We know these are trying times and many of you (and us) have been working around the clock for COVID-19 response and mitigation. Our lobby team has been working with the Governor’s Office, key decision makers, and the Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response to address many of your needs. If you have specific requests or new items that have developed please reach out to our team as we continue to work remotely on your behalf!
Below are a few items of note since the 2020 Session adjournment as some policy and politics continues amongst the COVID-19 crisis. The majority of interim workgroups have been postponed and delayed at this time.
Dates of Interest – 2020 Interim & 2021 Session*
March 19th – Primary Election
March 20 – 22nd – Interim Committee Days
Sept. 23 – 25th – Interim Committee Days
Sept. 24th – Legislative Concepts Draft Request Deadline (2021 Session)
Nov. 3rd – General Election
Dec. 7 – 9th – Interim Committee Days
Dec. 18th – Pre-Session Filing Deadline (2021 Session)
*Note these are advisory dates as the calendar for the 2020 interim will need to be adopted in a concurrent resolution during a Special Session to formally establish deadlines for the 2021 Session.
Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response
The Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response convened for the first time today. This bipartisan committee is composed of fifteen legislators – nine senators and seven representatives. Chair Holvey opened the committee by describing the committee's responsibility to enhance the state’s coronavirus response in order to mitigate the negative impacts to vulnerable populations and small businesses, as well as produce budget and policy recommendations for the legislature. The committee had a robust agenda for the day resulting in the meeting lasting 4.5 hours.
The Governor’s staff presented a coordinated set of responses to the current crisis. Their comments focused largely on four categories: Keeping Oregonians housed, keeping Oregonians fed, helping businesses, and aiding Oregon’s health care system.
Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority also addressed the Committee. He was questioned regarding the lack of personal protective equipment and noted that OHA is on plan E right now, and there is no plan F.
The Committee concluded by receiving two-hours of testimony from labor and business representatives. Each of the stakeholders urged the committee to reduce the economic impact of the Coronavirus. Suggestions ranged from ensuring access to childcare for workers to deferring all city and states fees for businesses.
Chair Holvey closed the meeting by requesting that each member take the recommendations heard today and come prepared to share their top one or two action items at the next meeting which is tentatively scheduled for Friday. You can view the hearing here and presentations from stakeholders below:
See employment law/COVID FAQ guidance from Secretary Clarno and BOLI Commissioner Hoyle at the end of this email.
Special Session Update
Legislative leaders from both parties called for a Special Session this week. While the details have not been released (date/how long/specific bills) we are hearing it could be within the next couple of weeks. In addition to adopting the budget bills from the 2020 Session, we anticipate they will adopt a COVID-19 response package that will include financial relief for employers and workers and address the needs of Oregon’s healthcare systems. The new Committees recently formed, the Legislature’s Special Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response and the Governor’s Economic Advisory Council, will be charged with the task of developing this package.
Commercial Activities Tax - Rulemaking
1st Quarter Payments: The Dept. of Revenue has shared that initial quarterly payments remain to be due April 30, 2020, however they will not assess underpayment penalizes to taxpayers “making a good faith effort to estimate their first quarter payments” in response to the COVID-19 impacts on taxpayers’ commercial activity. This, among other items, is on the list employers submitted to the Joint COVID Committee this week asking for relief from.
ADDITIONAL TEMPORARY RULES: Two new CAT rules have been filed with the SOS:
- 150-317-1220 2 Employee Compensation: Labor Cost Subtraction
- Defines what is considered an “employee” and “compensation” for the purposes of calculating labor cost subtraction
- 150-317-1120 Definition of single-family residential construction.
- Defines what single-family residential construction means for the purposes of helping general contractors to calculate their exclusion
The first batch of twelve rules became effective January 1, 2020. Four additional rules took effect February 1, 2020. The two new rules filed bring us to 18 total. We anticipate at least one more set of draft rules to be released in the coming months. As a reminder, temporary rules can only be in effect for 180-days. The permanent rulemaking process will begin on April 1, 2020.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE: Department officials announced last week that additional temporary rules for the CAT are expected to be filed in the coming months.
STATEWIDE TOUR: DOR has cancelled its statewide tour due to COVID-19.
ABOUT the CAT: More than 6,200 businesses have registered for the CAT, a significantly lower number that what was estimated by the Legislative Revenue Office during the 2019 session. They predicted approximately 40,000 businesses would have to pay taxes under the CAT, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Multnomah County Amendment to the Business Income Tax Ordinance
The Multnomah County Commission held their first public hearing on the proposed update to the county’s Business Income Tax ordinance (BIT) ordinance this past week. If passed, the ordinance would be amended in three ways:
- Increase the BIT tax rate from 1.45% to 2.00% (effective January 1, 2020)
- Increase the gross receipts exemption from $50,000 to $100,000
- Increase the Owners Compensation deduction from $108,000 to $127,000
Chair Kafoury noted that the commissioners were well aware if they don’t do something to increase revenue, they would have a $23M deficit by 2024. She concluded by saying the proposal is fair, equitable and necessary. The commission voted to unanimously to support the ordinance and scheduled the second hearing for March 26.
Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. Announced Retirement
Senator Baertschiger (R-Grants Pass) announced he will not be running for re-election in 2020. Baertschiger was first elected to Senate District 2 in 2012 and has served as the Senate Republican Leader since ahead of the 2019 session, leading the caucus in three walkouts. Read more here.
Senator Ginny Burdick Steps Down from Leadership
Senator Ginny Burdick announced that she will step down as the Senate Majority Leader, a position she has held since 2015. Senator Burdick has served in the Senate for 24 years and is running again this election cycle. Read more here.
Senator Chuck Thomsen Recall Effort
A recall effort has been launched in Hood River County against Senator Chuck Thomsen. Petitioners sited Senator Thomsen’s participation in the Senate Republican walkout as a driving factor in their recall effort. 9,025 valid signatures must be submitted to the Secretary of State by June 2 in order for a recall election to occur. Senator Thomsen has represented Senate District 26 since 2010. Read more here.
Secretary of State
and Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle
- All employees get sick time. If you have 10+ employees (or 6+ in Portland), that time must be paid.
- Accrual rate is 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.
- Employees can use sick time to care for themselves, family members, for visits to medical professionals. Sick time can also be used if your child's school is closed by order of a public official for a public health emergency, such as Governor Brown’s current closure of all K-12 schools.
- Here is a poster about sick time you can share with employees.
- You can find more information on sick time & coronavirus, including a fact sheet, here.
Oregon Family Leave (OFLA)
- OFLA applies to employers with 25+ employees
- Oregonians can use Oregon Family Leave to take protected time off to care for their children during official school closures related to coronavirus. This leave is not paid unless employees use available paid time off they have, but it is protected.
- Oregon’s predictive scheduling law applies only to employers with 500+ employees and requires certain advance notice of scheduling changes.
- This pandemic may result in decreases to business’ staffing needs (or unpredictable staffing needs and worker availability).
- This law provides for employer relief for extenuating circumstances such as natural disasters or declarations of public officials. This includes current emergency declarations by Governor Brown.
- Proactive communication is at the heart of this law. Employers should be proactive in communicating with employees about their operations and schedules. This virus situation changes every day, and it is a good practice for employers to communicate every day.
- Now is the time for employers to engage in the proactive activities suggested in the law to prepare for the lack of certainty in demand and scheduling to best support employees and business operations (i.e. establishing group communications, list of workers who are available to work on demand, voluntary stand-by list, frequent scheduling updates, etc.).
- You can learn more about predictive scheduling here.
- We continue to hear anecdotal reports of people experiencing discrimination because of fears of coronavirus, particularly around race or national origin.
- Discrimination based on race, national origin, age, sex, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and other characteristics is illegal and wrong.
- In scary times, sometimes people act with poor judgment or without facts out of fear– that’s not okay if it results in disparate treatment based on protected characteristics.
- As an employer, you can help stop and prevent discrimination.
Work Share Oregon
Employers are encouraged to check into Work Share Oregon, which can support businesses and workers to avoid mass layoffs and lost wages and benefits in times like these. Work Share can be reached at 800-436-6191 or email: email@example.com.
Small Business Advocacy
Businesses without employees or with fewer than 100 employees can contact the Office of Small Business Assistance via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling toll free 1-844-469-5512.