SALEM — A key piece of top Oregon Democrats’ legislative agenda — mandating a statewide paid sick leave policy — cleared a hurdle Tuesday and appears to have momentum to pass this session.

Senate Bill 454 passed a subcommittee 5-3 along party lines Tuesday and will head to the full, 20-person budget committee for consideration.

The bill must pass both the full committee and above the cries of Republicans who say the legislation amounts to a large bill for Oregon businesses.

“By refusing to exempt small businesses, Democrats are forcing business owners across the state to raise prices, lay off employees, or shutter their shops, leading to fewer jobs and higher prices for Oregon consumers,” Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said in a statement.

Democrats who are pushing the legislation disagree. They say the legislation that would require businesses with 10 or more employees to provide paid sick leave (and those with fewer than 10 to provide unpaid leave) is a necessary step to help Oregon’s vulnerable workers.

“If we look in total, Oregon is a good place to do business. The more we (say) it’s not, we’re just doing ourselves a disservice,” said Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene. “Oregon is a great place to do business and we’re trying to make sure it’s a great place to have a job as well.”

The push to adopt a statewide paid sick leave policy has taken all session. It was a conversation during the election, when leading Democrats — who control both chambers — said they would create the law if elected.

The delay has occurred while Democrats leading the bill through the Legislature have worked to appease the concerns of more moderate caucus members.

— Reporter: 406-589-4347,