It comes as no surprise that news organizations focused last week on races for governor, Congress and other offices. Notable stories include:
Campaign finance: The Oregonian took a look at contributions to campaigns for Congress.
BOLI race: OPB wrote about the candidates seeking to become Oregon’s next commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Interstate bridge: In non-election news, both The Oregonian and OPB wrote about the decision by planners with the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program to recommend an I-5 bridge with only two auxiliary lanes.
Workplace rules: Here’s The Oregonian’s take on the adoption of permanent workplace rules for heat and wildfire smoke.
Job vacancies: The Oregon Employment Department released an interesting analysis of 2021 job vacancies last month. The percentage of jobs that were difficult to fill, at 72%, was higher than in any year since the survey began in 2013.
Small Business Week: Finally, if you haven’t read it yet, check OBI board member Lori Olund’s Small Business Week op-ed published earlier this month by Pamplin Media, whose publications include Clackamas Review and Portland Tribune.
Oregon Adopts Workplace Heat and Smoke Rules
Oregon OSHA adopted administrative rules last week to protect employees from excessive heat and smoke. The heat rules include requirements to provide access to shade and water. They also require employers to provide paid breaks of increasing length as heat intensifies. The smoke rules require exposure assessments, training and compel employers to mandate mask usage under certain conditions. The heat rules will take effect June 15, and the smoke rules will take effect July 1.
Both sets of rules could create compliance problems for employers, as we noted frequently during their development. The rest breaks required by the heat rules are likely to disrupt productivity and could prompt employers to cancel work entirely when temperatures are likely to be high. The smoke rules, meanwhile, require employers to compel employees to use protective masks during certain conditions.
Interim Task Force and Rulemaking Update
While progress has been slow in some of the areas in which OBI’s policy team is engaged, notable developments have occurred in others. These include the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, workplace heat and smoke rules, land-use planning rules and others detailed below.
Employment and Labor
PFMLI: The Oregon Employment Department has given the Oregon Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (PFMLI) program a new name, Paid Leave Oregon, and discouraged the use of an acronym. The department is working on the latest batch of rules for the program, which the Legislature established in 2019. Employers that don’t offer equivalent plans will begin to pay into the program early in 2023, as will their employees. Last week, the employment department announced a 1% combined payroll tax, 60% of which would be covered by employees and 40% by employers. OBI is working with the department to schedule a series of webinars, beginning in June. The first three webinars, which provide an overview of the program and equivalent-plan guidance, have been scheduled. Please see the schedule below.
Heat and Smoke Rules: Oregon OSHA adopted administrative rules last week to protect employees from excessive heat and smoke. The heat rules include requirements to provide access to shade and water. They also require employers to provide paid breaks of increasing length as heat intensifies. The smoke rules require exposure assessments, training and require employers to compel mask usage under certain conditions. The heat rules will take effect June 15, and the smoke rules will take effect July 1. OBI is working to schedule a webinar for employers.
For employment and labor questions, contact Paloma Sparks.
Land Use and Planning
Urban Density: The public comment period for the Department of Land Conservation and Development’s Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities proposed rule ends May 18, and the Land Conservation and Development Commission is expected to adopt the rules on the same day. In addition to stringent homebuilding regulations in designated areas that would prohibit parking, the proposal would harm commercial operations by ostensibly banning auto-dependent uses. No vehicle parking, circulation, access or loading would be permitted within “climate friendly” areas, including drive-throughs. OBI is preparing comments expressing concerns about the proposal. We also joined the list of supporters of People for an Affordable Oregon, where you can learn more about the impacts of the proposed rule.
For land use and planning questions, contact Sharla Moffett.
Environment, Energy and Natural Resources
Employee Commute Options: DEQ has begun rulemaking to update the longstanding Employee Commute Options program, which requires employers in the Portland metro area with 100 employees or more at a worksite to do several things. Primarily, they must reduce individual vehicle commute trips by 10% over a baseline, and to that end must develop commute plans that can contain various incentives such as free transit passes, telecommuting and the elimination of employer-paid parking. The current rulemaking will tighten requirements on Portland area employers and expand the program to similarly sized employers in cities with more than 50,000 residents. OBI’s Sharla Moffett is serving on the rules advisory committee (RAC) for this rulemaking, and several worrisome proposals were floated at the first RAC meeting on May 9. Possible changes to the rules include steeper reductions in individual employee commute trips, a focus on reducing vehicle miles traveled rather than commute trips, and the collection of more data and annual reporting by employers. The result would be more expensive and burdensome for large employers. Moffett will submit written comments to DEQ later in May.
Air Permitting: Rules advisory committee (RAC) meetings for DEQ’s air permitting rulemaking have wrapped up, and DEQ is expected to issue a proposed rule for public comment any day. OBI participated on the RAC and submitted extensive comments in the process. While some problematic proposals have been dropped from consideration, we remain extremely concerned that the proposed rule will contain major changes in the permitting program that will be far more resource intensive for regulated business as well as DEQ. The result would be a more complex program that further delays permitting at a time when DEQ is still behind in addressing the backlog of expired and administratively extended permits. OBI will be submitting comments on the proposed rule and is working to ensure that policymakers understand that the proposed changes will make the program less efficient and no more effective. The rules are being fast-tracked in order be adopted in November before a new governor is seated.
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. The fourth and final rules advisory committee meeting will be held May 26 to consider the fiscal impacts of the draft rule. OBI will submit comments when the proposed rule is issued.
For environment, energy and natural resources questions, contact Sharla Moffett.
I-5 Bridge: Planners with the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program have advanced a design that includes just two auxiliary lanes, which 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 four auxiliary lanes, but opted instead for half that number. The many policymaking bodies involved in the replacement of the bridge will consider the recommendation, which could change if there is strong support for another option. A decision on the preferred design option is expected in July. Prior to the recommendation, OBI joined many other business organizations in urging planners to maximize capacity, and we will continue to advocate to that end. We also sent the letter to the bistate legislative committee overseeing the bridge, Metro Council and Portland City Council. Construction is expected to begin in 2025.
For transportation questions, contact Sharla Moffett.
Product Labeling: OBI is monitoring the Truth in Labeling Task Force established by the 2021 passage of recycling-modernization legislation. The task force is reviewing options for Oregon-specific packaging label requirements, including the potential replacement of the universal recycling “chasing arrows” symbol with labels indicating recyclability in Oregon. The task force has established a basic proposal outline and will take public input on May 16. The proposal will, among other things, require packaging to indicate clearly whether it’s recyclable and, if so, whether it can be discarded in conventional bins. It also will include a consumer education component. The implementation timeline has not been determined, but OBI seeks to delay any labeling requirements until the conclusion of a similar effort in California, which represents a much larger market. The task force must submit a report to the Legislature by June 1. Implementation of any new requirements likely will happen over a period exceeding three years, in part due to the need to develop a comprehensive statewide recyclability list.
Consumer Privacy: The attorney general’s Consumer Privacy Task Force has been meeting for several years to discuss consumer privacy. This year, the task force is working to develop a comprehensive consumer privacy concept that will be introduced during the 2023 legislative session. OBI will continue to urge that any legislation allow for the continued use of customer loyalty programs and the like. While we are tracking this for retailers, we know many businesses could be affected. Please contact Paloma Sparks if you want to know more about this task force.
Recycling: The Oregon Recycling System Advisory Council, which will advise DEQ on the creation of a uniform recycling collection list, among other things, met for the first time May 11. The committee 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 required the creation of a statewide recycling list and public education. The advisory council 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.
For retail questions, contact Paloma Sparks.
Education and Workforce
‘Student Voice’ Task Force: The Joint Task Force on Student Success for Underrepresented Students in Higher Education – aka the Student Voice Task Force – is holding in-person and virtual meetings on campuses across the state through the end of July. OBI has been asked to identify businesses to participate in task force roundtable discussions A complete schedule of task force visits and meetings can be found here.
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. For each meeting, OBI has been asked to identify two or three local business representatives to discuss preparation for students entering the workforce. Given today’s workforce shortages, the contribution of business voices to the task force is critical.
Major themes that have developed during previous meetings include the need to address student debt, the need for wraparound services, the need to increase high school counseling capacity and the need to help students navigate the administrative challenges of college attendance, which include lining up housing and accessing programs for which they are eligible.
Upcoming meetings include a May 19 virtual meeting that will focus on financial aid and affordability and a May 31 virtual site visit to Central Oregon Community College.
If you’d like to learn more or participate, please contact Morgan Beltz.
Universal Health Care: The Expenditures & Revenue Analysis Workgroup of the Task Force on Universal Health Care met for the last time on May 13 to review the final estimates that it will recommend to the full task force on May 19. The revenue and expenditures proposal will be the basis for the overall universal health care package the task force presents.
Bridge Health Care Task Force: The 2022 Legislature created a task force to help low-income Oregonians who would lose Medicaid coverage that is guaranteed during the recently extended federal COVID emergency. The Joint Task Force on the Bridge Health Care Program met May 10 to discuss its goals and pathways to procuring a federal waiver for the program. At the next meeting, on May 24, the task force will review the first bridge plan design, including benefits, costs and reimbursement rates.
Cost Growth Committee: In 2019, the Legislature created the Sustainable Health Care Cost Growth Target Program and established the Cost Growth Target Implementation Committee. Directed by the Oregon Health Policy Board, the committee was responsible for designing the implementation plan for the cost-growth program. It delivered its recommendations in January 2021, and these include the creation of a governance committee for the cost growth program. OBI’s Morgan Beltz has been appointed to this committee, known as the Cost Growth Target Advisory Committee. The committee will, among other things, oversee program implementation, revisit the cost growth target value for 2026-2030 (and beyond) and review cost growth trends and cost drivers.
For health care questions, contact Morgan Beltz.
Manufacturer Profile: Planar
Planar is a leading manufacturer of large video display systems. You’ve seen the Hillsboro-based company’s work if you’ve watched the recent winter Olympics, an NFL GameDay broadcast or visited the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
Learn more about the Hillsboro-based manufacturer on our website.
Vigor LLC recently completed the maintenance and modernization of the USS McCampbell. This is the biggest completed ship repair project in the company’s history.
Oregon Tool has been recognized as a Gold Leader in Sustainability by Clackamas County.
Dunn Carney attorney Josh Stadtler has been elected to the board of directors of Meritas Global Alliance of Law Firms.
Papé received the Dean’s Award for Family Business Leadership presented by the Center for Family Enterprise within Oregon State University’s College of Business.