A landmark new law carried by Democrats last session will prevent most businesses from asking job applicants whether they’ve been convicted of a crime. Businesses can consider criminal history later in the hiring process. Supporters said the new law allows applicants who may have a criminal record to explain their situation to potential future employers.
The movement, which was spearheaded by unions and civil rights groups in Oregon and elsewhere, was dubbed “Ban the Box” because applications had previously included a question about criminal history that will no longer be allowed for many positions.
Paid sick leave
Oregon became the fourth state in the country to require employers to provide their workers with sick leave. For businesses with 10 or more employees, the leave must be paid. Smaller businesses must allow workers to accrue unpaid leave. Opponents, including all Republicans and some moderate Democrats in the Legislature, argued the bill would harm small businesses and farmers who employ seasonal workers who will be eligible for leave under the new law.
While the state is going to delay enforcing penalties against companies that don’t comply with a new fuel-blending and carbon credit-trading program laid out in state law for several years, companies will still have to change their fuel blend or buy credits to offset emissions starting January 2016.
The program, dubbed Clean Fuels because it seeks to encourage development of biofuels and other alternative fuel, aims to prevent 7.7 million tons of carbon from being emitted over the coming decade, a cut of a few percentage points of normal transportation emissions based on estimates using figures from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Environmental Quality couldn’t provide an estimate on the percentage of emissions cut through the program.
Oil companies opposed the law and have promised to give voters a chance to repeal or replace it during the November 2016 election.
How much do you make?
Oregonians will be able to ask co-workers how much they make without fear of retribution from their employers under House Bill 2007, which passed last session. Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian pitched the new law as one way to root out underlying causes of pay inequity in Oregon. The law protects employees who ask their employers about wages as well.
Lottery winners and back taxes
Come Jan. 1, the state’s lottery system will check state social service databases before paying out winners $600 and above. The new law requires the Oregon Lottery to make sure big winners aren’t cashing in if they owe money for overpayments of public and medical assistance or food stamps.
Any winner who owes the state money through those programs will have the money deducted from his winnings. If he owes more than he wins, the state garnishes the entire amount. The lottery already garnished winnings for child support.
The new year brings a slightly tougher law against driving under the influence in Oregon. A law created by Senate Bill 387 seeks to ensure anyone charged with a DUII is actually taken to jail for booking. The law’s supporters said police at times cite offenders but don’t book them.
Multnomah County Circuit Judge Edward Jones argued courts should ensure everyone is booked, saying the onus is on the state and courts to collect data and work toward eliminating DUII recidivism. So starting today, anyone charged with driving under the influence will be booked even if he is a first-time offender headed to a diversion course.
The Oregon Health & Science University successfully got lawmakers to permanently shield information on employees who conduct research on animals other than rodents. The public records exemption, which was already in place but was set to expire, is one of hundreds that shield public information from view and one of several the Legislature added last session.