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Legislative Report, Volume 30, Number 2 – February 2020

 

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In This Issue

Climate Change

Education

Governance

Natural Resources

Revenue and Tax Reform

Social Policy


 

Climate Change

By Claudia Keith, Julie Chapman, Shirley Weathers, Cathy Frischmann and Lynette Pierson

Carbon Cap & Invest (Julie Chapman)

The Cap, Trade and Invest legislation, SB 1530:  The Oregon Greenhouse Gas Initiative has, by February 6, acquired 20 amendments.  Some are substantive and some are corrections of small inaccuracies.  Two hearings were held before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on February 4, and February 6 – the day Timber Unity rallied in Salem to protest impacts they perceive as detrimental to rural Oregonians. Timber United leadership, County Commissioners, Public Health professionals, truck drivers, ranchers, and farmers provided impassioned speakers in opposition to and support of the bill and visited with their legislators.  There was one more Senate hearing on Saturday February 8, and testimony on the bill can be emailed to senr.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov until Tuesday, February 11. 

We continue to advocate for science-based emission reduction goals; representation on the governing boards for Indian tribes, the Environmental Justice Task Force and impacted communities; investments in transition to an economy powered by non-polluting energy; carbon sequestration programs; and adoption of an initiative that is flexible enough to respond to the climate emergency into the future. SB 1530 -2 -27 (summarized here) best represents our goals.

Take Action

If passing a bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is important to you, please come to Salem on Tuesday, February 11, for the Oregon Climate Emergency Day of Action. Organized by RENEW Oregon and Ecumenical Ministries, we will gather on the Capitol steps at noon for speakers. Carpools from much of the state are available through registration for the rally. 

Bonus:  Also on February 11, The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee is having a work session that afternoon, at 3 pm, on Senate Bill 1530. The meeting will take place on the main floor of the Capitol, Hearing Rm C. No oral testimony from the public will be taken that day, but it is always interesting to see the wheels of government turn!

You can request a visit with your legislator that afternoon to advocate for the bill. Often the legislator will be occupied, and you will see their staff and can chat or drop off a note or testimony supporting the bill during the visit. 

Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) (Shirley Weathers)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision is still expected as soon as February 13 – but both what they will do and when are just two of the many questions that surround permitting activities.

FERC may issue the two authorizations, but under the Natural Gas Act, they would have to be “conditioned,” i.e., they would have to specify that JCEP cannot begin “construction” (although it seems that they can begin clearing rights-of-way and initiate eminent domain proceedings) until all required permits have been received.

Receipt of those permits looks even more problematic then it did two weeks ago. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) denied this key permit in May 2019 and JCEP has still not reapplied. The Department of State Lands (DSL) was to have made its decision on the “Removal-Fill” permit on January 31, 2020, but in December, JCEP asked for an extension to March 31. After accommodating numerous requests by JCEP for extensions since 2017, Director Vicki Walker denied the request. JCEP abruptly withdrew its application without indicating future intent. Federal regulations for the Coastal Zone Management Act permit require the Department of Land Conservation (DLCD) to verify that an Applicant has satisfied requirements of various key state and local permits and obtained those permits. With numerous permits still under consideration, one denied, one withdrawn, and over half of the local land use permits under appeal, unless JCEP attempts to negotiate a “stay,” denial of the CZMA certification seems certain.

FERC denials would not be totally unexpected. Fossil fuel infrastructure is a major priority of the federal Administration, but JCEP may lose some points if FERC is exercising discretion. Not only could JCEP’s management of permitting requirements cast doubt on its capabilities or commitment, but increased attention has been called to the outsized benefits bound to accrue to this Canadian corporation, suggesting unfair competition with U.S. developers.

But it is difficult not to fear that the increasing trend of federal preemption of states’ rights may somehow come into play. The four local southern Oregon LWVs actively opposing JCEP conveyed this concern in a recent letter to Governor Brown. At a rally of JCEP opponents in Salem on  February 5, Senator Jeff Golden sounded the same alarm. Later that day, the Governor’s office emailed, “The governor would have serious concerns if the federal government were to assert preemptions of state permitting processes, and would consider all available options to safeguard the health and environment of Oregon.”

Our Children’s Trust (Cathy Frischmann)

Mary Christina Wood – a law professor at the University of Oregon whose ideas about the “public trust doctrine” have served as a kind of intellectual inspiration for the youth lawsuit – also sees encouraging signs in the majority and dissenting opinions. “You have three judges agreeing that this is an all-out emergency caused by the federal government,” she says. “Even without a trial, they felt it necessary to call out the gravity of the situation. So that’s a big deal.” Wood also notes that the panel squarely rejected the federal government’s argument that climate cases should be conducted under the Administrative Procedure Act. “This case broke out of that framing that has characterized environmental law for decades,” she says. Excerpt from Will Climate Justice Be Served? by Valerie Brown January 22, 2020; Sierra. Another recent article written by U of O Professor Mary C. Wood and Professor Michael Blumm, Lewis and Clark is here.

Oregon Economic Analysis, Climate Emergency, and Other CC (Claudia Keith)

“All business and policy decisions need to be examined through the lens of climate change”, researchers at McKinsey said. The League continues to be very concerned that the Oregon Economic Analysis Quarterly Report presented to House and Senate policy committees each quarter lacks a Climate reality fiduciary perspective. This past week the League communicated with the Governor’s office concerning this issue. The next quarterly OEA report is due February 12 and the League is hopeful this report will clearly highlight Climate Change economic and related budgetary risks.

Climate Emergency Declaration

Benton County is still deliberating on its proposed Climate Crisis (Emergency) resolution. The City of Milwaukie, Oregon passed a Climate Emergency Resolution in January. The City of Corvallis passed a Climate Crisis resolution in September.

A group of concerned League members from five or six state leagues will be considering a possible climate emergency resolution and related caucus for the LWVUS convention, June 2020 in Washington D.C. This proposal could affect LWV program education and advocacy priorities.

More Than 500 Oregon Health Leaders Declare Climate Change A Public Health Emergency – OPB

Youth from across Oregon declare a Climate Emergency – OPB

OSU Student Association passes Climate Emergency Resolution – OSU Barometer

1348 Jurisdictions have declared, 80 in the U.S. Affecting 804M people in 26 countries.

LWVOR voted on this resolution during May 2019 Convention – one of the first Leagues in the country.

PIELC (UofO Law School – The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference)

‘MOVE: Migration on a Changing Planet’, March 5-8. The League has tentative plans to table. Let us know if you are interested in volunteering.

(Find Ocean Acidification, Wildfire Prevention, 100 Year Water Vision, Fracking, Air Quality, Hazardous Waste/Fossil Fuel Transportation (Oil Trains) in the Natural Resource Section.)

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! It would be great to have a few more dedicated volunteers; If any of these policy areas interest you: Energy DOE, Transportation DOT, State Agency Climate Adaptation Planning, LCDC, DEQ, etc.) please contact Claudia Keith, ca.keith@comcast.net or Peggy Lynch, peggylynchor@gmail.com.


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Education Policy

By Sally Garlick, Barbara Sellers-Young, Stephanie Feeney and Chris Vogel

Education Committees and Bills

The first week of the session LWVOR Action provided testimony on SB 1566 – the section that extends eligibility for Oregon Promise to certain Oregon foster children who attain their highest level of education while in out-of-state placement – SupportHB 4132 – Student Health Surveys – Support and HB 4127-1 – School Dental Pilot – Support.

The League supports greatly increased educational opportunity through compensatory programs for disadvantaged groups. LWVOR has supported Oregon Promise and supports SB 1566 for the extension to youth in placement in out-of-state foster care when the person otherwise meets the requirements for Oregon Promise. Foster youth face many barriers, we commend inclusion of those in out-of-state foster care when completing their highest level of education within Oregon Promise eligibility guidelines.

The League supports policies, programs, and funding at all levels of the community and government that promote the well-being, encourage the full development, and ensure the safety of all children. These include early screening (physical, dental, mental, and behavioral) for all children, and ongoing health care for children (physical, mental, dental). LWVOR supports HB 4132 to have the Oregon Health Authority, in consultation with the Department of Education, administer student health surveys of adolescents that assess physical, mental, emotional and social factors, including school climate, that impact adolescents’ health, well-being, and educational achievement. We appreciate the plan for meaningfully engaging adolescents in creating and revising the surveys and interpreting the survey data; and consulting with school teachers and administrators, youth-related organizations and the federally recognized tribes in Oregon to improve the content of the surveys and the process of administering the surveys. Additionally, we support responsiveness to the cultural needs of communities participating in the surveys. HB 4127 directs school districts to provide age-appropriate instruction in oral health as part of the health education curriculum. LWVOR supports new health education content standards necessary to enable school district compliance in consultation with Dental health professionals who have experience working in public health and with children. The League supports a Health Coordinator Pilot Program to support school-based oral health programs through the deployment of community dental health coordinators where the pilot program focus is on the provision of school-based oral health care to historically underserved students who are of ethnic or racial minorities and students who are English language learners. The pilot program shall place up to four community dental health coordinators throughout the state.

Student Success Progress Report 

See presentations here for the roll-out, rulemaking, and progress on: SSA Early Learning Progress, SSA K-12 Progress, and  SSA Youth Development. Listen to updated progress reports. Read the Fiscal Report from LFO Student Success Implementation – Request and Analysis that contains many details. “During the 2019 legislative session, Oregon’s leaders made an historic commitment to our children, our educators, our schools and our state with the passage of the act. When fully implemented, the act is expected to invest $2 billion in Oregon education every two years; that’s a $1 billion investment in early learning and K-12 education each year. The Student Success Act provides $200 million to the State School Fund and the remaining is distributed into three accounts: the Student Investment Account, the Statewide Education Initiatives Account and the Early Learning Account. At its heart, the Act is a commitment to improving opportunities and outcomes for students who have been historically underserved in the education system and providing educational support from birth through high school so that every child can graduate with a plan for their future.”

“The Student Success Act or SSA provided a revenue stream to fund over twenty new or expanding programs across three major areas — early learning, K-12, and youth up to age 21 who have left high school before graduation. Three accounts were established and share of net available resources are:

  • Student Invest Account (at least 50%) — provides grants to school districts based on a formula to (1) meet student’s mental or behavioral health needs, and (2) to improve academic outcomes and reduce academic disparities.
  • Early Learning Account (at least 20%) — provides funding to a variety of preschool programs and for the Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education programs.
  • Statewide Education Initiatives Account (no more than 30%) — provides funding for a variety of specific grant programs and for agency staff and related resources to carry out the SSA. Funding for these programs was allocated in the SSA’s budget bill HB 5047. Generally, funding for the various grant programs become available for distribution in the second year of the 2019-21 biennium. The agency’s report includes; (1) a summary of each of the programs, (2) a progress report of where in the process of implementation the agency is in terms of community outreach, rule implementation and hiring of staff, and (3) any legislative changes that may be required during this 2020 legislative session or in future sessions.

Major findings or issues in the report include:

  • The most extensive discussion in the report is for the Student Investment Account because it represents the largest share of allocated funding ($472 million in 2019-21) as well as requiring the most work upfront to implement, including significant rules development, planning requirements, and staff hiring.
  • The agency has brought together an ongoing group of stakeholders, agency staff and others that meet regularly to review draft rules and provide input. Rulemaking is scheduled to be completed by June 2020.
  • There have been major outreach efforts through web-based resources, meetings with various stakeholders and communities, and partnering with Education Service Districts (ESDs) to assist school districts in community engagement and developing district plans.
  • The agency has filled or are in the process of hiring over 50% of the positions authorized for the programs under the SSA. Many positions are not funded until later in the Spring of 2020.

(See the Revenue section for more on the new tax that funds Student Success.)

Subject-matter credit requirements that students must satisfy in order to receive a high school diploma raised a point of contention in testimony. SB 1572 removes the essential skills test as a requirement for high school graduation, a non-controversial section of the bill. The Oregon Department of Education raised some concerns and questions about separate districts setting graduation requirements. Sponsoring Senator Hass disagreed with the concernsLegislative Counsel found little to be concerned with.  The measure eliminates the authority of the State Board of Education to enact additional requirements beyond the course credits established in statute, thereby eliminating all non-coursework requirements. The bill establishes statutory graduation requirements for a high school diploma, adding three credits of science; three credits of history, geography, economics, or civics; one credit of health; one credit of physical education; and three credits of either career and technical education, the arts, or a world language to existing statutory requirement that students take three credits of mathematics and four credits of English. Removes authority of State Board of Education (SBE) to enact additional graduation requirements. Listen (1:27 timeline) to the Oregon Education Association support for the bill, and Oregon Department of Education concerns (1:30 timeline). A work session is scheduled 2/11/2020. The League is watching this bill and additional amendments to clarify the statute.  We may offer testimony in the second chamber with more information.

Postsecondary Bills (Barbara Sellers Young)

LWVOR is following, but has not elected to write testimony on the following bills. We may elect to do so in the second chamber depending on additional information.

House Committee on Education bills include:

  • HB 4160 establishes a task force on student success for underrepresented students in higher education that will complete its review by December 31, 2021. This has been sent to the Joint Committee On Ways and Means.
  • HB 4055 requires the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to conduct a study and develop recommendations on how Oregon’s community colleges and public universities can best combat food and housing insecurity among their students. A work session is scheduled 2-10.
  • HB 4056 approves the Proposed and Final Order of Higher Education Coordinating Commission dated December 12, 2019, transferring the northernmost portion of Lake County from Central Oregon Community College Service District to Klamath Community College Service District.
  • HB 4128 requires each public post-secondary institution of education to develop and use an assessment system to determine student eligibility to enroll in lower-division collegiate coursework in English or mathematics.
  • HB 4146 provides that a part-time faculty member at a public institution of higher education who qualifies for health care benefits will pay 10 percent of insurance premiums for the employee coverage.

Senate Committee on Education higher education bills include:

  • SB 1572 establishes subject-matter credit requirements that students must satisfy in order to receive a high school diploma. (see more details in the section on SB 1572)
  • SB 1501 permits students participating in intercollegiate sports to earn compensation for certain services and for name, image or likeness and to retain professional representation or athlete agent.
  • SB 1544 requires Higher Education Coordinating Commission to adopt by rule additional minimum standards regarding source of tuition revenue for licensing of career schools and schools authorized to confer degrees.
  • SB 1539 designates Oregon Institute of Technology as Oregon’s Polytechnic University.

Preview for February 10-14, Education Hearings

The Early Learning Division will report on the feasibility of consolidating Early Learning Hubs and Child Care Resources and Referral Centers and present the Early Childhood Professional Learning Plan Report on 2/13/2020 and the Preschool Promise Program Co-Pay Report on 2/11/2020 in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee On Education

If you are willing and able to follow education issues, we need you! You determine your own level of volunteered time. Work on bills relating to early learning, schools K-12 or P-21, career technical training, community colleges, or universities. Will you work from home to read and analyze bills, watch committee hearings recorded on OLIS, or write summaries on bills for this Legislative Report? chrisvogelvolunteerlwvor@gmail.com


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Governance

By Norman Turrill, Governance Coordinator

Campaign Finance

Rep. Rayfield has proposed HB 4124 that establishes a Task Force on Political Campaign Contribution Limits. In a House Rules hearing 2/4/20, the League and others opposed the bill in its current form because it would likely delay or repeal all of Measure 47 adopted by the voters in 2006. The task force would also be composed largely of legislators and others with an interest in higher contribution limits.

HB 4123 requires statement of economic interest (SEI) to include certain information about sources of income for business in which a public official or candidate, or member of household of a public official or candidate, is an officer or holds a directorship, if source of income has legislative or administrative interest and 10 percent or more of total gross annual income of business comes from that source of income. The bill would also prohibit a candidate from expending campaign moneys for professional services rendered by the certain businesses required to be listed on candidate’s SEI. The League supported this bill in the 2/4/20 House Rules hearing.

Elections

HB 4026 reduces the number of electors who must be registered as members of a minor political party in order for the minor political party to retain political party status from one-half of one percent to one-third of one percent of total number of registered electors in state. This bill is a quick fix for a rather narrow problem caused by the Motor Voter law greatly increasing the number of non-affiliated voters (NAVs). However, it prompted a wide-ranging discussion about primary elections during the 2/4/20 House Rules hearing, because NAVs cannot vote in partisan primary elections.

The League worked on HB 4021, which adds imposter census to fraudulent voting materials, reported in 2018. The bill was pulled with free speech concerns from the Attorney General and LWVOR concerns for our Voters’ Guides and Student Mock Election ballots.

Public Records

SB 1506 establishes the Public Records Advocate as independent office within the executive department and authorizes the Public Records Advisory Council to appoint the advocate. This bill was proposed by the entire Public Records Advisory Council except one member. It comes after the controversy around and resignation of the first Public Records Advocate last year.

Redistricting

Redistricting reform has pointedly not been discussed in the legislative. However, the three initiative petitions filed by a diverse coalition of organizations, People Not Politicians led by the League, have now received excellent certified ballot titles from the Attorney General. We are now waiting to see if anyone will appeal these ballot titles to the Oregon Supreme Court, which is likely. These initiatives propose to amend the state constitution to institute a 12-member independent citizens commission for redistricting the state for both congressional and legislative districts. These proposals are aimed at the 2020 general election ballot.

Immigration (Claudia Keith)

The League provided testimony this past week for HB 4121. A bipartisan bill, if funded, would eliminate Federal detainees at NORCOR (Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility) and create needed space for a number of Oregon counties. Several news articles have been published, OPB, KATU and Corvallis Advocate.

We are following HB 4099 that would change the Oregon tuition residence status of students from three Pacific island countries. It is unclear if either of these bills will have a work session scheduled. See the Education LR for SB 1572.

Resilience (Rebecca Gladstone)

The League submitted testimony for one bill that spanned Natural Resources and Governance portfolios.

SB 1537 directs the Office of Emergency Management to develop and administer a program to ensure that a certain number of Oregon households are prepared to be self-sufficient for at least two weeks after an emergency. We recommend you take a look at ShakeAlert, an interactive phone app that reports and can receive reports for live seismic activity to enable advance warning.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you, please contact Norman Turrill at n.turrill@lwvor.org.


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Natural Resources

By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator 

Budgets (Peggy Lynch)

The Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) and the Dept. of Forestry are the main focus during 2020. While the 2020 session is on-going, state agencies are already planning for 2021. 

The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources held a discussion on the status of DOGAMI since it was only allotted a one-year budget in 2019. The recommendation is to continue the agency at this time with $3.1 million for their science division and an increase in fees for the mining division. A fee bill was just introduced in Ways and Means.

The Dept. of Forestry has a number of budget requests to fund their day-to-day operations and prepare for the 2020 fire season.  See the Forestry report for more information.

Legislative concepts are due to the Dept. of Administrative Services by mid-April and initial budget requests by May. Early June: DAS submits approved legislative concepts to Legislative Counsel (must be final by late June). Agency Request Budget submitted to DAS for audit. September 2020: Agency Request Budget document due to DAS and Governor by September 1, 2020. DEQ continues work with Legislative Counsel on draft bills/legislative concepts.

Air Quality (Susan Mates)

The intent of HB 4024 is to curb the use of certain products that use or contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs have high global warming potential – thousands of times larger than that of carbon dioxide – and continue to emit for the entirety of their useful life. The major emissions source of HFCs is in their use as refrigerants. Cost-effective, near drop-in alternatives, are commercially available now and ready to go. The rules in this bill are very similar to those already passed in Washington and California, which may help to ease this bill’s passage.  

HB 4049 is a second attempt to give renewable energy certificates to facilities that generate electricity from the direct combustion of municipal solid waste. The only facility that would benefit seems to be Covanta Marian, one of the first twenty facilities that the Cleaner Air Oregon program will assess to determine health risks from toxic air contaminant emissions. Burning garbage is not a renewable resource, and incentives meant to create new sources of renewable energy should not go to a plant that’s been operating for three decades. Officials from Covanta Marion, the Brooks facility that burns most of Marion County’s trash, have said that if the legislation fails again, they will have to double garbage rates or even shutter the plant. The League is adamantly opposed and we are part of a coalition to defeat this bill again this session. 

HB 4135 and  HB 4066, both address supporting electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure.

This week the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has begun processing Charge Ahead rebate applications. These are rebates available to low- and middle-income households, as part of the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. “Standard” rebates have been available for electric vehicles for over a year, but now the Charge Ahead rebates have the green light as well.  

Several parties have petitioned the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) to adopt regulations that would reduce emissions associated with Indirect Source Rules. Indirect sources of air pollution concern mobile sources such as cars, trucks, construction equipment or locomotives. The petition asks the EQC to adopt rules that regulate emissions from the construction and operation of Indirect Sources in cities and metropolitan service districts with a population of 50,000 or more. Members of the public may submit verbal or written comments during that meeting or submit comments by February 14. The League voiced support for this effort.

The DEQ has proposed that the Environmental Quality Commission approve rule amendments to increase Air Contaminant Discharge Permit (ACDP) fees. The revenue from those increases would be used to fund six new permit writing positions to help address a backlog of permit writing. There will be a public hearing on this issue on February 27, and a public comment period closes on March 2, 2020.

Coastal Issues (Peggy Joyce)  

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a public hearing Friday, February 7 on SB 1554, another attempt by Senator Arnie Roblan and other coastal representatives to fund the Oregon Ocean Science Trust (OOST) created in 2013 to promote peer-reviewed, research and monitoring that leads to increased knowledge and understanding of Oregon’s ocean and coastal resources; promote innovative community-oriented multi-institutional approaches to research and monitoring of ocean and coastal resources; to enhance the state’s capacity for scientific ocean and coastal research, and to establish a grant program to conduct research and monitoring of Oregon’s ocean and coastal resources. Since establishing OOST not one dime has dropped into its coffers from the state. With a looming Dungeness crab wipe out from rising levels of ocean acidification on the horizon this may be the year the legislature finally turns on the spigot and primes the OOST coffers in an effort to stay ahead of damaging acidification impacts on shellfish and other marine catch that economically support communities all up and down the Oregon coast. The League provided testimony in support. A work session on the bill is scheduled for February 11 where we expect it to be moved to Ways and Means.

Forestry (Josie Koehne)

The Oregon Department of Forestry has filed an appeal to Oregon Court of Appeals on the Linn county award of $1.1 billion dollars in damages to thirteen counties for “failing to maximize timber harvests on state forests” after revising its Forestry plan in 2010. This resulted in lower payments to those counties than they expected over the last two decades plan. Any new plan must achieve Greatest Permanent Value (GPV) mandates to balance the triple-bottom-line: financial viability, conservation, and recreational opportunities as required by Oregon’s Forest Practices Act.

The Board of Forestry has directed the State Forests Division to propose a new plan with the goal of improving financial and conservation outcomes. The Western Oregon State Forest Management Plan (FMP) has completed its final review and will be presented to the Board of Forestry as an information-only item in April 2020. The plan contains the goals, strategies, and measurable outcomes of the Department going forward, including guidelines for asset management, adaptive management, and implementation on our State Forests. The Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) assesses outcomes against quantifiable targets, and informs policy standards for implementing the plan, which in turn directs the Operations Plans. Policies are continuously modified based on quantifiable results. The implementation of these plans is contingent upon funding levels. ODF is also working on a Habitat Conservation Plan that will clarify where logging might occur and still meet the standards of the Endangered Species Act.

Because the Dept. of Forestry operations are mostly self-funded (except for firefighting) through timber sales on its state lands and a small harvest fee from private timber sales, with limited General Funds for operations, it must contend with the competing interests of conservation for forest health, water, wildfire and wildlife with its own financial interests, including timber harvest. The balance between all stakeholders and federal requirements is hard to find. There have been cutbacks in ODF staff from 979 FTEs in 2007-09 to 867 employees last biennium, while the cost of wildfire prevention and mitigation has increased astronomically, due in large part to climate change. Consequently, lack of staffing to process invoices to the federal government and other local firefighting entities has caused a financial crisis for ODF. An outside consultant MGO has been hired to improve and streamline bill processing and revenue shortfalls. ODF has a budget request for $31 million to help with operations and $70-90 million for the 2020 fire season.

This session, there are a number of bills designed to address some of the funding crises facing the ODF before the wildfire season begins. The most complex, extensive and expensive ($200 million) is a bill that the Governor backs is SB 1536. The League submitted testimony on February 5th. Please read comments here. Other bills include:

HB 4023 Requires State Board of Forestry to obtain concurrence of Environmental Quality Commission before adopting rules related to Commission water quality standards. Referred to Rules.

HB 4025 Imposes prohibitions, restrictions and requirements regarding clearcutting and other forest operations near forest waters and has been referred to the Rules Committee. Increases the distance for aerial spraying of herbicides and pesticides from dwellings from 60 to 500 feet. Closes a loophole in the notification system prior to spraying: “A pesticide operator, timber owner or landowner must file notice with the State Forester of a forest operation involving an aerial application of pesticides to forestland. Such notice must be filed not less than 14 and not more than 21 business days prior to the proposed date of the application.” Previously the notification was within one year! Reduces the share of revenue from the timber harvest privilege tax appropriated to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute Fund. Appropriates a share of revenue from timber harvest privilege tax to State Forestry Department for administration and enforcement regarding clearcutting and other forest operations near forest waters and for infrastructure or other projects to protect forest waters. Refers Act to people for their approval or rejection at next regular general election. LWVOR will be watching this bill closely as there are also initiative petitions which have been filed around these issues.

HB 4054 What was seen as a minor bill about giving notice to landowners about forest fires has become yet another of the Wildfire Council bills as they divide the Governor’s bill into smaller chunks. Look for new amendments on Tuesday around fire risk mapping, the role of the land use system and continuing the Council work on funding ODF work.

SB 1512 Allows ODF to transfer lands to other government agencies or departments that are not suitable for timber harvest or that provide high-value recreational or conservation benefits or to change management framework applied to those lands. Authorizes board to adopt rules. The League has supported this concept in the past.                         

SB 1514 Allocates $1 million for State Forestry Department in consultation with many other stakeholders to establish demonstration projects for reducing wildfire risk on forestlands and rangelands. OSU has demonstration projects with private-public partnerships ready to go for study. Introduced in the Senate committee on Wildfire Reduction and Recovery with referral to Ways and Means.

SB 1515 Requests $1 million to set up a foundation to support wildfire workforce training. Referral to Ways and Means.

SB 1516 Provides money for periodic review and modernization of State Forestry Department structure and programs to ensure effectiveness and efficiency, including but not limited to department programs relating to wildfire. Senator Baertschiger has introduced this bill and, as explained at the hearing on Tuesday, he is asking for a new fee on improved lots or parcels protected by ODF of $10.80 and $6 million General Fund to increase ODF staffing in proposed amendments. The League supports to the concept and the need for additional funding for this important agency.       

We will be watching these bills to see which ones have legs.

Elliott State Forest

For updates see the Department of State Lands Elliott State Forest website. We encourage anyone with an interest in the Elliott to join this email list. 

Hanford (Marylou Schnoes)

The League noticed that HB 4041 on emergency preparedness mentions small scale nuclear plants. This does not address what MOST of the nuclear risk-assessment and planning work that the ODOE does for some real, everyday risks. That is, the transport of nuclear materials across the state which happens all the time, both as small shipments of domestic radioactive material and likely large shipments of military transport (about which, of course, we know relatively little). We are watching. 

Land Use (Peggy Lynch)

Update on HB 2001 and 2003 from the 2019 session. League members are actively engaged in the various rulemaking efforts:  https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORDLCD/bulletins/27a8d17 

HB 4012 and HB 4050, both bills scheduled for public hearings in the House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use on February 10, are “related to land use” yet there are no amendments posted as of this report. However, it is important to know that amendments are expected. The League may need to weigh in. They are also scheduled for work sessions on February 12. 

HB 4084 establishes a fund ($750,000) to pay for systems development charges for rural affordable multifamily housing. The League will support. In the same hearing on February 10 in the House Committee on Human Services and Housing, we will adamantly oppose HB 4095, a bill that would allow urban growth boundaries throughout the state. They both have possible work sessions on February 12. 

SB 1555, a bill that would allow a parsonage on farmland, relates to a specific issue in Douglas County. League members in the area have great concerns. It will have a work session on Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Housing and Development. 

Resiliency (Peggy Lynch)

SB 1537, the Governor’s Resiliency bill, makes four key proposals for disaster readiness, which the League supports. We are also following HB 4119 that currently requires the use of earthquake/tsunami building codes for public buildings in tsunami zones. We are also watching HB 4041 related to the Office of Emergency Management. 

Transportation

The Oregon Transportation Commission released the draft 2021-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for formal public review. They will hold open houses around the state – including an online open house in mid-February – providing you the chance to make final comments on the plan. You can also review the draft project list (2021-2024 Draft STIP) and email a comment. The deadline for public comment is April 6, 2020. Final federal approval of the 2021-2024 list is expected by September 2020. 

The Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund, or STIF, is making investments in public transportation all across the state – filling gaps in and between communities, reaching low income households, improving options for students and much more according to the first Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund Report (PDF), delivered to the legislature on Friday. 

Highlights of the new program, part of Keep Oregon Moving (HB 2017), include these estimates for accomplishments by mid-2021:

  • 38 million new transit passenger rides.
  • 3 million hours of new bus service.
  • 300 miles of transit service gaps filled across the state.
  • About 500,000 new rides provided to students in grades 9-12.
  • 329 new buses; including 103 new low- or no-emission buses.

Overall, these investments are connecting people to jobs, services and communities – providing critical access to those who depend on transit. For example, the program has allocated $173.9 million to improve transit service for low-income households. An infographic highlights a few of these accomplishments (PDF).

STIF is funded through a payroll tax of one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) on wages paid to employees. It is dedicated to expanding public transportation throughout Oregon to access jobs and public services, improve mobility, relieve congestion, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. See the STIF website for more information about this program and for materials in alternate formats. 

Water (Peggy Lynch)

DEQ and ODF presented an update on the work effort underway by the two agencies working toward alignment of the respective agencies’ water quality programs at the Environmental Quality Commission meeting January 24th. 

The League is working with others to continue to move the Oregon Water Vision forward.  A broad group of legislators is in support and the League is asking for money for some programs that will help as we look toward 2021. 

HB 4070, adding $2 million to the on-site septic loan program, was moved to Ways and Means. The League provided testimony in support of a $1 million infusion as we also want funding for the harmful algal bloom legislation. HB 4077, 4071 and 4069 will all have additional public hearings and possible work sessions in House Water on February 11th. See amendments online. More may be coming to address concerns from the previous hearing. The League supports the concepts and provided testimony on each bill. 

Drinking Water (Amelia Nestler) 

There are two bills we are submitting testimony for. We support HB 4071, which would provide funding for DEQ for testing for hazardous algae blooms (HABs). HABs produce cyanotoxins, which can contaminate drinking water. The Salem water crisis in 2018 was due to low level detections of cyanotoxins. Monitoring for cyanotoxins is now required for potentially susceptible public drinking water; recent tests showed some detections in raw water but none in finished water. We support HB 4077, which improves testing requirements when property is sold that relies on well water for drinking water. In Oregon, there are no requirements on private wells for testing for microorganisms or toxic chemicals except during the sale of property. This provides invaluable information to the buyer, and allows the state to identify areas with groundwater contamination. It is important that the data already being collected is submitted to the Oregon Health Authority and Dept. of Environmental Quality. 

We’re also watching HB 4025, which creates a larger buffer around water limiting clearcutting and aerial spraying of pesticides. At the January Drinking Water Advisory Committee meeting, a member of a drinking water association brought up an issue with clearcutting and drinking water: The current buffers are insufficient at preventing turbidity in the water, which causes contamination of drinking water and negatively impacts anadromous fish (salmon).

Toxics/Pesticides (Amelia Nestler)  

We have submitted testimony in support of HB 4109, which phases out the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. After assessing the risks of chlorpyrifos use, EPA scientists recommended banning it. This bill is opposed by some but not all farmers and related organizations, and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN, a union of Oregon farmworkers) strongly supports HB 4109.

A main manufacturer of chlorpyrifos announced this week that they would cease production by the end of the year, though they continue to support EPA registration of the pesticide. The pesticide will still be available as a generic.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED YEAR ROUND! League members are engaged in rulemaking, workgroups and task forces as we prepare for the next session. We need observers, notetakers and or testifiers at natural resource agency Boards and Commissions. If you are interested in natural resource issues, please contact Natural Resources Coordinator Peggy Lynch @ peggylynchor@gmail.com.


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Revenue and Tax Reform

By Josie Koehne, Sally Garlick and Chris Vogel

HB 4010 on Opportunity Zones (Josie Koehne)

LWVOR wrote testimony in support of HB 4010 because it will prevent a potentially large loss of Oregon state revenue due to our default connection to the federal Opportunity Zone capital gains tax break.

The purported intent of the Opportunity Zone program is to spur private capital investment into under-invested, economically distressed communities. It offers three tiers of capital tax breaks over the years that only the wealthy can take advantage of, which greatly reduces or eliminates their capital gains taxes if they invest in Opportunity Funds used for real estate investments in these zones. In practice, however, the projects underway or planned under this program are usually high-return investments in prime real estate areas, such as in downtown Portland and Salem. This is because the federal program has very broad parameters defining low-income areas based on large census tract data that are easy to exploit to investor advantage. Most people do not have the assets or income to qualify for these breaks. In addition, local residents and small businesses can be displaced as a result of these expensive real estate projects and these Oregonians will not necessarily receive benefits of any kind. This clearly is a benefit to the wealthy at the expense of the very people the incentive was supposed to benefit. In addition, Oregon and local communities have no say whatsoever in the nature or placement of these investment projects. As Business Oregon states: “Aside from the opportunity zone nomination process, the state government does not have an ongoing, official role under federal law.”

Although Oregon can do nothing about the federal Opportunity Zone tax break, Oregon can take the steps that HB 4010 offers to protect Oregon Revenue by disconnecting Oregon taxes from this federal tax break and to study if there are ways to direct these investments to the economically-distressed communities the incentive was meant to help.

Student Success Act (Chris Vogel)

Student Success Act funding has fine-tuning changes in HB 4009. First payments of the modified corporate activities tax are due in April 2020. The Corporate Activity Tax was enacted by the 2019 Legislature. It’s a 0.57% tax on commercial activity in Oregon. The intent of this bill is to make clarifications and technical modifications where necessary prior to the initial estimated payment being made in April of 2020. HB 4009 makes a series of technical clarifications to the Corporate Activity Tax. Includes non-Oregon auto dealers in the exclusion for registration fees or taxes collected by auto dealers. The bill clarifies the timing of when returns and allowances are claimed; clarifies the apportionment calculation for the subtraction; clarifies registration for the tax is required only once per business and modifies the language regarding penalty provisions for quarterly estimated payments. Listen to an explanation from the Legislative Revenue Office and testimony requests from Oregon Dairy Farmers, Oregon Farm Bureau, Portland Business Alliance, and Oregon Business and Industry. Throughout March the Department of Revenue (DOR) will hold statewide meetings to clarify tax filing requirements. The Council on State Taxation is also working with DOR to clarify tax filings from out of state businesses selling goods and services in Oregon. Further amendments will be discussed on 2/11/2020.

Preview for February 10-14 Revenue Hearings

The quarterly Revenue Forecast will be presented by state economists from the Office of Economic Analysis on Wednesday, 2/12/2020. On Thursday SB 1560 considers an additional exemption against Oregon estate tax.

If you are willing and able to follow tax issues, we need you! You determine your own level of volunteered time. Will you work from home to read and analyze bills, watch committee hearings recorded on OLIS, or write summaries on bills for this Legislative Report? chrisvogelvolunteerlwvor@gmail.com


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Social Policy 

By Karen Nibler, Social Policy Coordinator

The House Behavioral Health Committee during this short session discussed HB 4031 an analysis of workforce needs. There is a lack of workers in rural areas and a lack of trained substance use specialists. Licensed mental health therapists are qualified to diagnose, assess and treat patients. Concerns were protection of the public from alternative practitioners without training.

HB 4149 presents the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission Strategic Plan, which may include funding to the County Community Mental Health Clinics. HB 4082 proposed a Behavioral Health Road Map due to be developed in 2020 with the inclusion of the consumer voice. 

Ways and Means Human Services heard reports from the Oregon Health Authority on an application for $5 million grant for 5 years for Alcohol and Drug Prevention. The Oregon State Hospital report gave caseload numbers of 740 for civil commitments, 380 for Guilty Except for Insanity and 70 to 75 for Aid and Assist Evaluations. An increase in court-ordered Aid and Assist evaluations led to proposed rules by the Chief Justice of the Judicial Department in SB 1575. See our letter

House Human Service Committee heard housing bills and child welfare bills in the first week. HB 4039 asked for funds for services to unaccompanied and homeless youth. A letter was submitted promoting shelter care programs. An A-2 amendment was ready to be passed on Wednesday which appropriated funds for an assessment to determine the number of beds needed, the types of housing available and duration of stay required. The amendment included grants to existing programs, grants for an increase in shelter homes, outreach, services, and other housing options. Host homes were a new option for youth to live in private homes. The bill will be sent to Ways and Means Human Services for funding through the Department of Human Services. 

Senate Human Services heard SB 1566, which made a few changes in child welfare rules and sought to keep Oregon children in Oregon placements. The League submitted letters on eligibility for Oregon Promise program and comments on shelter programs and the need for residential programs in state. 

House Human Services heard additional requests for funding for children’s advocacy centers in HB 4112, transition services for foster children in 4120, Court Appointed Special Advocates in 4141, and domestic violence specialists 4133 in district offices for Self Sufficiency and Human Services. All will be referred to the Human Services Ways and Means Committee. Some of these requests for programs within the Department of Human Services may be included in the agency Budget Bill at the end of the Session.

Public Safety Bills

Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 1545 on Oregon State Police request for additional troopers due to low coverage on state highways and increased state population. This is a safety issue in many rural parts of the state where there is a lack of local law enforcement and OSP presence. This request will be decided by Public Safety Ways and Means.

SB 1573 and SB 1575 are scheduled for hearings on 2-10. SB 1573 sets new provisions for Juvenile record expunctions. Oregon Youth Authority and Juvenile Department Directors have worked on the details for expunction of records in the electronic Juvenile Justice Information System for those who had Juvenile Department supervision but did not have a court record and were not under court supervision. In the next session, the agency staff will work on further expunctions for juveniles with court and Oregon Youth Authority records. The League supports this effort

SB 1575 sets procedures for commitments to the Oregon State Hospital for evaluations for fitness to proceed in court trials and procedures for discharge. The League finds these procedures necessary for the management of the Oregon State Hospital population and submitted a letter.  

The House Judiciary Committee heard HB 4040, HB 4121 and HB 4131 on 2-6. HB 4040 directs the Oregon Judicial Department to establish a Family Treatment Court Program in Child Welfare cases with alleged parental substance use disorders. Prior court programs have shown improvements in the parents’ functioning and kept families intact. The League submitted a letter in favor. 

HB 4121 on the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility in Wasco County addressed the contract with the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house immigrants for that agency.  Objections to the immigration enforcement laws led to discussions for funding of the NORCOR facility with state funds. Currently, the facility is supported by county funds and rental of bed space by other local public safety agencies. The League used its Immigration position to support this bill. 

HB 4131 provides funding for the Family Preservation Project at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. The Criminal Justice Commission has awarded a contract for the present program, which can continue with the passage of this bill.

HB 4148 codifies the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into Oregon law. Oregon laws did not have all the protections granted under the federal law. This inclusion will help Oregon courts and residents.  See our letter

SB 1568 is related to the last bill in that it permits vulnerable youth guardianships for adults 18-21. This will allow a youth who is not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States to have guidance and protection within the state. 

Healthcare (Bill Walsh)

The House Health Care Committee has two dozen potential bills on its agenda and Chair Representative Salinas stated that they will do as much work as possible in this short session. The bills range from eligibility issues, insurance requirements and public health notices.

HB 4078 and companion SB 1577 would prohibit remote sales of inhalant delivery systems. The bills have numerous sponsors and many interests have testified; industry owners and associations, health professionals, teens, and nonprofit community organizations. Fines may be levied. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum testified in support of both bills.

HJR 202 proposes to add an amendment to the Oregon Constitution that ensures that every resident has access to health care. If passed, it would be on the ballot in 2020. Senate President Courtney added a section to this year’s bill that would hold harmless funding for public schools and services. All testimony has been supportive. The League has not taken a position.

A few bills concern insurance payments: HB 4110 increases the time of grace periods for payments of health insurance premiums, HB 4114 requires insurance coverage for renal dialysis, and HB 4073 proposes to cap copayments for out of pocket insulin copays, which has generated fierce for-profit industry opposition.

HB 4012 addresses prior authorization practices of Community Care Organizations and insurance plans to release information to the Oregon Health Authority. HB 4029 does not require hospital patients to apply for Medicaid, i.e. if they are undocumented residents.  Instead hospital administrators recommend they apply for financial assistance programs.

Workforce issues in HB 4089 seeks funding for rural nursing staffing, HB 4032 seeks funding for hospital nurse staffing, and HB 4115 strengthens regulation for health care interpreters for non-English-speakers to be qualified and certified. The League has no position on workforce issues.

The Senate Health Care Committee heard SB 1526 on nursing home administrator licensing which received a Do Pass vote from the Committee.

SB 1535 requires the Department of Consumer and Business Services to seek information about rebates and markups in the pharmaceutical supply chain and report to Interim committees and the Task Force on the Pricing of Prescription Drugs. 

Two bills increased dental hygienists scope of practice: SB 1549 deals with dental hygienist licensure. SB 1550 permits dental hygienists to do restoration work.

SB 1551 requires Community Care Organizations to provide additional financial information to the Oregon Health Authority for more transparency. This is similar to HB 4012 above which allows OHA oversight of CCOs management of state funds.       

Gun Safety (Marge Easley)

The League testified in support of HB 4005, relating to the safe storage of firearms, at a House Judiciary hearing on February 7. Amid tightened security, two overflow hearing rooms were set aside for the large crowd of passionate supporters and opponents. Backed by a large coalition headed by the State of Safety, the bill institutes a civil penalty for the negligent storage or transfer of a firearm, unless the firearm is under the immediate control of the gun owner. A further penalty was set for failure to report the loss or theft of a firearm. The stated intent of the bill is to provide an incentive to change behavior, not to criminalize negligent behavior. Civil penalties range from minor fines for simple negligence, similar to tickets issued for seat belt infractions, to strict civil liability when negligence results in injury or death. Chief sponsors Representatives Prusak, Sollman, and Keny-Guyer received many procedural questions from committee members, so an informational hearing is scheduled for February 10 to clarify the bill’s provisions.  

On February 12, a hearing is scheduled in Senate Judiciary for SB 1538, which would authorize local governmental entities to adopt ordinances or policies to limit firearm possession in public buildings. Senator Ginny Burdick is the chief sponsor of the bill, and the League will be testifying in support. A work session is scheduled for the following day. This bill is an important change to state law, which currently mandates that the Oregon Legislature has the sole power to enact regulations relating to firearms.

Housing (Nancy Donovan and Debbie Aiona)

Last Week at the Legislature

On Monday, the Human Services and Housing Committee heard two proposals to address youth homelessness; HB 4120 would invest in the Independent Living Program for youth aging out of the foster care system, and HB 4039 would provide support to host homes and existing Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs.

On Tuesday, the Senate Housing and Development Committee heard SB 1532, the Healthy Homes Pilot, which would invest in health and safety repairs for homeowners with low incomes; and SB 1534, which will transfer responsibility for enforcing federal fair housing enforcement to Oregon Labor and Industries. The League prepared a letter in support of SB 1534 to be sent to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means before it holds its hearing on this proposal.

On Wednesday, the House Human Services and Housing Committee heard HB 4002 to study the cost of a long-term rent assistance program in Oregon. The Department of Housing and Community Services would conduct the study on the costs and benefits of providing long-term rental assistance to those who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless due to severe rent burden. OHCS must report to the Interim Committee of the Legislative Assembly on its progress no later than October 1, 2020. A state-funded and administered program would build on the federal Section 8 voucher program, which does not come close to meeting the needs of eligible low-income renters in Oregon. The League submitted a letter in support of the study. 

In addition, the Committee held a public hearing on HB 4001, the Speaker’s proposal to declare an emergency related to homelessness. The bill includes temporary flexibility in zoning regulations to facilitate the siting of homeless shelters, money to support shelter development and operations, and additional funds for affordable housing preservation and development.   

The Committee heard HB 4003, a proposal from the Joint Task Force to address racial disparities in homeownership.

On Thursday, the House Water Committee unanimously approved HB 4070, which would fund a septic tank loan program for low-income homeowners. This bill now heads to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

On Friday, the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee heard testimony related to the Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative, a matched savings program to help people with low incomes build assets through homeownership, education, and entrepreneurship. Because of changes in federal tax law and IRS code, the initiative is facing significant funding cuts. The IDA Initiative is requesting that the tax credit that funds the initiative sunset in 2020, and the amount of the foregone revenue would be converted to a General Fund appropriation.  

HB 2001 Rulemaking

The Department of Land Conservation and Development is leading the process to shape rulemaking for the last session’s landmark bill HB 2001, which will have long-term impacts on how cities foster the production of housing to meet their communities’ needs. Natural Resources Portfolio Coordinator Peggy Lynch represents the League on the rulemaking committee with Debbie Aiona as alternate and Nancy Donovan as second alternate. Nancy Donovan participated in a meeting on January 30 as a member of the technical advisory committee on housing production strategies.

Next Up at the Legislature

Because this is a short session we can expect bills to move quickly through the process next week.

On Monday, the House Committee on Human Services plans the following:

  • Another public hearing on HB 4001, Speaker Kotek’s proposal to address homelessness.
  • A public hearing on HB 4084, Representative Lewis’s proposal to create a fund to offset system development charges in rural communities for affordable housing projects,
  • There may be a committee vote on the long-term rent assistance program study, HB 4002.

On Tuesday, the House Revenue Committee will hold a hearing on the Governor’s proposed HJR 203. This proposal would ask voters to overturn the prohibition on real estate transfer taxes and allow the Legislature to impose them to pay for affordable housing.

On Thursday, the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee will hold a work session on SB 1531. It includes a property tax exemption fix for affordable housing, a homeownership property tax exemption technical change, and changes to the Oregon Individual Development Account Initiative (IDA) Tax Credit.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! If any of these areas interest you, please contact Karen Nibler, niblerk@comcast.net


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