2017 Legislative Report – Week 23



The legislature is now done. The Senate adjourned at noon on Friday and the House followed suit at 3:30 Friday afternoon.
This is what happened in the final week of session that will impact local business communities.

Labor Bills:

BOLI Overtime Fix: House Bill 3458 was negotiated and passed with bipartisan majorities. It gives much needed relief to manufacturers and food processors from new BOLI regulations that required double overtime payments with employees who worked both 10+ hours per day and 40+ hours per week.

But it also capped the work week on all manufacturers and food producers at 60 hours per week.

Amendments were added that would allow up to 21 weeks of “undue hardship” that would allow food processing employees to work in excess of 60 hours per week. Seafood processors were exempted altogether.

While this was not a perfect bill for manufacturers and food producers, it achieved a hard fought policy victory of remedying a BOLI rule that would have imposed significant cost increases on manufacturers and food producers.

Predictive Scheduling: SB 828 passed with strong bipartisan support. The bill as watered down significantly to only apply to food service, retail and hospitality businesses with 500 or more employees. Business groups gain a statewide preemption on all local scheduling ordinances. It is OSCC’s belief that the negotiated bill is a ‘best case’ scenario for Oregon businesses.

Environmental Regulation:

Cleaner Air Oregon: OSCC helped to totally defeat HB 2269, which would have increased Title V and ACDP fees to fund the new DEQ ‘Cleaner Air Oregon’ regulatory scheme. This was a total victory. DEQ’s budget was also stripped of all money for the ‘Cleaner Air Oregon’ scheme.

Diesel engine regulations: SB 1008 was watered down totally to include no additional on-road or off-road diesel engine regulation. Instead, the bill just allowed the state to receive Volkswagen settlement monies and spend $20 million on upgrading local school bus fleets.

No additional environmental regulations passed. OSCC was cautious that the legislature might try to empower the Department of Energy to become the agency with direct responsibility for “Climate Change” policy and enforcement. Ultimately, that did not occur.

Liability:

Liability Costs / Damage Awards:  All attempts to increase non-economic damage awards in civil lawsuits were defeated. The $500,000 limit on non-economic damages in civil lawsuits will stay in tact. HB 2807, which would have increased those limits to $10 million, was defeated in the final week of session. This issue, in particular, is testament to the power of staying vigilant. This issue was in play all 23 weeks of the legislative session, and we prevailed through persistence.

Business Taxes:

While the Oregon House narrowly approved HB 2060-A, which eliminated the ‘small business tax cut’ for employers with fewer than 10 full time employees, the Senate did not follow suit. The bill was effectively a $200 million tax increase on small business, but the Senate did not give the proposal any consideration in the final week.

Chamber grassroots activism made all the difference here. The feedback from Chambers all over the state made HB 2060 unpalatable in the Senate.

All attempts to raise business taxes in 2017 failed.

State Government Cost Reductions:

PERS Reform: All attempts to reform PERS were abandoned as legislative leadership threw in the towel on plans to pass a comprehensive tax increase. PERS reform and tax hikes were linked.

Cost Containment: Senate Bill 1067 had some good provisions – eliminating automatic inflation increases for services and supplies in state budgets, slowing down the process for filling vacant state government jobs, and eliminating jobs that have been left vacant more than six months. The savings were about $100 million for the biennium.

But the part of the bill that drew strong opposition from the business community was a limitation on health care reimbursements to hospitals for services rendered to public employees. This represents a $200 million cost shift onto the commercial market in addition to the $145 million health insurance premium tax that passed in HB 2391.

Transportation Package:

House Bill 2017 – a 7-year, $5.3 billion transportation funding package – passed the legislature with strong bipartisan support in the final days. There are several new taxes in the bill – gas taxes, registration fee increases, new vehicle surtaxes, and payroll taxes. You can see a summary of the bill here.

OSCC will be holding a legislative wrap up call on Friday 7/14. Additionally, a Legislative report card will come out around the end of the month.

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