Cattlemen Update: Water, taxes, climate change

Oregon Cattlemen Association
Legislative Update 06-19-09

HB 3369: Funding for Umatilla water development projects. This legislation was originally intended to provide lottery bond financing for grants for water supply projects and to establish Agriculture and Community Water Supply Grant Funds with continuous appropriations to Water Resources Department for the grant program.  The bill now includes the funding for Umatilla water development projects plus a lot of pork for a Water Development Fund, a Water Resources Investment Fund, a Water Resources Grant Fund, and a Water Conservation, Reuse and Storage Investment Fund specifically intended to fund a statewide integrated strategy for implementing the state water resources policy.

Many in the Natural Resources community including the OCA have maintained this is not necessary and have successfully opposed any efforts to pass legislation making this possible.  Very strategically the combined issues in this bill make it difficult at this late date to successfully separate and eliminate the pork provisions, but the effort is being made.

SB 519  Employer gag bill. (Passed House 34 to 24, June 19th, with party-line vote) House Rules held a hearing on this bill June 18th and passed the bill to the House Floor for a vote. SB 519 limits the employer’s ability to discuss political issues, including labor issues, with their employees.  The coalition working in opposition to this bill believes the legislation is an infringement on Article I, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution.  The agriculture community is fearful that this legislation, if legally removed from the National Labor Relations Act, would leave agriculture vulnerable to the legislative requirements.  This bill is definitely, the take-home bill of the session for the AFL/CIO who refer to the bill as the “Worker Freedom Act.”

HB 3507 – Employer gag bill plus: Chair Roblan intended this bill to be an improved version to SB 519, but it was determined that the bill would only exacerbate the problems in SB 519, further limiting the employers ability to discuss political issues, including labor issues, with their employees.  HB 3507 passed the House June 19th almost along a party-line vote.  A very important bill for the AFL/CIO.

SB 788 : Water user fee increase: It looks like this bill will be the vehicle used to finance the Water Resources Department by increasing fees for water users at every level.  All water user fees will be increased by 40 to 400 percent for the next four years and then rolled back in 2013 to present levels.  Domestic and livestock well user exemptions will still be honored but anyone applying for a new well at the local level will need to send the WRD $300.

SB 528: Field burning ban bill: The ban on field burning bill has now been through the full Ways & Means Committee soon to be heard on the Senate Floor.  This bill was amended to allow burning in the Silverton hills but it still allows the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) to ban field burning by rule.  It is important to consider the implications of this legislation on other natural resource industries that need to use burning in stacks or in areas far from urban populations throughout our state.  Allowing EQC to ban field burning in our important grass seed industry can lead to banning burning in our other natural resource industries in other areas of the state.

HB 5017 Various agency funding: The Higher Education Budget was passed on to full Ways & Means with the recommendations for more protection for the Statewide Public Service programs which would receive an add-back amount of $5.8 million to limit the budget reduction for these services to 10% and providing fewer reductions to Extension, Agriculture Experiment Station, and Forest Research Laboratory.

Tax Legislation

HB 2616 Taxes: This bill is lurking in the House Revenue committee and was last scheduled for a hearing on June 18th in Senate Finance and Revenue, but the chair canceled the hearing.  The bill would allow counties to apply their own local taxes on cigarettes.  This may seem fairly unimportant, but it actually breaches the importance of applying statewide tax authority by the legislature especially on products sold in all counties.  This tax would cause further disruption of local sales for local merchants with the movement to sales on the internet or other jurisdictions without the tax.  Or, the traffic in illegal cigarette sales would increase.  Furthermore, the continued increase in the cost of tobacco products will continually decrease the number of individuals using the products and thus reduce the revenue from the tax.  The revenue reduction will cause the jurisdiction to look for replacement revenue and possibly another tax.

New Programs, More Government, More Costs

HB 2186 Green House Gas legislation:
We are in the last days of the legislative session and hopefully the last days of this  unnecessary legislation.  This Green House Gas legislation, giving DEQ unprecedented rule making authority, which will increase cost of transporting all goods and products for years to come, needs to die.  OCA and the Oregonians for Balanced Climate Policy are working hard to stop this legislation, but the legislative majority has steam rolled the opposition all session, so we are not positive that we can hang on to our slim advantage.

SB 80 CO2 reducations: This bill has been pronounced dead several times, and it seems once again.  The
regulatory approach to reducing C02 for large emitters which will tax the ratepayers with
increased utility rates for years to come should die, as it looks like Congress wants a carbon tax.
OCA and the large coalition lobbying to stop this legislation is concentrating on hopefully the
last piece of legislation, of this nature for this session, HB 2186.

A Poke In the Voters Eye Stopped

HB 3508 Suspending Measure 57 crime measure: (This bill failed in House June 19th) Legislative leadership proposed to poke the Oregon voters in the eye by suspending implementation of Measure 57.  Measure 57, remember, was passed by the voters (61%) to hold chronic offenders accountable while providing treatment many of them need for drug addiction. Legislative leadership has raised billions in taxes and fees, protected $250 million in state pay raises and have refused to redirect hundreds of millions in agency ending fund balances without prioritizing vital public safety programs. Now Legislative leadership propose to cut critical public safety programs unless Measure 57 is halted. These cuts include:
• Eliminating Oregon State Police Troopers from the Patrol Division, preventing the agency from providing 24/7 coverage throughout Oregon.
• Eliminating Oregon State Police detectives and making it difficult for OSP to investigate major crimes such identity theft and child abuse.
• Cutting resources for victim compensation and other victim-related programs.
• Cutting resources for county drug courts and efforts to reduce drug-related crime.

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.