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Weekly Updates

Find each weeks update from the Legislative Session by Amanda Dalton and her team. OWGL contracts the Lobbyist team when in full session.


Interim Legislative Update – May 22, 2020

State Financial Relief Package for Agriculture

We’ve continued to attend weekly Zoom calls with the Governor's staff and ODA to discuss state assistance for Oregon farmers and ranchers impacted by the new OSHA temporary rule and COVID-19. The Governor’s proposal“Protecting Oregon’s Food Supply and Essential Agricultural Workers”is a $29.5M relief package is broken down into three categories however details on how the funding will be distributed is still pending.

  1. Agricultural Workforce Housing – $10M
  2. COVID-19 Sanitation – $6M
  3. Mitigating COVID-19 Outbreaks – $13.5M

This week ODA secured PPE supplies, 1 million KN95 masks and 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, for the ag industry. We have been assured that these supplies will be dispersed to growers across the state next week at no cost.

Interim Legislative Update – May 8, 2020

Upcoming Dates of Interest

May 19th Primary Election

May 20th Quarterly Revenue Forecast

May 20 – 22nd Legislative Committee Days– Tentatively Virtual!

Late May/June Possible Special Session

COVID-19 RESPONSE UPDATE

Agricultural Employer and Agricultural Worker Guidance

Oregon Health Authority has released their Agricultural Employer and Agricultural Worker guidance documents, including resources such as new safe workplace posters. The documents are available on the OHA COVID-19 website, under the section “Agricultural Workers and Employers.” Please share the guidance with members and ensure they are displaying current workplace posters from OHA and OSHA.

  • View the employer guidance here.

OSHA Emergency Temporary Labor Housing and Agricultural Employment Rules

Oregon OSHA released emergency temporary rules to address COVID-19 in Labor Housing and Agricultural Employment last week. These rules go into effect on Monday, May 11th and are set to expire on October 24th. After review of the FAQ provided by OSHA, we believe wheat is exempt from these rules. However, it could possibly pertain to our members who grow other crops. We are continuing to participate in discussions with state agencies and will keep you informed as we learn more.

  • View the temporary rule FAQ from OSHA here.
  • Access the new OSHA required Field Sanitation Workplace posters here.

DOR Clarifies COVID-19 Relief Funds are NOT Subject to CAT

The Department of Revenue has issued guidance that certain federal assistance to businesses under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is not commercial activity under Oregon statute and will not be subject to the Corporate Activity Tax. This includes any forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) advances, and Small Business Administration (SBA) loan subsidies. More information can be found in the “Beyond the FAQ” section of the CAT page on the department’s website. This was an issue raised by the broader employer community, it received immediate attention from key Legislators who worked to ensure that the federal relief would not be subject to State taxation (the relief dollars are exempt from federal taxes).

In the news:

UI Expansion – Wave 3: Self-Employed Benefits

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program is open and accepting applications. This expansion covers self-employed, contract, and gig workers who were not eligible for regular unemployment benefits. The new PUA application process is the “Third Wave” of new programs implemented by the department in response to the pandemic (the first was expanded eligibility for UI for “regular” workers who had to stay home; the second was the new $600 per week premium for all workers). Future “waves” will include extension of benefits beyond the initial period of PUA, enhancement of the Work Share program, and reimbursement for the UI waiting period. The Oregon Employment Department is now accepting applications for those workers who previously could not apply for UI benefits because they never paid into the system. The CARES Act opened up benefits to these previously excluded workers (self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, those who previously lacked enough qualifying work hours).

POLICY UPDATE

Agency Cut List – 8.5% Cut Lists Requested

Governor Kate Brown has instructed all state agencies to plan for nearly $2B in state budget reductions. The reduction is due to the effects caused by COVID-19 on the Oregon economy. We will better understand the full impact after the May 20th Revenue Forecast, but it is expected to show at least a $1.5B - $2B hole in the state 2019-21 budget. Ahead of the May Forecast, the Governor has asked each agency to prepare an 8.5% reduction from general fund biennial appropriations. Since those cuts will be taken over a 12-13 month period of the biennium, the 8.5% cut equates to approximately 17% of the agency’s budget. If the Governor makes budget cuts, they must be equally applied across all State agencies. However, if the Legislature reconvenes in a Special Session, they can make more targeted intentional cuts.

Pesticide Stewardship Program Update

The Pesticide Stewardship Partnership (PSP) Stakeholder Advisory Committee met this month to receive program and case study updates and review their draft strategic plan. During the four-hour meeting, committee members received an overview of the Umpqua Pilot, which recently concluded and discussed next steps. The pilot results showed low levels of herbicides present in some areas of the water. As a result, ODA proposed creating a two-hour educational video specific to the herbicides detected for landowners near the Roseburg area. They also proposed monitoring sites every 30 days to determine if the education is effective. Committee members unanimously agreed that this was a good next step. ODA and DEQ also presented trends from 2019 watershed monitoring. Notably, across all of the tested watersheds, Chlorpyrifos has had a sharp decrease in detection levels (36 in 2019, 26 in 2018 and 6 in 2019). The average concentrations of detections were above the current water quality standard but just like frequency, the water concentrations have dropped significantly. Additionally, committee members received an update on the Walla Walla Watershed case study. Overall this PSP has been working successfully and the decrease in pesticide detections since the program began in 2016 confirms that. A five-year plan is currently being drafted for the area. Lastly, the committee reviewed thedraft strategic plan for the PSP going forward. The plan as drafted is a high-level draft proposal with the intent of specific elements being built out at a later date. An updated draft will be presented at the July 30 meeting.

Coexistence – Pesticide Drift Prevention

We participated in a Coexistence 101 call with ODA earlier this month to discuss how our association can be proactive in reminding and educating members about the importance of preventing spray drift this time of year. Applicators have really stepped up over the last few years to ensure herbicides are not drifting onto our neighbors, but we need to continue our outreach efforts in order to avoid any potential legislative efforts to prohibit certain herbicide use. Stay tuned for educational material to share with members.

New Legislative Committee Assignments

The House has reassigned Committees for the 2020 Interim. Largely removing gavels from retiring Legislators and giving new gavels to first time Chairs. View assignments here. Of note:

  • Rep. Paul Holvey-D returns as Chair of the Business & Labor Committee
  • Rep. Janeen Sollman-D receives a new gavel as Co-Chair of the Public Safety Subcommittee
  • Rep. Susan McLain-D is the new Co-Chair of the Joint Transportation Committee
  • Rep. Tawna Sanchez-D is the new Chair of the Human Services Committee
  • Rep. Janelle Bynum-D takes the gavel of the Judiciary Committee
  • A new Housing Committee will be chaired by Rep. Julie Fahey-D
  • Rep. Barbara Smith Warner-D will take over the Rules Committee

Other Committee make-up largely remain unchanged.

Task Force on Access to Quality Affordable Child Care

The Task Force on Access to Qualify Affordable Child Care met in early May. The 17-member task force includes four Legislators: Sen. Kathleen Taylor-D, Sen. Tim Knopp-R, Rep. Cedric Hayden-R and Rep. Karin Power-D. There is one representative from the business community on the task force. The task force is charged with making recommendations on:

  • Expanding access to subsidized childcare
  • Reviewing and accessing culturally specific care, copayments, reimbursement rates, economic stability of families receiving childcare subsidies.

Legislators serving on the Task Force are nonvoting members. The Task Force must present a report by December 31, 2020 and are planning to release during December 10th Interim Committee Days.

Paid Family & Medical Leave Update

Amanda continues to serve as one of four employer representatives on the Paid Family & Medical Leave Advisory Committee. This Committee is charged with drafting rules to implement the new Statewide Paid Family Leave program effective January 1, 2022. The Committee has identified several subcommittees which will begin meeting over the next year. These small groups will take up issue specific issues and make recommendations for the rules. The following Committees are currently soliciting membership. Please consider applying by May 25th. Online application for the following subcommittees here:

  • Benefits (Includes eligibility, application, computation, and delivery)
  • Small Employers (Includes job protection and grants)
  • Self-Employed / Independent Contractors (Includes home care and child care)

POLITICAL UPDATE

Secretary of State Issues Direction on Campaign Finance

Secretary of State Clarno issued a brief statement this past week clarifying that Measure 47 is not currently in effect as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Multnomah County v Mehrwein decision. Accordingly, no limits are currently in place for campaign contributions to Legislative candidates.

In the news:

Legislators Call on Rep. Hernandez to Resign

Following a Conduct Committee hearing where several physical and verbal sexual harassment allegations against Representative Diego Hernandez came to light, several prominent fellow Democrats are calling for his resignation including Speaker Tina Kotek and Ways and Means Co-Chair Dan Rayfield. Rep. Hernandez is not facing a primary challenger in the May 19th Primary Election. He was stripped of interim Committees while he is on “leave.”

In the news:

Oregon Primary Election: May 19th

Don’t forget, Oregon’s Primary Election is scheduled for May 19. This year voters can mail in their ballots without a stamp or you can use this toolto find the closest dropbox to you. Oregon is not a “postmark State” which means postmarks don’t count…ballots have to be at a drop site or county elections office by 8PM to be counted. See a spreadsheet of races here, candidate profiles here, and the statewide voters pamphlet here.




Interim Legislative Update – April 2020

Our below update is largely COVID-19 related. We will continue to update you in-real-time as more time-sensitive action is taken or needed. In addition, don’t forget that later this week ballots will go out for the Oregon 2020 May Primary. We will provide a more detailed candidate overview later this week.

Upcoming Dates of Interest

May 19th - Primary Election
May 20th - Quarterly Revenue Forecast
May 20 – 22nd - Legislative Committee Days (CANCELLED)
Late May/June - Possible Special Session

ReOpening Oregon

Conversations continued this week with Governor Brown and stakeholder groups as they attempt to build a framework for reopening Oregon post-COVID. The draft reopening framework was released 2 weeks ago, days after Oregon joined California and Washington in a regional pact to coordinate next steps. You can view the current DRAFT Reopening Oregon framework here. The goal is to finalize the plan during the week of May 4th, which could include specific guidelines for various industry types and geographic regions. This week Nevada and Colorado joined in the regional.

What are other states doing?

As Governors Contemplate Reopening, Here's What Restrictions Look Like In Each State
In the news:
How could Oregon reopen amid coronavirus? Read details from a draft report the governor’s office didn’t want shared.
Rural areas of Oregon may reopen sooner than urban areas, Gov. Brown’s office says
Leader of Oregon House Republicans responds to roadmap for reopening the state
From Speaker Kotek: Coronavirus Update: Planning for the Next Phase
Here is Gov. Kate Brown's detailed road map to reopen Oregon: What about schools? Child care? Restaurants?

CAT Tax Update
Governor Brown has released a statement clarifying she has no plans to delay the Corporate Activity Tax or delay the 1st Quarterly Estimated Payments due April 30th. However, she has shared a statement that she is directing the Department of Revenue to waive all penalties related to 1st Quarter tax payments. You can read that letter, directed to OBI, here. We have not received confirmation from the Department of Revenue. We are working with Rep. Boshart-Davis to receive further clarification from Legislative Counsel regarding whether COVID-10 Federal Relief will be considered taxable under Oregon’s corporate income tax, the CAT and confirming Oregon’s connection to the IRS. Read that memo here. There is additional work to add further clarification to Special Session considerations. In the news: Hundreds of Oregon businesses questioned Brown about lifting coronavirus restrictions, fulfilling unemployment benefits and delaying new corporate tax

Emergency Board Relief Package

The Legislature held a virtual meeting of the Joint Emergency Board to vote on an emergency relief package for Oregonians last week. After more than four hours of discussion, the committee approved approximately $32 million in state General Fund dollars. The funding primarily focuses on shelter/rental assistance, small businesses, domestic violence survivors, and immigrant communities. We anticipate seeing additional COVID-19 relief proposals during a Special Session in late May or June.

Unemployment Benefits

Efforts to speed up the benefit process continue to stall at the Oregon Employment Department. This past week additional pressure was placed on the Department by the Governor and Congressional leaders calling on Oregon to suspend the “waiting week” – the week where applicants must wait before receiving benefits. The COVID relief package passed by Congress allows states to waive this week without penalty, however the Oregon data system doesn’t have the capacity or technology to do that. In addition to benefits, this also costs unemployed Oregonians the additional $600 a week approved in that same Congressional package. Additional information from the Department here: Employment Department – COVID 19 Unemployment Insurance FAQ

In the news:

Oregon’s antiquated computers could cost laid-off workers more than $100 million in benefits

Gov. Brown says Oregon eventually will waive ‘waiting week’ for jobless claims, boosting workers’ benefits by millions of dollarsAgreement Reached with Insurers – Cover COVID Tests

DCBS has made an agreement with local insurance providers to cover the entire cost of COVID testing. The agreement means consumers with fully-insured individual and group health plans will not be charged co-payments, co-insurance, or deductibles related to COVID-19 for the following:

  • COVID-19 laboratory testing administered consistent with guidelines issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • An in-network provider office visit or a visit to an in-network urgent care center to be tested for COVID-19.
  • An emergency room visit to be tested for COVID-19.
  • Immunization for COVID-19, once it becomes available.

Outside of these instances, regular terms of insurance such as co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles will still apply. Additional discussions are taking place for those not covered in the current agreement. More here: https://dfr.oregon.gov/insure/health/understand/Pages/coronavirus.aspx

Campaign Finance – Supreme Court Opinion

Late last week the Oregon Supreme Court released their decision on campaign contribution limits. The decision is going to take weeks (maybe longer) to fully digest. However, most believe that the immediate impact is that this opinion will trigger Measure 47, which voters passed in 2006, and imposes severe restrictions and penalties on candidate campaign finance activities. The measure places strict caps on how much initials can spend on candidates ($500 for statewide office, $100 for other public offices). The measure also more or less banned contributions from corporations and unions, unless they qualify under a small donor PAC exception. We are working with a broad coalition to better understand this measure and its potential impacts. You can read the OBI legal memo on the topic here. We are accordingly recommending to all clients to suspend any political giving for the foreseeable future until we have a better legal understanding of this opinion and direction from the Secretary of State.

In the news: Oregon Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Campaign Contribution Limits


POLITICAL NEWS

New Senate Republican Leader

On Friday, the Senate Republicans announced a new leader. Senator Fred Girod was voted to replaced Senator Herman Baertschiger who announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election. Sen. Girod is from Lyons and is the senior member of the caucus having served in the Legislature for 15 years. Read more here.

2020 Primary Election

The May 19 primary election is quickly approaching, and Oregon will see a full ballot. Several legislative districts have multiple candidates, both Democrat and Republican, seeking their party's nomination for the general election in November. See a full list of the candidate filings here.




Interim Legislative Update – April 2020

COVID-19 RESPONSE

OSHA Petition – Farmworker Housing & Field Sanitation

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon Law Center and Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center filed a petition with OSHA requesting significant changes to field sanitation and agricultural labor housing rules. Several of the proposals included in the petition mirror asks farmworker advocates have previously advocated for, including extreme changes that would require costly and infeasible investments for the agricultural industry while being unrelated to the prevention of COVID-19. OSHA has not yet decided whether to accept or deny the petition and has asked for public comment. OWGL worked with our ag partners to craft a letter in opposition. We are also working behind the scenes to keep legislators up to date on efforts the ag community is making to keep farmworkers safe.

Aerial Spray Ban Efforts

Last week, environmental activists began to use the COVID-19 crisis to seek an immediate temporary ban on the aerial application of pesticides stating that Oregon’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order, places neighbors at an increased risk of spray drift. The activist groups have written op-eds and letters to the editor in an effort to place unnecessary fear into neighbors. These efforts have resulted in individuals reaching out to private timber companies and applicators, concerned about the health of their families and animals. Oregon Forest and Industries Council and Oregonians for Food and Shelter have partnered in an effort to get ahead of the narrative being written by activists and educate local leaders about why timber and agriculture need to continue operating as usual during COVID-19. Currently, the focus of activists is on forestry but we are continuing to monitor their efforts closely. Read letters to the editor submitted by environmental activists below:

COVID-19 LABOR UPDATES

Paycheck Protection Program

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an interim final rule on the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) last week. The rule was effective immediately and the loan application was updated to reflect the changes. The rule states that worker cooperatives including agriculture, purchasing, and consumer food co-ops, will be able to access Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Agriculture Employer Guidance

The Oregon Farm Bureau put together a comprehensive employer guidance handbook compiled of information from the CDC, OSHA and OHA. Read the guidance here. Please note, this guidance has not been formally adopted by any Oregon state agency.

E-FMLA Update – Refundable & Advanceable Tax Credits

As a reminder, the new E-FMLA and E-Sick Leave programs are meant to be refundable to the employer. While you front the expense, you are able to withhold your Medicare and social security taxes during quarterly payments – and if not enough apply for a refund from the IRS. Recently, the IRS has also released direction to receive an advance payment of the tax credit – to help cover your costs today. Eligible employers can now use Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19, to request an advance payment of tax credits. Employers must retain records supporting each employee's leave to substantiate the claim for receiving payment of the advance credit. Find out more about the refundable and advanceable tax credits designed to make employers whole for fronting the cash on behalf of the federal government here. Just a reminder, these credits are not available if the employer ends up using a forgivable Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPPL) to pay the benefits.

How to Claim the Credits on the IRS website:

37. How does an Eligible Employer claim the refundable tax credits for qualified leave wages (plus any allocable qualified health plan expenses and the amount of the Eligible Employer’s share of Medicare tax)?

Eligible Employers will report their total qualified leave wages and the related credits for each quarter on their federal employment tax returns, usually Form 941, Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return. Form 941 is used to report income and social security and Medicare taxes withheld by the employer from employee wages, as well as the employer’s portion of social security and Medicare tax. In anticipation of receiving the credits, Eligible Employers can fund qualified leave wages (and allocable qualified health plan expenses and the Eligible Employer’s share of Medicare tax on the qualified leave wages) by accessing federal employment taxes, including withheld taxes, that are required to be deposited with the IRS or by requesting an advance from the IRS.

For more information on ways Eligible Employers can access funds for the credit before filing the Form 941, see “How can an Eligible Employer that is required to pay qualified leave wages fund the payment of these wages if the Eligible Employer does not have sufficient federal employment taxes set aside for deposit to cover those payments? Can the employer get an advance of the credits?

POLICY UPDATES

Oregon Department of Agriculture Chlorpyrifos Work Group

The ODA cancelled its chlorpyrifos workgroup meeting scheduled for March 30 due to COVID-19. A new meeting date has not been set. This would have been the third meeting of the WG and the first meeting since the 2020 session adjourned without passage of HB4168, the ban of chlorpyrifos supported by Beyond Toxics and PCUN. Stakeholders were asked to provide feedback on potential risk mitigation measures proposed by ODA,OWGL participated in drafting the feedback submitted by OFS and OFB, including specific information on the importance of aerial spray for alfalfa.

Written comments submitted jointly by Beyond Toxics and PCUN can be read here. Requests to obtain additional comments submitted by stakeholders have been made, once we receive them we will strategize next steps.

Corporate Activity Tax (CAT) Implementation Update

As you know, we’ve been advocating for delayed implementation of the CAT for the first two quarters of 2020 and for the adoption of the technical changes to the CAT that were included in HB4009A. At this time, Legislative Leadership and the Director of the Department of Revenue (DOR) have declined to delay implementation, meaning businesses are expected to make their first quarterly payments this month. However, we are continuing our efforts. We have made progress in conversations with DOR regarding the necessary technical changes for the agriculture industry going forward. We spoke with DOR earlier last week and received additional information on their rulemaking plan. Detailed updates are below:

RULEMAKING STATUS: Three batches of temporary rules took effect in January, February and March, bringing the total number to 18. DOR intends to publish the final sets of temporary rules in late May or June. DOR has indicated that they believe they have the authority to make some of the changes we’ve been pushing for via rules including; the cost of goods sold calculation and certificate options for bulk commodities. We anticipate seeing these included in the next set of rules.

WHAT’S NEXT: The public comment period is scheduled to open in May, with the final rule hearings scheduled to occur on May 26 and June 23. However, the timeline may change due to COVID-19. We don’t expect any large changes to the CAT via the rules – except for the ones specific to the agricultural industry.

STATEWIDE TOUR: DOR has suspended its series of CAT update meetings, but in an effort to continue educating business owners they’ve made a video of a previous meeting available as well as a PowerPoint presentation. View them here and here.

POSSIBLE SPECIAL SESSION CAT FIX BILL: The Governor has stated that she does not plan to convene the legislature for a Special Session anytime soon. However, we did see drafts of three bill concepts – which we anticipate will continue to be discussed and evolve over the coming weeks if the Legislature does convene. One of the drafts is a LC 21, a redraft of the CAT technical fix bill (HB 4009A) which we advocated tirelessly for during the 2020 session to include needed agricultural changes. If they do convene a Special Session, the passage of LC 21 would be a big win for the ag community. Read a full summary of the bill here.

POLITICS

Environmental and Timber Initiative Petitions Withdrawn

Good news this week – as a result of the MOU signed by environmentalists and the timber industry in February both parties have officially withdrawn their initiative petitions (IPs) from the 2020 general election ballot. The environmental IPs 45, 46, and 47 known as the Oregon Forest Water Protection Acts, were a reintroduction of three previous IPs that were rejected by the SOS. The initiatives called for tightening aerial spray rules, increasing forest stream buffers, prohibiting logging in specific areas and prohibiting conflicts of interest for state forestry board appointees. The original IPs are currently awaiting decision by the Oregon Supreme Court, both parties have agreed to allow the court process to continue. The timber industry’s IPs were also withdrawn including IP 53: Fair and Just Compensation Act, IP 54: Oregon Forest Science Standards Act and IP 55: Forestry Oversight Improvement Act.

2020 Primary Election

The May 19 primary election is quickly approaching and Oregon will see a full ballot. Several legislative districts have multiple candidates, both Democrat and Republican, seeking their party's nomination for the general election in November. See a full list of the candidate filings here.



March 18 Update

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.

POLICY Updates

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:

  1. 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
  1. 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:

  1. Increase the BIT tax rate from 1.45% to 2.00% (effective January 1, 2020)
  2. Increase the gross receipts exemption from $50,000 to $100,000
  3. 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.

POLITICS Update

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.

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Secretary of State
Bev Clarno and Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle
Sick Time

  • 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.

Predictive Scheduling
  • 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.

Preventing Discrimination
  • 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: oed_workshare@oregon.gov.

Small Business Advocacy

Businesses without employees or with fewer than 100 employees can contact the Office of Small Business Assistance via email at business.sos@oregon.gov or by calling toll free 1-844-469-5512.



2020 Session Adjourns

The 2020 Oregon Legislature has officially adjourned as of midnight last night. All bills not advanced to the Governor’s desk are officially dead. According to bill tracking reports, of the 258 bills introduced in the 2020 Session, only three made it that far….increasing the cultural trust registration license plates, requiring the Dept. of Ed to create a form for schools to use after a concussion, and settling a Happy Valley annexation dispute.

You can view the impassioned closing day speeches delivered by Speaker Tina Kotek here and Senate President Peter Courtney here and a joint press conference here. Along with Republican House Leader here and Senate Republican Leader here statements.

Immediate Crisis Funding

This morning, the Interim Joint Emergency Board (E-Board) will be convening to address “Oregon Crisis Funding.” The emergency funding will go towards various agencies in response to critical needs for flood damage, coronavirus response, and emergency preparedness. The E-Board has an estimated $75M to spend (set aside from the 2019 Legislative Session). The package to be considered totals $24.350M. Highlights include:

  • Eastern OR Flooding Package:
    • $7.5M for Umatilla County Flood Victims
    • 1.8M for City of Pendleton levee repairs
    • $1.5M Business Clean-up/Restoration for Eastern OR Flooding
    • $500,000 to Blue Mountain Foundation for additional housing rehab
    • $350,000 for City of Milton-Freewater to defray flood clean-up costs
  • Coronavirus COVID-19 & Emergency Preparedness:
    • $5M for emergency response (will match with $8.5B of federal funding nationwide for coronavirus response)
    • $2.7M all hazard emergency preparedness and response

In addition to the above, the package also contains $5 Million for regulatory implementation of Cap & Trade:

“Allocate $5,000,000 from the Emergency Fund to the Department of Environmental Quality to be used for rulemaking and other actions with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all emissions sources, including point sources, natural gas emissions and transportation fuels. To potentially implement these activities, the Emergency Board authorizes the establishment of ten permanent positions for the Department.”

Where do we go from here?

In their Joint Press Conference, Democratic Legislative Leadership made it clear that a Special Session would include more than just the budget bills. Governor Brown issued a similar statement “I am open to calling a special session if we can ensure it will benefit Oregonians. However, until legislative leaders bring me a plan for a functioning session I’m not going to waste taxpayer dollars on calling them back to the State Capitol.”

That means budget AND policy bills left on the table in 2020 could be reintroduced and worked during a Special Session. There is no deadline for a Special Session. We are told this could happen within 30-days or late-April to mid-May. The fiscal year for the State ends June 30th.

The Governor has also stated she will issue Executive Orders in the coming days directing State Agencies to implement various elements of a Cap & Trade type proposal. There are certain limitations without a policy bill from the Legislature. Read more here.

Tuesday is Oregon’s filing day! We will continue to keep you updated on race matchups, interim legislative activity and of course the Special Session! An “End of Session” report will also follow.

Politics

Senator Ginny Burdick announced last week 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.

A recall effort was launched last week 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.






HB 2020 & SB 1530

2020 Short Session Docs

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