Giving Away The Store: The Legislature’s Decision to Cede Land Use Authority to Gov. Kotek for Chip Investment was a Mistake

Oregon’s legislature seems to be hell bent on ceding its authority to the governor. That’s a mistake.

Senate Bill 4, signed by the governor on April 13, granted Kotek  a blank check to bring some plots of land into Oregon’s urban growth boundaries, changing land use restrictions at her whim, to entice investment in Oregon’s semiconductor industry. Kotek will be able to designate up to eight sites, including two more than 500 acres in size, for manufacturing facilities.

The usual tension between legislative bodies and executive branches of government is because legislatures insist on jealously guarding their authority in the separation of powers. Separation of powers, coined by the 18th century philosopher Montesquieu, refers to the division of government responsibilities into distinct branches to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another. The intent is to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances.  

Separation of powers issues usually arise at the federal level, where constitutional scholars have long been arguing that Congress has been negligent in ceding powers to the Executive. As Brian McKeon and Caroline Tess have written in Foreign Affairs, “A Congress that delegates its powers or consistently acquiesces in the face of executive action not only ignores that invitation; it abdicates its responsibilities.”

But as the National Conference of State Legislatures has written,”There is an inherent measure of competition and conflict among the branches of government,” so state conflicts can arise as well.

Under Oregon’s innovative statewide land use planning program, created in 1973 with passage of the Oregon Land Use Act (SB 100), each of the state’s cities and metropolitan areas has created an urban growth boundary around its perimeter – a land use planning line to control urban expansion onto farm and forest lands.

 “These (land use) regulations have resulted in 50 years of success protecting our farm and forest lands, containing urban sprawl, and protecting natural resources. Senate Bill 4 throws that out the window,”  Republican state Rep. Anna Scharf has observed.

Republican state Rep. Ed Diehl expressed similar concern, saying, “I cannot in good conscience give the governor what is essentially a super-siting authority to take lands and bring them into the urban growth boundary. That is not the Oregon way.”

No, it’s not. 

The desire of some of Oregon’s legislators to attract investment and good-paying jobs associated with the semiconductor industry is valid and worth pursuing with wise legislative action. But giving so much power to the governor is an unwise move that legislators will regret. 

Here’s a Tip For Oregon Businesses: Stop Demanding Tips

The consumer-price index rose 8.5% in March from a year earlier, the fastest annual pace since December 1981, the Wall Street Journal reported on April 20. That’s the figure most consumers think of when they worry about rising prices.  But there’s another number too often ignored – the cost of tips and the insidious spread of tip expectations.

In a recent stop at a local Burgerville, I encountered a Uniden digital payment device with tip options: 15%, 18% 20%, custom and no tip.

The evil digital tip trap

At another burger place, their digital payment device presented me with tip options of 15%, 20% and 25%.

A 20% or 25% tip, where there used to be no tip expectation at all, is equivalent to a 20-25% price increase on top of any inflationary increase in the price of the food itself. 

Tip requests on electronic devices are becoming so pervasive that they are starting to feel like demands, particularly when the transactions are occurring under the watchful eyes of employees. 

As consumers are becoming more price sensitive over a host of goods and services, the reality that tips are increasingly becoming part of the price is raising concerns.

“Seems like anyone doing anything for you these days, even if it is in the scope of their responsibilities/expectations, has their hand out,” a recent commenter on a Tripadvisor Forum complained. “You don’t tip at a fast food restaurant,” another commenter said emphatically.

Consumer concerns are growing, particularly in states like Oregon where workers, such as servers, must be paid the state’s minimum wage ($14 in the Portland Metro Area, one of the highest in the United States according to the National Conference of State Legislatures) even if the worker also receives tips.

Regular minimum wage laws often don’t apply to restaurant workers, such as servers, who earn a lot of their income from tips. Federal law stipulates that employers can pay tipped workers as little as $2.13 an hour (an amount unchanged since 1991), so long as their tips bring them up to at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25. 

Shoppers are generally sympathetic to the plight of low-wage workers, but public resentment seems to be growing when tips are expected in food service and other situations where a worker is also guaranteed earning an elevated minimum wage or in situations where tip expectations are new. We don’t generally tip retail workers in a mall who are also guaranteed a respectable minimum wage in Oregon, for example.

A recent New York Times article about tipping generated a lot of comments, many of which lamented the seeming spread of tipping expectations to multiple businesses and regardless of the amount of actual service by an employee:

“Travelling to the USA each year from Europe I notice this just getting more extreme and expensive with zero additional benefits to the consumer. The next screen flip I get, I would like to flip my own card with discount options for the proprietor that is forcing us to shoulder his staffing costs.”

“I hate the companies that use payment systems like Square, and I particularly hate the companies, like Square, that have brought this new dystopian world upon us. Down with tipping!”

“Collectively, we cringe when the iPad is swiveled into our face at the coffee counter or deli; we know it is extortion rather than appreciation for services rendered.”