The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, March 29, 2017, Page 3A, Image 3

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State House passes bill providing
increased penalties for unequal pay
Capital Bureau
Courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry
State Treasurer Tobias Read said Tuesday that he sees a
“path forward” for public ownership of about 82,500 acres
of the Elliott Forest in Coos and Douglas counties.
Read signals intent to
pursue public ownership
option for Elliott Forest
State treasurer
could side with
Gov. Brown
SALEM — The state
House of Representatives has
passed a bill that increases
potential civil penalties for
paying women and minorities
less than their counterparts
who perform the same job.
While the state has laws
barring discrimination, the
wage gap between white men
and women and minorities still
persists, said state Rep. Ann
Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, the
bill’s chief sponsor.
“One of the things we need
to do to make sure that people
are not discriminated against
based on pay is to strengthen
the penalties for discrimina-
tion,” Lininger said.
Lawmakers voted 36-24
to pass the bill Tuesday after
debating for two hours on the
House floor. The legislation
now proceeds to the Senate
for consideration.
The bill makes exceptions
for higher pay in certain cir-
cumstances, such as when
an employee has seniority
or produces demonstrably
higher quality or quantity of
work product.
employers from screening job
Substitute rejected
Before passing the mea-
sure, legislators first con-
sidered a substitute bill
offered on the floor by House
Minority Leader Rep. Mike
McLane, R-Powell Butte. The
GOP-spearheaded minority
report would have removed
punitive penalties, provided
a self-evaluation defense and
would have made veterans
one of the protected classes
in the bill. Republicans won
support from some Demo-
crats, including Reps. Brian
Clem of Salem and Deborah
Boone of Cannon Beach.
defense would have encour-
aged more compliance with
the law and spurred fewer
lawsuits, McLane said.
“Do you want lawsuits,
or do you want compliance?
Because you are going to
choose today,” he said.
The concept was that busi-
Capital Bureau
SALEM — After a sus-
tained outcry from environ-
mental groups, state Trea-
surer Tobias Read appeared
to signal his intent Tues-
day to side with the gover-
nor in her evolving plan to
stop the impending sale of
an expanse of coastal forest
in southern Oregon.
Read said Tuesday that
he sees a “path forward” for
public ownership of about
82,500 acres of the Elliott
Forest in Coos and Douglas
Last month, though, the
treasurer voiced qualified
support for a proposal to sell
the forest to a partnership
between a Roseburg tim-
ber company and a Native
American tribe.
Read announced Tuesday
that he would work with the
Department of State Lands
to develop a plan for the for-
est that would end its obli-
gation to generate reve-
nue for the Common School
Fund, which is essentially
an endowment for K-12
In 2015, the State
Land Board — then com-
prised of Gov. Kate Brown,
then-Treasurer Ted Wheeler
and then-Secretary of State
Jeanne Atkins — decided to
sell the land after litigation
challenged the state’s man-
agement of areas occupied
by protected species. The
state said lawsuits prevented
it from harvesting enough
timber to generate money for
the fund.
But a year later, only
one entity — the partner-
ship between Lone Rock
Resources, a Roseburg timber
company, and the Cow Creek
Band of Umpqua Tribe of
Indians — had submitted an
acquisition proposal, which
drew fire from the state’s
environmental groups. And
Brown has said she no longer
wants to sell the forest.
ists have been lobbying the
board for months, and of late
have focused on Read.
They warn that the sale of
the Elliott to a private com-
pany would realize fears that
under the administration of
President Donald Trump,
states will follow the pres-
ident’s lead and privatize
public land.
In a statement Tuesday,
Brown alluded to those con-
cerns, saying public owner-
ship was “critical” to sus-
tainable timber harvests and
protecting the environment
for future generations.
“I remain committed to
applicants based on their salary
history or to seek salary history
from candidates. The proposal
also spells out that an employee
who has been discriminated
against as a member of a pro-
tected class has a right to a jury
trial and actual, compensatory
and punitive damages.
nesses that had made a good
faith effort to address pay dis-
parities by conducting an evalu-
ation of salaries could use that as
a defense if sued by an employee.
But Lininger and other law-
makers asserted the substitute
bill would actually roll back
protections that already exist
in the law for those who are
discriminated against, includ-
ing for gender, disability or
sexual orientation.
“It actually weakens penal-
ties for those employers who
have discriminated if they
demonstrate that they have
done a self-evaluation that sat-
isfies this affirmative defense
test,” Lininger said.
She said she would encour-
age the Senate to consider add-
ing veterans as a protected
class in the bill.
Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West
Linn, voted against Lininger’s
bill and for the substitute bill
because she said both would
likely hurt the state’s budget.
“The fact is for us to send
this bill out and say no fiscal
exploring a path toward pub-
lic ownership of the Elliott
that continues to honor the
Common School Fund,”
Brown said. “I am heartened
that Treasurer Read shares
this vision and I appreci-
ate his unwavering commit-
ment to the state’s fiduciary
responsibility to Oregon
Brown has proposed
using the state’s bonding
capacity to buy a portion of
the forest. Read said Tues-
day that the governor had
worked to drum up support
for that strategy.
“I have made it clear to
all sides that if Gov. Brown
brought forward a viable
alternative I would consider
it,” Read said. “The gover-
nor and her team have con-
tinued to refine her frame-
work, and most importantly
she has worked to build sup-
port for key bonding com-
ponents among legisla-
tors, including the Senate
State Senate President
Peter Courtney, D-Salem,
has suggested using reve-
nue bonds payable from rev-
enues generated by the forest
— whether through timber
harvests or other activities.
The lone Republican on
the land board, Secretary
of State Dennis Richard-
son, voted in favor of mov-
ing forward with the sale in
February. His office did not
immediately respond Tues-
day to a request for com-
ment on Treasurer Read’s
On Sunday, the Dem-
ocratic Party of Oregon
passed a resolution that
urged the state Land Board
to work with the governor on
the public ownership option.
The move puts newly
elected party chairwoman
Jeanne Atkins in the posi-
tion of advocating against
a concept she signed off
on when she was secretary
of state and member of the
Land Board in 2015. Read,
who was elected treasurer in
November, is a Democrat, as
is Brown.
The Land Board meets
again May 9 in Salem, until
then the Department of State
Lands is both preparing a
sale agreement and a report
on public ownership options.
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Egregious offenders
A report in 2014 by The
Statesman Journal showed
Oregon state government is
one of the most egregious
offenders of pay equity, even
in state offices led by Demo-
crats, Parrish noted.
“I would like to have that
discussion, but we are sitting
here in a $1.8 billion short-
fall, and we’re proposing to
put forth legislation that will
directly impact state and local
governments in a time when we
don’t have dollars,” she said.
One lawsuit with punitive
damages could wipe out the
budget of a small school dis-
trict, Parrish said.
“Again, I’m not saying the
conversation isn’t important.
As a woman and as an Arab
woman, I have been paid less,”
she said.
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