By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
PORTLAND — City dwellers call it keeping Portland weird.
Neighboring communities decry it as Portland creep. Whatever you dub it, the state’s most populated region has its own way of doing things, and that quirkiness tends to trickle to other parts of the state. In February, when the state Legislature convenes, Portland’s wacky ways will garner some debate.
Here are a few to watch in the 2013 session:
Paid sick leave: Require businesses to provide paid sick leave for employees
The issue: Portland may join a few but growing number of cities — San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Seattle — that force all employers to provide paid sick time to employees. Advocates with Family Forward Oregon and other organizations want the City Council to pass a law requiring businesses to provide employees with paid sick time. They say it’s a public health issue and would save money on medical costs. But free-market groups say it hurts small businesses and adds costs for consumers.
What to expect: Though activists are still focused on getting the City Council to pass a paid sick leave law, it’s likely to show up at the statehouse, too. Some city commissioners have mentioned letting the state decide the issue, and activists from Family Forward Oregon have said they will go to the state after the council. The city of Portland’s draft legislative agenda has a placeholder for the paid sick leave issue.
Transportation funding: Increase long-term multi-modal transportation spending
The issue: With dwindling federal money and tough economic times making transportation in Portland harder to handle, the city wants the state to give it more flexibility to raise money to pay for it, i.e. higher taxes by the way of the gas tax and “dedicated state funding.” The city is grappling to pay for its streetcar, which was expanded this fall.
What to expect: Portland is pushing for three initiatives:
- Support greater flexibility for local governments to raise transportation revenue by allowing the pre-emption on local gas tax increases to expire Jan. 2, 2014.
- Support dedicated state funding for non‐roadway transportation modes, including investments in public transit operations and pedestrian, bicycle, and passenger rail transportation, in addition to marine, freight rail and aviation investments.
- Support adoption of a road-usage charge as a long‐term replacement for declining gas tax revenue to ensure that drivers pay a fair share for road maintenance and construction.
Plastic bag ban: Statewide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags and promote reusable bags.
The issue: The Portland City Council expanded its plastic bag ban in November to include all businesses. Before, the ban applied to big stores only. By Oct. 1 all businesses, even farmers markets, will be required to use paper or reusable bags. Portland’s legislative agenda states, “Single‐use plastic shopping bags are a major source of ocean pollution, are rarely recycled and create significant problems in sorting and processing recyclable materials.”
What to expect: According to the city’s agenda, other Oregon communities and neighboring states have considered or adopted the ban. Could the whole state be next?
The council is expected to finalize its legislative agenda in January. A copy of the draft agenda can be found here.