Oregon Legislature Ends Rough Regular Session for Small Biz

Date: August 05, 2015

Oregon lawmakers ended the regular legislative session with a heavy Democratic majority in both the House and Senate, which failed to promote small business interests.

Small business owners faced an onslaught of new proposals and laws from 2015 legislators.

“Oregon’s 2015 legislative session became one of the most anti-business sessions in recent history,” says NFIB/Oregon State Director Jan Meekcoms. “For small business, this became a session of defensive action.”

The regular session ended July 6 after lawmakers passed several mandates that will affect small business owners. With a Democratic supermajority in the House and a heavy Democratic majority in the Senate, several laws were passed without one affirmative vote from the Republican Party.

Here is a rundown of legislative victories from this year’s session along with challenges for small business owners:

Victories

– Minimum wage bills fail: There were 11 failed attempts in both legislative houses to raise the minimum wage this session, which relieves some pressure on small business owners. At $9.25 per hour, Oregon already has one of the highest state minimum wages in the nation, second only to its northern neighbor, Washington. NFIB strongly opposes efforts to increase the minimum wage, which can negatively affect the labor market and cost jobs. The issue will likely reappear in the month-long House legislative session in February or in the 2016 ballot.

– Flexible scheduling mandate stalls: A bill that would have mandated business owners to provide a “mutually acceptable work schedule” was defeated, stalling in the House Business and Labor Committee when lawmakers adjourned. The mandate would have forced undue regulations on business owners.

Challenges

– Paid sick leave: Lawmakers approved a law mandating that employers with more than 10 employees have to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave while businesses with fewer than 10 employees must provide 40 hours of unpaid sick leave. The bill was signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown in June and will take effect Jan. 1, 2016. The law does not take into account business owners who already provide such benefits and allow their employees to take time off as needed. NFIB lobbied against this bill and successfully reduced the number of paid sick leave hours from 56 to 40 in the policy’s final version.

– Ban the box: Oregon adopted a “ban the box” policy this year, which eliminates questions about prior felony convictions on job applications. “This is yet another regulation binding the hands of the business owner who wants to create a safe space for their customers, employees, service providers and the public,” says Meekcoms. Ban the box laws fail to give employers the information they need to provide a safe workplace for employees and customers. The policy will take effect Jan. 2016.

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