Lawmakers returned to business as usual in the House last week following a temporary shut-down that came as a result of positive COVD-19 cases in the House.
In the Senate, the Republicans opted to require that all bills be read in their entirety prior to passage for the foreseeable future. As was the case in the House, this decision will substantially slow the pace of work in the Senate. The impact could be particularly significant the closer we get to the end of the legislative session.
The pace of the session now is exceedingly slow as most remaining controversial bills are now in the Ways & Means committee. Furthermore, there appears to be more focus on spending Federal ARPA dollars as now every Representative has been allocated $2 million in direct spending to approve and every Senator has been allocated $4 million – meaning that every Senate district in Oregon will have $8 million in spending that will be directly approved by the House/Senate delegation for every Senate district.
Legislators have until next Monday, May 10th, to formally make their request for ARPA spending in their district.
Update on Oregon OSHA Covid-19 rulemaking challenge
Last week, a group of House and Senate Republican lawmakers sent a letter to OR-OSHA Administrator Michael Wood and the Business and Labor Committee Chairs requesting a legislative review of OR-OSHA’s proposed permanent rule related to COVID-19. You can view a copy of the letter here.
The practical impacts of this letter are as follows:
- Upon receipt of the letter, OR-OSHA will temporarily suspend rulemaking.
- Upon receipt of the letter, any legislative committee(s) that were notified about the proposed rule or those that cover the subject areas shall hold hearings to determine if the rule complies with the statutes in question. We believe the most likely forums for this are the House and Senate Business and Labor Committees.
- The committees must then send their comments to OR-OSHA.
Ultimately, we believe this process may trigger a delay in the implementation of the final rule and/or bring additional scrutiny to some of the more problematic provisions that have been proposed. Businesses and citizens alike have strongly objected to OSHA’s power grab through this rulemaking – in particular, the ability to enforce COVID regulations after the public health emergency subsides.
Unemployment Insurance bill – HB 3389 – will save employers $2.4 billion over next decade
One of the most important bills to OSCC this session is HB 3389, which makes several meaningful adjustments to Oregon’s unemployment insurance system to cut down dramatically on the “rate shock” experienced by employers everywhere on their 2021 Employment Department tax statements.
Among the changes:
- Provides that an employers’ experience rating for 2020 will also be used for 2022, 2023, and 2024 – thereby eliminating the effects of the pandemic from being incorporated into an employer’s experience rating.
- Allows employers to defer payments to June 30, 2022 of up to 1/3rd of taxes owed if an employer’s tax rate increased by more than 0.5%.
- Reduces fund adequacy requirement used to determine rate schedules.
The bottom line about this bill is that it will do two significant things – (1) save employers who had massive increases in their experience ratings due to pandemic-related layoffs, and (2) forestall the need to move to the highest unemployment tax tables for all employers.
OSCC testified in support of this bill in the House, where it passed unanimously. The bill will have a public hearing in the Senate Labor and Business Committee tomorrow, 8:00am.
You can see the committee here. You can submit testimony here. Or you can sign up to testify here.