Compromise paves way for Oregon paid sick leave

Senate Democrats have reached agreement on a compromise version of a statewide paid sick leave policy and expect swift action that could bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

If the legislation is approved by the Senate and later by the House, Oregon would become the fourth state to require employers to provide workers with paid time off to care for themselves or an ailing family member.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, and a leading backer of paid sick leave, said Democrats agreed Wednesday to a host of amendments and clarifications to Senate Bill 454, which had stalled after some lawmakers balked at the original proposal.

The revamped bill emerged in final form Thursday morning and Dembrow said he expected it would be scheduled for a work session in the Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee early next week.

Assuming subcommittee and full committee approval by the end of the week, the bill would presumably move to the Senate floor the week of June 8 and then to the House floor. Passage would allow Democrats in both chambers to deliver on a key element of their legislative agenda, following resounding victories in last November's general election.

"I'm confident that we have the votes in both chambers to pass the bill by mid-June," Dembrow said.

The Senate Workforce Committee, chaired by Dembrow, approved SB454 in March but the bill got sidelined by concerns over which businesses would be subject to the new law and whether to allow cities to enact their own sick-leave ordinances.

During negotiations, some lawmakers sought to combine paid sick leave with proposals to raise Oregon's minimum wage or require employers to give their workers early notice of their schedules and any possible changes – practices known as "predictive scheduling."

The compromise calls for the new law to cover private businesses with 10 or more employees, except in Portland, where the threshold would remain at six under a city ordinance that took effect in January 2014.

Eugene's ordinance, adopted last year and set to take effect in July, would be scaled back to the statewide standard rather than applied to employers of all sizes as originally intended.

Business lobbyists had urged lawmakers to push the bar higher and exempt businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

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