Stand With Veterans or Corporate Lobbyists? Tough Choice.

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Previously, we told you about House Republicans’ efforts to kill the ban on BPA in children’s products, which would keep kids safe from a pretty dangerous chemical. Today, we look at yet another bill Republican leadership has killed—another victim of corporate special interests. 

Last weekend, we honored those who’ve given their lives to protect our country, and with just a few weeks left in the legislative session, we thought it’d be a good idea to check in on the status of legislation aimed at helping veterans.

If you’re like us, and think that veterans deserve to be honored for the commitments and sacrifices they’ve made, you’re going to be disappointed by what we found.

Senate Bill 2 would do something obvious: It would make sure that veterans actually get Veterans’ Day off of work.

It was filed by Senate President Peter Courtney on behalf of a constituent, Lucy Van Oort, who asked a simple question. If legislators and public employees get Veterans’ Day off every year, why didn’t her late husband—a veteran—have the same guarantee?

SB 2 would set up a process that requires private employers to give veterans the day off—paid or unpaid—if the employees request it. The bill provided enough exemptions that it wouldn’t have been a burden on small employers, but would still have honored Oregon veterans. It sailed through the Senate committee, and was passed unanimously on the Senate floor.

So why is this important, common-sense bill stalled? It’s been squashed by Rep. Sal Esquivel (R-Medford), co-chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, apparently on behalf of lobbyists for Associated Oregon Industries.

Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) is one of the state’s largest corporate lobbying organizations. They were one of the main opponents to Measures 66 & 67, and they’ve spent much of this legislative session lobbying for tax breaks for corporations and the rich.

AOI has been watching SB 2 on its list of bills that it called “Death by a Thousand Cuts.” Although AOI lobbyists were careful to not put their name on anything explicitly opposing the bill, sources inside the capitol have told us that AOI’s opposition is why Rep. Esquivel refused to move the bill out of his committee.

AOI opposes regulations on businesses, even when those regulations are meant to protect the health and safety of consumers and employees. They are apparently so opposed to business regulations that they are against a bill that would give veterans the day off of work on the one holiday we have to honor them. Maybe the bigger question, though, is why Rep. Esquivel is so willing to go along with them.

Just a few days before Memorial Day, Rep. Esquivel sent out an e-newsletter about an unrelated bill, with a subject line asking the question “Is it tough to be a proud American in Oregon?” Well, we ask, what’s more American than giving a little something back to those who’ve put their lives on the line?

If this legislative session is a test of legislators’ values and priorities, what does it say when a legislator chooses to stand with corporate lobbyists, rather than Oregon’s veterans?

Want to ask Rep. Esquivel why he’s decided to kill this bill? Give him a phone call or email him directly:

503-986-1406
rep.salesquivel@state.or.us

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