Oregon’s 2024 legislative session will begin Monday, Feb. 5 and is scheduled to adjourn Sunday, March. 10. At 35 days, such short sessions are designed to handle emergencies and to rebalance state budgets, which are adopted during longer sessions that occur during odd-numbered years. Short sessions are not well suited to manage complex policy bills.

What can Oregonians and businesses expect in 2024? 

The Legislature is sure to consider changes to Measure 110, the voter-approved measure that decriminalized the use of hard drugs. Following the measure’s passage in 2020, open-air drug use increased in Portland and throughout the state, leading to overdoses and contributing significantly to crime. Businesses, especially small businesses, have suffered from property crime and rampant theft, and keeping their customers and employees safe has become more difficult.

In response, the legislature created an interim committee to address the state’s growing addiction problem. The Joint Interim Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response began meeting in October.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tina Kotek created a task force in 2023 to improve conditions in downtown Portland. The panel’s recommendations, released in December, include a request that the Legislature ban public consumption of controlled substances.

In November, the governor announced that she’d ask the Legislature in 2024 to spend an additional $600 million on housing and homelessness. Most of that money would be used for housing production, including development costs, technical assistance for small communities and housing-related infrastructure.

Following the recent strike by the Portland Association of Teachers, the governor said she’d ask the Legislature in 2024 to revisit the formula that determines how funding flows from the state to school districts.

While Measure 110 reform, funding for housing production and discussions about education funding are likely to headline the coming session, OBI hopes to see progress on several important issues, including:

  • Measures that continue semiconductor and site-readiness work that wasn’t completed during the 2023 session. Oregon’s supply of industrial land continues to be inadequate, and sustained focus on workforce development will be needed to meet the needs of the state’s growing and economically impactful semiconductor industry.
  • Further refinements of Oregon’s overlapping leave laws that will make compliance simpler for employers and employees.
  • Adjustments to the state’s pay equity law that will make it easier for employers to address continuing workforce shortages by offering hiring and retention bonuses, which every other state regulates less strictly than Oregon.

Though almost anything can happen during a short legislative session, OBI encourages lawmakers to remain focused given the tight timelines. Legislators should seize opportunities to continue momentum around economic growth and the creation of an environment in which both employers and employees can thrive. This is especially important given the rapid growth of state taxes, which increased Oregon’s business tax burden by 43% between 2019 and 2021, and given the especially difficult climate facing people who operate small businesses, only 18% of whom believe lawmakers care about their success. OBI has urged lawmakers to adopt a multiyear moratorium on new taxes.

Oregon’s businesses create jobs that allow Oregonians to live and thrive here; they make significant philanthropic contributions across the state; and the taxes they and their employees pay support critical public programs, including education and initiatives that address homelessness and addiction.

Published  at Oregon Business Report by Oregon Business & Industry on 1-15-24.

Date: 2024-01-24 09:57

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