Food and Shelter: Legislative Report

OFS Legislative Report for the Week of April 27 – May 1, 2009
Oregonians for Food and Shelter

Week 16 of the legislative session was the deadline for most legislative committees in both chambers to complete their work on bills that originated in their respective chambers.   Rules, Revenue and Ways and Means are the exceptions!   A fair number of bills were sent to Ways and Means.  If there was a fiscal attached, most likely they will not advance further.  The legislature is preparing for the May 15th economic forecast anticipating further decline in revenues which will estimate the revenue that will be available for the next biennium in addition to the anticipated shortfall that could occur in the remaining six weeks of session.  If the decline is realized, many legislators will be clamoring to raise taxes and fees.

STAY TUNED and BE PREPARED TO DEBATE POTENTIAL HIGHER TAXES AND FEES!  This debate could easily fall along party lines.  If it does, house and senate democrats have all the votes needed to hike taxes.  Democrats have exactly the 3/5’s vote required to raise taxes.  NOT ONE REPUBLICAN VOTE WILL BE NEEDED!  Now, the question is, will any democrat defect?  If so, the democrat leadership will need the help of some republicans.  Since we don’t have a crystal ball, we will have to wait and see.

The Ways and Means Committee is finalizing their “road trip” across Oregon taking public input regarding the budget and planning for the potential shortfall.

PESTICIDE BILLS:  SB 637-A – Requires all schools to establish an IPM Plan; and HB 2999-A – amends Pesticide Use Reporting System (PURS) with a provision to set the PURS system on the shelf.  The request to shelve PURS was made by the legislative fiscal office because of the revenue shortfall and the $1.9 million needed to fund the PURS program.  (See OFS’s April 24, 2009 legislative report for details).  OFS supports both SB 637-A and HB 2999-A.

FIELD BURNING SB 528 – Prozanski and Holvey Field Burning Bill to ban field burning of grass seed and cereal grains in the Willamette Valley.

•    Heard and moved out of Senate Environment and Energy Committee, April 28th with a request that it be sent to Ways and Means.  The bill carries an $85,000 fiscal impact.

•    Bans all general field burning in 2010

•    Bans the burning of steep terrain and identified species in 2013 after greatly reducing acreage immediately.

•    Changes level of finding requirements from “extreme” to “potential” danger to public health or safety to require Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) to halt burning immediately.

•    Allows EQC to ban burning in “critical areas”, which are undefined.

•    Allows EQC to impose burning and acreage limitations in all Oregon Counties.

•    Allows Department of Agriculture to raise fees to any level in order to pay for the program.

•    OFS extends a huge thank you to Roger Beyer of Oregon Seed Council and Katie Fast of Oregon Farm Bureau for their hard work opposing SB 528.  OFS, Oregon Forest Industries Council (OFIC), Oregon Wheat Growers League and many others joined ranks in opposition.

HB 2186-6 -allows DEQ to adopt rules to reduce Greenhouse Gasses. If this bill is passed in it’s present form, DEQ is given “loose reins” by Oregon legislature to adopt the California greenhouse gas regulations.

•    Low Carbon Fuel Standard  – allow the DEQ to create and implement a “low carbon fuel standard”. The bill mandates a 10% CO2 reduction by 2020!   Currently this kind of fuel is not commercially available.  Oregon already has a low carbon fuel standard – by 2009 all fuels must be blended with 10% ethanol.

•    Heavy and Medium Truck Retrofitting – Allows the DEQ to force medium and heavy-duty truck owners to buy expensive equipment to reduce aerodynamic drag on their vehicles.  Estimates are that these type of retrofits cost anywhere from $5,000-15,000 per truck, depending on the type of truck.  The cost to retrofit all 300,000 trucks in Oregon would be approximately $1.508 to 4.525 billion.

•    Regulates Greenhouse Gas Content of Consumer and Commercial Products  – Allows the DEQ to set standards for the greenhouse gas content of and use or disposal of consumer and commercial products sold in Oregon.  Consumer and commercial products are undefined.

•    Passenger Vehicle Tire Energy Efficiency Requirements – Allows the DEQ to adopt California’s “green tire” standards that have not been finalized yet that could limit consumer tire choices and increase tire costs.

• Truck and Ship Idling Restrictions – Allows the DEQ to restrict engine use by parked commercial vehicles and ships at port.  In California, this has meant that all truck operators are required to shut off their engines when idling more than five minutes at any location.

Legislators take aim at meth-addict’s financial backbone – Metal theft! In a bi-partisan effort to tighten up laws impacting the sale of stolen metal, significant changes to the law in Senate Bill 570 passed the Senate floor unanimously on April 29.     The bill requires scrap metal businesses to keep better records of those selling the scrap metal including:  a photocopy of a valid drivers license or government pictured I.D., a street address, a phone number and the license plate and description of the vehicle used to transport the scrap metal.

Another key change in the law aimed a drug users looking for a quick fix is that scrap metal buyers can no longer pay in cash, but must mail a check to the seller at the street address provided no sooner than three business days after the transaction.   The bill also imposes new fines and penalties on scrap metal thieves.   One of the champions of the changes is Representative Andy Olson (R-Albany), a former police officer.   SB-570 was the measure used to combine and move the best elements of six metal theft bills (SB-570, 405, 480, HB-2421, 2423 and 2484).

The following comments are excerpts from a Senate Republican Office press release. Comprehensive records of the purchases made by a scrap metal business make it easier for law enforcement to track and apprehend thieves selling stolen metal, often to support a meth habit.  The bill creates crimes of unlawfully altering metal property, unlawfully purchasing and transporting metal property, and enacts stiff penalties for each violation.

“Meth users are selling stolen metals on the open market to pay for their next fix,” said Senator Brian Boquist (R-Dallas). “Thieves are making off with traffic signs, highway guardrails, irrigation sprinklers, and other objects that represent serious loss to local farmers and businesses.  This bill makes this type of metal theft much more difficult.”

“The idea is that we make maintaining a meth habit more trouble then its worth,” said Senator Jackie Winters (R-Salem), who helped put together a first-of-its-kind Blue Ribbon Task Force on Methamphetamine.  “Because of strategic thinking and cooperation at all levels of government, we are winning some crucial battles against meth addiction.”   The task force has taken significant steps towards fighting meth across Oregon.

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