B-cause they can: Benefit company law finally gets Kitzhaber's OK

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (fourth from right, holding the bill) signed the benefits company bill Tuesday.
Courtesy of Graeme Byrd

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (fourth from right, holding the bill) signed the benefits company bill Tuesday. 

After a week-long delay, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has finally signed the so-called “benefit companies” bill that aims to attract “socially conscious entrepreneurs to Oregon.”

Kitzhaber signed the measure about two weeks after the Oregon Senate approved the measure by a 22-8 vote. The House passed it by a 39-20 count a few days earlier.

He was scheduled to ink the legislation last week but postponed a signing ceremony while lawmakers attempted to hammer out a budget package. The budget issues, primarily, the amount of schools funding vis a vis reforms to the state’s public employee retirement system, remained unresolved as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Benefit Companies legislation allows business owners to adopt a designation, perhaps in lieu of the tags “limited liability corporation” or “limited partnerships,” that indicates their commitment to working to solve social or environmental issues.

Those operators can, as Secretary of State Kate Brown put it, “define themselves by more than just the dollar amount per share, but instead by what they hope to achieve,” such as providing good benefits or patronizing local suppliers.

“This will make Oregon a good home for entrepreneurs, and it’s consistent with the Oregon spirit,” said Rep. Tobias Read, a Beaverton Democrat who championed the bill. “It helps people bring their values to work.”

The bill earned the sign-off from the co-founder of B Lab, the national organization that certifies benefit companies.

“By working together to pass benefit company legislation in Oregon, the entrepreneurs and legislators gathered here today are taking up the reins as leaders of the growing impact economy, creating higher quality jobs while improving the quality of life in our communities,” said Jay Coen Gilbert.

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