Agricultural overtime, omnibus tax bill, energy issues command Legislature’s attention
State Director Anthony Smith reports from Salem on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending February 11.
There are just over three weeks left until the Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn sine die on or before Monday, March 7, 2022.
Indoor Mask Mandate to End
Before getting to the legislative issues, a significant announcement came out of the Oregon Health Authority this week. Oregon’s indoor mask mandate will end on or before March 31, 2022. State health officials said they would consider lifting the general indoor mask requirement earlier if hospitalizations decline to 400 or fewer statewide sooner than expected. As of February 11, there were 947 Oregonians hospitalized with COVID-19.
Here are the top issues NFIB has been tracking so far:
Sales Tax Bill Defeated
A new, first-of-its-kind sales tax was defeated before it even had its first public hearing. HB 4079, sponsored by Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie), would have established a sales tax on a list of specific goods sold in Oregon over a certain price to fund a new program designed to help low-income Oregonians by providing them with monthly payments of $750. The bill would have imposed the tax on things such as:
- motor vehicles
The bill was scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Human Services on February 8, but about two hours before the hearing, Rep. Anna Williams (D-Hood River) removed the bill from the agenda, ending its chances to move forward due to the Legislature’s self-imposed bill deadlines. Because the public hearing was removed from the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS), all of the public testimony (most of it in opposition) disappeared from the record. If you’d like to read the testimony NFIB prepared for this bill, please scroll down to the bottom of this update.
Agricultural Overtime Update
Undoubtedly the most complicated and controversial legislation of the session so far is HB 4002, a bill that would, within a few short years, require agricultural employers to pay overtime for hours worked beyond 40 hours per week. The House Committee on Business and Labor held a public hearing for over three hours on the evening of February 8. The debate was emotional, but civil. Farmers and ranchers showed up in force to express their opposition. Supporters included farmworkers, union leaders, and lawyers. You can read NFIB’s testimony here. The bill is now scheduled for a work session on February 14, when it will likely be moved to the House Committee on Revenue or the House Committee on Rules so that negotiations can continue. If you haven’t done so already, please consider Taking Action on this very important issue – one that will have very serious consequences for communities across the state, especially in rural Oregon, and could impact every small business that serves Oregon’s farmers and ranchers.
Omnibus Tax Bill
SB 1524 is the 2022 omnibus tax bill being proposed in the Oregon Senate. It’s a mixed bag of miscellaneous updates to Oregon’s tax code. Much of the bill has nothing to do with business taxes, but a few provisions could have a very big impact. NFIB testified on February 7 before the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue to these provisions. The Oregon Society of Certified Public Accountants first identified a potential problem with a proposed change included in the bill. NFIB supported the CPA’s position, and it looks like this issue is being worked out with the Oregon Department of Revenue. Another big opportunity in this bill is to exclude the sale of prescription drugs from the state’s Corporate Activities Tax (CAT). As you are probably aware already, many Oregon pharmacies have experienced tremendous challenges in remaining profitable after this new tax on gross receipts took effect. It’s become such a huge problem that some pharmacies have closed, and many Oregonians are experiencing long waits for their prescriptions. NFIB remains committed to mitigating the negative impacts of the CAT on Oregon’s small business – and this is the first big chance to do that.
NFIB has joined with other like-minded business organizations in opposing two bills that will impact the affordability and accessibility of energy.
- One of them is SB 1518, a bill that would allow local governments to adopt Oregon’s Reach code (a higher energy efficiency building code) as the base code for construction within their municipal boundaries. Currently the base code is voluntary for contractors. This bill would change that if local governments were to adopt the change, bifurcating Oregon’s statewide universal building code that has been so successful for so many years. You can click here for our coalition testimony.
- The other bill is HB 4141, which would phase-out and eventually ban the sale of petroleum diesel fuel in Oregon. There are efforts underway to amend this bill into a study of the availability of alternative fuel sources, like renewable diesel, before moving forward with the ban, but it’s unclear at this point whether consensus can be reached between all the stakeholders. Click here to read our coalition’s testimony on this bill.