OFS Legislative Report

Legislative Report for the Week of May 4 – 8, 2009
Oregonians For Food and Shelter

WEEK 17 – During the week, bills started moving more rapidly, especially those being heard by committees in the second chamber.   Bills sent to the House floor for an “up or down” vote continued to pile up this week requiring the House to hold a long floor session on Friday to whittled down the backlog.   The tension is building, however, for another reason – the next revenue forecast is due out on Friday, May 15th.    The prognosis is not good, as consensus opinion is that the size of the deficit hole in the 2009-2011 State budget will increase.  So stay tuned for plenty of teeth-gnashing.

One bill that did pass the House by a vote of 58-1 was HB-2999 A-Engrossed amending certain provisions of PURS.  The A-engrossed version extends the 2009 sunset to 2016 (see more details in previous updates) but also adds language that clearly states the program will NOT be in operation to collect data during the 2009-2011 biennium, necessitated by the lack of nearly $1 million in general fund revenue required to support the program.    The bill will now move to the Senate for a committee hearing.   Since NCAP and other environmental groups are in agreement with the bill crafted by Rep. Clem and also the key fact that it has no real fiscal impact on the State — OFS does not foresee any problem with its passage in the Senate.   OFS supports HB-2999 A-Engrossed.

We are still awaiting the printing of A-Engrossed version of SB-637 requiring mandatory IPM in all Oregon schools starting in 2012 and the scheduling of the bill for a Senate floor vote.   For some reason the bill seems to have fallen into a black hole between the “Do-Pass” recommendation from the Senate Education and General Government Committee on April 24th and today.    OFS supports SB-637 A-Engrossed.

A number of good invasive species bills supported by OFS continue to move through the process toward law.  One such bill is Brenda Pace’s HB-2424 which modifies the “Adopt-a-Highway” program to include invasive weed removal, heard in Senate committee this week.   Although there is a very, very limited budget for supporting on the ground work, bills establishing the authority and infrastructure to control, particularly aquatic species like guaga and zebra mussels, are moving forward.    HB-2212 A-Engrossed modifies plant quarantine and weed laws that currently only apply to tansy ragwort to the control of all noxious weeds.  It passed the House by 55-4 vote on 3/31/09 and a 20-5 vote in the Senate on May 7.  HB-2213 moves the Oregon Invasive Species Council under the control of the Oregon Department of Agriculture and allows the council to enter into contracts, agreements and accept grants.   The bill passed the House by a 58-0 vote on 2/17/09 and the Senate by a 25-0 vote on May 7.

One of the most important bills to make it to the House floor to date for a vote was HB-2186 A-Engrossed (see bill details in separate article).  The bill was passed by a 32-28 margin on Friday, May 8.   All twenty-four House Republicans voted “no” along with Representatives Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley); Jules Bailey (D-Portland); Terry Beyer (D-Springfield) and Deborah Boone (D-Cannon Beach).   A few days prior, the vote count indicated it would be defeated as eight Democrats said they would vote against it.   Reports came back that not only was the Governor’s office strong-arming the Democrat caucus, but that his staff was calling the clients of some of our coalition members and asking them to stand down on HB 2186.   The pressure apparently worked as four of the ‘yes’ Democrats “went south” and the bill passed as a result.

The floor debate on the bill carried by Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Portland) was very interesting.   Those speaking out and urging a “no” vote included Representatives Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton); Deborah Boone (D-Cannon Beach); Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario); Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley); House Minority Leader Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg); and Vic Gilliam (R-Silverton).    Rep. Cannon admitted that the bill still had areas that need fixing (i.e. off-ramps added, complete removal of consumer products section, and sideboards on the truck retro-fitting including a cost cap).   Cannon said he was promised by Senate members that amendments would be made in Senate Committee, “insuring” House members that if the needed fixes were not done as promised he would not vote for concurrence when the bill came back across to the House.   Subsequently, Rep. Schaufler asked if Rep. Cannon could give him a guarantee of that happening – to which he reply was “no.”   The significance of this question is that should the Senate ram the bill out of committee without an amendment and pass it as is on the Senate floor — it would not come back to the House for concurrence but go to the Governor for signing into law!

Two members commenting against passage summed up the opposition pretty well.
Rep. Boone stated one basic problem with the bill is that it gives DEQ/EQC total authority to devise all the details in rule and that serious concern stems from “a lack of trust based on prior experience with DEQ.”

Rep. Gilliam made a short speech in opposition that went like this, “…We had a little mix-up in the endorsement floor letter thing, so please pay no attention to this one (holding up the coalition’s letter),  it’s a list of signatures representing most of Oregon’s businesses, farmers, corporations, associations and working people that implore us NOT impose this onerous, ill-timed, short-sighted, pie-in-the-sky, assumption-based, untested,  dangerously regulatory, insensitive, California imitating, bureaucratic nightmare, Gubernatorial legend in his own mind, piece of ground-breaking legislation that flies in the face of common sense.  No, don’t pay attention to that letter, because I think if you look around there’s another one somewhere on your desk from the magician lobby.    And it assures us that the passage of 2186 today, that the recession will end, all of us will get honorary MBA’s, we’ll be granted all the green jobs we could possibly count which will eclipse those awful, icky jobs that Oregonians now have, rabbits will be pulled out of hats, our summer wardrobes will miraculously fit, most of us will be contestants on American Idol, and Oregon will become a place where the skies are not cloudy all day!”

OFS continues to strongly opposes HB-2186 A-Engrossed and instead supports passage of the Boone dash-5 amendments.

OFS Floor Letter to Legislators Requesting their NO Vote on HB 2186-A.  OFS asks for  it to be sent it back to Committee to Adopt dash-5 amendments.
On Monday of this week OFS distributed the following letter to legislators:

There are many good reasons why Legislators should oppose HB 2186-A and other non-essential, new programs.    Plain and simple it creates an unnecessary cost to the state and an even bigger cost to OFS members.   For OFS this is a double hit, as significant funds paid as pesticide registration fees were swept from the base pesticide program in the Oregon Department of Agriculture into the general fund.   We were told the purpose was to meet the State of Oregon’s current vital financial obligations, i.e. funding Education, Health and Human Services, and Public Safety.   Taking a purposeful, accrued fund balance from its intended purpose to initiate a new program in DEQ just adds insult to injury.    There is nothing urgent or sensible about giving DEQ broad new authority to implement a “climate change” strategy that we absolutely cannot afford at this time as well as create an obligation for the State well into the future.

Oregonians for Food and Shelter’s Board of Directors, representing agricultural, forestry and businesses servicing the natural resource communities,  adamantly oppose “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as a means to pay for these new “Climate Change Programs!”   It appears obvious that maintaining all current programs plus adding new ones cannot be a reality without raising taxes and fees.   OFS members have strongly expressed opposition to “new taxes and fees” for the purpose of initiating NEW programs that should be handled at the federal level or that can wait until the economic climate is better suited.

Businesses and the State are both struggling economically.   Raising new taxes and fees will only delay the Oregon business communities’ ability to rebound, thereby providing jobs and added tax revenue.   A healthy business climate without additional state tax burdens is essential to grow Oregon’s economy and enable the State to fund essential programs in the future.

Unfortunately, some Legislators are so eager to support “something,” that many have not read the details in HB-2186-A.  “PLEASE – Read before you vote” should be posted on the desk of every legislator.  Another worthy question any legislator should ask themselves, agencies and legislative fiscal office is “What is the true fiscal?”  The trite answer, “NO FISCAL” is not acceptable!  There is always a cost.   And perhaps more important than what is the cost to the State, ask what is the cost to the regulated community?

Additional details will give good reason to vote “NO” on HB-2186-A:

• Truck retrofitting – Section 3 (4)(a) on page 4 of the 4/21/09 printed bill (line 29).  Conservative cost estimates to a truck owner is $5,000 to $15,000 per truck.  This section of the bill will profoundly affect both agriculture and forestry.  Heavy- duty and medium-duty trucks are the mainstay of our natural resource businesses.   The argument by DEQ is that the trucker will recoup this cost in fuel saving – even if that is true, who will pay the initial cost of the retrofit?   Imagine the capital outlay for a 50 or 100 truck fleet!

• Commercial Ships at Port – Section 3(8)(a) on page 6 of the 4/21/09 printed bill (line 29).  A section most likely unnoticed by many, but again would affect any shipper of goods impacting our natural resource businesses that ship products through the ports.   One example that demonstrates the significance of this mode of transportation is the fact that wheat is the Port’s largest commodity, and ships 43% of all the wheat exported from the United States through the Port of Portland.

• Climate Change Commission – OFS Board and members believe that Legislators should task the Climate Change Commission with monitoring federal Climate Change and Cap and Trade activity over the next two years with a mandate for the Commission to report back to the Legislature during the 2011 session.  This would accomplish two important things:

1. Place the major fiscal responsibility for these very expensive programs with the Federal Government where they belong;

2. Provide consistency with all other states, and thereby not put Oregon at an economic disadvantaging with other states in the NW region or the U.S.

• Adopting California’s Tire Standards – DEQ staff has stated that they want to follow California’s lead and adopt their standards once they are implemented such as the “Green Tire Standard.”   Should HB-2186-6 pass, Oregon is linked and will do likewise.  The cost to Oregon of this regulation is estimated at $18,400 for one truck with a four-axle, 53 foot trailer.  It is opposed by Oregon’s principal tire distributor.   It is estimated that there are about 48,000 heavy-duty trucks based in Oregon in addition to nearly 254,000 more that operate in the state.   The medium-duty trucks are not figured in this number.
OFS Board and members are supportive of HB 2186 with the dash-5 amendments, known as the Boone Amendments.   This version would go along way to hold DEQ accountable by requiring them to work with relevant state agencies and develop recommendations for legislation related to greenhouse gas emissions that must consider:

1. specific contribution of any recommendation toward meeting the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals;
2. economic impacts on Oregon consumers;
3. economic impacts on Oregon businesses;  and
4. technical feasibility.

Unfortunately Rep. Boone’s dash-5 amendments were defeated in committee.   As such, OFS cannot support HB-2186 as currently amended and urges your “NO” vote on the floor.

PLEASE honor the OFS Board and member request and VOTE “NO” on House Bill 2186 A-Engrossed.

Send HB-2186 back to committee to adopt the dash-5 amendments.

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