Four key business bills in Special Session

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By: J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries,

February 2010 Talking Points on Education and Fiscal Policy

1. Senator Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland) is introducing legislation – SB 1045 – that would prohibit employers from using credit reports to make employment decisions. Over half of Oregon employers use these types of reports in hiring key personnel, usually in positions of “trust” (handling company assets, customer assets, or sensitive information).  The AOI Board of Directors voted to oppose this legislation as introduced, but AOI will work with the sponsor and others to explore opportunities to make the legislation workable for employers.

2. The legislature is planning to move a $19 million emergency unemployment benefit extension that would fund most claimants for an additional 4-6 weeks of benefits. This is money previously allocated for emergency benefits last year that has not been utilized.  The $19 million will not impact employers’ unemployment tax rates.

3. The House Business Committee will introduce yet another re-write of the “employer gag bill,” again at the behest of the AFL-CIO. This is the second re-write in addition to the passage of the original SB 519 last year.  The new bill will expand the political content that employers are prohibited from discussing with employees to include ballot measures.  However, the new bill will specify that employers are allowed to hold mandatory meetings on such things as workplace safety and other topics directly related to the job.  AOI’s legal counsel has assured AOI that the new bill will not sidetrack our pending federal lawsuit challenging the validity of SB 519.

AOI’s lawsuit against SB 519 (2009) is progressing toward a hearing for Summary Judgment in early April in federal court in Portland.  AOI, in conjunction with the US Chamber of Commerce, is challenging SB 519 as an illegal intrusion on federal labor law as well as an unconstitutional abridgement of an employer’s First Amendment free speech rights.

4. Representative Nick Kahl (D-Troutdale) will introduce legislation to include banks and insurance companies under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The new legislation – HB 3615 – will be opposed by a wide array of industry groups.