Thursday February 13 marked the first big deadline for bills to “live” or “die” in the 2014 short session. As always, the range of bills potentially impacting our industry is broad. Issues include strengthening our future workforce, investments in capital construction, small business tax policy, and environmental regulations.
On the third day of the session, a bill of considerable interest to AGC passed unanimously out of the House. House Bill 4058 adds apprenticeship to Oregon’s 40-40-20 education goals. This bill could not be more timely. The Employment Department is currently estimating we will need to add more than 20,000 skilled workers by roughly the year 2020. Like all industries, we face the same need to replace the Baby Boomer generation and the need to add new skilled workers to meet the demands of a growing economy. From an industry perspective, growing a much broader acceptance and recognition of apprenticeship as a path to a well-paying job and career becomes critical.
In the 2013 session, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2800 that included Oregon’s share of the funding needed for the Columbia River Crossing project. As we all know, Washington State did not manage to approve its portion of the project. That leaves only one path forward: The Oregon-led project that Governor Kitzhaber is now championing in House Bill 4113, in this session. This proposal represents the last chance to move the CRC project from a planning exercise into an actual construction project for the foreseeable future.
AGC remains an active member of the coalition that has worked closely with the Oregon Legislature to find a path forward. Mike Salsgiver, AGC’s executive director, testified last week in support of moving this project forward, as did the governor, and a broad array of business and labor groups.
With less than three weeks remaining in this session, the conversation will now shift to budget matters, including capital construction requests. Last week, the Capital Construction Subcommittee met for the first time to hear requests from the Oregon University System (OUS), as well as the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU).
Small Business Tax Policy
During the October 2013 Special Session, AGC played a significant role in supporting the passage of a small business tax cut. One bill introduced this session would have narrowed the number of businesses eligible for this tax cut. It now appears this bill will not be moving forward.
A bill that would have, in effect, allowed the full implementation of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program (modeled on California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard) failed to move forward last week. Despite this legislative action, Governor Kitzhaber announced last Thursday that he will use executive authority to implement Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program.
The clean fuels program was approved by the legislature in 2009 to cut the carbon in car and truck fuels by 10 percent per gallon by 2025. Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy (a broad-based business coalition including AGC) has opposed this program since the law was first approved. The governor noted in his announcement that he will direct the DEQ to proceed with the program and also appointed an 11-member advisory committee to assist in developing the program in the state. Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy is currently considering what its next actions will be.
Other Bills Being Closely Monitored
Every session features bills that must be closely watched to ensure against potential negative industry impacts. Senate Bill 1511 proposed significant additional requirements for radon testing and mitigation on commercial properties. The bill failed to move forward before last week’s deadline and is considered “dead.”
Senate Bill 1571 originally proposed to prohibit restoration companies from directly soliciting business from victims of significant man-made or natural disasters. The original bill was amended by adding a right to recession to certain restoration contracts and passed the committee. This bill is scheduled for another hearing today and a variety of stakeholders, including AGC, will be raising questions about what implications this bill would have if it goes into effect.
The earliest likely date for the 2014 Session to adjourn is the end of February. Constitutionally, this short session must conclude its business no later than Sunday March 9, 2014.
For further information on these bills or any other legislative issues, please contact John Rakowitz, 503-317-1781503-317-1781.