Last Thursday, Chamber staff, Government Affairs Committee representatives, and interested members traveled to Salem to meet with legislators and discuss pro-business ideas and agenda. Our group was joined by members from both the Medford/Jackson Chamber and the Grants Pass Chamber. Our goal was to represent the voice of business and lobby on behalf of business issues that could affect your business.

Our group met with many elected officials including Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney, both Democrats. They shared with us information on proposed minimum wage increases as well as mandatory paid sick leave – both bills that could have negative impacts to our local businesses (and business across the state). This meeting with Kotek and Courtney allowed business owners a chance to explain first hand the hardships these bills could create. One restaurant owner shared that should the mandatory paid sick leave bill pass, he would need to sell over 200 more hamburgers per day.

As representatives and senators, Democrats and Republicans, came in to visit with our group, it became clear that business owners need to pay close attention to the happenings in Salem and send emails and letters as appropriate and when necessary. Our Government Affairs Committee (GAC) watches legislation closely and meets on a regular basis to advocate on your behalf.

A coalition of Oregon industry, agricultural, and small business advocates have released a list of “job killer” bills and call attention to the impact these proposals will have on Oregon’s job climate and economic recovery. As a group, the following bills pose a serious threat to Oregon’s economy and job grown by imposing costly new mandates on employers, both large and small, across the state. The following list was prepared by Associated Oregon Industries:

SB 19 Expands Liability for Wage Claims – Exposes shift supervisors, bookkeepers, farm labor contractors, farmers, and others to the potential liability of wage claim allegations, even when based on honest mistakes. Also adds criminal liability to civil wage claims.

SB 454 Implements Statewide Mandatory Paid Sick Leave – Increases employer mandates by requiring employers to provide employees with paid sick leave, and threatens employers with statutory penalties as well as litigation for alleged violations.

SB 718 Allows Liens on Personal Employer Property – Creates a dangerous and unfair precedent in the wage-and-hour arena by allowing employees to file liens on an employer’s real or personal property, based upon alleged yet unproven wage claims.

SB 845 Imposes New Fees on Large Employers – Requires employers whose employees obtain health insurance coverage through a public program to pay a fee to the state for that coverage.

HB 2007 Adds Employer Liability for Wage Discussions – Creates a new unlawful employment practice against an employer who takes any negative employment action against an employee for discussing or disclosing “in any manner” his or her wages or those of another employee.

HB 2009 Increases Statewide Minimum Wage – Increases Oregon’s current minimum wage from $9.25 to $15 per hour by 2018.

HB 2386 Authorizes New Cease and Desist Authority for BOLI – Subjects employers to potentially unjustified imposition of cease and desist orders by Bureau of Labor and Industries, which, once issue, could require costly court proceeding to have removed.

HB 2540 Requires Prevailing Wage in Enterprise Zones – Eliminates the incentive to build projects inside Enterprise Zones by requiring prevailing wage to be paid on any privately owned projects developed on private land.

HB 2606 Expands Family Leave for Siblings – Adds siblings as an additional category of family members for whom a worker may take leave to provide care.

HB 2764 Increases Workers’ Compensation Costs – Unravels certain cost-saving provisions and resulting benefit increases due to Oregon’s 1990 Workers’ Compensation reforms, resulting in employers paying nearly 5% increases in workers’ compensation system costs without any expectation that increases will be offset by system savings.

HB 3377 Mandates Predictive Scheduling – Requires employer to establish “mutually acceptable work schedule” upon employee request for a flexible or predictable work schedule. Mandates employers provide alternative work schedules.

These bills have been identified based on the official legislative language drafted as of March 20, 2015. It may change throughout the session as bills are amended or new language is introduced.

Many of the speakers yesterday emphasized the importance of relationships and we have to agree. Our relationship with you helps us understand the issues and struggles you deal with daily. Our relationship with the delegation in Salem allows us to voice those issues and struggles so we can best advocate on your behalf. Our relationship with the other Chambers around Southern Oregon helps strengthen our voice and present a unified pro-business agenda. We take our relationship with you seriously!

If you would like to learn more about our Government Affairs Committee, call us at (541) 884-5193. Information from our trip to the Capitol will be the topic of discussion at our next “From the Director’s Chair” meeting on April 3rd. The meeting is free but we ask that you pre-register.