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Chamber members preview 2019 legislative pipeline

By ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

Details are still hazy on potential legislation that could have a major impact on business during the 2019 Oregon legislative session, but Jenny Dresler, director of grassroots with Public Affairs Counsel, tried to read the tea leaves during a Keizer Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday, Jan. 29. 

With a Democratic wave sweeping through the Legislature in November 2018, “legislators feel they’ve been given a mandate to push an agenda,” Dresler said. “One can look at the election results and understand that, but businesses will get steamrolled if they do not speak up.”

Dresler said Public Affairs Counsel, a lobbying firm, and Oregon State Chamber of Commerce are monitoring developments on several issues. 

Some of the legislative movements sparking heightened interest include:

• Tax proposals involving hospitals and insurance providers to cover the costs of Medicaid.

• Cap-and-trade discussions that revolve around how the state will manage harmful emissions.

• A proposed $2 billion revenue package to support reforms throughout public schools. 

• A paid family and medical leave tax that might affect businesses as small as one employee. 

• Proposals that could create increased liability concern for small business.

• Increases to the corporate minimum tax and excise taxes on goods like alcohol, tobacco and cannabis. 

• A subsidizing tax on businesses with more than 50 employees enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan (OHP).

Dresler said the cap-and-trade discussions often appear to affect large manufacturing, but legislation could reach much further down the line. 

“The Oregon Farm Bureau is concerned about fuel prices, natural gas and electric. If you are an energy-intensive business, through something like refrigeration, it could be a significant policy,” Dresler said. 

Dresler said the state chamber of commerce is sending out newsletters every Monday with calls to action on specific proposals. Business owners can sign up for the newsletter at www.oregonchamber.org. She also suggested using a new service called Voter Voice, info.votervoice.net, to track legislation as it moves through the Capitol. 

Regardless of how business owners choose to get involved, she said, messages should be crafted around personal stories. 

“Go [to a legislator] and tell a personal story. Tell the stories to your representatives and senators and they will talk to colleagues,” Dresler said. 

She urged constituents to personalize form letters whenever possible.

“You are all playing an out-sized role in your community. Testimony is incredibly effective, either in person or in a letter, but keep it personal,” she said.