Oregon Legislature Convenes for 2024 Session

Date: February 10, 2024

Lawmakers have just 35 days to get everything done 

State Director Anthony Smith reports from Salem on the small business agenda for the legislative and political week ending February 9 

As of February 9, Day 5 of the 35-day 2024 Oregon Legislative Session, about 280 bills have been introduced so far. NFIB is working around the clock to support the good bills that will help Oregon become a more small-business-friendly state, while at the same time putting a stop to harmful legislation that could make owning, operating, and growing a business in Oregon even harder than it already is. 

One thing is certain already: the clock is ticking. The Legislature has a deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, to accomplish its work for the year. After that, policy will take a back seat to politics once again as candidates come out full-swinging for the May 21 Primary Election – all heading toward the 2024 General Election on November 5. 

As opportunities and challenges arise this year, we’ll be sure to keep NFIB members informed about the issues that could impact them the most – and that’s when NFIB is most effective – by making sure lawmakers hear from you before they take action on key small business issues. 

The Big Picture
For better or for worse, most of the conversations happening in Salem right now surround some of the most visible and challenging problems facing our state and local communities. Housing, homelessness, and public drug use are issues that certainly have everyone’s attention, and while that takes small businesses out of the crosshairs, lessening the need for us to play defense, it also makes it harder to have our members’ voices heard on issues where we’re trying to move the football down the field. 

The good news is that Oregon’s budget is in good shape. Even with a record-shattering $5.6 billion kicker to be paid back to taxpayers this year, Oregon’s tax revenues are holding stable, and the legislature has a lot more money to spend than it thought it was going to have for the current budget cycle.  

That means major spending priorities like Gov. Tina Kotek’s housing package, which comes with a price tag of $500 million, shouldn’t require any tax increases. In fact, the state is in such good fiscal shape that we shouldn’t be talking about tax increases at all this session. Let’s hope that holds true. 

One Bad Bill Down (Probably)
SB 1573 is a re-draft of HB 2057 from last year.  The bill would make general construction contractors liable for the unpaid wages of their subcontractors, a dangerous precedent to set, regardless of the specific industry being targeted. 

The bill would fundamentally hold the wrong party responsible for breaking the law. If passed into law, businesses that did nothing wrong could be sued under this new private right of action. 

SB 1573 was introduced by Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) and referred to the committee he chairs, the Senate Committee on Judiciary. He originally scheduled the bill for a public hearing on February 6, but wisely cancelled the hearing before the committee convened for the day. Technically, the bill is still alive, but if it fails to be re-scheduled by February 12, the bill is dead for 2024. 

Good Bills to Support
While the need to fight bad bills is inevitable in the Oregon Legislature, we can’t have a defense-only strategy, or we’ll find ourselves constantly on our heels. In a 35-day session, it’s especially important to push hard for the bills we support, even if they might not make it across the finish line this year. After all, if we’re spending what limited time lawmakers have on legislation we like, that leaves far less time for our adversaries to bring forward bills we oppose. 

Here are a couple of good bills NFIB is supporting this year which should be getting a public hearing as early as the week of February 12: 

  • HB 4050 – Pay Equity Fix
    This bipartisan bill adds language (used by several other states) to Oregon’s Equal Pay Law. The provisions would give Oregon employers the flexibility they need to utilize incentives to recruit and retain their workforce by allowing for a pay differential so long as it does not discriminate based on a specified protected class, it is consistent with a business necessity, and it fulfills the underlying purpose of that business necessity. 
  • SB 1542 – CAT Reform
    This bill is sponsored by Sen. Lynn Findley (R-Vale) and would raise the current $1 million Corporate Activity Tax (CAT) exemption to $5 million. Raising the exemption and filing threshold would exempt more than 70% of the businesses that currently pay the CAT, nearly all of which are small businesses. In a recent NFIB survey, more than 80% of respondents supported this change in policy. 

If you’re interested in participating in the legislative process, check out the Oregon Legislature’s engagement page. You can attend a hearing in person or watch online. You can testify in person, online, or by submitting your comments in writing. You can also track bills using the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS).   

Check the webpage you’re on now for future legislative reports. 



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