Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Oregon remains the only state in the nation to require business owners to ask for vaccine cards before allowing customers, employees and the public to go without face masks. OBI has worked with partners to provide Gov. Brown with information about why this requirement is difficult and potentially dangerous for retail store operators and other public-facing operations. National retail associations sent a letter to the White House asking for assistance in ensuring Oregon’s policy does not spread to other states.

OBI continues to advocate with the governor and state agencies on behalf of concerned business owners. The governor has said that she will fully reopen the economy when the state hits a 70% vaccination rate for individuals 18 and older, which she hopes will be by the end of June. As of Friday, May 28, 64.9% of Oregonians over the age of 18 had received at least one shot. Six counties (Multnomah, Washington, Deschutes, Benton, Hood River and Lincoln) have exceeded the 65% mark and have moved to low risk. You can see the county-by-county break down and progress towards Gov. Brown’s 70% goal here
In the meantime, check out this recording of a webinar OBI hosted last week with lawyers from Stoel Rives exploring what what businesses can – and can’t – ask employees, customers and the public about vaccination status.

Lawyers John Dudrey and Karen O’Connor, along with OBI’s Paloma Sparks, made it very clear that, while OBI does not agree with the current framework, understanding the current guidance from OHA and OSHA is critical for Oregon businesses.
Last Friday, May 28, marked the latest deadline for the legislative session: Bills must have had a work session in the second chamber policy committee to stay alive. With only one month left of the 2021 legislative session, focus will shift to the many bills in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, as well as the Rules and Revenue committees, which are not subject to the legislative deadlines. The constitutional deadline for adjournment is June 27.

Our website includes timely and in-depth updates, which you can find here. Here’s a few highlights of what’s going on at the Capitol right now:

  • An amendment to SB 137 that would have taxed forgiven PPP loans was posted less than 24 hours before a public hearing in the Senate Revenue Committee last week. In partnership with NFIB, we were able to organize a coalition opposition letter with nearly 50 business association and chamber co-signers. OBI’s Scott Bruun testified against the bill and helped organize a handful of other opposition testimony. We continue to watch this issue and a handful of other tax proposals. OBI’s position is that there is no justification for tax increases in any form given the state’s surprisingly strong fiscal position. Economists have projected that the state will end the current fiscal biennium with a budget surplus of $2.8 billion.
  • Talks continue about how the state will spend the $2.6 billion in revenue expected as a result of the federal American Rescue Plan. OBI has urged lawmakers to take time to plan investments that could transform the economy, focusing near-term spending primarily on measures that will address immediate issues related to the pandemic.
  • SB 483, which creates a presumption of retaliation if the employer takes adverse action within 60 days of the employee filing an OSHA complaint, passed out of House Rules on a party-line vote Tuesday. OBI worked with Rep. Daniel Bonham (R-The Dalles) on an amendment that would have required employees to prove the employer knew they filed an OSHA complaint before the presumption applies, but that amendment was not adopted. The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote.
  • HB 3055, the omnibus transportation bill, which included tolling, bonding and contracting authorities, plus many other non-infrastructure type issues and updates to motor vehicle laws, passed out of the Joint Committee on Transportation Thursday on a 9-3 vote after adoption of the -15 amendment, which was supported by the freight and broader business community.
  • SB 580, mandating class size and caseload as part of collective bargaining for school districts, passed out of the House Committee on Business and Labor with the -4 amendment adopted. The amendment alters the scope of the bill to only apply to Title 1 schools in an effort to be more targeted towards equity and diversity. OBI has raised concerns about the potential cost to school districts of this proposal.
If have questions or comments about a bill, or would like to be involved in a policy committee, contact us at communications@oregonbusinessindustry.com.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Announces New “America Works” Initiative
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today launched a new initiative called America Works aimed at informing business owners and elected officials what we can all be doing to fix these pervasive problems. The webpage is full of information on solutions to hiring barriers and programs, employment data, policy solutions for Congress to consider, and opportunities to take action. Please take a moment to check it out.

Oregon businesses, like those in virtually every state in the union, are reporting challenges filling open businesses. OBI is working with partners to highlight the challenges with Gov. Brown and the Legislature, advocating for support to encouraging workers to return to jobs.
Climate Protection Program Rulemaking Continues
Last week, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held its fifth Climate Protection Program Rules Advisory Committee meeting. Draft rule language was presented to the committee, however, it did not address several important pieces of the rule that make it difficult to evaluate the proposal and what the impact will be.
OBI will be providing comments on the cap and the rate of decline, use of the Community Climate Investments (alternative compliance instruments), concerns about the focus on co-pollutants and other issues.

Just two meetings remain: June 17 and July 8. If you have questions about OBI’s involvement in this issue, please get in touch with us.
SAIF Hires New President and CEO
SAIF has hired Chip Terhune as its new president and CEO. Terhune will start at SAIF on July 1, succeeding president and CEO Kerry Barnett, who announced his retirement late last year. 
Earlier in his career, Terhune served as chief of staff for former Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski; as assistant executive director of Oregon Education Association; as director of environmental and public affairs at Schnitzer Steel in Portland; and in multiple vice president roles at Cambia Health Solutions in Portland. He currently serves as senior vice president and general manager of government programs and accounts for Medecision, a healthcare technology company. 
OBI and SAIF have partnered for more than 30 years to give our members discounts on workers’ compensation insurance through the OBI CompSAFE program. Learn more here.
By Lisa Balick, KOIN6

“What we’re hearing from retailers is that they’re running into arguments with customers, some store employees feeling threatened,” Sandra McDonough, Oregon Business Industry CEO, said. “It’s not a great situation, we think it needs to be addressed.”
By Ben Botkin, Lund Report

Paloma Sparks, vice president and general counsel of Oregon Business & industry, urged the state to come up with a solid plan. The group represents more than 1,600 members from a variety of industries across Oregon.

“We need a real plan for achievable goals to be able to stop requiring masks,” Sparks said. “The public is losing patience.”
By Jamie Goldberg, The Oregonian/OregonLive

Jess Giannettino Villatoro, political director for Oregon AFL-CIO, and Paloma Sparks, general counsel at Oregon Business and Industry, said their organizations were informed that the rules were coming but were not offered a chance to provide input before the state rolled out the new guidance.

“I would not use the phrase ‘worked with,’” Sparks said. “He informed us of what they would be doing and seemed pretty immune to our feedback and our concerns about how this was going to be implemented.”
The OBI team is always available to assist you. Please feel free to reach out to us at communications@oregonbusinessindustry.com. 
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