Monday, March 8, 2021
CAPITOL CENTRAL
Legislative committee agendas have been very full, and due to the virtual environment and significant public interest, most committees have struggled to make it through their agendas on time. For legislation to move forward, committee chairs must schedule work sessions (as opposed to public hearings) for bills by March 19. However, bills continue to be introduced weekly.

OBI is tracking hundreds of bills, and our newly redesigned website includes timely and in-depth updates on bills, which you can find here.

Here is a short summary of what’s going on at the Capitol:

  • OBI is working to oppose a monumental increase in beer, wine and cider taxes, as well as new taxes on the retail sale of tires  and other taxes  would hit the construction, auto and forestry industries particularly hard. We also testified in opposition to a proposal that would change the property tax system.
  • We are opposing a bill that would put insurance companies under the Unfair Trade Practices Act, which could drive up the cost of insurance.
  • OBI is opposing proposals that would force employers in a variety of industries, including retail, hospitality, and others, to accept scheduling change requests from employees.
  • OBI is voicing concerns about some recycling bills that would create complex operating burdens for Oregon manufacturers, retailers and others.
  • OBI is supporting a bill from the Health Care Cost Growth Target Implementation Committee, which has been tasked with setting a growth rate cap for all health care entities. 
If have questions or comments about a bill, or would like to be involved in a policy committee, contact us at communications@oregonbusinessindustry.com.
POLICY UPDATES
Governor Brown Sets Timeline for Return to Classrooms
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Last Friday, in a letter to the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education, Governor Brown announced an executive order directing all Oregon public schools to offer universal access to in-person instruction on or before the weeks of March 29 for K-5 students and April 19 for students in grades 6-12. She cited Oregon’s steep drop in COVID-19 cases and the evidence that shows that “with proper safety measures in place, there is low risk of COVID-19 transmission in school.” After the weeks of March 29 and April 19, all public schools in Oregon will operate under either a fully on-site or a hybrid instructional model when counties meet or exceed Oregon’s advisory COVID-19 metrics.
Retail Pharmacies Receive Double the Doses, Frontline Workers Eligible by End of Month
Now, with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine hitting the market, retail pharmacies at Albertson’s and Safeway are seeing their allocated shipments double this week. The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program is connecting local pharmacies with the federal government to distribute the vaccine to local communities. Each participating pharmacy is expected to receive 200 doses per week instead of 100. You can find more information, including how to sign up, here.

All Oregon seniors age 65 and older, as well as educators and childcare providers, are eligible to receive it. To determine your eligibility, you must register here.

Late last month, Gov. Brown announced how sequencing will occur after the senior population. No later than March 29, agriculture workers and food processing employees will be eligible, as well as individuals 45 and older with one or more underlying health condition. By May 1, eligibility will be extended to other frontline workers, as defined by the CDC, as well individuals aged 16-44 with underlying health conditions. On June 1, Oregonians aged 45 to 64 will be eligible, and on July 1, the vaccine will be available to all Oregonians over the age of 16.

OBI is in conversations with the governor’s office and our hospital partners about how Oregon employers can assist with the rollout as the vaccination becomes more broadly available. Look for communications that can be shared with employees soon. We will keep members up to date as more information develops. In the meantime:

  • Watch this webinar covering what employers should be thinking about as they prepare for employees to come back to work, including the important question about whether employees can be required to have a vaccine.
  • Expect, by March 22, an “employer toolkit” prepared by the state, that will help you educate your employees about the vaccine, identify “frontline workers,” and address other questions we are hearing from employers. OBI is working with the state on this effort, so send us any questions you want to make sure get answered.
Is your local county health authority ready to vaccinate larger groups, like frontline workers?
Yes, we’re talking to the county and have an idea of what to expect.
No, we aren’t sure how it will work for our employees.
CDC Releases New Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Americans
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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published the first set of public health guidance for fully vaccinated people. The guidelines will be updated frequently in accordance with the spread of COVID-19.

Fully vaccinated people can:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic

While this is welcome news for those vaccinated, it is important to remember that the majority of Oregonians have yet to receive a vaccine. A mask is required when in public, regardless of if you have the vaccine or not, and adherence to other safety protocols is still required.

An individual is considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 at least two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or at least two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson).
Commercial Rent Relief Program Now Open to Applications
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Business Oregon is now accepting grant applications to assist small businesses that are behind on their lease payments due to impacts from COVID-19 between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021. The online application is now available on Business Oregon’s website in multiple languages.
 
The initial information needed for the initial application includes:
 
  • Landlord name and address
  • Tenant name and address
  • Tenant’s number of workers (part/full-time)
  • Tenant business classification (industry)
  • Base rent amount due, and actual paid per month
 
The program provides grants to building owners to cover outstanding lease payments from small business tenants. The grants can go up to $100,000 per business tenant, but not more than $3 million for each landlord.
 
The application period will be open for two weeks, with eligible submissions chosen by a lottery system that will also ensure geographic distribution across all regions of the state. 
NEWS FOR OREGON BUSINESSES
By Jamie Goldberg, The Oregonian/OregonLive

“A state fund set up last year to help workers from immigrant communities will distribute $10 million to immigrant-owned small businesses across Oregon.

Organizers of the Oregon Worker Relief Fund announced Thursday that they had established a new program, the Oregon Small Enterprise Fund, to support small business owners who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic but have been unable to secure aid through federal programs.”
By Ted Sickinger, The Oregonian/OregonLive

“After Republicans bolted from the 2020 legislative session and once again killed Oregon’s controversial bill to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a frustrated Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order for state agencies to draft carbon reduction rules that would achieve the same goals.

Namely, to reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below those levels by 2050.”
By Nicole Hayden, The Oregonian/OregonLive

“Beer and wine businesses are also facing other tax increases that will be fully implemented by 2022 including a paid family leave tax, a corporate activity tax for large-scale companies in Portland and a statewide business tax for education, said Scott Bruun, a former state lawmaker and the tax and fiscal policy director for Oregon Business and Industry, a business advocacy organization. The additional alcohol tax increase would create ‘a devastating impact,’ he said.”
By Jake Thomas, Salem Reporter

“Some lobbyists say they expect that more bills will be passed this session that will have problems that need to be fixed in future sessions.

‘If the legislature doesn’t narrow its focus, we’re going to spend a lot of time having to clean up what happens this session,’ said OBI Vice President, Government Affairs, Paloma Sparks.”
CONNECT WITH US
The OBI team is always available to assist you. Please feel free to reach out to us at communications@oregonbusinessindustry.com. 
Oregon Business & Industry
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Salem, OR 97301