Business leaders push legislative agenda in Salem

Business leaders push legislative agenda in Salem

Special interests, CRC, regulatory reform

Plenty of special interests will be knocking on legislators’ doors this session, from the Oregon Winegrowers Association, a group that is pursuing variances to Oregon land use law allowing wineries to host commercial events, to the Oregon Forest Industries Council, an organization seeking to recalibrate public-private sharing of fire protection costs, alleviating the burden on private landowners.

Small issues aside, business leaders will tackle at least one other big project this session: the Columbia River Crossing. If the 2013 Legislature doesn’t agree to fund Oregon’s part of the $3.2 billion bill for the new I-5 bridge this winter, then federal dollars may disappear. Although many business and political leaders — including Tina Kotek — consider the project central to the state’s economic competitiveness, the bridge plan has been heavily criticized for its design flaws, cost overruns and environmental impacts.

Business leaders have also been working with Kitzhaber on a regulatory reform plan intended to make it easier to start and expand a business. The AOI has made regulatory reform a priority and will eventually come forward with targeted ideas linked to the Oregon Business Plan vision for a more streamlined and efficient system, says Clemens.

Along with education, revenue and health-care reform, the regulatory-reform project demonstrates the Oregon business community’s leadership role in shaping public policy. Last session, business groups demonstrated their ability to work constructively together and with the governor and other lawmakers to pass historic legislation. In 2013 the big question is whether that legacy — and détente — will endure.

“I think everybody hopes for a similar political climate,” says Clemens, “and that we continue to do things that have a positive impact on growing jobs in the state.”

Linda Baker is the managing editor of Oregon Business. She can be reached at lindab(at)oregonbusiness.com.">lindab(at)oregonbusiness.com.