Capitol Connect WP image

Vision Oregon only Days Away! Register Online

OBI’s Vision Oregon Event is only days away. Two days, to be exact. But it’s not too late to register, and there are many reasons for doing so.

In his keynote address, futurist Steve Brown will discuss the things businesses need to know if they want to succeed in the artificial intelligence era.

Following his address, Brown will lead a discussion about artificial intelligence with a panel of business leaders that includes:

The event will feature the presentation of the Oregon Visionary Award to the Families First Childcare Center and the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center (OMIC R&D).

Attendees will be the first to learn the winner of the inaugural Coolest Thing Made in Oregon contest. And, of course, there will be time for networking before and after the event.

  • Date: Oct. 25
  • Time: Reception begins at 3:30, program begins at 4:30
  • Location: Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave.

To learn more about what’s in store at #OBIVision2023, check out the event page here.

To register, go here.


And Then There Were Two: The Coolest Thing Will Be …

This summer, Oregonians nominated more than 150 products for the inaugural Coolest Thing Made in Oregon competition. In September, the 16 top products, as determined by a panel of business, media and education leaders, were arranged in a competition-style bracket, and voting began.

After three rounds of voting, only two products remained. They defeated blue cheese, lab-grown diamonds, campers, robots and many more Oregon-made goods. They are A-dec’s 500 Dental Chair and Freres Engineered Wood’s Mass Ply panels.

Voting in this final round ended on Oct. 20. So, unfortunately, if you hadn’t done so yet, it’s too late.

It’s not too late, however, to learn more about these two innovative and truly deserving finalists.

Learn more about Freres Mass Ply panels here.

Learn more about the A-dec 500 Dental Chair here.


Policy and Rulemaking Update

Oregon, Beware: Tax Hikes Brewing in Calif.

Last week, OBI’s director of tax policy, Scott Bruun, was invited to speak at the annual meeting of the Council on State Taxation (COST), which is considered the nation’s premier taxpayer advocate organization. In addition to joining a conference panel, Scott connected with taxpayer advocates from a host of states, including California, which many Oregon legislators turn to for ideas. Thus, it’s worth noting what’s afoot in the Golden State.

Not a surprise, but tax increases are again gaining traction down south. Of particular concern are a new law that will raise income taxes on high earners beginning in 2024 and a statewide ballot measure (Proposition 30) that would raise income taxes on high earners even more.

Also not a surprise, California’s high-income residents continue to leave for lower-tax states, primarily Arizona, Texas and Florida. Oregon, too, has seen increased outmigration of higher-income taxpayers, especially from Multnomah County (see recent ECONorthwest tax presentation here). If Oregon’s local and statewide policymakers want more private investment and job creation, as many say they do, then they must learn from recent history and stop driving people to other states with harmful tax policy.

Oregon Extends Graduation-Without-Learning Policy

To graduate from high school, students in Oregon will not need to prove basic mastery in reading, writing or math until at least 2029. Despite receiving a significant number of public comments supporting the reinstatement of those standards, the Oregon State Board of Education on Oct. 19 voted unanimously to extend the controversial policy it enacted in 2020 during the COVID pandemic. Proponents of the policy, including leaders from the Oregon Department of Education, say that proving basic skills in reading, writing and math through standardized testing can create damaging barriers, particularly to historically marginalized students. Advocates for content mastery argued that continuing the 2020 policy would be a mistake without providing other effective and equitable solutions, arguing that allowing students to graduate without learning to read, write and do math competently would weaken the credibility of Oregon’s high school diploma.

Federal Enforcement of Workplace Regulations Increases

According to recent federal data, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is taking a tough stance on unlawful workplace behavior. In 2023, the EEOC filed 143 discrimination or harassment claims, which represents an increase of more than 50% over claims filed in 2022. Notably, claims for age discrimination more than doubled year-over-year, and nearly a third of all claims filed in 2023 were over hostile work environments.

During the 2023 legislative session, OBI pointed to the effectiveness of both federal and state laws already on the books to show new legislation was not necessary and would only serve to further confuse employers trying to comply with current laws. OBI was effective in halting misguided proposals regulating hostile work environments and imposing new liability for discrimination based on caste and age, in part by using that argument. While most of those concepts are unlikely to come back during the 2024 “short” session, OBI recently learned that a bill that would define age for employment discrimination purposes likely will be introduced in the Senate. The bill is reported to be as flawed as last session’s concept, creating confusion and adding complexity to Oregon’s already robust age-discrimination laws. OBI is already working to ensure it does not pass this session.

California Bans Food Additives

In other California news, the state recently became the first to prohibit food ingredients deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The California Food Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from adding brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye 3 to food products by 2027. Not to be outdone, the New York Legislature is vetting a proposal that would ban the ingredients above as well as titanium dioxide. In the event the Oregon Legislature considers such a bill, OBI will point out the importance of federal regulation, as state-level restrictions create a regulatory framework that disrupts supply chains. In no way should Oregon believe it has the capacity, resources or economic heft to outregulate the FDA or even states like California and New York.


Policy and Rulemaking Update

From Sept. 27-29, the Legislature held informational hearings about many timely issues, including those that may receive action during the upcoming session, which will be held in February 2024. Below are a handful of Legislative Days highlights:

Measure 110: Two legislative committees held hearings on Ballot Measure 110, which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of hard drugs. The Senate Judiciary Committee held an informational hearing about the measure’s implementation and the ways in which it is helping to combat addiction. That committee was then briefed about the substantial barriers the measure imposes on police and local governments trying to remove once-illegal drugs from Oregon’s streets. The House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care also was briefed on the measure’s implementation. Meanwhile, House Speaker Dan Rayfield and Senate President Rob Wagner announced a Joint Interim Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response. That committee will meet monthly to develop proposals to increase public safety, including proposals related to Measure 110. OBI is working to ensure that the business community’s interests are considered.

Paid Leave Oregon: The Oregon Employment Department believes additional clarifying legislation is needed to prevent the stacking of leave programs, despite a bill passed earlier this year. During the 2023 legislative session, OBI and other employer groups fought to better align Paid Leave Oregon with the Oregon Family Leave Act through the passage of SB 999. That bill included a provision intended to ensure workers could not stack their leave benefits by taking OFLA and subsequently taking Paid Leave Oregon. The department believes there is an issue with this law that requires further legislative action. The good news is that the department says it knows how to fix the stacking issue, and the Senate Labor and Business Committee chair says that fix can be made during the 2024 session.

Clean Trucks Rules: Businesses have expressed concerns for months about the limited availability of heavy-duty trucks available for purchase in response to the Department of Environmental Quality’s 2021 Clean Trucks rules. On Sept. 29, DEQ briefed more than 230 stakeholders about several changes to its original plan. Many questions remain. For now, however, we know that the low-nitrogen oxide diesel engine portion of the rule will be delayed one year, from January 2024 to January 2025, to ease inventory concerns. Additionally, DEQ intends to align other rules associated with a heavy-duty electric truck sales mandate with California’s revised rules, which will be adopted in December. DEQ then will initiate rulemaking for the Environmental Quality Commission’s action by May 2024. The delay is certainly good news. However, the quick rulemaking turnaround suggests that DEQ probably intends to adopt California’s revised rules.

Transportation Revenue: The Joint Committee on Transportation met Sept. 29 to hear updates on several issues. The state economist reported on the cost allocation study, which assesses revenue from vehicle classes relative to their impact on the transportation system. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles continue to shoulder a disproportionate cost burden, a worrisome and worsening trend. Meanwhile, the popularity of fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric vehicles has contributed to shortfalls in transportation revenue, which is generated in large part by fuel taxes. Focusing on road usage, the Oregon Transportation Commission is trying to figure out how to collect more revenue without disincentivizing the adoption of low-emissions vehicles. The Legislature is likely to take this up in 2025.


Intel Plans Significant Investment in Oregon Innovation Hub

Intel on Oct. 23 shared its plans to expand its semiconductor technology development facilities at the Gordon Moore Park at Ronler Acres in Hillsboro. The campus is the company’s innovation hub for semiconductor research, technology development and manufacturing in the United States.

According to a press release, the plans include:

  • Ongoing advancement of the company’s existing technology development facilities at the campus. The upgrade will usher in the latest in process technology and tools, putting the campus at the forefront of innovation.
  • The world’s first high-numerical aperture extreme ultraviolet (High-NA EUV) lithography tool is planned to dock this year.
  • Initiation of the application process for permits to enable a potential future multibillion-dollar expansion to Intel’s R&D and manufacturing capacity.

These investments are possible thanks to state, county and city support and are contingent on support from the U.S. CHIPS Act, according to the company press release. They would support several thousand new permanent and construction jobs. Intel employs more than 22,000 people in Oregon.

Read an Oregonian story about the announcement here.


Notable News

State Unemployment: Oregon’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.5% in September, the Oregon Capital Insider reports. The national rate for September was 3.8%.

Transit Slump: Echoing a national trend, TriMet’s ridership has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, the Portland Business Journal reports. TriMet ridership in 2023 is on track to trail ridership in 2019 by 38%.

Foreclosure Lawsuit: Three former Oregon homeowners have filed a class-action lawsuit against counties that foreclosed on their homes and kept the full amount rather than the amount needed to cover unpaid taxes. The lawsuit seeks to enforce a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling and could cost counties millions, The Oregonian reports.

Hydrogen Hub: Portland General Electric would like to produce green hydrogen at the site of its former coal-fired plant in Boardman, the Portland Business Journal reports. The concept is part of a grant-winning hydrogen hub proposal from a Pacific Northwest public-private partnership.

Gas Line Approval: Federal regulators have approved the expansion of a Pacific Northwest natural gas pipeline that crosses Oregon despite objections from environmental groups and some state and federal officials, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

Gas Station Ban: Eugene is considering a ban on the construction of new gas stations, KATU reports.

Nike Work Rules: Nike has told employees that they soon will be required to work in the office at least four days a week, The Oregonian reports.

OLCC Audit: Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade has decided not to follow an independent investigator’s recommendation to pull down an audit of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission that was caught up in former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s moonlighting scandal, Willamette Week reports. Griffin-Valade says she will review the audit herself.


Save the Date: NEBC Business & The Environment Conference

OBI is a sponsor of the Northwest Environmental Business Council’s 2023 Business & The Environment Conference, which will take place from Dec. 5-6 in Portland.

The conference will highlight several topics, including the changing rural energy landscape, redeveloping brownfields, regulatory updates for environmental professionals, and trending topics such as artificial intelligence.

The conference’s keynote speaker will be federal Rural Utility Service Administrator Andrew Berke. Many regulators will participate as well, including Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Director Leah Feldon.

Go here to learn more.