Last week marked National Small Business Week, and the Main Street Alliance took the opportunity to tell corporate lobbyists that they don’t represent small businesses in key the issue debates happening here in Oregon and nationally.
The week kicked off with a blog post from MSA-Oregon coalition director, Dan Lombardi, highlighting one of the fights small business owners are engaged in down in Salem at the State Capitol. Oregon is working on creating a health insurance exchange that will help reduce the burden on small business owners who provide health insurance, or give opportunities to those who can’t afford it. In the post, published on Blue Oregon, Dan called out insurance industry lobbyist who are working to weaken the exchange (you can read the full post here):
“At every step in the process this session, legislators have ignored concerns [of small business owners], and have capitulated to the insurance industry lobby to develop an exchange that continues to allow big health insurance companies to drive up premiums year after year.”
Later in the week, 11 small business owners from Portland, Salem, and Bend attended a small business roundtable with Governor John Kitzhaber and his staff to discuss pending legislation, and how it will impact small business owners and our communities. Business owners shared stories about the rising costs of health insurance, the lack of small business capital, and the need for meaningful reforms to energy tax credits. The concerns were well recieived by the Governor’s office. At the end of the meeting, the small business owners in attendance delivered MSA-Oregon’s 2011 legislative agenda and asked the Governor to stand with small business this session, not corporate lobbyists.
To wrap up National Small Business Week activities, MSA-Oregon co-chairs Jim Houser and Mark Kellenbeck submitted Op-Eds on state level issues to the Oregonian, and one on national issues to the Hill. Both had similar themes, and asked the key question of the week:
“Small businesses have spoken for and been ignored for far too long, and it’s time we fight back and change that. We are asking Gov. Kitzhaber and the Legislature to listen to the true economic drivers of Oregon’s economy — small businesses. We do the majority of hiring in this state, and because of that, our voice should be heard louder than any corporate lobbyist in the state Capitol. To this point in the session, we have been ignored. With National Small Business Week, the question must be asked: Who stands with small business, and who stands against? We hope our elected officials do the right thing for Oregon and stand with small business.”
Full text of the Op-Eds can be found here:
- May 21, 2011 – The Oregonian Op-Ed – “Corporations don’t speak for small business”
- May 20, 2011 – The Hill – “Who speaks for small business? Not big corporate interests”
The 2011 Oregon Legislative Session has hit the halfway mark, and the Main Street Alliance of Oregon has been in Salem standing up for small businesses throughout Oregon with a clear set of priorities: Fighting for a health insurance system that works for business, credit and lending policies that help businesses expand, and energy and efficiency programs that put Oregonians back to work.
Here’s a quick rundown of MSA-Oregon priority legislation, and the current status of each -
Health Insurance Exchange (SB 99):
Small businesses received bad news last week when the Senate Health Care, Human Services and Rural Health Policy Committee failed to approve amendments that would strengthen the current bill – allowing it to be just a fancy website that offers the same bad for business products you have access to now. In fact, only Senator Chip Shields (D- NE Portland) voted to let the exchange negotiate on costs, which is key to helping lower insurance costs for small business owners.
The bill now goes directly to the floor of the Senate. If it passes the Senate, it goes to the House Health Care Committee, where there is potential for bipartisan support for putting negotiation back in the bill. This means there is still work you as small business owners can do to make sure Oregon’s Health Insurance Exchange is as strong as possible. To accomplish this, MSA-Oregon members are be urged to contact the members of the House Health Care Committee, and their local Senator and Representative and tell them to support an exchange that works for small business.
(MSA-Oregon’s recommendations for a strong small business friendly Health Insurance Exchange can be found HERE.)
“Virtual” State Bank (SB 889 and HB 3452)
On March 18th, the Senate General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee voted to amend SB 889 to make it stronger and push it closer to a floor vote in the Senate. However, the bill is still sitting in that committee, and MSA-Oregon’s work is far from done. Small businesses are being asked to contact members of the Senate committee, as well as their local Senator and Representative, urging them to support this legislation.
Energy and Efficiency Programs (HB 3535 and BETC reform)
Sadly, one of MSA-Oregon’s priorities this session died in committee last week. HB 3535, which would have created programs for energy efficiency and job creation had some costs to it that could not be overcome in this tight budget cycle – barring it from moving forward. MSA-Oregon will continue to track the Business Energy Tax Credit reforms, and make sure small business owners are informed on how these changes will impact them moving forward.
Like any legislative session, there are ups and down; wins and losses. The most important thing is that small business owners are at the table for all of these debates. Stay tuned for more updates as the 2011 legislative session continues towards its end of June Sine Die.