The House and Senate are now meeting twice per week in order to start voting on bills and get the process moving. The House meets in person on Monday/Tuesday. The Senate meets in person on Wednesday/Thursday.
The Legislature is now racing to meet several session deadlines and doing so with limited capacity due to the virtual nature of session.
The challenges of a virtual session were on full display last week as lawmakers often struggled to conduct business amid technical difficulties and access issues. On multiple occasions, committees had trouble connecting invited panelists to meetings or had to stop and start hearings until issues could be addressed. As problems mounted, many bills received only partial hearings or were forced to be carried over until the next public meeting altogether.
February 23rd was the last day to introduce legislation for consideration this session.
On March 19th, bills must be scheduled for a possible work session in order to advance.
Finally, bills must pass out of their original policy committee by April 13th in order to remain alive for the remainder of session.
Activity on Major Issues
Revenue. The influx of new revenue has put a pause on attempts to disconnect business from Federal CARES Act tax incentives. OSCC has opposed HB 2839 and SB 137 because they deny Oregon businesses the ability to translate their business losses into cash on their state tax returns as Congress intended. However, the influx of money from a strong revenue forecast rendered these bills much less feasible, as they would do little more than just add to the $571 million “kicker” that is now projected. OSCC expects that the legislature will attempt additional revenue raising from the business community – stay tuned.
COVID Relief. OSCC was well represented in the hearing on SB 330, which gives commercial landlords a tax credit for all forgiven rent for the duration of the COVID-19 “state of emergency.” Under the legislation, landlords can claim all unforgiven rent as a state tax credit spread out over 5 years. OSCC supports this legislation. Please contact your Senator to support the bill.
Diesel & Environmental Regulation. Portland Democrats have increasingly turned their attention toward legislation that seeks to regulate, tax and phase out the use of petroleum based diesel fuels.
- Diesel Taxes (HB 2674-1) Representative Rob Nosse (D-Portland) introduced a “gut and stuff” amendment to HB 2674 that includes a slew of new taxes on diesel vehicles and other heavy equipment to fund clean diesel programs. Nosse’s proposal is significant for several reasons. First and most obviously, for the six new tax increases it contains. Second, it represents a departure from recent years of bipartisan collaboration on the issue. Though the bill is unlikely to move forward with the language proposed in the amendment, it does represent a very aggressive starting place for this policy debate. OSCC issued an Action Alert on this bill last week.
- Petroleum Diesel Phase Out (HB 3305) Last week also saw the introduction of HB 3305, which would ban the sale of petroleum based diesel in Oregon beginning in 2024. The concept was introduced by Rep. Karin Power (D-Portland) at the behest of a progressive and politically active Portland trucking company. Rep. Power brought forward the bill in hopes of transitioning diesel fuel supplied in Oregon from being petroleum-based diesel to renewable diesel. Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize the proposal, arguing the supply of renewable diesel is nowhere close to levels that would be needed to support this transition and that costs to consumers would be too high.
- Indirect Source Program (HB 2814) Lawmakers also held their first public hearing on legislation that would establish one of the most comprehensive statewide indirect source regulatory programs in the country. The proposal was brought forward despite the Environmental Quality Commission previously rejecting a petition to establish a similar program last year. If adopted, the legislation would likely result in the regulation and permitting of everything from retail facilities, to government offices and buildings, schools, colleges, hospitals, ports, and development projects. The cost of compliance for any medium to large sized business operating in Oregon would be very significant.
What’s Coming Up?
There are a number of important bills coming this week with direct impacts on our local business communities:
- HB 2814 is a disastrous bill – known as “indirect source review” – that would give DEQ broad regulatory authority for permitting and construction of facilities that indirectly emit greenhouse gases. OSCC will OPPOSE and issue an ACTION ALERT.
- SB 15 is a good bill that increases the state tax exemption up to $1.5 million (current exemption is $1 million) for estates valued up to $4.5 million. As real estate values appreciate, many heirs will find it difficult to pay the state “death” tax without liquidating property and assets. OSCC will SUPPORT.
- HB 3296 is a bill introduced last week that would increase beer and wine taxes to nearly 30x their current levels. You read that correctly. This bill is the largest tax on beer, wine, cider, and spirits ever proposed in the US. It does require a 3/5 vote. Beer and cider would go form $2.60 a barrel to $72.60 – a 2,800% increase. OSCC will issue an ACTION ALERT on this bill as many chamber will have impacted breweries, wineries and distilleries. OSCC will OPPOSE.