The two bills designed to give most Oregonians paid sick leave have stalled in the Oregon Legislature, as one has not moved out of its committee and the other has not been scheduled for its next hearing.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have bills aimed at giving nearly all Oregon workers some paid time off if they're sick. Senate Bill 454 got out of its committee last week and was sent to the joint budget committee, while House Bill 2005 has not yet been voted out of the House Committee on Business and Labor.
HB 2005 had its second work session Monday, but the committee did not move it forward. Speaker of the House Tina Kotek said it will be changed to match the Senate bill and then will be sent to the Rules Committee.
The Senate bill will move forward first, with the House bill as a backup if it fails, Kotek said.
Democrats said both SB 454 and HB 2005 have been designed to be as easy as possible for businesses to handle.
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.
Those rules are the product of weeks of negotiations, Holvey said. The Senate and House committees heard public testimony together to make sure they had the same information. Some members met with businesses and other stakeholders as part of an informal bipartisan work group to hash out the details and make sure it's a reasonable policy, he said.
The bill originally required 56 hours of paid time off, he said, but they cut it back to 40 when they saw that none of the cities that have already adopted a policy, such as Portland, Eugene and San Francisco, have required more than that.
They also created the exemption for very small businesses after hearing from stakeholders who said they couldn't afford the benefits.
The issue has met strong opposition from Republicans, who say the policy would damage small businesses and is part of a Democrat agenda that, taken as a whole, would harm Oregon's economy.
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.
The set includes not just sick leave, but an increased minimum wage, increases to workers compensation, mandates around work scheduling and an extension of the Oregon Family Leave Act to include siblings.
The state has an important role in mandating how workers are treated, Holvey said. The legislature sets laws about minimum wage, overtime, family leave, working conditions and more, he said, and this is no different.
Kennemer did not disagree, and he supports sick time for as many workers as possible, but he questioned the wisdom of trying to do so much during one session. He said it was more important to have well-crafted, thoughtful rules than passing too many of them, especially since people so often try and get around the rules that do pass.
"You cannot legislate decency, which is what I think a lot of these laws are about," Kennemer said.