2021 Legislative Review

2021 Legislative Review

Jul 23, 2021

The annual legislative session in Salem was anything but ordinary this year, as lawmakers gathered for the 160 day long session lasting from January through mid June. From the start, the session was unique as the Capitol building was closed to the public and all legislative hearings were conducted remotely. Lawmakers were brought in one day a week to vote on issues, and many of those sessions were abruptly shutdown due to COVID exposures.

As lawmakers, advocates and the public became more familiar with the process, the remote format allowed for testimony from all four corners of the state without the challenges of driving to Salem. Despite the opportunity to engage in the legislative process, much of the work was conducted behind closed doors and access to lawmakers was limited leaving a void in the flow of information.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the 2021 session can be considered a success as lawmakers remained focused on core issues such as pandemic recovery, wildfire recovery and racial equity initiatives. The influx of Federal funds and a healthier than expected state economy propped up the state budget allowing significant investments in education, affordable housing, infrastructure and health care. These investments totaling over $4.6 billion are historic and offered the opportunity to create generational change.

When the gavel fell on the 2021 session, the Bend Chamber had monitored over 100 bills and actively engaged in supporting or opposing nearly 40 bills. Chamber members wrote letters, provided testimony, collaborated with partner organizations and regularly communicated with our local elected officials. Our Advocacy Council met 14 times over the course of session to review bills, discuss priorities and make recommendations to Chamber staff about engagement strategies.

In lieu of the annual Lobby Day in Salem, Chamber members participated in a Day of Advocacy via virtual visits with key lawmakers. We met with six legislators and engaged in meaningful conversation that otherwise would be challenging given the normal pace of Capitol life. Those conversations netted investments in a new child care program and changes to affordable housing regulations, as well as relationships with key legislative leaders.

 

Policy Priorities

 

Whether reviewing local city ordinances and development codes or weighing in on legislative proposal in Salem, the Bend Chamber has an active advocacy program. Our guiding policy principles, set by the Chamber Board of Directors, include:

  • Increasing the supply of affordable and attainable housing to support Bends growing population
  • Economic vitality, workforce development and innovation that lead to a vibrant business community
  • A diverse, equitable and inclusive chamber membership, workforce and business community
  • Support for transportation and infrastructure projects to alleviate traffic congestion and plan for future growth
  • Access to affordable, high-quality child care for infants, toddlers and preschool age children
  • A thoughtful balance between environmental sustainability and economic health

 While there were nearly 3000 bills introduced, many quickly fell by the wayside and several hundred ended up passing into law and obtaining the Governor’s signature. The following is a list of key issues the Chamber engaged in during the 2021 session.

Taxes

SB 139: Pass-Through Entity Changes

SB 139 eliminates the reduced tax rate for pass-through entities with more than $5 million in annual net income. Businesses with less than $500k in net income would get a tax reduction from 7.2% to 7%. Businesses with net income between $500k and $1 million would see a rate reduction from 7.6% to 7.5%.

Chamber Position: Oppose and work to sever rate reductions from the bill

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.

Outcome: Bill passed into law, effective September 25, 2021.

 

HB 3389: Unemployment Tax Reduction

HB 3389 omits 2020 and 2021 from being factored into UI Trust Fund solvency requirements; uses 2020 employer experience ratings as the baseline experience ratings for 2022, 2023 and 2024; reduces UI Trust Fund adequacy requirements by 10%; and allows employers to defer up to a third of taxes due until June 30, 2022.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber wrote a letter of support for the Senate Labor and Business Committee.

Outcome: Bill passed into law, effective September 25, 2021.

 

HB 3398: Delayed Implementation of Paid Family Medical Leave Taxes

HB 3398 delays implementation of Oregon’s Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFMLI) law. Under the law passed in 2019, the Oregon Employment Department is required to begin collecting the PFMLI tax from employers and workers to fund the program beginning in January 2022, with employees receiving benefits in 2023. The tax rate under the bill is a 0.4% payroll tax on employers and a 0.6% income tax on employees. Under HB 3398, the new tax on employers and employees would be delayed for one year – until January 2023 – with benefits being paid out later that fall.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective September 25, 2021.

 

HB 2253 / SB 137-2 / HB 2457-1: Taxation of PPP Loans

Several bills and amendments emerged that would have levied taxes or surcharges on forgiven federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, despite a prohibition of Federal taxation on such funds.

Chamber Position: Oppose

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber wrote a letter opposing SB 137 to the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee.

Outcome: All three bills failed.

 

HB 2839 / SB 137: Disconnect from Federal CARES Act Tax Benefits

HB 2839 and SB 137 were both considered with amendments that would deny the ability of Oregon companies to claim CARES Act tax incentives on state tax returns, thus creating an additional tax liability specific to Oregon businesses.

Chamber Position: Oppose

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.

Outcome: Both bills failed.

 

Economic Development and COVID Recovery

 

SB 278: Extended Eviction Protections for Renters and Landlord Reimbursements

SB 278 prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment for 60 days if they’ve provided the landlord with documentation that they applied for rental assistance. The bill provides funding for landlords whose applicants don’t pay rent, but don’t qualify for rental assistance during the 60-day moratorium. Lastly, SB 278 allows reimbursement to landlords participating in the Landlord Compensation Fund with reimbursements of 100%, rather than 80% that was previously allowed, for past due rent.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and became effective upon signature on June 25, 2021.

 

HB 2343: Suspension of Enterprise Zone Employment Requirements

HB 2343 allows governing bodies of enterprise zones to suspend enterprise zone employment requirements otherwise imposed on authorized business firms for either or both of property tax years beginning on July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber wrote letters to the House Business and Labor Committee and the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective September 25, 2021.

 

HB 3409: Return to Work Incentive Payments

HB 3409 creates an essential worker bonus of up to $2,000 per employee who worked through the pandemic and was exposed to people outside of their households. It also includes an incentive to address worker shortage issues which would give employees $1,200 if they had been on unemployment and accepted a position and kept it for at least four weeks.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber signed on to a fact sheet from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI).

Outcome: The bill failed.

 

Housing

 

HB 2004: Grant Program to Support Emergency Shelters

HB 2004 appropriates $27 million in General Fund dollars to the Housing and Community Services Department for emergency shelter grants, and $2 million for technical assistance for organizations developing and operating emergency shelters or transitional housing accommodations, including $2.5 million for the City of Bend for a navigation center.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber wrote a letter of support for the House Housing Committee.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and became effective upon signature on June 25, 2021.

 

SB 8: Affordable Housing Zoning Changes

SB 8 requires local governments to allow, without requiring a zone change or conditional use permit, the development of affordable housing projects on lands inside an urban growth boundary not zoned for residential use, subject to certain zoning, property ownership, and land use requirements.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber advocated for the bill during virtual visits with lawmakers.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective January 1, 2022.

 

SB 458: Land Division for Middle Housing Units

SB 458 establishes conditions under which local governments must approve divisions of real property for new middle housing development on lots and parcels in residential zones. Applies to cities with a population greater than 25,000, counties within a metropolitan service district, and cities not within a metropolitan service district with a population of more than 10,000 and less than 25,000.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber advocated for the bill during virtual visits with lawmakers.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective January 1, 2022.

 

HB 3318: Expedited Process for Urban Growth Boundary Expansion

HB 3318 establishes an expedited land use planning process and with associated deadlines for the development of Stevens Road tract in Bend, owned by the Department of State Lands. The bill requires at least 20 net acres for residential housing restricted to specified minimum densities and preserved as affordable for at least 50 years.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber wrote letters of support to the House Rules Committee and Senate Rules Committee.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective September 25, 2021.

 

Child Care

 

HB 3109: Limitations on Local Government Regulations for Child Care Facilities

HB 3109 establishes child care centers as permitted use in all commercial or industrial zoned areas. It exempts areas designated for heavy industrial use and adds child care facilities, preschool recorded programs, and school-age recorded programs as allowable use in areas zoned for exclusive farm use.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber wrote a letter of support to the House Early Childhood Committee.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective January 1, 2022.

 

HB 3073: Creation of Department of Early Learning and Care

HB 3073 creates a new Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) and makes changes to the Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program. The bill caps the ERDC copayment at 7 percent of a child’s family household income and households up to 100 percent of Federal Poverty Level (FPL) would not have a share of cost.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber wrote a letter of support to the Joint Ways and Means Committee and provided testimony in the House Early Childhood Committee.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and will be effective upon signature of the Governor.

 

HB 2484: Expansion of In-Home Child Care

HB 2484 prohibits landlords from restricting tenant’s use of a residential dwelling as a family child care home if the home is authorized by the Office of Child Care and the tenants notified the landlord. The bill allows landlords to require tenants to carry liability insurance or obtain releases from liability from parents as specified and allows Early Learning Council to establish reasonable requirements for landlords of tenants who operate family child care homes.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber wrote a letter of support to the House Early Childhood Committee.

Outcome: The bill failed.

 

 

Legal and General Business Issues

 

HB 2205: Private Attorneys General Act

HB 2205 creates a process for private individuals and organizations to bring public enforcement actions on behalf of and in the name of the state of Oregon for violations of statute or rule for which a state official has the power to enforce. The measure provides parameters on notice, timelines, and process for public enforcement actions.

Chamber Position: Oppose

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.

Outcome: The bill failed.

 

HB 2638: COVID Liability for Employers

HB 2638 offers liability protection for damages caused by a person acting in reasonable compliance with a COVID-19 guidance applicable to the person’s business or professional services. Liability protection is not extended for actions unrelated to COVID-19, or for those taken in gross negligence, recklessly, wantonly, or intentionally.

Chamber Position: Support

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber also wrote a letter of support to the House Judiciary Committee.

Outcome: The bill failed.

 

HB 2474: Oregon Family Leave Expansion

HB 2474 modifies the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) and establishes eligibility for protected leave under OFLA for all employees of a covered employer during public health emergency unless employed fewer than 30 days or worked less than an average of 25 hours per week in the 30 days leading up to the leave. The bill removes gendered language from provisions relating to pregnancy and allows employers to request verification of child care need.

Chamber Position: Monitor

Action: The Chamber monitored the bill and followed amendments sought by Oregon Business and Industry (OBI).

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective January 1, 2022.

 

HB 2489: Independent Contractors

HB 2489 creates the presumption that an individual performing services is an employee rather than an independent contractor for the purposes of compensation and benefits.

Chamber Position: Oppose

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.

Outcome: The bill failed.

 

SB 493: Prevailing Wage

SB 493 provides that prevailing wage rate (PWR) for a trade or occupation in a locality is the wage set forth in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the trade or occupation in the locality. The bill establishes that PWR for a trade or occupation in a locality with more than one CBA is the highest rate of wage among applicable CBAs. The bill applies to public works procurements advertised and contracts entered into on or after operative date of January 1, 2022.

Chamber Position: Oppose

Action: The Chamber signed on to fact sheets from Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce.

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective September 25, 2021.

 

SB 169: Non-Compete Agreements

SB 169 establishes that non-competition agreement is void and unenforceable unless agreement meets specified criteria. It replaces references to median family income and specifies that wage is adjusted annually for inflation. It reduces maximum term of non-competition agreement from 18 to 12 months. Defines non-competition agreement as a written agreement, rather than written, oral, express, or implied.

Chamber Position: Monitor

Action: The Chamber monitored the bill and followed amendments sought by Oregon Business and Industry (OBI).

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective January 1, 2022.

 

 

Energy and Environment

 

HB 2021: Clean Energy Mandates by 2040

HB 2021 requires retail electricity providers to transition to clean, non-emitting energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 100% below baseline levels by 2040.

Chamber Position: Monitor

Action: The Chamber monitored the bill and followed amendments sought by Oregon Business and Industry (OBI).

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective September 25, 2021.

 

SB 582: Consumer Packaging and Recycling Reforms

SB 582 establishes a new system for producer responsibility for packaging of materials. The bill requires producers to join a producer responsibility organization and pay membership fees to pick up costs related to disposal of packaging materials. The bill also establishes various stakeholder groups including a task force to study labeling requirements for recyclability of packaging.

Chamber Position: Monitor

Action: The Chamber monitored the bill and followed amendments sought by Oregon Business and Industry (OBI).

Outcome: Bill passed into law and is effective September 25, 2021.

 

Budget Issues

 

Funding for OSU-Cascades Student Success Center

The Chamber supported funding for the new Student Success Center at OSU-Cascades. A top priority for the past two sessions, the Chamber wrote letters to the Joint Ways and Means Committee and advocated for the funding during virtual visits with lawmakers. The legislature appropriated $14 million to the project.

 

Funding for Child Care Program Expansion

The Chamber supported Senator Tim Knopp’s request to appropriate $1 million of American Rescue Act Plan (ARPA) funding for a new modular structure and infrastructure at Little Kits Early Learning and Child Care Center at OSU-Cascades. The legislature approved the request in HB 5006, the omnibus budget bill with ARPA funding requests.

Funding for Deschutes County Judges

The Chamber supported funding for new judges for Deschutes County. The legislature appropriated funds to add two (2) new judges to the bench.

 

Funding for Low Barrier Homeless Shelter

The Chamber supported Representative Jason Kropf’s request to appropriate $2 million of American Rescue Act Plan (ARPA) funding for a year round low barrier homeless shelter. The legislature approved the request in HB 5006, the omnibus budget bill with ARPA funding requests.

 

Funding for Infrastructure to Support the Bend Central District

The Chamber supported Senator Tim Knopp’s request to appropriate $2 million of American Rescue Act Plan (ARPA) funding for a midtown bicycle and pedestrian crossing across HWY 97 and the BNSF railway in Bend and improvements for multimodal travel on two under crossings. The legislature approved the request in HB 5006, the omnibus budget bill with ARPA funding requests.

Funding for Innovation District Development at OSU-Cascades

The Chamber supported funding to address infrastructure needs of the planned Innovation District at OSU-Cascades. The request for $15 million would provide initial funding for site preparation and infrastructure for the former gravel pit. The legislature did not approve funding this session, however the issue is well poised for funding in a future session as a means to leverage additional private investments.

 

Funding for Shuttered Event Business Grant Program

The Chamber supported the creation and funding for a new grant program to provide financial support for the event industry in the wake of COVID closures. A $50 million appropriation was made to the Business Innovation and Trade Division in HB 5006, to provide grants to local independent movie theaters and entities in Oregon’s live events industry to support their recovery from business closures due to the pandemic.

The Bend Chamber is actively supported by these Signature Investors

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