Democrats in Oregon Legislature split on minimum wage bills

Comments from House Speaker Tina Kotek indicate the majority party has not come to a consensus.

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Recent comments from House Speaker Tina Kotek indicate the majority party has not come to a consensus regarding minimum wage laws.

There are at least five different proposals in the Oregon Legislature that would either raise the minimum wage or rescind the state’s law limiting city governments from imposing their own limits.

“There are a bevy of approaches, from lifting the (state) pre-emption to raising it to $15, and everything in between,” Kotek said in the Portland Tribune.

The laws being considered are:

HB 2009: Increases Oregon minimum wage rate in graduated steps to $15 per hour by 2018.

HB 2008: Increases Oregon minimum wage rate in graduated steps [to $12.20] through 2017.

HB 2004/SB 332: Repeals state preemption of charter and statutory authority of local governments to set minimum wage requirements.

SB 597:Increases Oregon minimum wage rate in graduated steps to $13.50 per hour by 2017.

SB 682:Increases Oregon minimum wage rate to $10.75 on January 1, 2016.

(SOURCE: Oregon Legislative Information)

From the PT:

Democrats have a 35-25 majority in the House, and an 18-12 majority in the Senate. However, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, has publicly raised questions about whether an increase to $15 — even if phased in — will hurt Democrats’ political chances in future elections. It also could be a tough vote for two Democrats in rural districts — Arnie Roblan of Coos Bay, who is up for election in 2016, and Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, who is not.

Lobbyists for nonprofit organizations, some of which provide services under state contracts, also have raised concerns about how a big minimum-wage increase will affect their ability to operate.

While Democrats work toward a consensus on the minimum wage issue, another workplace bill is moving forward in Salem as both chambers of the Oregon Legislature are considering bills that would mandate 40 hours of paid sick leave for workers across the state.

The bill is being supported by Democrats and panned by Republicans, the Statesman Journal reports.

The bills are all well intentioned, said Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, but the cumulative effect for businesses would be onerous. Kennemer is the vice-chairman of the House Committee on Business and Labor, which is handling House Bill 2005. Democrats said both SB 454 and HB 2005 have been designed to be as easy for businesses to handle as possible.

Both bills mandate that all employees, full time or not, are given at least 40 hours of paid sick time in a calendar year. They must also be allowed to accrue up to 80 hours or be paid for their unused time, said Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, chairman of the House committee. Businesses with five or fewer employees would be exempt, he said.

“This important policy gives every worker in Oregon the opportunity to earn paid sick time. It’s the right thing to do,” said Chairman of the Workforce Committee Sen. Michael Dembrow, in a news release.

Eugene and Portland already have local laws that require employers to provide paid sick time.

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