Legislative Report, Volume 30, Number 5 – March 2020

 

 

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In This Issue

Climate Emergency

Education

Governance

Natural Resources

Revenue and Tax Reform

Social Policy


Climate Emergency

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

Carbon Cap & Invest (Julie Chapman)

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon…the Walk Out.

On February 24, the Joint Ways and Means (J W&Ms) Committee heard proposals for multiple amendments to SB 1530. A-62 Amendment to fund initial start-up expenses was adopted. The bill passed out of committee on Monday morning; Senate President Courtney sat in to break the tie. By 11 am when the full Senate was called to order, all but one Republican Senator had vacated the building to deny a quorum for a vote on the bill.

Republican Representatives joined the exodus the following day.

Quorum requirements differ for committees and HB 4167 passed out of the Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources on February 27. Other bills have been readied for the return of a quorum in the full House and Senate.

Contact your Senator and Representative to let them know that the Oregon Greenhouse Gas Initiative is important to you. Short messages are fine. Thank them for continuing to support this legislation, or let them know that you would like them to return to work at the Capitol. Important legislation awaits quorum. This isn’t about a single issue. Republicans have walked out four times now. Last year they walked out against increased school funding and promised to not do it again. Then, they walked out on climate action. Earlier this session, they walked out of the House. These walkouts are wasting taxpayer money. All legislators should stay and do the jobs voters elected them to do. If you don’t like a bill, cast your vote against it. It’s that simple.

LWVOR is in coalition with Renew Oregon, working to pass climate legislation. Come to the Capitol this week to support the Oregon Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Radioactive Fracking Waste (Shirley Weathers)

News that radioactive waste from North Dakota fracking fields had been illegally dumped in an Oregon landfill over a three-year period led to an effort to strengthen Oregon’s laws against this kind of activity.

On 2/21/2020, the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources adopted an amendment designed for that purpose to HB 4014 A, a land use bill already passed by the House, and sent the resultant HB 4041 B to the Senate Floor with a Do Pass. It is on the Senate Desk awaiting Second Reading. The House Committee on Energy and Environment held an informational session on 2/27 to learn more about the Arlington situation. For those with interest in this issue, the video is well worth watching. Committee members asked excellent questions and showed clear concern and intent to follow several aspects of the matter to ensure such activity doesn’t happen again. Gilliam County is holding two public town hall meetings next Wednesday, March 4 regarding the Notice of Violation. More information about those meetings: https://energyinfo.oregon.gov/blog/2020/2/26/gilliam-county-court-to-hold-two-town-halls-regarding-radioactive-materials-at-arlington-landfill

Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) (Shirley Weathers)

FERC still has not acted on its two Natural Gas Act authorizations sought by JCEP at this writing (2/28). Possible issues they are considering during this delay:

  1. The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development’s (DLCD) 2/19/20 “Objection” to the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) Consistency Certification sought by JCEP apparently reached at least one of the Commissioners just before or even during FERC’s 2/20 meeting. Commissioner McNamee voted nay, saying he needed time to review the state’s decision. That certification is one of the few state authorizations that cannot be legally overridden by the federal government UNLESS the Secretary of Commerce finds that the project meets certain criteria. (The 4LLs working together to oppose the project have concluded after a study that it cannot meet those criteria—see below).
  2. Just days after DLCD’s Objection, JCEP wrote to FERC claiming that Objection was irrelevant to the two federal authorizations before them and therefore should not stop them from ruling right away. They noted that the Secretary of Commerce may override Oregon’s decision.
  3.  Also around their 2/20 meeting, FERC received notice from a House Oversight Committee subcommittee that they were launching an in-depth investigation into FERC’s practice of issuing section 7 Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity BEFORE key state agency permits have been obtained, meaning they are potentially violating private landowners’ due process rights. Applicants like JCEP have routinely begun eminent domain proceedings and engaged in some “pre-construction” activities like tree-cutting under a “conditional approval” of a section 7 permit. The State of Oregon has repeatedly asked FERC not to issue conditional approval, although the impetus behind the subcommittee’s action is not known at this time.
  4. The Niskanen Center (a law firm representing several affected landowners) has just written to FERC for the record, disputing some JCEP’s claims about why FERC should just move forward and approve. The Commission may be considering that, as well.

The 4LLs sent a letter to FERC, outlining their reasons for concluding that the JCEP does not meet statutory and regulatory criteria required to allow the Secretary of Commerce to override DLCD’s objection to the CZMA consistency certification. The date FERC will close the record to new information is unknown, but it could be soon.

Waste Combustion as Renewable Energy (Claudia Keith)

The League is following HB 4049, a bill that could provide energy credits for Covanta, a waste treatment plant in Brooks. The League is a member of Oregon Conservation Network (OCN), an Environmental Lobby group categorizing this bill as a major threat. OPB/NPR ‘think out loud’ included this ‘burning trash’ topic. This bill recently moved to House Rules without recommendation.

Our Children’s Trust (Claudia Keith)

LWVUS jointly with LWVOR is submitting a new amicus brief to support Our Children’s Trust (OCT) planned appeal to the full 9th Circuit Court. OCT staff will participate at a UCLA “Human Rights and the Climate Crisis” conference February 28 and most likely at UO PIELC March 5-8. Follow OCT tweets: @youthvgov.

Climate Emergency Declaration

Milwaukie is the only Oregon city with a Climate Emergency declaration. The city of Portland is still working on their Climate Emergency Declaration. Four other Oregon jurisdictions have declared a climate crisis.

Globally, 1421 Jurisdictions have declared, 87 in the U.S. Affecting 820M people in 26 countries.

LWVOR voted on this resolution during the May 2019 Convention, the first state League in the country to do so.

PIELC (Public Interest Environmental Law Conference – UO Law School)

A conference, ‘MOVE: Migration on a Changing Planet’ will be held on March 5-8 (Update: this conference has been cancelled due to COVID-19). The League will be tabling at this conference. David Bookbinder (chief counsel for the libertarian think tank in Washington D.C. called Niskanen Center) will be one of the main keynotes; ‘Climate in Law’ and panelist, talks climate legislation, climate change and Jordan Cove

(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 Barbara Sellers-Young and Chris Vogel

Education Bills 

Only one bill assigned to House Education has moved through both House and Senate floor votes before a quorum was lost due to Republican absences. HB 4140 relating to reporting concussions was signed by the Governor on 2-27. This is one of three bills passing both chambers before the walkout.

None of the bills assigned to Senate Education have moved to passage.

This session is in sharp contrast to the 2019 session Student Success Act, with monumental support for students and school districts. Compared to 2019, the 2020 session mostly considered technical fixes and building a case for attention in 2021 for Higher Education.

Regarding assigned measures, you may hold your mouse cursor over links above to see bill topics. “Current location” shows bill status before both the Senate and House lost quorums on Monday and Tuesday last week. The fate of these bills will depend on when/if elected legislators return for floor votes. The Education Subcommittee of W&Ms considered only three assigned bills this year. Backlogged assigned measures in the Joint W&Ms, House Rules and Senate Rules as well as the Joint W&Ms Subcommittee on Capital Construction can best be described as awaiting movement! In House Rules, SB 1520 expands the definition of the term “eligible student” for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program.

Barbara Sellers-Young (LWVOR ACTION higher education) attended the Senate and House and Education Committees last week. The Senate Education committee was an informational session on HB 4160 that would set up a task force to examine the issue of underrepresented groups enrollment in higher education. One interesting aspect of the bill designates a broad category of underrepresented groups including race, ethnicity, income, disability, urban/rural areas, and LGBTQ. The Higher Education Coordinating Committee (HECC) submitted an Issue Brief: Racial/Ethnic Equity in Postsecondary Education & Training. SB 1539 moved to House Rules, designating the Oregon Institute of Technology as Oregon’s Polytechnic University. SB 1501 awaits a second House floor hearing, would permit students participating in intercollegiate sports to earn compensation for coaching and for use of name, image or likeness and to retain professional representation or athlete agent.

We wait to see if minority party members will show up for a few days as the session comes to a close. If so, some noncontroversial bills may move quickly. Otherwise in Education as many other areas followed by the League, this session is one of frustration.

To get more details on testimony, bills, meeting materials on education issues look here: House Committee On Education, Senate Committee On Education, and 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

Task Force proposed on Political Campaign Contribution Limits

HB 4124 A as amended would establish a Task Force on Political Campaign Contribution Limits, passed out of full W&Ms. The task force would be composed largely of legislators and others with an interest in higher contribution limits. The bill would also delay implementation of Measure 47 adopted by voters in 2006 if the Oregon Supreme Court enables it during a pending court case. This would allow time for legislators to replace it during the 2021 session, based on the work of this Task Force.

Additions proposed to SEIs and campaign spending limits

HB 4123 A as amended would require statements of economic interest (SEI) to include certain information about sources of income for businesses in which a public official or candidate, or household member of a public official or candidate, is an officer or holds a directorship if the source of income has legislative or administrative interest and 10 percent or more of the 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 certain businesses required to be listed on a candidate’s SEI. The League supported this bill in its 2/4/20 hearing. The House passed it on 2/24.

Quick fix for minor political parties

HB 4026 A would reduce the number of electors who must be registered as members in order for a minor political party to retain political party status from one-half of one percent to one-quarter of one percent of the total number of registered electors in the 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). The House passed this bill 43-15, it passed Senate Rules unanimously and is now awaiting Senate floor action. The League has no position on this bill.

Public Records

Bill would make the Public Records Advocate independent

SB 1506 would establish the Public Records Advocate as an independent office within the executive department. It authorizes Public Records Advisory Council to appoint the advocate. It authorizes the council to support or oppose legislation relating to public records law and to request legislators to introduce legislation relating to public records law. This bill comes after controversy and the resignation of the first Public Records Advocate last year. The League supports this bill. It was passed by the Senate and House Rules unanimously and it now awaits House floor action.

Redistricting

Redistricting initiatives certified ballot titles appealed to Oregon Supreme Court

Redistricting reform has pointedly not been discussed in the legislature. However, the three initiative petitions filed by a diverse coalition of organizations, People Not Politicians led by the League, have now received certified ballot titles from the Attorney General. However, not unexpectedly, opponents have appealed these ballot titles to the Oregon Supreme Court and have asked the court for more time for its response to the Attorney General’s brief. This is a way to delay petitioning because the briefs do not raise any new issues with the ballot titles. It is unknown how long the court will take to consider these appeals. These initiatives propose to amend the state constitution to institute a 12-member independent citizens commission to redistrict 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 on February 5 for HB 4121. This bill did not move from its policy committee, so it died in committee. It’s unclear if the end-of-session W&Ms budget-balancing bill will address this topic. 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. See several news articles: OPB, KATU and Corvallis Advocate.

We are following HB 4099 A, which passed out of committee with a Do Pass and an amendment and is still in W&Ms. It would change the Oregon tuition residency status of students from three Pacific island countries.

SB 1568 A modifies protective proceedings to permit vulnerable youth guardianships for youth eligible for special immigrant status and who are unable to be reunified with a parent for various reasons. The bill is still active; House Judiciary voted 2/24 with a Do Pass. See the Social Policy LR.

The League is considering signing a letter supporting the IMIRJ (Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice) and the ACLU about the Uniform Trial Court Rule (UTCR) 3.190. The UTCR committee meets in April and the testimony deadline is March 20. This advocacy relates to Oregon’s trial court rule prohibiting warrantless ICE arrests in and around Oregon courthouses. Many public comments have already been submitted.

LWVOR is submitting a proposal for an Immigration/Refugee/Human Rights caucus in June at the LWVUS 2020 Convention in Washington D.C.

Resilience (Rebecca Gladstone)

This legislative session’s work should be almost done, but the previous week’s anticipated legislator walkouts stalled progress last week. House Rules discussed legislator duties in light of absences (see 15-minute video). LWVOR testified to 8 of the 24 bills in the Feb. 28 Joint W&Ms work session, across our portfolios, and we hope they may yet be fully addressed during this session. Our advocates have been stymied by walk-outs, used by both sides when they were the minority party.

We continue to monitor resilience bills, amid actual resilience preparation this week. The Governor’s Oregon Coronavirus Response Team (press releases) repeats the 2 Weeks Ready general seismic resilience advice we support. These include prevention advice and activate these resilience steps:

  • Readiness plans in case agency operations are affected
  • State, county, tribal, and community coordination to monitor and address needs
  • Weekly public updates and public advice: OHA’s COVID-19 website, also CDC on COVID-19.
  • Oregon hospitals and providers scaling up preparations, training, and coordination

These bills are pending:

HB 4144 A: Awaiting hearing in W&Ms. This urban search and rescue bill was amended and passed unanimously from House Vets and Emergency Preparedness to W&M. It catalogs equipment provided for in SPIRE Grants, awarding funding to local governments to purchase and distribute gear including vehicles, generators, water carriers and other property, to decrease the risk of loss of life and property damage in emergencies. Oregon House Bill 2687, effective in August 2917 funds the program.

HCR 204: Awaiting Senate Floor action. We supported this centennial commemorative bill with our testimony. It passed unanimously from the House and through Senate Rules.

HB 4126, regarding wearing face masks during “riots”, has not gotten a work session. We anticipate having positions to respond after processing our Privacy and Cybersecurity study. We urge caution, observing last fall’s Hong Kong face mask bans removed for public health concerns.

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)

Except for the omnibus budget bill and bonding bills, bills that cost money that were intended to pass this session have been approved by the Full Ways and Means Committee. Now we await a quorum. League members will begin meeting with others in preparation for the 2021-23 biennium.

Air Quality (Susan Mates)

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) fined an aluminum recycler $1.3 million for air quality violations. Hydro Extrusion USA LLC, located in The Dalles, has been among the first 20 facilities to be reviewed under the Cleaner Air Oregon rules. The fine is the largest air quality penalty ever issued by the DEQ.

The DEQ is asking for a modest fee increase for their Vehicle Inspection Program (VIP) in SB 5702. The VIP is an important tool in keeping our state’s air pollution in check, as poorly maintained cars emit 3 to 4 times the emissions of a properly functioning car. The VIP program has been running in the red since 2013, so this bill will provide funds to keep the program afloat. The League provided testimony in support. Passed out of Ways and Means with a Do Pass recommendation, although some were concerned that the program could be run more cheaply with a private vendor. DEQ argues that their relationship with the Dept. of Motor Vehicles creates a time and cost savings for consumers.

HB 4024 A requires the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) to work toward restricting the use of certain products that use or contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and requires the Dept. of Consumer and Business Services to align building codes with EQC rules. 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. The League provided testimony in support. The bill was amended to narrow the bill and provide funding for implementation and passed out of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

Approximately 40% of Oregon’s greenhouse gases come from the transportation sector. Dramatically increasing the use of electric vehicles (EVs) is one of the most significant steps we can take to reduce those emissions. Several bills are being considered do just that.

Among other goals, HB 4068 A would modify state building codes to require new construction of certain types of buildings to include initial electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. HB 4066 A would allow electric companies to recover the costs of investing in infrastructure for EV charging and would require electric companies to put wildfire protection plans in place. 40% of catastrophic fires in California were caused by breakdowns in electrical transmission systems. Both bills have passed the House and the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. They are now headed to the Senate floor awaiting a quorum.

HB 4151 is meant to encourage people in the Metro-area to increase their use of electric vehicles. It would increase the privilege tax that dealers charge on the sale of motor vehicles and use that money to provide additional rebates to low-income purchasers. Like HB 4066 A, it also requires that electric companies spend at least 0.5% of the rates collected from certain customers on transportation electrification. Due to the new tax proposal, House Revenue held a public hearing.

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 Marion, one of the first twenty facilities 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 has been operating for three decades. The League is adamantly opposed and we are part of a coalition to defeat this bill again this session. Covanta’s last quarter earnings were 150% above shareholder expectations, and Covanta is a global corporation, but the pollution problem is a local one. Passed without recommendation and sent to the Committee on Rules where it does not have current hearings.

The League provided testimony to the rulemaking committee of DEQ in support of their Air Contaminant Discharge Permit Fee Increase. These fees will provide additional staff to address permit backlogs and support clean air in Oregon.

Forestry (Josie Koehne)  

Due to opposition to the Cap and Invest bill, SB 1530 A, the House and Senate Republican walk-out earlier this week has stalled all legislation due to a lack of quorum. Nonetheless, HB 4168 A had a work session Thursday in the Joint W&Ms Subcommittee on Natural Resources as part of the compromise deal between the forest industry (including wood products) and environmental and conservation groups as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). It passed with the -A6 amendment that provides funding from the General Fund to implement the Governor’s mediation sessions. This is a historic deal, if it can pass this session, that would prevent costly ballot initiatives that neither side wants to see come to pass. Included in the bill are important restrictions to be added to modify the Oregon Forest Practices Act. It increases the herbicide aerial spraying buffer zone from 60 to 300 feet near most streams to protect aquatic and riparian species. It also calls for more timely notification to nearby communities using ODF’s FERNS system with strong penalties for non-compliance.

It recommends substantive and procedural changes to forestry laws to meet federal regulatory requirements. We understand that Timber Unity does not support this compromise bill. Representative Holvey (District 8/Eugene) expressed strong support and hopes that the MOU can be extended should the bill fail to pass this session. The bill passed Joint Committee on Ways & Means Committee on Friday and now awaits a vote in both chambers. The League is supportive of this critical bill to protect public health and to support our timber industry.

Other bills to address funding for Oregon Department of Forestry and for wildfire mitigation and prevention efforts were passed in Ways & Means. The most complex and extensive bill is SB 1536 A, Governor Brown’s big, comprehensive wildfire bill. League comments can be found here. This bill was separated into other individual bills but were mostly combined into the -A 8 amendments to SB 1536 in Full Ways and Means Friday. The bill requires public utility companies to submit plans for wildfire prevention and mitigation to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and for the ODF, in collaboration with others, to draw up very detailed wildfire risk maps and allows insurers to use these maps to adopt coverage provisions and underwriting. It also allows for more stringent defensible space requirements and for smoke infiltration systems. These recommendations are based on the 2019 Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response report and ask for funding recommendations for a comprehensive wildfire strategy. The provisions in HB 4054 A were added to SB 1536 A in the -A 8s to create a new Land Use and Wildfire Policy Advisory Committee. The Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) would oversee and coordinate the development and maintenance of a comprehensive statewide map detailed to the property-ownership level. The ODF in collaboration with Oregon State University, DLCD, the State Fire Marshal, other state and local governments and officials would develop detailed maps. DLCD was allocated $350,000 in General Funds to coordinate this work. The provisions in SB 1514 A to establish not more than 15 projects designed to reduce wildfire danger on public or private forestlands and rangelands through the restoration of landscape resiliency and the reduction of hazardous fuel levels were added to the bill. ODF, in consultation with many others, will establish test projects. OSU has demonstration projects with private public partnerships ready to go for study. ODF was allocated $24.4 million for this work. A Budget Note was added to address wildfire smoke: “The Oregon Department of Forestry, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Health Authority, and the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department are directed to create recommendations describing how existing programs can be leveraged to support the mitigation of the effects of wildfire smoke.” We were pleased to see some of the concepts supported by LWVOR included in the final bill.

HB 4166 A authorizes the Oregon Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to contract for an independent economist to perform work related to wildfire protection and wildfire suppression cost and funding source information for lands protected by the State Forestry Department and report findings and recommendations no later than March 1, 2021. A $250,000 General Fund allocation was added in Full Ways and Means.

HB 4066 A focuses on electric utility companies and actions by the Public Utility Commission for de-energizing power lines. Allows electricity companies to recover costs from retail electricity consumers for certain prudent infrastructure measures, including electric charging stations. The bill passed out of the House chamber. Thursday the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources passed the engrossed bill and proposed adding a study due in September on the potential cost increases to retail electricity consumers due to these electric company programs with a second reading Friday and a third reading scheduled for March 2nd and likely to pass if the Republicans return to vote.

SB 1516 A, filed by Senator Baertschiger, would provide $6 million from the General Fund for retaining/hiring 35 personnel, plus money for two administrative assistants (presumably to assist with billing) and adds a $10.80 assessment per tax lot that goes directly into the ODF budget to fight wildfires. This bill was not heard In Ways & Means.

Awaiting a return of a quorum of legislators so that final votes can occur are the omnibus budget bill where additional funding for the regular work of ODF should appear and any bonding allocations needed. Unless that budget bill passes, ODF will have to take drastic measures to keep the doors open through March or April of this year.

Coastal Issues (Peggy Joyce)  

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory sponsored an informational webinar on the development and future of Floating Offshore Wind Turbines highlighting the difference between fixed bottom turbines and the increasingly more sophisticated anchored but floating turbines. Oregon has a sweet spot along our southwest coastline that is an ideal location for floating turbines. DOE survey shows that this industry will produce between 76-80,000 new full-time jobs by 2030. More information can be found here.

See the new Rocky Habitat Web Mapping Tool created as part of the Rocky Habitat Management Strategy work.

Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) (Peggy Lynch)

This agency is awaiting additional General Funds in the omnibus budget bill in order to continue doing its science work beyond June 30, 2020. The fee bill for their Mineral Land Regulation and Reclamation division finally passed Full Ways and Means with a -1 amendment providing for an increase in fees to pay for a current service level of work. The League is disappointed that no additional staff will be available for site visits, nor a dedicated staffer for the gold mine proposal near Vale. However, we supported the fee increase as a stopgap until further discussion can occur around both divisions of this agency.

During the hearing on this bill in the W&Ms Subcommittee on Natural Resources, a -4 amendment was considered that would have changed public policy on certain permits. The League opposed these amendments, which were heard only in the budget committee but offered to work on the issue during the interim with ALL affected parties.

Hanford (Marylou Schnoes)  

Wasn’t Hanford Waste Supposed to be Made into Glass “Logs”?. See Marylou’s article in our upcoming Voter.

Land Use (Peggy Lynch)

HB 4012 B tries to resolve the transfer of development opportunities (TDOs) that were assigned to two developers when the Metolius was declared an Area of Critical State Concern a number of years ago. The amended bill allows Bend to add 260+ acres to its Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) under certain conditions, including that the land should follow the housing requirements of HB 2001 (middle housing) and that about 12.5 acres must be set aside for affordable and low-income housing. By providing the Dept. of State Lands the opportunity to sell the property as UGB land, the Common School Fund should benefit from the increased land value. The League was part of a Work Group that addressed this unusual land-use issue. We not only advocated for the low-income housing piece but very clear and expansive public involvement during all the land use processes.

If you or someone you know would like to provide comments or submit questions related to HB2001/HB2003 (2019), rulemaking, or the implementation of these bills, please send them to housing.dlcd@state.or.us. Interested parties are also encouraged to sign-up for updates on the rulemaking process at https://www.oregon.gov/lcd/LAR/Pages/Housing.aspx.

See previous Legislative Reports on land use bills, many of which were sent to Ways and Means where they may receive some funding in the omnibus budget reconciliation bill—if there is a quorum upon which to act.

Toxics/Pesticides (Amelia Nestler)

HB4109, banning chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide, passed the House and the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. It awaits a vote on the Senate floor. The League supports this bill.

Transportation

Do you ever wonder where transportation projects come from? Every few years the Oregon Department of Transportation creates something called the “Statewide Transportation Improvement Program” – known as the STIP. Visit our online open house, read about the STIP, then click on the map. You’ll find little drops that correspond with project locations. For major projects, there’ll be a link to more detailed information. Tell us what you think by submitting a comment.

What we want to know is: are there things this project will impact you think we should know about? What projects do you support? Are there any you have concerns over? The comment period ends April 10, so get a move on!

Water (Amelia Nestler/Peggy Lynch)

HB 4071 A (on funding to test for Harmful Algal Blooms or HABs) may receive some funding in the omnibus budget reconciliation bill, but the Tri-Chairs of W&Ms limited additional staffing in many bills this session because they did not want to see “roll-up” costs in the 2021-23 budget. The League supports this bill, the purchase of equipment AND additional staffing.

The League is working with others to continue to move the Oregon Water Vision forward by getting modest funding this session. The House Committee on Water is continuing to receive informational briefings on water issues. Regional Water Approaches will be discussed at 8 a.m. on March 3. You can listen from home. Last week there were presentations on the 100-year Water Vision and Natural Infrastructure Solutions. These, too, can be seen on the web.

Our Northwest Energy Coalition (NWEC) representative, Robin Tokmakian, reports that NWEC, along with 17 leaders of energy companies, utilities and conservation organizations from across the Pacific Northwest, signed a letter to the Governors of Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon, and called on elected officials across the Pacific Northwest to prioritize collaborative solutions to address the issues surrounding the Lower Snake River, including the long-term decline of salmon and steelhead populations. The group stressed the need to find long-term and durable solutions that would:

  • Recover abundant and harvestable salmon and steelhead populations
  • Honor identity and cultural values as well as federal treaties and responsibilities for Columbia Basin tribes
  • Enhance regional economies including farming, transportation, fishing, recreation, port and tribal enterprises in the Columbia Basin
  • Ensure electric system reliability, affordability and decarbonization

A federal report was released Friday that rejected removing the 4 dams but offered other actions. Friday’s report is a draft and will be subject to 45 days of public comment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will next analyze the proposal to determine if it does enough to protect salmon and orcas — a process that should be completed by June. A final report is expected in September.

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

Opportunity Zones

This week, we’ll use this LR space to discuss HB 4010 A. LWVOR supports a tax system based on the ability to pay, applies a benefits-received principle where reasonable, and recognizes the role of social expediency. The federal Opportunity Zone (OZ) capital gains tax break for investments does not meet these criteria. Although the League would have preferred to see the disconnect bill as originally written, we support the compromise bill HB 4010 A because Oregon will receive 50% in capital gains revenue when an investment is held for ten years. We appreciate the reporting requirement on these OZ projects to the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and on the transparency website, and the LRO study and analysis will provide accountability for these state investments. Perhaps there will be future modifications should the state subsidies prove too costly or not benefit the distressed communities for which they were intended. Using feedback from the study, we should design an Oregon incentive program to target affordable housing and economic development projects in distressed areas. We hope passage of this bill will lead to this more targeted approach.

We appreciate the compromise in HB 4010 A. We initially opposed this bill because it is not an economic investment tool that most Oregonians will benefit from, but rather a means for wealthy individuals to eliminate their capital gains taxes by reinvesting in Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) funds. Our concerns include:

  • Fund Managers (rather than the State) decide on specific investment projects.
  • An Oregon investor gets the tax break for investing in any opportunity zone outside of the state!
  • Some QOZ fund websites project annualized internal rates of return ranging from 7% to 18%. It is unlikely that profit margins will be high enough for the tax incentive to work for investments in rural or truly distressed areas, to actually benefit those populations.
  • Qualifying investments are not required to benefit those who live in the arbitrarily determined “zones”.
  • There are no protections against gentrification that would push out low-income residents.
  • There are no requirements to involve minority-owned or small businesses and no prevailing-wage rules.
  • It’s hard to even track how much potential revenue loss that could amount to!
  • OZ investors are not likely to fund workforce, affordable housing projects or rural businesses, transportation or communications projects to lift up the local communities where they will be located.

To test the thesis that Oregon’s designated Opportunity Zone Funds are not usually investments for the benefit of low-income people in distressed areas, a LWVOR member who would be eligible for a qualified OZ tax break asked her investment broker to find her a socially-responsible investment that would improve the lives of local residents and businesses. He said other clients have asked him for this as well. He spent two weeks researching for one and could not come up with a single project. Most funds are being used for high-return real estate projects, he said.

Digging deeper, the following articles address some concerns about the federal Opportunity Zone.

In an April 2019 article by Timothy J. Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research evaluating economic incentive programs, the Pew Charitable Trusts states “Businesses often receive incentives for jobs they would have created regardless, that many of the jobs created by incentives will not go to the original local residents, and that other local businesses can be put at a disadvantage.” We believe this to be the case with the Opportunity Zone tax break on capital gains.

Since the adoption of the federal program as part of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the program has come under much scrutiny. Here are several articles that support our criticism of the bill that we feel does not have sufficient “sideboards” to direct investments to benefit local residents in low-income communities. New York Times, Forbes, and in another article, “Gill Holland, a developer seeking $50 million for projects in a distressed Louisville neighborhood, said investors … in opportunity-zone funds wants a 15% return on investment,” he said, and isn’t thinking enough about social impact….“Investors are also worrying about whether they are benefiting local residents as the program intended.

A former chair of the housing opportunities committee at the National Association of REALTORS® is quoted saying “New development can mean that all of a sudden people have to move out, and the rich simply become richer.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)’s article “Opportunity Zones: Who Benefits?” points out that the private sector special incentives should align with community plans, provide greater sustainability and improve the quality of life for residents…without displacement and preserve their cultural legacy.

Distillery Bill

There are about 65 distilleries selling liquor out of 104 tasting rooms and which have been experiencing strong double-digit growth. The revenue impact statement states that would amount to a loss of almost $1 million just this biennium and a little over $4 million each biennium thereafter from the General Fund. The LWV does not think the state should unfairly subsidize one type of business over another, especially a successful one selling alcohol, at a time when we have so many much more pressing priorities. We should be reducing special interest business tax breaks, not adding to them. Last Thursdsay, Senator Alissa Keny-Guyer requested for the bill to be considered next year instead.

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

Human Services

Many social policy bills passed through committees but did not get floor votes to complete their journey during this short session.

Human Services W&Ms approved expenditures in the following bills on Monday, 2/24.

SB 1566 A on child welfare law modifications moves to full W&Ms and Senate and House floor. $200,000 was recommended for Behavior Rehabilitation Services.

SB 1577 A on licensing for sales of tobacco and vaping products was amended with expenditures limitations. Senator Monnes Anderson and Rep Cheri Helt testified in favor. Rep. Hayden and Stark voted no. Hayden objected to the lack of cessation education in Public Health. Taxes on these products should require cessation education. Initially, 30% of tax funds were directed to this purpose.

HB 4027 A on future oral health services in schools passed. A pilot program was awarded $200,000 in private funds. The program will ramp up to begin in 7/1/2025

HB 4031 A passed to assess the need for a professional workforce in the next 10 years in Behavioral Health. The bill passed with recommended funding of $606,246 to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

HB 4039 A allocated $2,270,000 in grants to existing Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelters and Services through the Department of Human Services. Full W&Ms passed it on Thursday, Feb 26, but as far as we know now none of these bills will be funded this session.

Senate Judiciary considered 4 house bills on 2/24. HB 4065 A on driver’s license suspensions had been carried over for new amendments, which required payments for violations in lieu of suspensions. The bill passed the next day with amendments for re-instatements when payments are started.

Two other House bills were passed in committee and await Senate floor votes. HB 4142 A was on collection of court fees. HB 4148 was on the inclusion of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into the state law. Both passed the House floor with votes from all representatives present with a few excused.

SB 4097 A had a public hearing on police involvement in the enforcement of Tri-Met transportation fares. The committee heard from the ACLU about alleged discrimination, riders who reported profiling, and Tri-Met employees who reported incidents on fare evasion. The bill prohibits Portland Police from enforcing fare payment, but they are on transits to maintain public safety. The bill passed on 2-25.

House Judiciary heard Senate bills and passed SB 1547 A on the transfer of relevant court cases from Multnomah County to Gresham, SB 1568 A on guardianships for vulnerable immigrants ages 18-21, and SB 1576 on certification of Judicial Marshalls in the Oregon Judicial Department as police and eligible for police and fire benefits through PERS.

SB 1503 A on the requirements to prove DUI cases drew extended arguments from committee members, prosecutors, police and sheriff, and lobbyists for defense attorneys. The bill passed the Senate 28-2 and House Judiciary but was sent to House Rules for further review.

SB 1573 A on the expunction of juvenile records for those who have not been under court supervision was passed by Capital Construction on 2-27 but has had no floor votes.

SB 1575 A appeared in House Rules on 2-25 with an amendment. The bill sets new procedures for the commitments of Aid and Assist patients to the Oregon State Hospital and the process of treatment and discharge from the hospital. The American Civil Liberties Union is critical of the Mental Health and Criminal Justice system management of Aid and Assist cases. District Attorneys were concerned with dangerous determinations and safe restorations. The Oregon State Bar was concerned that mentally ill persons not be held in treatment longer than needed. The League submitted a letter with the concern that the Oregon State Hospital be reserved as a mental health treatment resource. The Senate floor passed the bill. House Judiciary passed it but it did not make it to the House floor for a final vote. Despite testimony from Judge Waller and many others, the bill likely will not go into effect.

Senate Behavioral Health passed SB 1552 A, which supports federally-funded Community Behavioral Health Clinics in 8 county areas. The state cost is $15.1 M general fund to draw $62.7 M in federal funds for the remainder of the biennium. Capital Construction Committee approved the request and it was approved by Full Ways and Means on Thursday, Feb. 27.

This committee also passed SB 1553 A, which directs the OHA to identify barriers to treatment for co-occurring disorders of mental health and substance abuse. Capital Construction passed the bill on 2-27 with the comment that funds will primarily come from Medicaid. The bill was on the Full W&Ms agenda for 2-28 and passed. But these two bills have not gotten floor votes.

Many other Social Policy bills passed through W&Ms but did not get floor votes. The final agency budget adjustments did not appear in W&Ms so agencies will lack funding for the programs approved during the 2020 Short Session.

Housing (Debbie Aiona and Nancy Donovan)

A number of bills and budget requests intended to address the state’s housing and homelessness crisis are at risk if legislators do not return to the Capitol, including $55 million for emergency shelters, $50 million for new affordable housing, and $20 million to maintain existing affordable homes.

Yet, many key housing bills are continuing through the process and will be ready for adoption if legislators do return. A special session to address budget priorities is possible if legislators do not return by March 8.

Last week committees continued to meet and hold work sessions on various bills.

The Joint W&Ms held work sessions on two bills the League supports.

  • HB 4002 provides funding for a study of an Oregon long-term rent assistance program similar to the federal Section 8 housing voucher program. The League submitted a letter in support.
  • The committee also heard SB 1534 that would allow enforcement of federal fair housing law by Oregon Labor and Industries. The League submitted a letter in support. Earlier in the week, the Joint Committee on Ways and Means held a work session on this bill.

House Rules held a public hearing and work session on SB 1533. It would change the Landlord Guarantee program for Rent Well. This fund is available to landlords who rent to tenants with backgrounds that are barriers to renting. Landlords can access the fund if problems arise. SB 1533 would change the $5,000 relief landlords may seek to $5,000 per tenant instead of $5,000 per landlord.

HB 4003, a bill from the Joint Task Force to Address Racial Disparities in Homeownership, was amended to include $1 million to provide grants and technical assistance to organizations that support access to homeownership for communities of color, $1 million to support Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), and $3 million for down payment assistance. The bill still includes requirements related to additional educational requirements and implicit bias training for real estate professionals, as well as changes to accelerated savings, match for IDAs.

House Revenue held a hearing on SB 1531 that would make changes to local option affordable housing property tax exemptions and to the Home Ownership Limited Tax Exemption program. It now heads to the House floor for approval.

HB 4001, is Speaker of the House Kotek’s proposal that would relax the rules related to siting homeless emergency shelters and appropriate resources. The Joint Committee on Ways and Means held a work session and it heads to the House floor for approval.

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


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