Tensions Rise

Last week was a contentious yet slow week in the Capitol building. All committees except for Ways & Means and the Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures were shut down as both chambers spent almost the entirety of their days on the floor for arduous sessions.

The first chamber deadline caused dozens of bills to cross each chamber’s floor at once. With few to none of the most contentious bills relating to gun control, rent control, abortion, and gender-affirming care off the table for the session, Republicans in both chambers capitalized on the opportunity to slow bills down on their respective floors to apply political pressure on the majority party.

Reading bills in full prior to a vote was required in both chambers to start the week and all parliamentary tools available to House and Senate Republicans were utilized to slow down the process. On certain days, full-day floor sessions only yielded three to four bills passed.

This dynamic is expected to continue this week with long and likely contentious floor sessions. As the Joint Ways and Means Committee advanced gun control and abortion bills out last week, we expect Republicans to attempt to delay these bills and drag out the process, which could continue to impact committee work.

Concerning Issues We’re Tracking

HB 3568 – This would broadly limit employers’ use of quotas and performance metrics in warehouse and distribution center operations. Oregon OSHA and BOLI already enforce Oregon’s strict workplace safety and rest break laws. The Salem Chamber of Commerce submitted testimony in opposition.

Rulemaking at DEQ – DEQ is conducting a rulemaking about Employee Commute Options. DEQ is proposing to revise rules applicable to employers in the Portland metropolitan region and to develop new rules to apply to employers in other urbanized areas of the state.

According to the proposed rule, “Employer-based commute option programs bring multiple benefits to air quality, workers and employers. DEQ’s calculations show that commute options like using transit, biking and telecommuting can prevent up to tens of thousands of tons of greenhouse gasses, smog forming pollutants, and toxic air contaminants from entering the air each year. Commute option programs across the state help workers get to work safely and conveniently. DEQ implements an Employee Commute Option program in the Portland metropolitan area, which is mandatory for employers with more than 100 employees at a worksite. Transit districts, transportation management agencies and nonprofit organizations support voluntary commute option programs across Oregon.”

The rules would expand the program to include all cities statewide with a population greater than 50,000 (there are seven such cities) and require a 15% reduction in employee commuting for employers new to the program.

To implement this, it is being proposed that an employer would survey a maximum of 75% of their workers biennially and develop a plan for the reduction of commuting. This may include telecommuting, transit, etc. If an employer doesn’t achieve this mark, they would need to revise their plans for further implementation.

Support Encouraged

HB 2433 – Increases exempt amount and filing threshold for purposes of the corporate activity tax (CAT). Raising the CAT exemption threshold for small businesses from $1 million to $5 million will provide much-needed tax relief to thousands of small businesses throughout Oregon.

HB 2624 – Allows additional estate tax exclusion of $1 million. Adjusts for inflation. Adding another $1 million to the exemption level, and indexing that for inflation going forward, means that Oregon will no longer be the worst in the nation for estate taxes.

HB 3205 – This bill would allow employers to begin to offer hiring and retention bonuses again as current state pay equity laws have made these bonuses legally tenuous. This bill will advance.

Content contributed by Bravio Communications, Salem Chamber staff and OSCC.

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