OFS Legislative review of Ag, pesticide, field burning bills

OFS Legislative Report for the Week of June 29, 2009
Oregonians for Food and Shelter

For the past two weeks of the session every bill and issue was fair game.  Every lobbyist that honestly believed that they had the votes counted to either pass or kill bills found out that the Democrat leadership was bill and vote trading behind the scenes.  Trading and flipping was the game of the session.   Several legislators in the Majority party apparently were struck with amnesia, as they “forgot” what they committed.  They forgot about any “commitment” they made to anyone about how they would vote on any issue – sometimes just a few hours prior.  If anyone had issues still in play the last two weeks chances are they unknowingly ended up becoming trade bait.

PESTICIDES: OFS staff had the opportunity to get all PESTICIDE bills resolved by mid-session.  The driver for the pesticide issues was to deflect any attempt by the anti-pesticide folks to pass bills banning aerial application or unreasonably restricting the use of pesticides near school properties.   Because of all the dedication to hard work during the 2008 interim to resolve the pesticides used in and around schools issue from the 2007 session, Representative Brian Clem had a firm handle on the pesticide question from the start.  Senator Suzanne Bonamici is to be commended for her leadership during the 2008 interim to resolve difference between the natural resources and rational environmental communities dealing with pesticides in and around schools that culminated in the School IPM bill – Senate Bill 637.   Although this enabled us get the heavy lifting work done early, we were firmly aware that the extremists in the environmental community lead by the Oregon Toxics Alliance (based in Eugene) was dissatisfied with the outcomes of IPM and Schools/Pesticide Use Reporting.  They wanted much more.  It kept us awake at night thinking that statutory pesticide law change could end up in a “gut and stuff” situation.   We will continue to work with Senator Bonamici and her staff on school IPM as the program begins it phase-in.   Although implementation of the program at the school level is not required until July 1, 2012, we anticipate many schools or school districts will begin much earlier.   This will give us better information regarding problems and areas needing to be modified.   For example, the criteria for classification as a “low-impact pesticide” exclude products with a “warning” or “danger” cautionary statement on the label.  The intent was not to exclude those products simply because the label had warnings for applicator safety when dealing with the concentrated product – i.e. do not splash in eyes.   OFS hopes to clarify this definition in 2011.

House Bill 2999 dealing with the Pesticide Use Reporting System (PURS) changed the reporting location for non-urban uses from water basin to watershed and the sunset extended out to 2019.   In return OFS has a commitment in writing from the state’s two principal environmental groups (OEC and NCAP) that no further changes will be sought until after the program evaluation the year of the sunset.   This includes data being reporting or the 50/50 mandatory funding split.   The program was not funded for the 2009-11 Biennium and will be moth-balled.   If funding is appropriated in 2011, the soonest ODA will have PURS running will be for reporting use during the calendar year 2013.   As noted previously, Rep. Clem had firm control of HB-2999 and insured its passage long before the end of session to avoid the bill-trading mayhem.   By not funding PURS, we were able to successfully lobby to use most of the $40 in annual pesticide registration fees to fund two additional ODA pesticide investigator positions (one in Burns and one in Bend) and to fund the Pesticide Analytical Response Center (PARC), a vital program that was on the budget cut list.

FIELD BURNING (SB 528): Final days of the 2009 Oregon legislative session were contentious and dishonest.  The best example of legislator dishonesty for the Natural Resources community was the Field Burning issue (SB 528).  Two weeks ago, Roger Beyer of the Oregon Seed Council and his coalition partners (agriculture and forestry) had all 24 House Republicans and 10 House Democrats.  That would have equaled 34 “NO” votes.  As the final days of the session arrived, the Democrat votes began to erode at a rate of a few each day.  As it turns out, Speaker of the House David Hunt, Representative Arnie Roblan flipped from “no” to “yes,”  twisting Debbie Boone’s arm until she abandon her promise to vote “NO” on SB 528.  There will be much more about Speaker Hunt and his staff in the upcoming OFS Final Legislative Update.

Usually, pesticides are the ugly step child of every legislative session, this session it was field burning.  Roger Beyer is truly our hero.  No one in the Capitol worked harder and was more attentive than Roger.  He was at the Capitol early and left late.  All of us were deceived into thinking we had the necessary votes to kill the field burning bill until the last minutes of the last day.  The truth is that SB 528 was one of several “go home bills” of Governor Kulongoski, the Senate and House Democrat Caucuses and especially Representative Paul Holvey, Senators Floyd Prozanski and Vicki Walker.  Since Dave Hunt wanted to continue as Speaker and Arnie Roblan wanted to become the Majority Leader, they changed from a committed “NO” vote to “YES” against field burning.  Interestingly, even after breaking his promise to vote against SB 528, Roblan could not garner the votes to defeat Mary Nolan for Majority leader.  It appears that members of his caucus betrayed him the same way he and his caucus “betrayed” the natural resource lobby on field burning.   Perhaps they were confused by their own “yes means no” and “no means yes” shenanigans they tried to pass in hopes of bewildering the public on a tax referendum vote?

BALLOT INITIATIVES (HB 2414 gutted and stuffed): Knowing full well that the Oregon business community was organizing and mobilizing to collect signatures to override the legislature’s tax increases, the public employee unions and the Democrat leadership devised a scheme to  “gut and stuff” a bill to confuse the referendum process.  Under new language, referendum elections would have had drastically different meanings at ballot time.  Under HB 2414, a “YES” vote would have meant “NO”, while a “NO” vote would have meant “YES” which is the exact opposite of ballot measure voting in the past.  Those in support of the taxes understood that voters also vote “no” when they don’t understand or find a ballot measure confusing.   By confusing the issue and making “no” mean “yes”, they would capture those votes and sustain their tax increases.  What skullduggery!   Had it not been for all of you that responded to the call for help from the business lobby, HB 2414 would have passed.   Constituent calls and e-mails melted down the electrical system in the Capitol the day the Democrat leadership planned to have the vote on the House floor.  Thank You!  It would not have happened without your calls and e-mails.   Because of your participation, YES still means YES and NO still means NO!

STAY TUNED: The Natural Resource Lobby does not hold the distinction of being the only group betrayed by the Democrat leadership, as all in the business lobby had the same experience.  A more in-depth discussion to follow in the printed FINAL OFS Legislative Report we hope to have mailed out soon!

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