug recriminalization and several other funding proposals. Below are this session’s most significant general fund allocations as well as a few smaller allocations OBI believes are important to its members and regional economic development:

$409 million: Dedicated to wide variety of programs in what’s traditionally called the “Christmas Tree” bill, SB 5701. Significant areas include:

  • $86 million for employment-related day care program caseload
  • $76.2 million to Department of Human Services and Oregon Health Authority budgets for changes in forecasted caseloads
  • $42.6 million general fund for fire season costs
  • $39 million to support winter and highway maintenance and health and safety issues along agency rights of way in the Portland area
  • $10 million to higher education institutions for semiconductor workforce development
  • $10 million to Oregon State University to support student scholarships

$376 million: Dedicated to the governor’s housing package, which includes SB 1530, SB 1537 and HB 4134.

$211 million: Dedicated to behavioral health and criminal justice programs related to HB 5204.

$30 million: Dedicated to educational summer programs related to HB 4082.

Additionally: $15 million for Hillsboro Hops stadium improvements. This money came from “other funds” rather than the general fund.

Legislature Approves Campaign-Finance Reform

The most unexpected bill of the 2024 legislative session may well prove the most consequential. On March 7, the Legislature approved HB 4024, which will fundamentally alter Oregon’s campaign finance system beginning in January 2027.

Campaign spending in Oregon has long been characterized by the absence of limits accompanied by thorough transparency. Though OBI does not consider this system flawed, the organization has been open to changes that are fair, constitutional and workable. Two initiative petitions filed for the November 2024 ballot violate one or more of these criteria and would, if approved by voters, severely limit the ability of businesses to participate in campaigns. One, filed by an activist group calling itself Honest Elections Oregon, is IP 9. The other, supported by public employee unions, is IP 42.

The passage of IP 9 would create additional problems. Because it would limit contributions and spending so severely, it inadvertently would increase the role of so-called “dark money” organizations. Candidates would be unable to control their own messages, and transparency – a hallmark of Oregon’s system – would all but disappear.

The November election created urgency to act during this year’s short session, and the potential harm these measures would do created the necessity of doing so despite the complexity of any alternative system. Fortunately, circumstances – and a shared desire to preserve good government – aligned to create the opportunity.

The result, HB 4024, is the product of extensive negotiations involving legislators and affected organizations, including OBI, public employee unions and, critically, IP 9 backers, who ultimately agreed not to pursue the initiative. In addition to establishing limits on how much any particular donor can contribute, HB 4024 will create a system that preserves the ability of businesses and membership organizations like OBI to participate in campaigns while also containing provisions to mitigate the use of such organizations to evade limits or disclosure. It also includes substantial efforts to improve the state’s campaign finance database and enhance transparency.

The new system is not what any affected group would create on its own, but it is fair, workable and far better than the IP 9 or IP 42.

For contribution and spending details, please see this grid. As noted earlier, the limits do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2027. Before then the secretary of state will issue a new campaign finance manual, and OBI will provide educational resources to its members.

Share Your Thoughts on Oregon’s Business Climate

Is Oregon’s business climate improving, eroding or staying the same?

Do you think state lawmakers care about the success of your business?

What are the biggest challenges you face in operating your business in Oregon?

These are a few of the roughly 20 questions in OBI’s annual business survey, conducted in partnership with the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce and your local chamber. Please take a few minutes and complete it. Your responses will help us make the case for bills that would help promote a healthy private sector and against bills that would limit the ability of businesses to operate.

This survey should take just a few minutes to complete, and an individual company’s answers will remain confidential. Follow the link below to participate.

In the meantime, check out last year’s survey results here.

Notable News

I-5 Bridge: Interstate 5 bridge planners on Tuesday released several illustrations of how they believe a new — and much larger — span could look (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Bottle Bill: On Feb. 29, Gov. Tina Kotek announced she was suspending individual container returns under the Bottle Bill for one month at the Southwest Portland Safeway and an adjacent Plaid Pantry. Other grocers would like the same exemption (Willamette Week).

Climate Rules: Cities that challenged Oregon’s Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities rule in 2022 will have to adhere to them, the Oregon Court of Appeals determined March 6 (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Drazan to Run: Two years after losing her race for governor, Christine Drazan is seeking a return to the state House and plans to challenge fellow Republican James Hieb in the primary (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

Golden Scraps Run: A little more than a week after announcing he would run for the Democratic nomination for state treasurer, Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, has reversed course. In an email March 4, Golden said he will not seek the nomination and instead will remain in the Senate (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

Candidate Disqualified: The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office has ruled Republican Shannon Monihan ineligible for the May 21 primary ballot, after finding the aspiring state senator didn’t provide sufficient evidence showing she’s lived in the district for a year (KTVZ). Shortly thereafter, Redmond School Board Chair and business owner Michael Summers filed to run for the seat now held by Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend. Bend City Councilor Anthony Broadman has filed to run in the Democratic primary for the seat (KTVZ).

Labor Market: The number of Oregon job openings is returning to normal levels as the state’s tight labor market begins to relax. Employers had about 65,000 open jobs at the end of last year, according to the latest quarterly survey from the Oregon Employment Department. That’s down 25% from a year earlier (The Oregonian).

Housing Legislation: Gov. Tina Kotek’s signature housing bill and $369 million in funding meant to help the state backfill a decades-long housing shortage are headed to her desk after bipartisan votes in the House. Kotek’s Senate Bill 1537 and Senate Bill 1530 easily passed the House March 4 after winning approval in the Senate last week (Oregon Capital Chronicle).

Bend Housing: The Bend park board is set to consider a new policy for housing-related tax exemptions and fee waivers, but Bend’s mayor says the policy lacks balance. As agencies across Central Oregon and the state attempt to address housing affordability, conflict has bubbled between the city of Bend and the Bend Park & Recreation District (The Bulletin).

Portland Credit: The Portland City Council on March 5 expanded the geography of a tax break for businesses that sign or extend office leases in the urban core and make their employees work downtown at least half their hours (Portland Business Journal).

Drug Convictions: The number of people who receive criminal convictions under a new drug possession law passed by Oregon lawmakers last week wouldn’t be all that different from the years before voters decriminalized drugs, according to the state’s own estimates (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Open Primaries: Oregon will for a while longer remain one of nine states in which voters unaffiliated with a major party are shut out of primary elections. That’s the import of a Feb. 26 announcement by All Oregon Votes, the group that proposed Initiative Petition 26 (Willamette Week).

PERS Increases: The Oregon Senate on March 5 approved a bill that would increase retirement benefits for public employees who work in crime- or mental health-related environments, including district attorneys, state police forensic scientists and some state psychiatric hospital workers (The Oregonian).

Solar Incentive: Portland General Electric will postpone “for several months” a controversial proposal to put new limits on a key rooftop solar incentive, the utility’s CEO said March 1. PGE has been working on a proposal to require households to pair batteries with rooftop solar to qualify for the most generous payments for excess energy sent back to the grid, a program known as net metering (Portland Business Journal).

Tillamook Lawsuit: The Oregon Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 4 in a lawsuit involving Tillamook County Creamery Association. The plaintiffs sued Tillamook in 2019, alleging the company violated Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act by using deceptive marketing to convince them to pay a premium for Tillamook products (Portland Business Journal).

OBI Member Profile: Cv International

Cv International is proof that there’s more to Bend’s economy than beer, mountain biking and skiing, though Central Oregon’s outdoor amenities largely explain why the company, founded in Torrance, Calif., came to town about a dozen years ago.

Cv International manufactures a group of products that seem, at first glance, to have little in common. They include mobile nitrogen generators and service kits as well as complex maintenance platforms for nearly two dozen varieties of military and commercial aircraft. As is often the case with successful companies, however, this mix is a consequence of expertise and opportunity. And it works.

Read OBI’s profile here and learn more about Cv International.

CompSAFE Video: Ergonomics in the Workplace

If you work at a desk or supervise people who do, you’ll want to watch this video, which covers chair and keyboard height, monitor distance, mouse position, standup desks and much more … including those giant bouncy balls some people use as chairs.

The video was produced by SAIF, Oregon’s not-for-profit workers’ compensation insurance company. OBI partners with SAIF to offer the CompSAFE program, which provides workers’ compensation discounts to eligible members.

To find out if your company qualifies for the CompSAFE program, contact your business insurance agent or SAIF at 888.598.5880 or servicecenter@saif.com.

OBI Accepting Visionary Award Nominations

Is there a person or organization you’d like to nominate for OBI’s highest honor, the Oregon Visionary Award? If so, please let us know.

The Oregon Visionary Award recognizes people, employers and organizations that strengthen Oregon’s economy and contribute significantly to shared prosperity by developing solutions to significant problems. Winners are honored at OBI’s annual Vision Oregon Event, which will take place this year on Oct. 23 at the Portland Art Museum.

The 2023 recipients of the Oregon Visionary Award are Families First Childcare Center and the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center (OMIC R&D). Go here to learn more about these organizations. Even better, watch the videos shared at the 2023 Vision Oregon Event. You can find the Families First Childcare Center video here and the OMIC R&D video here.

Please send nominations for the 2024 award to obi@oregonbusinessindustry.com, and be sure to explain how nominees have contributed to shared prosperity by developing solutions to significant problems.

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.