Farm Bureau: Legislative week in review

Oregon Farm Bureau
Legislative Bulletin

It is the end of the first week of Oregon’s second test for regular annual sessions. The number of bills and their controversial nature is a departure from the tightly controlled nature of the 2008 special session.  It would be hard to classify any of the bills as addressing an “emergency.” In fact, much of what has been introduced is considered by some as an attempt to pass controversial legislation with little debate or public input….

Annual Sessions
SJR 41 would be referred to the voters to amend the Constitution to provide for annual sessions. The sessions would be limited to a specified number of days (not yet determined) and could be overridden only by a 2/3rds vote of both House and Senate. At this time, OFB does not have a position or policy on annual sessions.

Land Use
SB 997 would modify statutory language passed in 2009 to change the types of natural resource lands from which development rights could be transferred.
SB 1031 changes the statutory standards for development of destination resorts.
SB 1049 extends the development rights allowed by Measure 49 to a few hundred claimants who were denied based on certain procedural errors.
SB 1055 would modify the statute regulating winery’s and the activities they engage in when located in exclusive farm use zones. OFB is working for broader discussion during the interim around events and commercial activity in EFU zones with legislative concept coming forward for the 2011 session.
HB 3648 provides that counties and Metro may not, after having cooperatively designated land as urban reserve, designate additional land as urban reserve until at least 50% of previously designated urban reserves have been included within urban growth boundary of district.

HB 3653 modifies definitions and exceptions applicable to prohibition against employer taking adverse employment action against employee who declines to attend meeting or participate in communication concerning employer’s opinion about religious or political matters.
HB 3693 allows diesel fuel to be sold from November 1 to March 31 to contain additives to prevent gelling due to weather conditions that may dilute the biodiesel standard. This past winter, there were the new fuel blends were gelling in engines from tractors to school buses.  This legislation is an attempt to prevent these issues in the future.  OFB supports this legislation.
HB 3680 – Business Energy Tax Credit. Front page articles in The Oregonian on the cost of Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) have brought public attention to the program. The BETC, provides a tax credit for conservation and renewable energy production projects.  The cost of the BETC has far exceeded the projections given the legislature when the program was expanded in 2007. In the 2009 session the legislature passed House Bill 2472 applying a set of limits to the BETC, but the Governor vetoed that bill.

The legislature is back this session tweaking the program.  The legislation may include caps on wind projects (the largest user of BETC), a cap for total cost of projects and new accountability standards.
Food Processing
SB 1032 would restrict the use of bisphenal A plastic products designed for and consumed by children under age three.  This could have a detrimental impact on Oregon’s fragile food processing industry.

Continued Action Alert – SB 1060

SB 1060 Grants the public access to the beds and banks of Oregon’s waterways.

Thank you to OFB members Barry Bushue & Dale Buck along with Oregon Cattlemen’s President Bill Hoyt and Oregon Association of Conservation District’s Legislative Chair Paul Reed for their testimony on SB 1060.

We ask that Oregon’s farmers and ranchers keep the comments coming and speaking out for private property rights.  The bill will have another hearing on Tuesday, February 9 and is scheduled for a work session on the following Thursday.
Oregon Farm Bureau has been actively engaged in the issues around navigability, floatage and recreational access to waterway and adjoining properties.  Unfortunately, SB 1060 does not contain the same balance and collaboration that past efforts included.  Landowner representatives were not invited to participate in the work groups that drafted this legislation.
SB 1060 is a private property grab by the state.  It confuses the issues of navigability and floatage and brings together the worst of both.

It goes beyond the 2005 Attorney General’s opinion by not only addressing floating rights, but also granting rights for public use of the beds and banks.  The definition of public use is so broad and includes “water-dependent activities and incidental uses connect with those activities” that it would include fishing, camping, picnicking, fires to cook, and more.

The legislation also grants the public the ability to portage without permission above the high water mark not only for emergencies but to continue use of a waterway.  This again goes beyond the AG’s opinion and the case law, which only allows use of uplands for emergencies and when a boater has lost control of his boat at no fault of his own.

The bill states it protects the rights of a person engaged in farming practices, but allowing the public to access private lands does not protect our rights.  We maintain dangerous irrigation pumps and canals along waterways, we run cows and bulls along the Oregon water ways,  farmers and ranchers engage in sensitive environmental projects and we construct fences to protect the environment and our property. These fences may restrict the public access to the beds and banks.  We pay thousands of dollars in fire protection fees and public activities allowed by this legislation put us at risk to fire.

There is no funding in the legislation for management and enforcement of the waterways.  In the remote areas that we farm, ranch and live, it will be impossible for local sheriff offices to catch those misusing private lands for us to be able to enforce the liability clause in the bill.

This legislation is too divisive, broad and damaging for a short 3 or 4 week session.

Contact Information
phone: 503-399-1701

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