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Oregon labor outperforms other states

February 28, 2017 --

By Josh Lehner
Oregon Office of Economic Analysis Blog

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released the latest quarterly economic and revenue forecast. For the full document, slides and forecast data please see our main website. Below is the forecast’s Executive Summary.


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Investors finally embrace equity rally

February 27, 2017 --

 by Jason Norris, CFA
Executive Vice President of Research
Ferguson Wellman,
A leading Oregon financial firm

Friday, Feb 24 — Stocks ended the week marginally higher as U.S. economic data continued to generate positive headlines. Though regional manufacturing surveys around the U.S. are showing improving growth, retail earnings this week were mixed as some companies cited that delays in tax returns were effecting spending as tax refunds are running $60 billion below average thus far this year.

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Retailers meet with Trump on Tax Reform, Border Tax

February 24, 2017 --

Retailers meet with Trump to push tax reform, block ‘border adjustment’
J. Craig Shearman
By National Retail Federation

CEOs from some of the nation’s top retail companies met with President Trump at the White House as NRF argued that comprehensive tax reform is needed but said a proposed $1 trillion “border adjustment” tax on imports would drive up prices for consumers and cost America jobs.

It “is going to add a new national sales tax on the price of everything that consumers buy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said during an interview on CNBC. “I don’t think that’s what the voting population voted for last November. There are other ways to get tax reform done.”

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Worst business laws of 2016

February 22, 2017 --

bullard-law2Bullard Law, Portland law firm

We created the Bullard Edge Awards, more popularly known as the BEAs.  Annually the BEAs recognize outstanding or infamous achievement in employment law.  There is not a nomination in every category every year.  It all depends on the year that was.

This morning the BEA committee revealed the nominees for “Worst Employment Law of 2016” live on Employment Law TV (a wholly-owned faux-subsidiary of The Bullard Edge).  Nominations for this coveted BEA went to the City of Portland (CEO Surtax law) and the City of Seattle (Secure Scheduling law).  ELTV Correspondent Max D. Lusion covered the event live in downtown Portland.  Here is his report.

*** Cut to Max D. Lusion in front of Portland’s majestic Black Box Building.  ***

MAX: I am reporting live from Portland for Employment Law TV.  Excitement is building.  You can probably feel it crackling through the screen.  We are just moments away from a major announcement about the Bullard Edge Awards.

Over the past few years, the BEAs have grown in prominence.  They may be slightly less well-known than some of the other major awards, like the Oscars and ESPYS, but it is beyond question that the BEAs have become the most prestigious employment law awards in the SW Market Street region of Portland.

Wait a minute.  There is a stirring in the atrium and I see several familiar figures approaching the podium – Clark Griswold, star of Christmas Vacation, and Buddy the Elf, star of Elf.  ELTV takes you live to the podium now.

*** Camera cuts to the podium, where Buddy the Elf is speaking. ***

BUDDY: So anyway, I apologize for being a minute late.  Papa Elf was trying to give me trip directions.
CLARK: I know a little something about vacations myself, you know.
BUDDY: Of course you do, Clark.  We could go on for hours talking about your vacation to Wally World, but we are here for an entirely different purpose.
CLARK: That’s right, Buddy.  The buzz is that we are here to talk about the BEAs.
BUDDY: — Ouch.  You need to work on your award show patter, Clark.
CLARK: Will do.  — And the first category of nominees is Worst Employment Law of 2016.  Who are they, Buddy?

*** Editor’s note: First nominee is Portland’s CEO Surtax law. ***

BUDDY: Clark, the first nominee is the City of Portland for its recent amendment to City Code section 7.02.500.  This is the so-called CEO Surtax, recently summarized by the Bullard Alert.
CLARK: Buddy, and pardon me as I squint to read the teleprompter, on December 7, 2016 the City Council, by a 3-1 margin, decided to add subsection E to the existing Tax Rate code.  The gist of the amendment is that a 10% surtax will be levied against any publicly traded corporation, above its existing business tax liability, if that company pays its CEO more than 100 times what it pays the median worker.
BUDDY: Moreover, the surtax surges to 25% where a company’s CEO is paid 250 times more than the company pays its median worker.
CLARK: The BEA committee identified two reasons for nominating the CEO Surtax for its Worst Employment Law of 2016 award.

First, the surtax is an ill-conceived attempt to have the tail wag the dog.  According to the “findings” of the Portland City Council, the problem to be addressed is income inequality in the United States.  The Council cites a variety of statistics that it says show that the percentage of total income paid to the top one percent of income earners has been increasing over the course of four decades.  The Council states that this trend is “bad for the economy and bad for democracy.”  To remedy this, the Council expresses its hope that the surtax will help company shareholders to “realize that extreme chief executive officer to median worker pay ratios reduce their profits” and that this realization will lead them to “make changes to their pay structure.”  In other words, the City is self-appointing itself as the assistants to corporate shareholders.

BUDDY: Second, the City Council makes no mention of the potential negative impact that a surtax might have on the local economy.  In a press release, Commissioner Novick states, “The surtax will also benefit the city by generating an estimated $2.5 million to $3.5 million per year.”  That will not be true if the surtax discourages companies from doing business in Portland.  The City Council clearly wants to participate in (even lead) a global discussion about wealth and income, but it may be doing that at the expense of its constituents.

*** Editor’s note: Second nominee is Seattle’s Secure Scheduling law. ***

CLARK: That is heavy stuff, Buddy.  Before we crown Portland the winner of the BEA, though, let’s reveal the second nominee in this category.  The second nominee is the City of Seattle for its adoption of Municipal Code Chapter 14.22, which is known as the Secure Scheduling Ordinance.
BUDDY: On September 19, 2016 a unanimous City Council approved this legislation and sent it to the Mayor, who signed it on September 29, 2016.  The new law, which will take effect on July 1, 2017, is said to be for the purpose of adding stability and predictability to Seattle shift workers’ hourly incomes and schedules.
CLARK: Buddy, as I understand it, the law covers retail and food service employers and requires them to provide employees with a set schedule 14 days in advance.  When the schedule changes ~ shifts or hours added or subtracted ~ the employer pays a small amount to the employee for the inconvenience.  Some would say that sounds like a suitable purpose.  Why was it nominated for the BEA?
BUDDY: Good question, Clark.  The BEA committee identified two reasons for nominating this law.

First, the law is anti-business.  It fails to strike any balance between an employee and employer interests.  Understandably, an employee has an interest in knowing his or her schedule.  However, the reality of the workplace, especially in retail and food service, is that an employer’s needs change.  Note that a 14-day advance scheduling requirement may in practice mean that an employer using two-week schedules will have to project out 28 days ~ a schedule covering January 1 to 14 would have to be posted on December 17.  That is an eternity in the retail and food service industries.  Moreover, when an employee calls in sick, fails to report for work, or quits, the employer will be forced to pay an additional hour of pay to the employee assigned to fill the void.

The Washington Retail Association describes this requirement as “a rigid, unworkable one-size-fits-all government intrusion into employer-employee relations that threatens far more complications and problems than benefits.”

CLARK: Ok.  What is the other reason cited by the BEA committee?
BUDDY: The second reason cited for this nomination is the burdensome recordkeeping required.  Per Municipal Code section 14.22.065 an employer must “retain records that document compliance” with Chapter 14.22 “for a period of three years.”  The detailed written records required include such things as schedules, documentation of employee-requested schedule changes, written communications to employees regarding additional hours, and even documentation regarding discipline leading to a reduction in hours.  Where an employer does not have a record, the law creates “a presumption, rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence, that the employer violated this Chapter 14.22 for the periods and for each employee for whom records were not retained.”
CLARK: That’s harsh.  In making this nomination did the committee cite the requirement that employers engage in an interactive process regarding scheduling?
BUDDY: I was just going to mention that as a hybrid of the anti-business and burdensome recordkeeping concepts.  Per section 14.22.030, an employee has a right to request input into his or her work schedule when hired or during employment.  If the employee’s request is due to a “major life event” such as the employee’s second job, then:
“the employer shall engage in an interactive process with the employee to discuss the request, and may require verifying information from the employee with adequate notice and reasonable time to respond.  The employer shall grant the request unless the employer has a bona fide business reason for denial and shall provide a written response.  In the event of a denial, the employer’s written response shall provide an explanation of the complete or partial denial of the request, and the bona fide business reason for the decision.”
CLARK: Well that is certainly a feature that makes the Secure Scheduling law worthy of BEA nomination.
BUDDY: Clark, those are the two nominees.
CLARK: Yes, and folks wanting to know the winner should watch the award show on ELTV.  I believe Cousin Eddie will be the emcee this year.
BUDDY: I know I will be watching from the North Pole.

*** That is the end of Max D. Lusion’s report. ***

The Bullard Edge notes that voting for the BEAs is open to the public.  Voters may select one of the nominees or write in a candidate.  We look forward to receiving your ballots.

Best regards,

The Bullard Edge 

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SB 165 voids small business tax cut


OSBA Works Against Small Business Tax Increase
By Oregon Small Business Association,

Oregon Small Business Association President T.J. Riley appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue  to testify against SB 165. This bill would force small businesses across Oregon to add at least one full-time equivalent employee (FTE) in order to qualify for a tax break originally granted by the Legislature in 2013.

Under current law small businesses can reduce the tax rate applied to part of it’s tax liability. SB 165 would require that a business add an employee and have no reduction in average wages in any year in which it wants to claim the reduced tax rate. As pointed out in the hearing, this is not practical for a variety of reasons and if passed, SB 165 would likely dramatically reduce the number of small businesses that could qualify for the reduced rate.

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Alaska Airlines record earnings, $100M employee bonuses

February 21, 2017 --

Alaska Air Group Press Release,

Employees of Alaska Air Group companies Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air are receiving $100 million in bonuses, following a record fourth quarter and record full-year earnings announcement. For most employees, this equates to more than 8 percent of their annual pay in 2016.

The company’s annual bonus, called Performance Based Pay (PBP), is determined by meeting or exceeding specific company-wide goals for safety, customer satisfaction, cost control and profit. For the eighth year in a row, employees will enjoy a payout of about an additional month’s pay.

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About the border tax

February 20, 2017 --

by Brad Houle, CFA
Executive Vice President
Ferguson Wellman,
A leading Oregon financial firm

For the week, the equity markets were higher by about 1.25 percent as investors absorbed Janet Yellen’s testimony to Congress and the stronger-than-expected economic data that was posted. Interest rates were higher with the 10-year U.S. Treasury climbing in yield from 2.39 percent to 2.42 percent.

Border Adjustable Tax Basics

A Border Adjustment tax has been in the news as part of a potential broader tax reform for both corporate and individual taxes. A border adjustable tax is structured to tax goods on where they are consumed as opposed to where they are produced. At its core, this tax structure will tax imports and subsidize exports. The key reasons that this plan is being considered are the following:

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Chamber issues Israel-U.S. business plan

February 17, 2017 --

U.S. Chamber of Commerce,

Ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Israel Business Initiative today released a series of policy recommendations for the new Congress and administration aimed at strengthening the U.S.-Israel economic relationship. The policy recommendations outline a new framework to re-energize the economic and commercial partnership between the two countries, through including a High-Level Economic Dialogue and increased collaboration in key industry sectors.

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Congress: 3 bills target Davis-Bacon Act

February 16, 2017 --

Ater Wynne LLP
NW Law firm

Federal legislators have renewed steps to repeal — or at least undermine — the prevailing wage requirements under the Davis-Bacon Act, which mandates payment of prevailing wages and benefits to workers employed under federally-funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works.

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) recently introduced the Transportation Investment Calibration to Equality (TIRE) Act, which would eliminate prevailing wage requirements under the Davis-Bacon Act on all federal highway construction contracts. In addition, U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill to repeal all prevailing wage requirements under the Davis-Bacon Act (S. 244), and Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) re-introduced a companion bill in the House (H. 743), entitled the “Davis-Bacon Repeal Act.”

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SB 301 protects off-job drug use

February 15, 2017 --

bullard-law2Bullard Law, Portland law firm

Longtime readers of The Bullard Edge (which is everyone, right?) will recall that we first addressed the marijuana law evolution in our fifth post, titled “When Mary Jane Brought a Pot Brownie to Work” (April 15, 2014).  Here is some of what we said in that post.​

Prediction 1: In states that have legalized medical or personal marijuana use, “the number of state residents using marijuana will likely increase,”
Prediction 2: “which in turn (a) will mean an increase in the number of marijuana users seeking employment,”
Prediction 3: “which (b) will likely lead to an increase in the number of applicants/employees testing positive for marijuana use.”
Prediction 4: Consequently, the “rising numbers of disciplinary actions resulting from violations of workplace drug policies may lead to greater legislative or judicial pressure to adjust the law in a manner that provides some form of protection for the lawful recreational and/or medical use of marijuana.”
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