Cattlemen Legislative Update 4/22

OCA 2009 Legislation: What’s Happening?
By Oregon Cattlemen Association

The legislation (HB 3417), to help reduce the cost of doing business for the Department of Agricultures Brand Division and alleviate near future increases for brand inspection, and increased costs to cattle producers, will be heard on April 23.  If there is no opposition or further amendment requirements the bill should get a majority vote in work session and moved to the floor, hopefully, with a do-pass recommendation.  The Brand Department indicated that the most time spent collecting livestock and indentifying owners was for cattle, goats and sheep, respectively.  OCA has communicated with the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association (ODFA), Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) and Oregon Sheep Growers Association (OSGA), and to this point in time there hasn’t been any opposition or amendment requirements.

The Wolf Plan amendment legislation (HB 3383) did not get a hearing promised on the deadline day of April 17th.  Late hour negotiations with the Committee Chair, Rep. Clem, bill sponsors Rep. Bentz and OCA only resulted in an effort by Rep. Clem to provide an informational hearing.  If the informational hearing will not be provided OCA will continue to request a hearing with House leadership, if necessary.  Rep. Clem expressed his concern with too many bills before his committee which leaves him an inadequate amount of time to take the Wolf issue on.  He also directed proponents of the bill to confer with Defenders of Wildlife.  An informational hearing provides him an opportunity to invite only the stakeholders he wants to hear from and limit the time for the hearing.  This approach would help keep HB 3383 alive until House leadership could decide how they wanted to address the issue and whether or not there was any compromise tenable with Defenders of Wildlife.  We are hoping for the best, and thank you to all who have helped with the request to have a hearing on OCA’s wolf bill HB 3383.

The Cattlemen’s support for the continuation of the Landowner Preference (LOP) program (HB 2219) hit an opposition hurdle with the Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) wanting to amend the bill providing a requirement that LOP tag distribution only be allowed if the landowner could prove damage.  This developed into a stalling effort by OHA while OCA and Farm Bureau (OFB) tried to negotiate a reasonable alternative.  At this point in time, after the first hearing on April 14th, Chair Clem has appointed a work group to continue to negotiate one more time.  OFB and OCA offered to amend out the extra tags for the antelope and the extra tags for Access and Habitat provision in the bill in exchange for the increased ability for the landowners to transfer 50% of their tags to those hunter they choose.  At this point there has been no feedback from OHA.

Legislative Budget Response

Indeed the challenge for the Legislative leaders is to be able to tactfully progress with the Governor’s agenda (Climate Change Package, Jobs and Transportation Package, and Health Authority Law) and to navigate the treacherous shoals of a downturned economy.  The downturned economy requires state budget cuts of 30% to begin with.  The May 15th forecast, for revenue expected in the next two years, will reveal the true opportunities and necessities that this Legislature can and must address.

This legislative session is an opportunity for the majority party to advance their agenda with the super-majority in both House and Senate, but the expected revenue deficit is very likely the controlling factor. This situation equates to the grandchild in the candy store immediately after Grandma and Grandpa told their grandchild to choose anything they wanted, but the grandchild doesn’t know quite what that means, and whether or not  Grandma and Grandpa are going to say, no more.

The majority party will need new money to even have a hope of advancing their ambitious agenda.  All this revenue development effort is advancing while the Ways & Means Committee is trimming budgets.  The Revenue Committee is testing all possibilities for new revenue with no assurance there is any combination of new taxes and fees that will fill the looming gap.  Furthermore, the present agency budgets also need new money to even get to revenues of the past 05-07 levels when considering the May forecast may be closer to a $5 Billion deficit.

The legislative dilemma manifests itself with the once in many decades opportunity and a downturn economy imposing very difficult restrictions on spending.  Very similar to the grandchild in the candy store, don’t you think?

Supporting Small Business in Oregon
It was pleasing to see a specially written piece of legislation recognizing the importance of small business in Oregon (HJR 43).  But, reflecting on the past three months of the 2009 Legislative Session it was evident a vast majority of bills that have been provided hearings would, directly or indirectly, economically challenge, if not damage, small businesses in Oregon.

Just using the agriculture sector as an example, the three main legislative elements of the Governors agenda (Climate Change Package, Jobs & Transportation Package, and Health Authority Law) may very well shift needed private small business revenues to higher electricity rates, higher fuel costs, new investments in retrofits for trucks and automobiles, increased vehicle registration rates, increased fuel tax, increased insurance premiums to pay for the Health Authority Law and don’t forget the new taxes, proposed, for individuals (1% surcharge on income tax) and corporations advertised as increases on large corporations.  We must continue by including the proposed fee increases for all the agencies to help backfill their budgets (i.e., SB 740 and HB 2859 water tax) which will not be very friendly to small businesses who will pay the big share of the fee increases in Oregon.

It should be said, though, there are some good ideas for new money expenditures in the Jobs & Transportation Package, but along with the accumulated effect of the other proposals the Governor’s agenda could be devastating to our state economy.

It is becoming very clear, to many in Salem this session, that the talk doesn’t match the walk.  HJR 43 had the first hearing in March and it is scheduled for another hearing April 22nd.  It might be suggested the bill be put on the back burner until closer to the end of the session when, and if, there is something to talk about how this 2009 Legislative Session produced positive legislation for small businesses in Oregon.

OCA has been requested, by the Speaker of the House, Rep. Dave Hunt and other legislative members, to provide our solution to the economic downturn.  Please provide your comments on this article and send the OCA office your recommendations on how new taxes and fees should be designed and whether or not there should be new taxes and fees.

Disclaimer: Articles featured on Oregon Report are the creation, responsibility and opinion of the authoring individual or organization which is featured at the top of every article.