2019 LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK & BILL RECAP
Session Wrap Up: Some Wins, Some Big Challenges for the Hospitality Industry
The 2019 Oregon Legislative Session brought compromise, controversy and new legislation impacting every Oregonian in major ways. Several new bills will impact how restaurants and lodging properties conduct business in the near future. There were some bills that could have been much worse but weren’t, due to key negotiations and education of legislators by ORLA government affairs staff. These and other new legislation will impact hospitality businesses financially, logistically and legally–businesses will need to stay up to date on these laws and the changes needed to ensure compliance.
The following represents legislative bills that will or could have had the biggest impact on your hospitality-related business.
LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK HEADING INTO 2019
The following are components to ORLA’s advocacy work inside the halls of our capitol building:
Protecting Dedicated Local Lodging Tax Funds for Tourism Promotion and Facilities
Since lodging tax reforms in 2003, Oregon has seen the power of tourism and its positive economic impact for the people of our state. Tourism continues to produce results for us as an export economy. According to a report by Longwoods International, every dollar we invest outside of Oregon in tourism promotion results in $237 in visitor spending and $11 in local and state tax revenue. Our achievements in tourism must be nurtured and continued strategic promotions will be necessary to encourage domestic and international travelers to choose our great state for their next professional or personal experience.
Opposing a .05 Blood Alcohol Content Threshold
The 2019 Oregon Legislature is contemplating the creation of a stricter standard for automatic “driving under the influence of intoxicants” (DUII) citations by lowering the current automatic citation standard of .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) to .05. ORLA opposes such a proposal for reasons including: The biggest growth in impaired drivers by far is marijuana users; the .05 proposal does nothing to make Oregon's streets safer; Traffic safety statistics do not support the NTSB’s .05 BAC argument. The current system is working. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is successfully implementing several strategies and programs aimed at decreasing drunk-driving fatalities on our nation’s roadways by 51 percent since 1982. In addition, drunk-driving fatalities involving persons under 21 have decreased 80 percent.
Following Seattle’s Lead on a Tip Credit
Restaurant operators are continuing to face significant pressures and slim profit margins (especially in full-service models) due to an ever-increasing minimum wage that does not consider tip income. ORLA is currently undertaking a study to research the current ranges of hourly income being earned by tipped workers to assist legislators in understanding the discrepancy in wages between the front and back-of-the-house. Tip pooling in Oregon for back-of-the-house workers is a major win for the industry, but a tip credit can more accurately provide income equality for Oregon’s restaurant industry. In Seattle, some employers have access to a $2.50 tip credit if they offer health insurance to their employees. We would like to see Oregon’s legislators consider a similar scope for the sustainability of the full-service restaurant model.
The Details Behind Paid Family Leave
The number one labor policy priority for Democrats in control of the Legislature will be passing paid family leave legislation in Oregon which already exists in both California and Washington. Paid family leave will require a great deal of attention to detail as Oregon’s structure for creating a viable system will differ from that of our neighbors. ORLA believes in the concept of paid family leave and would like to work with legislative leadership to find a way to set up an employee paid system providing financial security for both planned and unexpected immediate family circumstances which require time away from work.
Statewide Approach to Single-Use Disposables
ORLA is a staunch proponent of laws which treat all Oregonians equally. We commonly refer to this work as establishing preemptions in an effort to create consistency in business. The City of Portland has passed an ordinance for on-demand plastic straws and single-use plastics (SUDs) like utensils for to-go orders. For Portlanders and ORLA members in the marketplace, this is good news compared to outright bans on these products. Given interest amongst legislators, ORLA will discuss options for creating a permanent model for plastic use at the statewide level to avoid the inconsistent policies that will otherwise pass at local levels of government across the state.
Protecting Oregonians from “Home Commercial Kitchens”
A new law passed in California allows for the limited sale of food products to the public using home kitchens. ORLA will fight against these pursuits as a matter of health and safety for the general public. Stringent health and safety regulations are in place for a reason and maintaining these commitments for all food sales to the public will be a top priority.
Short-Term Rental Safety and Code Compliance
ORLA continues the important work of reining in illegal hotels which continue to host guests without complying with safety regulations applying to the rest of the hospitality industry. Online Travel Agencies (or OTAs) should require all hosts on their website to prove safety compliance with the designated local jurisdiction and also prove appropriate home insurance coverage for accommodating out of town guests in exchange for money.
If you have any questions, contact Greg Astley, Director of Government Affairs, at Astley@OregonRLA.org.
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