Associated Oregon Loggers, Inc. (AOL) is the statewide trade association representing
some 1,000 member companies engaged in the harvest and sustainable forest management
of Oregon’s 30 million acres of forestland. “Logger and Proud of It!”
Legislative Issues You Need To Know About!
The number of bills being entertained by the Legislature are too many to mention in one article. But there has been significant activity on business and natural resource issues during the past couple weeks that are worth mentioning.
Following is an update on legislative proposals of interest to loggers.
HB 2859 Personal Property Tax Exemptions: On March 1 the House Revenue Committee held a hearing on HB 2859, a bill to repeal dozens of personal property tax exemptions including one to exempt logging equipment from property taxes. You may recall that AOL worked for over a decade to exempt logging equipment from property tax assessments. Natural resource industry representatives packed the hearing room and testified against the bill. After listening to convincing testimony, Committee Chairman Phil Barnhart announced that he was withdrawing the bill from the committee calendar. We will watch this issue closely as it would not be unusual to see it reappear later in the legislative session.
SB 1008 Diesel Emission Regulations: Senator Michael Dembrow, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing on March 8 on his bill to regulate diesel emissions from on and off road machinery. It is a large and complicated bill, but the bottom line for loggers is that it would make diesel engines manufactured prior to 2007 obsolete and would require “registration” of all engines that produce over 25 HP with the state. AOL is working hard to get an exemption from the legislation for logging equipment. We will keep you posted on this bill.
SB 779 Paid Sick Leave: Two bills have been introduced to modify the mandatory paid sick leave bill passed by the Legislature in 2014. Both would be beneficial to loggers. SB 779 would modify the definition of companies required to offer paid sick leave to employees. Under the original bill, only companies with more than 10 employees have to offer paid sick leave, The Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) has interpreted the law to include owners of a company in tallying the 10 employee threshold. SB 779 would make it clear that owners are not to be included in calculating the 10 employee threshold. A hearing was held on March a8 and AOL testified in favor of the bill. This could be very helpful to many small businesses.
SB 607 Paid Sick Leave: This bill would change the definition of “payroll” as it applies to paid sick leave to exclude worker compensation insurance payments. Many members of AOL, still reeling from news that they had to provide a minimum of 40 hours per year of paid sick leave, were chagrined to find out they had to pay worker comp on employees who were home sick in bed and not exposed to workplace hazards. SB 607 would exclude worker comp in the definition of payroll for purposes of complying with the paid sick leave mandate.
SB 984 Overtime Pay: We have reported in previous Mainline editions of a new BOLI interpretation of overtime pay requirements whereby employers would have to pay for both daily and weekly overtime even if it was for the same hours worked. For example, if an employee worked two hours of overtime in a single day and ended the week with two hours of overtime, he/she would be entitled to four hours of overtime, even though they only actually worked two hours of overtime. This interpretation was promulgated by a lawsuit filed in Multnomah County alleging that a bakery had violated the state’s labor laws by not paying for both daily and weekly overtime. The court ruled against the plaintiffs on March 9 stating that employers are obligated to paying the higher of daily or weekly overtime for a given pay period. Even though this was a victory for employers, AOL and other associations representing the business community are supporting SB 984 that would codify the proper interpretation of overtime pay requirements. One never knows how an appeals court or the State Supreme Court might rule on this lawsuit in the absence of statutory clarification.
HB 3226 Forest Practices Act: This bill was introduced by Rep. Paul Holvey at the request of the Pacific Rivers Council and the Center for Sustainable Economy. It would turn the Forest Practices Act inside out. While its provisions are too numerous to mention, some of the most serious changes include: a requirement for large landowners to submit a multi-year management plan to the state; a requirement to preserve late successional forests on private lands; timber harvest plans would have to be submitted to the state prior to commencing harvest operations (rather than the notification system currently in place); expanded riparian protection and more restrictions on road construction and use; finally, local governments would be allowed to impose additional restrictions beyond those prescribed in the Forest Practices Act. The forest industry will strongly oppose this bill.