What’s Happening (OSCC Political Observations)
- The acrimony continues. Senate Republicans denied quorum on Thursday in response to the Governor’s renewal of her “emergency declaration” which allows for continued COVID-19 economic regulation. Senate Republicans are also highly critical of continued school closures, especially as the teachers union is fully engaged in lobbying the legislature for more tax increases.
- The state budget gets a huge jolt of money from new forecast. On Wednesday, state economists delivered the news that the state would see an unexpected influx of nearly $750 million in new tax revenues due to a faster-than-expected economic recovery.
- There will now be a $571 million “kicker.” OSCC is expecting more concerted efforts to repeal Oregon’s “kicker” law to re-direct that money to other uses.
- Congressman Peter DeFazio pens a letter telling Governor and legislative leaders that taxing federal stimulus checks is not right. In his letter, he lays out that Oregon will receive upwards of $4 billion in Federal aide – more than enough to cover any revenue shortfalls. Both House and Senate Republicans are pushing for a state tax exemption on federal stimulus payments.
- Both House and Senate will start to pick up the pace. The House will meet twice weekly (Mon/Tues) starting March 8th, and the Senate will do the same (Wed/Thurs).
- We expect to see a major influx of new legislation introduced this week as February 23rdwas the last day for legislators to turn in their bill requests.
Activity on Major Issues
Revenue: In a comedic twist, consideration of HB 2839 and SB 137, which would disconnect Oregon from Federal CARES Act business tax incentives that allow for the immediate monetization of business losses to help with cash flow issues, may have hit the skids due to the “kicker.” Since most of the tax revenue from these bills would have been retroactive, there is no longer much incentive to pass these bills if all they do is add to the “kicker” rebate!
OSCC testified this past week on HB 2604 and SB 139. Both bills would dramatically change the “small business tax cut” passed by the Oregon legislature in 2013. OSCC opposes SB 139, but could support HB 2604 if the right changes are made. OSCC will alert members if these issues gain momentum.
OSCC will continue to monitor legislation that would impose Oregon taxes on PPP loans. We are certainly aware of HB 2253, and the Senate Finance & Revenue Committee has also flirted with the idea over the past month.
Workforce/Legal: Last week, OSCC testified in opposition to HB 2205, which would deputize third parties/ plaintiffs attorneys to file class action lawsuits against employers for any violation of Oregon law—wage and hour, workplace safety, etc. This is a policy that only California has enacted and one that has devastated local businesses. OSCC has joined a broad business coalition to oppose this bill.
OSCC also testified in support of HB 2638 which would shield businesses from lawsuits from customers if the business was following, in good faith, COVID-19 directives and guidance from the state. This is an important bill, but we have strong indications from House Leadership that they do not intend to move this bill. Trial lawyers are heavily opposed.
What’s Coming Up?
There are a number of important bills coming this week with direct impacts on our local business communities:
- SB 716 would require employers to accommodate employees’ child care schedules and needs as they schedule work shifts. OSCC likely OPPOSES.
- SB 330 is an important bill that would give landlords a tax credit for forgiveness of tenant rent. This is meant to be helpful particularly in the commercial rental market. OSCC will SUPPORT and will issue an ACTION ALERT.
- HB 2814 is a disastrous bill – known as “indirect source review” – that would give DEQ broad regulatory authority for permitting and construction of facilities that indirectly emit greenhouse gases. OSCC will OPPOSE.
- HB 2674 is another bill that would levy a full suite of new taxes to fund diesel engine retrofits and replacements with large impacts on construction, trucking and agriculture. OSCC will OPPOSE and will issue an ACTION ALERT.