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Q&A with Outgoing Board Chair Jordan Papé

Following a two-year stint as the chair of the OBI Board of Directors, Jordan Papé passed the reins to Lori Olund in March. In an exit interview of sorts, we asked Jordan to reflect on his tenure, the role of OBI, the challenges Oregon businesses face, and reasons for optimism.

Go here to read the Q&A and to learn a few things about The Papé Group you might not know.

For instance, Papé founder E.C. Papé served as the general manager for the Industrial Relations Association of Oregon and the Oregon Employers Council, a manufacturing association and predecessor to OBI.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Q&A with Olund about what she looks forward to OBI accomplishing during her tenure as chair.

Policy and Rulemaking Updates

OBI to Weigh in on Leave Rulemaking

The two agencies responsible for administering Oregon’s overlapping leave programs – the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) and Paid Leave Oregon (PLO) – began rulemaking related to SB 1515, which passed during the 2024 legislative session. OBI was instrumental in negotiating the aspects of the bill repealing the portions of OFLA that were duplicated by PLO. As a result, OFLA’s protected leave now consists only of pregnancy disability leave, leave to care for a sick child’s serious or non-serious health condition, and bereavement leave.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) is creating a process to inform employees about changes to protected leave. Right now, BOLI has suggested an arbitrary deadline of June 1 – just a few weeks away – for this notice. OBI will advocate for a standard that is far more reasonable. At the same time, OBI is trying to get BOLI to correct a rule adopted in March that requires employers to count all permissible leave toward hours worked when determining eligibility for leave under OFLA. Not only does that rule contradict federal leave law under the Family and Medical Leave Act and Oregon court decisions on the issue, but it also poses an extreme burden on businesses.

The Employment Department’s rule implementing SB 1515 is not as problematic. However, it fails to provide the guidance employers need to ensure that employees who choose to supplement PLO benefits with employer-provided paid time off are not underpaid or overpaid. Without such guidance, employers won’t know how much paid time off their workers can use. This problem is particularly acute for employers who have workers with multiple jobs or part-time employment.

Outreach, Development Continue for 2025 Legislative Agenda

Planning and developmental work for our pro-growth 2025 legislative agenda, the Growth and Innovation Roadmap, is moving along nicely. The late winter and early spring months have been filled with stakeholder outreach, policy development and conversations with key supportive legislators. In recent weeks, we have delivered presentations and had excellent conversations with several important groups, including a number of trade associations and local and regional chambers of commerce. Meanwhile, we have developed an initial set of policy concepts and begun to work with key legislators to serve as sponsors and champions of these concepts. Working with legislators, we will begin submitting these and other pro-growth concepts to be drafted into bills as early as June, and then plan to do a robust media outreach push in the fall as we gear up for the 2025 legislative session. The roadmap will provide the primary framework for our efforts to improve Oregon’s business climate and strengthen the state’s economy.

An important part of this work is gathering information to support the portion of the agenda focused on modernizing rulemaking and the state’s regulatory practices. You can read more about our 2023 business survey about this topic and share your own story on our regulatory improvement page.

Climate Program Meeting to Focus on Energy-Intensive Industries

The Climate Protection Program (CPP) rulemaking advisory committee, which includes OBI, will meet for a second time on May 14. The original CPP rule, adopted in 2021, was invalidated by the Oregon Court of Appeals in December 2023, which prompted the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct another rulemaking. While the first meeting on April 2 focused primarily on the original rule and possible changes, the May 14 meeting will involve potential modifications in greater detail. At issue are the high compliance costs associated with the regulatory program that result in increases for natural gas and transportation fuels. These increases are particularly problematic for most Oregon manufacturing businesses that are considered “energy intensive and trade exposed” (EITE) because their market competitors do not operate under the same stringent regulatory requirements. Finding an approach for EITE businesses that does not place them at a competitive disadvantage will be a significant focus of the May 14 meeting. For more information about the rulemaking, visit DEQ’s CPP rulemaking page.

Land-Use Rules May Limit Agri-Tourism Activities

The Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC), the decision-making body for the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), voted at its April 25 meeting to expand the scope of the Farm Forest Work Plan rulemaking, which could limit activities on land zoned exclusive farm use (EFU). The rulemaking was initiated to address ambiguity in state land use planning rules related to issues such as additional dwellings and replacement dwellings on EFU-zoned land. However, agency staff recommended that the rulemaking include additional issues, which are largely related to agri-tourism activities. The rules are likely to affect farm businesses that, in addition to raising crops or livestock, use their property for farm stands and events such as pumpkin patches and weddings. These are important sources of income for many family farms and support the economic viability of these businesses. Many agri-tourism uses are contingent upon meeting certain income requirements, but DLCD staff have expressed concern that IRS documents lack the necessary specificity to determine a business’ eligibility and believe more detailed information should be required. Many stakeholders, including OBI, offered public comments opposing the proposal to expand the rulemaking’s scope, and two commissioners raised numerous concerns. However, the proposal ultimately was adopted.

Future Ready Oregon Releases Funding Data

Last month, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) released an interactive map that allows members of the public to view where Future Ready Oregon funds have been distributed. As you will recall, Future Ready Oregon is a $200 million investment package passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2022 to create a more equitable workforce system. Future Ready Oregon focuses on investments in workforce development programs in the health care, manufacturing and technology sectors. You can find in-depth data in the program’s two-year report. We will analyze this information closely for key trends and outcomes in preparation for what will no doubt be requests for continued funding.

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.

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.

Notable News

Kotek Emails: Gov. Tina Kotek’s office released a large batch of emails April 26 in response to requests from news outlets following the departure of three of her top aides. As Willamette Week reports, they show that the role of first lady Aimee Kotek Wilson in the governor’s office raised ethics concerns among Kotek’s most senior and loyal aides. Oregon Public Broadcasting has produced a timeline of notable emails and events. On May 1, the governor announced that she will not create an official position for her wife, though what her role will look like is unclear, The Oregonian reported.

Semiconductor Center: Gov. Tina Kotek says Oregon is the obvious choice for more federal funding to advance the national semiconductor industry, and she’s among a number of top state officials pushing to host a national research and development center (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

TurboTax Error: TurboTax says mistakes by its tax-preparation software affected more than 12,000 Oregon tax returns, incorrectly directing them to take the state’s standard tax deduction in cases when people could save money by itemizing their deductions (The Oregonian).

Jobless Claims: Nearly a third of unemployed Oregonians have to wait at least three weeks to get their jobless benefits paid, according to new federal data, extending a steep decline in timely payments that began a year ago (The Oregonian).

Land-Use Battle: The Oregon Court of Appeals on May 1 sent Deschutes County’s approval of a revised master plan for the long-debated Thornburgh Resort west of Redmond back to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, finding it was wrong to dismiss the Warm Springs Tribes’ issues regarding a requirement for no net loss of fish habitat. The nearly 2,000-acre resort at Cline Buttes has been in the works, and tied up in challenges and appeals for nearly 20 years (KTVZ).

Energy Disclosure: Portland officials plan to unveil a proposed policy that would require landlords of existing duplexes and larger apartment buildings to disclose an apartment’s monthly energy costs and health and climate risks to prospective tenants – including risks associated with natural gas stoves and air-conditioning and other cooling measures (The Oregonian).

Grid Pressure: Growing electricity demand that’s already begun to stress the grid in the Pacific Northwest will rise much faster than utilities thought even just a year ago, according to a new report. The Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee assessment, based on more than 100 utility plans in the region, sees a 30% demand increase over the next 10 years. Last year, it projected a 24% increase (Portland Business Journal).

Wildfire Lawsuit: Lawyers bringing the big wildfire case against PacifiCorp in Portland have filed an amended complaint that asks for $30 billion in damages from the company — $30 million apiece for 1,000 new plaintiffs (Portland Business Journal).

Portland Conversions: Portland doesn’t appear to have completed any office-to-residential projects since the pandemic, despite city incentives and an ever-increasing office vacancy rate (Portland Business Journal).

Employment Loss: Employment in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metropolitan area fell 1.5% in February from a year earlier. That, according to state economists, was the biggest loss among the top 50 metro areas (Willamette Week). 

Bottle Bill: The temporary exemption to Oregon Bottle Bill that Gov. Tina Kotek issued to the Safeway store on Southwest 10th Avenue and a nearby Plaid Pantry on Southwest 11th Avenue lapsed on May 1. That means the two stores must resume accepting redemptions of loose cans and bottles, after a 60-day holiday from the requirements of Bottle Bill (Willamette Week).

Wind Auction: The Southern Oregon coast is closer to hosting floating offshore wind energy, after the Biden administration announced it’s preparing to accept proposals for the area. This is the first step in a multiyear process before any wind developer could begin construction (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Climate Lawsuit: A federal appeals court panel on May 1 rejected a long-running lawsuit brought by young Oregon-based climate activists who argued that the U.S. government’s role in climate change violated their constitutional rights (Associated Press).

Notable News: Campaigns and Elections

3rd Congressional District: Three people with previous elected experience are leading contenders for Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District seat: Maxine Dexter, a state representative and critical care doctor; former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal; and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

5th Congressional District: The Democratic primary for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District may be one of the nation’s most closely watched elections. Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an attorney from Terrebonne who has twice won Democratic nominations for Congress but lost the general election, faces Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum, a Happy Valley Democrat and fourth-term legislator who has never run for Congress (Oregon Public Broadcasting).

51st House District: Christine Drazan, Oregon’s most recent Republican nominee for governor and a former House Republican leader, is running to win back her seat in the Oregon House. That will require her to defeat preschool owner James Hieb, who was appointed to replace her when she stepped down in early 2022 to run for governor and subsequently won election to a full term, in the upcoming May 21 primary (The Oregonian).

Look for Ballots: May 7 is the last day to mail ballots to voters for the May 21 primary election. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by election day, and ballots deposited in an official drop box must be received by 8 p.m. on election day.

Federal Rules to Reshape Employee-Employer Relationship

Two federal rulemaking efforts could harm businesses by reshaping their relationships with employees.

First, the Federal Trade Commission on April 23 approved a rule that bans most new noncompete clauses in employment contracts. The rule also renders unenforceable all existing noncompete agreements except for those involving senior executives. The FTC defines “senior executive” as a worker earning more than $151,164 annually who is in a “policy-making position.” The rule requires businesses to inform current and former workers that their noncompete clauses are no longer in effect. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced immediately that it would sue the FTC to block the rule.

Also on April 23, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it would implement a rule increasing the salary threshold required to exempt employees from overtime pay. Beginning July 1, the threshold will increase to the equivalent of an annual salary of $43,888. And on Jan. 1, 2025, it will increase to $58,656. The current salary threshold is $35,568. Employers will be required to pay overtime to salaried workers making less than these amounts.

Oregon Coast Economic Summit to Take Place May 8

The Oregon Coast Economic Summit will take place on Wednesday, May 8, at the Chinook Winds Casino Resort in Lincoln City. The event, which will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., will allow participants to connect with business leaders and policymakers and listen to presentations on a wide range of topics. These include the state of Oregon’s coast economy, sustainable coastal development, renewable energy and environmental stewardship, workforce development, infrastructure and connectivity, affordable housing and more.

Registration for the summit is free. Go here to register and learn more about the event.

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.