'Cap and trade’ holds the business community’s attention
Monday, February 3, 2020
The start of the 2020 legislative session has brought with it an increased sense of urgency among business stakeholders as they prepare for what is expected to be a tumultuous session.
Although a wide variety of employment legislation has been released, many business leaders are finding it hard to concentrate on anything but "cap and trade,” an effort to control climate-related carbon emissions. Senate Bill 1530, the primary cap and trade bill for 2020, will likely consume the Legislature during the short 35-day session.
To adhere to the short session’s strict deadlines, SB 1530 will need to be voted out of its first committee by Thursday, Feb. 13, just 10 short days after the session’s start.
Sen. Michael Dembrow, chief sponsor of the bill and chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, seems optimistic that the concessions made on behalf of businesses and rural Oregonians will help to increase its overall approval throughout the state. It has become abundantly clear, however, that stakeholders in opposition are not prepared to go down without a fight.
Following the release of the cap and trade concept, Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. held a news conference to discuss the Democrats’ work on the cap and trade concept. Baertschiger expressed his disappointment in Democrats for excluding Republicans from the bill drafting process and stated that he thinks the best course of action is to let the voters make the decision via a referral to the ballot.
Baertschiger, who helped to organize the last Republican walkout in June 2019, has indicated that Senate Republicans will continue to keep the option of a walkout on the table.
In addition to the contentious cap and trade, the business community is engaged on:
Unemployment insurance: House Bill 4007, a House Business and Labor Committee bill, looks to provide that individuals otherwise eligible for unemployment insurance benefits are not disqualified for benefits due to labor disputes (ex: strikes) at an individual’s place of employment. This bill was drafted at the request of the AFL-CIO and has raised significant concerns from the business community. Although it is unclear if this bill will get traction considering the large number of high-priority employment concepts that the Legislature is looking to pass this session, many are preparing for lengthy discussions on the issue.
Age discrimination: HB 4076 establishes a task force on age discrimination in an effort to develop legislation for the 2021 session. AARP is the primary stakeholder behind this bill, and House Speaker Tina Kotek is the chief sponsor. HB 2818 in the 2019 legislative session looked to implement age discrimination policy but failed to pass out of committee. Businesses expressed significant concerns with implementation and liability relating to the bill.
Wage theft – BOLI: HB 4087, introduced by Rep. Julie Fahey at the request of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, looks to adjust the Wage Security Fund by redirecting civil penalties. The bill also looks to direct BOLI to study provisions of state law relating to employee rights and protections in an effort to direct future legislation.