June 30, 2021
Success in Salem: Session Adjourns with Major Wins for Oregon Businesses
By Karen Vineyard, chair, OBI Board of Directors
When the legislative session began back in January – amid a global pandemic that had shuttered schools and broken businesses, a nationwide reckoning with racial injustice and with thousands of Oregonians still displaced from autumn wildfires – we knew it was going to be an unprecedented six months of policymaking.
Your OBI team went into this session with a very straightforward policy agenda approved by our board of directors: we wanted lawmakers to refrain from enacting major new taxes and regulations so that Oregon businesses would have an opportunity to recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID pandemic.
I am pleased to report that we were largely successful. We tracked hundreds of bills that would impact Oregon’s employer community, stopping many of them, and influencing those that moved forward. You can find our comprehensive 2021 Legislative Session Report here, but I’ll hit some of the highlights:
- We fended off most proposals to raise taxes. While this wasn’t a session for sweeping tax changes, we faced several proposals that would impact OBI members, including taxing forgiven Paycheck Protection loans and even making your beer, wine and cider more expensive.
- There were several bills related to employment regulation, but most of the big ones did not move forward. We supported an effort to slow down implementation of the new Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program by a year, and another that will provide relief to businesses facing steep increases in unemployment insurance taxes due to government-caused layoffs.
- We worked hard to influence legislation that will create new recycling requirements for many Oregon businesses. While we remained concerned about the final bill, we were successful in removing many of the costliest provisions.
- We were part of a successful effort to secure additional investments in workforce training programs and partnered with our higher education institutions to ensure more Oregonians have access to a college education.
- And, while it ultimately did not pass, we focused attention on a problem we are hearing from many Oregon employers – the difficulty in filling open jobs – by working to get legislation introduced that would create a return-to-work bonus program for new hires using federal relief funds.
Be sure to check out the full report for our legislative wins and losses, as well as issues we expect to see again soon.
I heard regularly from the OBI team about the bills they were tracking, and I was astonished by the number and variety. We are very lucky that we have a strong team of professionals in Salem watching out for Oregon businesses and our employees. They do a great job.
But what really has made a difference is the information our team receives from all of you, our members. Over the last six months, many of you provided on-the-ground information about how a new law or regulation would impact your ability to run your organizations and maintain jobs.
I am grateful to all OBI members who participated on our policy steering committees, as well as my fellow board members who have guided this organization through unprecedented times. I can honestly say that Oregon’s business community is stronger than it was six months ago, and, while we have serious challenges ahead, I am confident that we can call the 2021 session a success.