December 2018 A Look at the 2019 Legislative Session
A quick look back at the November 2018 General election tells us that Democrat Kate Brown won, in what will be, her final four-year term as Governor of Oregon. Gov. Brown has been in state leadership for some 28 years. Appointed to the Oregon House in 1991, she has served in the Senate, as well, before winning the Secretary of State job in 2009. She became Governor following the resignation of John Kitzhaber in 2015. Meanwhile, the Oregon Senate Democrats will have an 18 – 12 super-majority over Republicans. In the Oregon House of Representatives, Democrats will have a substantial super-majority with 38 members, while Republicans have 22 members. Why is a super-majority important? When the legislature has a vote to increase revenue (tax), there must be a 3/5 majority voting aye in both houses. 18 votes in the Senate and 36 votes in the House constitute a super-majority. For the legislature to vote on any bill a quorum must be present. In the Senate that is 20 members and in the House of Representatives it is 40 members present. During a legislative session the majority party has a definite advantage. With Democrats having control of the Governor’s office and both houses of the legislature one could make the assumption that Democrats could pretty much control the entire process during the 2019 session. While it is true for most issues, increasing taxes could see some strong opposition. Not all Democrat caucus members will automatically follow the direction of Democrat leaders. Most all legislators have two primary principles they follow, 1. They want to represent Oregonians best interests, 2. In order to do 1. They must be reelected. Rural legislators have different viewpoints than urban legislators. In order to do business, a quorum must be present on the floor. If Republicans are staunchly opposed to a tax proposal and they want to make a strong statement, they do have the ability to not be present when a tax vote comes up, thereby not providing a quorum. This tactic is used very sparingly and could have political consequences. During the 2019 legislative session these are the leaders of each house: Senate President – Peter Courtney (D) – Salem Senate Democrat Leader – Ginny Burdick (D) – Portland Senate Republican Leader – Herman Baertschiger (R) – Grants Pass House Speaker - Tina Kotek  (D) – Portland
House Democrat Leader – Jennifer Williamson (D) – Portland House Republican Leader – Carl Wilson R – Grants Pass
Your Chamber Legislative Action Team (LAT) has been putting together a priority list of issues like to be of interest to all Chamber members. On December 12 – 14, the Legislature is meeting to introduce pre-session filed bills for the 2019 full session. Called legislative concepts, those concepts will paint a partial picture of what to expect when session begins on January 23. Here is a list of some, but not all the major issues Chamber LAT has discussed:
  • Business activity tax – Gov. Brown has included an additional $2 billion dollars of revenue in order to balance her budget. One of the ways to raise that money will likely be from the business community. “Business activity tax” refers to a tax imposed directly on businesses measured by receipts, income or profits (not transaction taxes) and includes corporate income taxes, franchise taxes, single business taxes, capital stock taxes, net worth taxes, gross receipts taxes, and business and occupation taxes. An example: There is a similar tax in Ohio called the CAT or Commercial Activities Tax – their new Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) applies a .26 percent tax rate (when fully phased in) to the Ohio-based sales of a corporation, regardless of the presence of property or payroll in Ohio. Thus, a corporation with $5 million in Ohio sales currently has to pay the CAT even if it has no Ohio property, no Ohio-based employees, and no physical presence in Ohio.
  • Carbon tax – Formerly referred to as ‘cap & trade’, a tax on carbon could help cut greenhouse gas emissions. ... It levies a fee on the production, distribution or use of fossil fuels based on how much carbon their combustion emits. The government sets a price per ton on carbon, then translates it into a tax on electricity, natural gas or oil.
  • Increased health care costs - When the ‘affordable care tax’, otherwise known as Obama Care passed out of congress several years ago, the federal government sent money to those states implementing health care plans. The government made it clear to those states that the money would be reduced each year until the state’s plans were self-reliant. In Oregon, that has not come to pass and the deficit for Medicaid coverage is being subsidized by increased health care rates by everyone.
  • Paid family leave – Oregon employers have provided family leave for the last two decades. There is an effort on the part of legislative leadership to require that leave to be paid.
  • Rent control – In the past several legislative sessions, there has been an effort to put rent control in place. While it did not garner enough support then, it is like to have a better chance of passing with super majorities in both houses.
These are a few of the issues your Chamber legislative action team will be monitoring and directing the Chamber’s lobby team in Salem to represent the best interests of small business in Oregon.
John Watt, JWA Public Affairs, 
President & CEO
December: science & technology
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The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County
101 E. 8th St.  |  Medford, OR 97501
Phone: (541) 779-4847
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