An Update from Your NFIB/Oregon State Director

Date: March 15, 2016 Last Edit: March 17, 2016

NFIB won a key victory by defeating HB 4136, a bill that would have raised the cap on non-economic damages in a wrongful death case from $500,000 to $1.5 million.

An Update from Your NFIB/Oregon State Director

The 2016 Legislative Session has come to a close with the 78th Oregon Legislative Assembly’s adjournment sine die on Thursday, March 3.2016.  It was a turbulent five weeks here in Salem.  We achieved several significant victories, but we also suffered a very significant loss.

We were able to defeat HB 4136, a bill that would have raised the cap on non-economic damages in a wrongful death case from $500,000 to $1.5 million. Under current law, economic damages are uncapped, but non-economic damages are capped because they are very subjective difficult to quantify.  This bill would have likely caused medial liability insurance to skyrocket – hurting small businesses who are already struggling to keep up with spiking health insurance premiums.

The Legislature also passed a few good bills that NFIB supported! HB 4106, which passed unanimously in both Chambers, requires state agencies to report annually to the Legislature on their use of temporary rule-making procedures.  The agencies have, in recent years, relied more and more on the temporary rule-making process (which is much faster and far less transparent) rather than the regular rule-making procedures that bring stakeholders and the general public into the process.

SB 1583 also passed with bi-partisan support and was signed into law by the Governor. This bill expands the authority of the Office of Small Business Assistance to not only assist Oregon small businesses with the problems/issues/questions they might have about state agencies, but also any concerns that might come up in interactions with local governments.  Our hope is that the Office will be able to identify redundant rules and regulations from every level of government and be able to make recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature on how to streamline those regulations.

The most significant and well-publicized piece of legislation from the 2016 session was undoubtedly SB 1532, the minimum wage bill that was jammed through on a party-line vote every step of the way.  It was only heard in policy committees, and was passed on the floor of both chambers with an “indeterminate” fiscal impact on the State’s budget, as determined by legislative staff.  It did not go through Ways & Means as it should have – and it did not receive nearly enough analysis in order for legislators to make an informed decision about whether this minimum wage plan was good for Oregon. The only up-side to the passage of this bill is that both of the campaigns that were gathering signatures for ballot measures that would have raised the wage to $13.50 and $15.00, respectively, by 2019 have ceased their efforts.

Going forward, if we are going to roll-back the negative effects of bills like these, we need all hands on deck for the November 2016 general election!  NFIB/Oregon be in touch over the next several months about how we can increase the number of pro-small business legislators for the 2017 session. For now, find a candidate that supports our small business policy goals and fight to get that candidate into office like your business depends on it – it likely does!

Anthony K. Smith

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