Coos Bay Terminal: Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, joined by Rep. Peter DeFazio, are asking for $1.24 billion in federal infrastructure funds to develop a container terminal at the Port of Coos Bay, The Oregonian reports. The proposed project would increase badly need port capacity on the West Coast.
Wine Industry: Oregon’s wine industry fared much better in 2021 than 2020, when smoke from wildfires damaged the grape crop, the Portland Business Journal reports. The grape crop in 2021, at 115,000 tons, far exceeded 2020’s 75,000 tons. Meanwhile, wine sales in 2021 rose 13% to 5.3 million cases.
Transportation Commission: Gov. Kate Brown’s appointment of outgoing state Sen. Lee Beyer, a moderate Democrat, to the Oregon Transportation Commission has encountered opposition from environmental groups, Willamette Week reports. A letter submitted by several groups expresses concern that Beyer will support large highway projects.
Educational Decline: Test data released by the state Department of Education indicate a significant decline in Oregon students’ reading, writing and math skills since 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic, The Oregonian reports.
Abrupt Resignation: Richard Whitman, the director of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, abruptly resigned this week, three months before his planned retirement, the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports.
Hospitality Workers: Restaurants and hotels still have 12,000 fewer jobs than they did before the pandemic, The Oregonian writes. Employment data suggest that many hospitality employees moved to health care, retail and business services.
Wildfire Map: The controversial state map identifying properties at risk of wildfire will be re-released March 1, according to The Oregonian. The Oregon Department of Forestry withdrew an earlier draft of the map in August following significant criticism.
Legislative Days Update
Legislative Days: Legislative committees met last week to conduct informational hearings in anticipation of the 2023 session. Below are highlights in the areas tracked most closely by OBI’s team:
Business Development: Appearing Sept. 21 before the House Interim Committee on Economic Development and Small Business, Gov. Kate Brown urged lawmakers to create a research and development tax credit and support efforts to streamline permitting for high-tech manufacturing. The governor also announced plans to dedicate $1 million immediately to prepare industrial land for chipmakers. The governor made these announcements while urging the lawmakers to support the recommendations of the Oregon Semiconductor Competitiveness Task Force.
DEQ Positions: In late August, Gov. Brown asked the Legislature’s Emergency Board for $357,000 to hire four DEQ specialists temporarily to accelerate environmental reviews for the semiconductor industry. The governor serves on the Oregon Semiconductor Competitiveness Task Force, whose August report observed that “rulemaking is eroding predictability and increasing uncertainty in regulatory compliance and permit review times, which is significantly lengthening permit review.” However, neither the task force nor the semiconductor industry recommended the temporary-specialist approach the governor chose, which fails to address the core problem and would only temporarily add more permitting staff. In fact, OBI immediately pointed out the fact that Oregon’s approach to rule making and permitting harms all regulated businesses, not merely semiconductor manufacturers. Moreover, hiring a handful of specialists temporarily does nothing to address the state’s systematic regulatory shortcomings. Since then, the governor’s request has taken an unusual journey. During last week’s Legislative Days, the DEQ request was for unknown reasons tucked into a Wednesday work session of the Joint Emergency Board Subcommittee on Education, where it drew little notice. Meanwhile, following review by the Legislative Fiscal Office, the proposed source of funding for the four temporary positions shifted from the state general fund to DEQ fee funds. These funds are paid by all permit holders, not just those in the industry sector the governor had chosen to emphasize. OBI raised objections to the use of fee funds on fairness grounds, as did several legislators serving on the Emergency Board when it took up and approved the request Sept. 23. While OBI appreciates the effort to try and improve permitting and leverage Oregon’s place as a semiconductor industry hub, this proposal is not going to solve underlying systemic problems.
Commute Options: On Sept. 21, as Legislative Days were beginning, DEQ’s Employee Commute Options Rules Advisory Committee met and discussed a worrisome scoring proposal. Employers would have to offer incentives worth an escalating number of points depending upon employer size. Employers with 101-249 employees, for example, would have to offer incentives worth 60 points. Those with 250-1,000 employees would have to offer incentives worth 80 points, and so on. DEQ has presented a menu of incentive-bearing options. Employers could earn 50 points for offering vanpools to at least half of their employers, yet they would receive only 20 points for providing free or subsidized transit passes. OBI will be offering written comments on the proposals discussed at the meeting to share concerns with these costly and excessive recommendations.
Universal Health Care: The recently released report of the Task Force on Universal Health Care did not receive a hearing during Legislative Days. However, Sen. James Manning, D-Eugene, did indicate last week that he plans to introduce legislation in 2023 that would create a board to carry out a full economic analysis of a single-payer system for consideration during the 2025 session. Meanwhile, the universal health care task force will meet next on Sept. 29 to vote on the report and its recommendations. The committee will take public comment at that meeting. More information, including instructions for submitting comments, can be found here.
Education Report: Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill presented recommendations for equitable graduation outcomes to the Senate Interim Committee on Education Sept. 22. The report is a requirement of last year’s Senate Bill 744 and is not a legislative concept or request for rule changes. A presentation containing details can be found here.
National Association of Manufacturers Plans Portland Events
The National Association of Manufacturers will host a pair of events in Portland in November, one focusing on women in manufacturing and the other on recruiting and retaining employees with military experience.
Women are the Future of Manufacturing will focusing on growing the next generation of women in manufacturing. Students and women at local community colleges, universities and educational institutions will convene to hear from a variety of women working in the manufacturing and transportation industries, including a panel of emerging leaders who are excelling in their roles that can directly talk about the benefits and opportunities of pursuing a career in these fields. Participants also will have a chance to network with future talent and learn how their female staff can get engaged with the Women MAKE America Mentorship Program. This event will run from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Recruiting and Retaining Military Workforce will focus on on best practices for attracting candidates from the military community by creating welcoming and inclusive recruitment practices and workplace environments. Attendees will learn about The MI’s Heroes MAKE America initiative and hear from veterans and military spouses to gain insights and walk away with tactics they can implement. This event will run from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Both of these events will take place on Nov. 10 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Washington Square (9000 SW Washington Square Rd., Tigard).
To register for one or both events, go here.
OBI to Co-Sponsor Oct. 6 Southern Oregon Gubernatorial Debate
OBI will co-sponsor an Oct. 6 gubernatorial debate presented by Southern Oregon University and KOBI-TV/NBC5 and KOTI-TV/NBC2. The debate will be broadcast live on those stations and streamed live on KOBI5.com.
Beginning at 7 p.m., the debate will be broadcast live from the NBC5 studios in Medford. It will involve Republican Christine Drazan, nonaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson and Democrat Tina Kotek. It will be moderated by NBC5 News Director Craig Smullin, who also will serve as a panelist with Southern Oregon University President Richard Bailey, Jr., and Patsy Smullin, president and owner of KOBI-TV and KOTI-TV.
It is the only gubernatorial debate scheduled in Southern Oregon.
Oct. 7: Celebrating Manufacturers
Join OBI for a webinar marking Manufacturing Day. The webinar will examine the importance of this large and varied industry sector in Oregon. It will recap OBI’s inaugural Manufacturing and Innovation Roadshow, which visited two dozen manufacturers in August during a journey that touched almost all parts of the state. It will feature a panel of manufacturing leaders, who will discuss the challenges of the past two years and reflect on successes. Finally, the webinar will examine a handful of legislative and administrative changes that would address some of the challenges faced by manufacturers and other employers.
Date: Friday, Oct. 7
Time: 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
To Register: Go here.
Oct. 27: Are You Ready for Paid Family and Medical Leave?
Oregon’s new paid family and medical leave insurance program, Paid Leave Oregon, will soon become operational. Employers must submit payroll contributions to fund the program beginning Jan. 1, and employees can start applying for benefits on Sept. 3. In the meantime, many employers are weighing whether to participate in the state-administered leave program or an equivalent program offered by an insurance provider.
Join our Oct. 27 webinar to learn what employers need to know as Jan. 1 approaches. We’ll be joined by Laura Rosenbaum, an employment attorney with Stoel Rives, and Jessica Bolar, senior product manager for paid family and medical leave with The Standard.
Date: Thursday, Oct. 27
Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
To Register: Go here.
Nov. 1: Future Ready Oregon Progress
The Oregon Legislature this year passed Gov. Kate Brown’s Future Ready Oregon plan, a $200 million initiative to prepare Oregonians for jobs in health care, manufacturing and technology. The state Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) oversees the expenditure of much of this money and works with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries and employment department to collect data on effectiveness.
So how has implementation been going, and how can businesses engage with this program? Join HECC Executive Director Ben Cannon and Future Ready Oregon Director Jennifer Purcell on Tuesday, Nov. 1 for a discussion.
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 1
Time: 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
To Register: Go here.
Dec. 9: Oregon Health Care Policy, Program Update
Oregon health-care task forces and program managers have been busy in recent months. The Task Force on Universal Health Care recently released its final report and recommendations for the for the Legislature. The Task force on the Bridge Health Care Program released its preliminary program design recommendations. Meanwhile, Oregon Health Authority staff have tracked health care spending under the Sustainable Health Care Cost Growth Target Program. There’s a lot going on, and the 2023 Legislature is likely to consider significant expansions in health-care spending and services.
Join our webinar and learn more about the state of health care in Oregon. We’ll be joined by Trilby de Jung, deputy director of OHA’s Health Policy and Analytics Division, and Sarah Bartelmann, manager of the Sustainable Health Care Cost Growth Target Program.
Date: Friday, Dec. 9
Time: 11 a.m. to noon
To Register: Go here
Watch Recent Webinars
Paid Leave Oregon Webinars
OBI has held three webinars so far on the Paid Leave Oregon program, which will become effective in 2023. Additional webinars will occur as program development continues. Previous webinars:
- Program Overview: A webinar providing an overview of the program has been offered twice. Watch the June 22 webinar here and the July 14 overview here.
- Equivalent Plans Overview: A webinar providing an overview of program rules governing equivalent plans can be found here.
Managing Claims Costs with Return to Work Services
Watch a recording here.
Experts with SAIF explained how employers can manage the post-injury process, get their employees back to work and mitigate claim costs using the Return to Work services team at SAIF and the Employer-at-Injury and Preferred Worker Program benefits. The webinar was offered through OBI’s CompSAFE program.
OSHA Heat and Smoke Rules
Watch a recording here.
Experts with Oregon OSHA provided an overview of the recently adopted heat and smoke rules and answered questions from OBI members.
Union Organizing Dos and Don’ts
Watch a recording here.
Attorney Nicole Elgin with Barran Liebman LLP explained what managers and supervisors should know, do and not do when confronted by a union organizing drive.
Oregon Business Plan Update
Watch a recording here.
Oregon Business Council President Duncan Wyse delivered a midyear progress report on the Oregon Business Plan and answered questions from webinar participants.
Student Success Act Implementation
Watch a recording here.
Officials with the Oregon Department of Education joined OBI to discuss the implementation of the 2019 Student Success Act, which generates roughly $1 billion per year for education through the state’s corporate activity tax.