Oregon Legislative Session Adjourned

OSCC Member Report – March 3, 2016

End of Session Report


The 2016 Oregon Legislative session adjourned today at 1:08 PM after 32 days of work. 

Consistent with the 2015 legislative session, there was almost no legislative momentum around any proposals that would grow the state economy or create local jobs.  To the contrary, nearly every major legislative discussion centered around proposals to saddle business with additional costs, liability and regulation.

The OSCC and local chambers of commerce played a major role in the issues that defined the 2016 legislative session for business.  Unfortunately, nearly all of the political capital of local chambers was spent on managing severe threats to the business community – most notably on minimum wage.

During this Legislative Session OSCC & Local Chambers Supported:

  • HB 4012, which increased funding for water storage infrastructure. The Legislature ultimately could not come to consensus on this bill, or the funding, even though the bill was discussed until the final days of the session.
  • HB 4055, which was the major transportation funding bill of the session championed by Rep John Davis (R-Wilsonville) and the business community to address Oregon’s transportation infrastructure needs. The bill was immediately killed, not even receiving so much as a hearing.
  • HB 4077, which gave liability certainty and protection for Oregon’s ski areas. The bill was ultimately opposed by the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, who killed the bill and did not allow it to come to a vote in committee.
  • HB 4078, which created a new Transit Expansion Fund to fund growing local transit needs, particularly in small communities. The bill received one hearing in the House Transportation Committee but saw no further action.
  • HB 4084, which gives local governments the authority to create local tax incentive programs for brownfield cleanup and redevelopment. OSCC joined the coalition in support of the bill, and it enjoyed broad, bipartisan support.  HB 4084 passed the Legislature.
  • SB 1565, which gave local government the authority to adopt up to five years’ worth of property tax exemptions for up to $25mm in industrial property improvements. The bill was targeted to provide this incentive to areas outside of metro urban growth boundaries.  OSCC was a member of the coalition to support the bill.  SB 1565 passed the Legislature.
  • SB 1581 made paid sick leave compliance more reasonable for local business by fixing issues brought up by OSCC and the business community during the BOLI rulemaking process late in 2015. Although the unions blocked this bill in the legislature, BOLI did commit to re-opening the rules process to allow further input from business.  OSCC has been heavily engaged in this issue with our business association partners and once again will be at the table when BOLI re-opens its regulations.

During this Legislative Session OSCC & Local Chambers Opposed:

  • SB 1532, which narrowly passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday, sets a three-tier system for increasing the state’s minimum wage:
  • $14.75 for the Portland UGB by 2022;
  • $13.50 in Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Deschutes, Hood River, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington and Yamhill counties by 2022; and
  • $12.50 in Malheur, Lake, Harney, Wheeler, Sherman, Gilliam, Wallowa, Grant, Jefferson, Baker, Union, Crook, Klamath, Douglas, Coos, Curry, Umatilla and Morrow counties by 2022.

The first increases will take effect on July 1st of this year.

OSCC and local chambers fought HARD on this issue.  We raised unprecedented funding for the www.defendoregonjobs.com website.  We ran three weeks of radio ads in key districts.  We bought print ads and website banner ads in key legislative districts.  We won the endorsements of all of the state’s major newspapers.  We generated feedback from THOUSANDS of small business people throughout Oregon into legislators.  At each and every committee hearing, we met and exceeded the number of people the unions brought to testify on the issue.

For the first time ever on this issue, we exceeded the grassroots efforts of our opponents.

Local chambers across Oregon answered the call.  But we still narrowly lost.

  • HB 4054 would have allowed local governments to pass even higher minimum wage rates than allowed by state law.  This concept died when Democratic leadership opted for a three-tier statewide minimum wage rate.
  • SB 1574 imposed a new ‘Cap and Trade’ tax system for utilities and local manufacturers who emit over 25,000 metric tons of carbon. The measure would have generated $3 billion in taxes per year for the legislature to earmark for pet projects.  OSCC joined the coalition in opposition to this measure in 2016.

Although SB 1574 did not pass in 2016, OSCC expects that it will be a major legislative issue in 2017 and beyond. How do we know that?  The Governor and legislative leadership just earmarked $230,000 in additional state funds for the Oregon DEQ to further study ‘Cap and Trade’ over the next year.  OSCC and business groups are already gearing up for this legislative battle.

  • SB 1587 would have imposed new time and payroll recordkeeping requirements, new private rights of action, and new BOLI powers until OSCC and the business community pushed back and strongly opposed the bill. We were successful in removing all provisions allowing current and former employees to sue an employer if they did not have time and payroll records readily available on request.  We also eliminated all expansions of BOLI power into the workplace.  What OSCC agreed to was three additional positions in BOLI to investigate legitimate wage theft cases.

This was an instance in which OSCC helped turn a bad bill for employers into a bill business could live with.

  • HB 4136 increased insurance costs for critical health care providers by increasing the non-economic damage cap on wrongful death cases from $500,000 to $1.5 million. This was the key priority for the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, but was opposed strongly by OSCC and the business and health care industries.  In what was supposed to be an easy passage of the bill in the House, the bill only passed with 32 votes.  It landed with a thud in the Senate where it didn’t even receive a hearing even though Governor Kate Brown intervened to push for the bill.

Lessons Learned During the Oregon Legislative Session:

We lost Low Carbon Fuels (2015) 31-29 in the House, 17-13 in the Senate.

We lost Paid Sick Leave (2015) 33-24 in the House, 17-13 in the Senate.

We lost Mandatory Retirement Plans (2015) 32-26 in the House, 17-13 in the Senate.

We lost Minimum Wage (2016) 32-26 in the House, 16-12 in the Senate.

We will not change the policies coming out of Salem until we change the people who make the policies.

Legislative Session