Tax Package Nears Endgame: The highest-stakes part of the legislative session began in earnest April 29 as the House sent a long-awaited $2 billion tax package to the floor for a vote. Corporations, with some exceptions, including grocery stores and hospitals, would pay a new gross receipts tax to raise the money, which would then be allocated to education. Republicans hate it, and while passage out of the House is a sure thing, approval by the Senate could prove more challenging and spur horse trading that could lead to the passage of cost reductions for the Public Employee Retirement System and the gutting of environmentalists' top priority, a carbon-reduction tax.
Bill Would Pre-empt Local Taxes: One provision of the legislative tax package has Portland-area governments antsy. It would pre-empt local governments from passing future business or grocery taxes. That's a deal-sweetener for businesses—and an obstacle for two possible measures in various stages of development for 2020—the Metro regional transportation package and a potential housing and social services measure. In an April 29 letter to the Legislature on House Bill 3427, Metro Council President Lynn Peterson said Metro was considering a business tax as part of its 2020 package. "There is no good time for the Legislature to take financial tools away from local communities," Peterson wrote, "but now is an especially inopportune time to do so."
ICE Agent Shoves Portland Lawyer: A federal immigration officer refused to show an arrest warrant and shoved a criminal defense lawyer as he tried to step on an elevator with his client on the fourth floor of the Multnomah County Courthouse on April 26. Courthouse arrests of immigrants have drawn intense criticism from civil rights advocates and court employees across the nation. Those tensions flared in Oregon when ICE agents clashed with Portland defense lawyer John Schlosser, who captured the confrontation on video. U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici decried what she watched. "This is another troubling report about ICE intimidating people in a courthouse," Bonamici said on Twitter. "ICE agents are not police; their refusal to produce a warrant, and the use of physical force against an attorney are unacceptable and deserve further scrutiny."
AFSCME Files Labor Complaint Against Refugee Nonprofit: The union that would represent employees organizing at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization filed a labor complaint last week, alleging the nonprofit engaged in illegal practices to stop the union organizing. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 75 filed the unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on April 16. IRCO provides social services to international refugees arriving in the Portland area. The complaint followed an unsuccessful meeting where employees and AFSCME organizers asked IRCO management to remain neutral on the union ("Labor Pains," WW, April 17, 2019). The complaint alleges IRCO improperly fired union organizers, bribed employees, held mandatory meetings where employees were encouraged to vote against a union, and interrogated workers about their participation. "We don't want to be combative," says IRCO executive director Lee Po Cha. "Our goal is on trying to work collaboratively with AFSCME and our employees to assure they have an open, transparent and democratic process to make the choice that is only theirs to make."