By Jan Meekcoms
It was a contentious session, reports State Director Jan Meekcoms from Salem, but NFIB managed to claw out some victories for Oregon small businesses, help defeat terrible bills, and register members’ opinions on others that could not be stopped. The first half of the 77th legislative session came to an end July 8. Thousands of bills were introduced with hundreds of them affecting small business. This session contrasted from 2011’s when a more balanced perspective prevailed. It was a challenging session and at times contentious, but in the end there were many victories in bills passed and those defeated.
The following is a summary of some of the key bills that affected or would have affected Main Street enterprises.
Senate Bill 678 – This was NFIB’s key priority as the session began: To fix the Oregon appellate court’s Cortez case ruling that denied workers’ compensation exclusive remedy protection to the owners and members of Oregon LLC’s. We were successful in passing SB 678. Oregon LLC’s now have the same protection as other employers.
House Bill 3459 – Establishes a Small Business Office of Assistance in the Secretary of State’s office. Secretary of State Kate Brown repeatedly testified that the funds existed in her current budget to finance this expansion within her agency. The purpose is to assist new and existing small businesses with issues that arise during interaction with state agencies.
House Bill 2643 – According to the director of the corporation division, it is unknown how many agencies exist in the state of Oregon. It is estimated that there are between 1,750 and 3,000. Increasingly, these agencies are self-funded through fees and penalties. HB 2643 will establish an electronic system within the Secretary of State’s office for collecting information on each agency and the fees it collects on an annual basis.
House Bill 2683 – Allows direct deposit payment at the discretion of the employer. Previously, this required direct up-front consent by the employee for an employer who chooses to use this preferential method of payroll payment.
Bad Bills That Failed
House Bill 2456 – The proposed measure would have increased taxes by about $275 million. It failed along party line votes that required a 3/5th majority. This was a very contentious effort that included Gov. John Kitzhaber. When the small business tax classification, with a flat rate of 7 percent, was deleted from the bill, it became deflated. Even the enticement of PERS reform, which was included in the “grand bargain,” was not enough to get ’er done!
House Bill 3390 – Paid sick leave failed in this session, but it will return. It would have created up to seven days paid sick leave for businesses with six or more employees. Sen. Diane Rosenbaum and Rep. Michael Dembrow are intent on passing paid sick leave in Oregon.
Senate Bill 573 – This wage-theft bill would have allowed for a priority lien on all the real and personal property of the employer within the state of Oregon upon the paying a fee and filing of a form for an alleged wage claim. This would be allowed without any due process or prior wage claim filed with Bureau of Labor and Industries.
House Bill 3307 – Would have mandated 1 ½ hours of pay for each day that an employee misses a break or lunch, even if it was the employee’s preference to do so.
House Bill 3142 – Would have redefined “employee” and “employer” to create an expanded and ambiguous definition of employer that could include managers, independent contractors and supervisors in wage-claim and liability cases.
House Bill 2497 – Would have established a carbon tax on gasoline and diesel and utilities to finance a state highway fund, school fund and new renewable energy resources account.
House Bill 2950 – Includes two weeks bereavement leave as a qualifying leave under Oregon’s Family Leave Act.
House Bill 2654 – Prohibits employers from requiring employees to disclose login information to their social media accounts.
House Bill 2669 – Grants limited workplace civil right protections to interns, including discrimination and sexual harassment protections.
House Bill 3436 – Creates a task force to study retirement savings of individuals and private sector employees and methods to increase savings for retirement among all Oregonians.
House Bill 2902 – Requires insurance companies to reimburse nurse practitioners at the same level as doctors when performing the same services.
House Bill 2385 A – Requires insurers to cover court-ordered chemical dependency treatment, which usually results from a DUI conviction.
Senate Bill 365/House Bill 2896 – Increases insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders.
House Bill 2296 – Creates a new corporate entity “B corporation” or public benefit corporation.
House Bill 2903 – New posting requirements regarding employer accommodation for employees who are victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking and harassment upon first day of employment if requested.
House Bill 2871 – Expands pilot project to require tax certification in order for certain businesses to renew business licenses.
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