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Legislative Report, Volume 30, Number 6 – 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

As mentioned below, on Tuesday, March 10, Governor Kate Brown signed Executive Order No. 20-04 “Directing State Agencies to Take Actions to Reduce and Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions”. The targets are to reduce carbon emissions to at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. LWVOR gave supporting testimony to SB 1530 the Oregon Greenhouse Gas Initiative; therefore, we endorse the actions of the Governor available under the law to seek carbon reductions in specific sectors to move the state toward its goals.

Based on climate emergency urgency, the LWVUS, Chris Carson, stated two days later when LWVUS, jointly with LWVOR, filed an amicus brief in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of Juliana v. US,:

It is the responsibility of the government to protect all of the people and ensure a safe and healthy world. The youngest among us stand to inherit a planet damaged by our own doing.  

Unless our government takes drastic steps to reverse course, the climate crisis will only continue to damage our planet beyond repair. The lack of action from our elected leaders results in the violation of our youngest generation’s constitutional rights and the failure to protect our public resources.

“We stand with the young plaintiffs in demanding our government protect their future. Climate justice cannot wait.”
— Our Children’s Trust

Carbon Cap & Invest and Executive Order (Julie Chapman)

SB 1530 B-Engrossed and Governor Brown’s Executive Order

The 2020 session ended three days early due to an impasse over the Republican walk-out. Republican legislators refused to return to work in Salem unless work was restricted to their preferred bills. The heart of Oregon’s representative democracy (video – March 6 House Rules Committee meeting) is put at risk by the past and present use of the quorum as a partisan tactic employed by both political parties. A broad range of urgent bills, entailing months of work, have been abandoned.

House Speaker Kotek (video) and Senate President Courtney expressed their strong dismay over this loss of constitutional process

The State Emergency Board convened March 9, to address funding for multiple disasters:  the Eastern Oregon Flood Damage Mitigation, Coronavirus response, All-Hazard Emergency Preparedness and Response, and Climate: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy Rulemaking.

The DEQ will receive $5 million, in part to fund 10 permanent positions to develop rule-making and other actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sources. Emissions covered will be transportation, natural gas and “point source.” Senator Baertschiger stated that if this policy is adopted through an executive order, a costly lawsuit will follow.

On March 10, Governor Brown presented an Executive Order (EO) for an emission reduction program, spearheaded by the DEQ/EQC. Directives call for the same greenhouse gas emission reduction goals as in the Cap and Invest bills from the 2020 session: at least 45% below 1990 emission levels by 2035, and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Sixteen state agencies will enact rule-making to achieve these goals, with the priorities of cost-efficiency and assistance to vulnerable and impacted communities, in consultation with the Environmental Justice Task Force. There is no Cap-Trade-and-Invest component. Further details are discussed and reviewed in news articles. The EO is a far blunter instrument than the well-vetted bills developed over the course of more than four years of negotiations. It does not enunciate the protections for rural, coastal, and low-income Oregonians, nor provide revenue to support transition to a non-fossil fuel-based economy. 

Young Oregonians have been advocating for climate mitigation over the course of several legislative sessions and many were present to celebrate and to receive one of the bazillion pens used by Governor Brown to sign the Executive Order.

ACTION: Governor Brown’s news conference is linked here, and we encourage positive, supportive comments from LWVOR members. 

Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) (Shirley Weathers)

The highest profile issue at this time continues to be how members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will vote on the two major federal authorizations JCEP needs to move forward with their proposed project.

As noted in the last Legislative Report, FERC voted on 2/20/2020 not to approve Jordan Cove’s two authorizations, ostensibly because one Commissioner, Bernard McNamee, had learned that Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) had “objected” to Jordan Cove’s certification that the project would be consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act. CZMA certification is one of three state authorizations that cannot be overruled by federal entities except under certain criteria by the Secretary of Commerce. While Commissioner McNamee suggested that he might be ready to effectively revisit his vote within the following week, that has not occurred. It could happen at any time.

The FERC docket remains open during this delay, allowing further information to be submitted for the record, but most are waiting for the next piece of news.

  1. JCEP has written to FERC, opining that they can, and should, proceed to approve the two federal authorizations despite Oregon’s now two denials and the Applicant’s withdrawal of a third important state permit application. By this writing, they have not filed an appeal of the decision. The deadline for that appears to be March 20.
  2. At least the Sierra Club; Niskanen Center (representing Oregon landowners); the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI); and the four LLs jointly opposing the project have submitted analyses challenging JCEP’s contention, including the likelihood that JCEP can meet the criteria required for a secretarial overrule of Oregon’s CZMA decision.
  3. FERC’s practice (which is expected in this case) of issuing “conditional approvals” prior to receipt by an Applicant has been resisted by Oregon state agencies and is now the subject of an investigation by the federal House Oversight Committee, Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The Subcommittee raises concerns that the practice violates landowners’ due process rights. Materials requested by the Subcommittee were to have been provided by March 3, 2020. We have seen no indication of compliance.
  4. Potential impacts of the global natural gas market and the stock market on these matters can only be guessed at.

Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) (Claudia Keith)

Here’s an OEA update: COVID-19: Social Distancing, Isolation, and the Workforce

Our Children’s Trust (Claudia Keith)

LWVUS jointly with LWVOR submitted on March 12 a new amicus brief to support Our Children’s Trust’s (OCT) planned appeal to the full 9th Circuit Court.

ACTION: Please consider signing this petition campaign supporting the many children’s groups that support this effort and the Leagues’ Amicus Brief. An Excerpt from OCT’s request;
“Zero Hour, together with the National Children’s Campaign, is leading a nationwide drive to support the 21 Juliana youth plaintiffs, asking youth to add their names in support of a new brief on behalf of young people and women. This amicus, or ‘friend of the court’ brief was filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, March 12, 2020 on behalf of the League of Women Voters, Zero Hour, and the National Children’s Campaign. The brief calls upon the Court to grant a rehearing of the Juliana plaintiffs’ case and allow their voices to be heard in open court at trial.”

Climate Emergency Declaration (Claudia Keith)

Milwaukie is the only Oregon city with a Climate Emergency declaration to date. Portland has a published Draft of their Climate Emergency Declaration. The deadline for input to Portland’s declaration was March 16. Four or five other Oregon jurisdictions have declared a climate crisis. San Diego CA passed a Climate Emergency on March 10.

Globally, 1,462 Jurisdictions have declared emergencies, 87 in the U.S, affecting 820 million people in 28 countries.

LWVOR voted on this resolution at the May 2019 Convention, the first state League in the country to do so. Just recently the LWVOR Board voted to support the annual program planning proposal to add Climate Emergency to the “Making Democracy Work” League campaign or as an equal priority. LWVOR and many other Leagues will be taking this proposal to the LWVUS June Convention in Washington D.C.

Oregon Health Professionals have declared a climate state of emergency and an MIT report connects the dots between Coronavirus and Greenhouse Gas Emission reductions.

(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 

HB 4055 – Requires Higher Education Coordinating Commission to conduct study and develop recommendations on how Oregon’s community colleges and public universities can best combat food and housing insecurity among their students. Passed Education; in Ways & Means. Died.

HB 4098 – Directs ODE to develop statewide, long-term strategic plan to provide computer science education. Passed House Education; passed Ways & Means; awaiting House then Senate vote. Died.

HB 4099 – Allows college students from COFA countries to pay for college at in-state tuition rates. Passed Education; in Ways & Means. Died.

HB 4136 – Relating to student transportation costs. Passed Education; in Ways & Means. Died.

HB 4140 – Relating to students diagnosed with a brain injury. Passed House & Senate. Signed by Governor.

HB 4146 – Relating to employees at higher ed public institutions. Passed Education; in Ways & Means. Died.

HB 4160 – Relating to underrepresented students at public post-secondary institutions of education. Passed Education; passed Ways & Means; awaiting House and Senate vote. Died.

SB 1520 – Expands the definition of the term “eligible student” relating to free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program. Passed Senate; passed Education. Died.

SB 1521 – Integrates foundational curricula and unified statewide transfer agreements into Transfer Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Passed Education; passed Ways & Means; awaiting Senate and House vote. Died.

Here is what others say about this session: Student Success Updates, Oregon Department of Education, Oregon School Boards 2020 legislative newsletters, Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA), Higher Education (HECC), The 2020 Children’s Agenda

To get more history 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 have established a Task Force on Political Campaign Contribution Limits. It passed out of full Ways & Means. The Task Force would have been composed largely of legislators and others with an interest in higher contribution limits. The bill would also have delayed implementation of Measure 47 adopted by the voters in 2006, if the Oregon Supreme Court enables it during a pending court case. This would have allowed 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 have required statements of economic interest (SEI) to include certain information about sources of income for businesses 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 the source of income has legislative or administrative interest and 10% or more of the total gross annual income of business comes from that source of income. The bill would also have prohibited 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 its 2/4/20 hearing. The House passed it 2/24, but it never got a first reading in the Senate.

Quick fix for minor political parties

HB 4026 A as amended would have reduced 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-quarter of one percent of the total number of registered electors in state. This bill was a quick fix for a rather narrow problem caused by the Motor Voter law, which greatly increases the number of non-affiliated voters (NAVs). The House passed this bill 43-15, it passed Senate Rules unanimously, and was awaiting Senate floor action. The League had no position on this bill.

Public Records

Bill would make the Public Records Advocate independent

SB 1506 would have established the Public Records Advocate as an independent office within the executive department. It would have authorized the Public Records Advisory Council to appoint the advocate. It would have authorized 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 came after the controversy around and resignation of the first Public Records Advocate last year. The League strongly supported this bill. It was passed by the Senate and House Rules unanimously, but it got no 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 clearly 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. The end-of-session W&M budget-balancing bill may have addressed this topic, but that also did not happen. A bipartisan bill, if funded, would have eliminated Federal detainees at NORCOR (Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility) and created needed space for a number of Oregon counties. Several news articles have been published, OPB, KATU and Corvallis Advocate.

We followed HB 4099 A, which passed out of committee with a Do Pass. An amendment was still in W&M. It would have changed the Oregon tuition residency status of students from three Pacific island countries.

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

The League is considering 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 is related to Oregon’s trial court rule prohibiting warrantless ICE arrests in and around Oregon courthouses. Many public comments have already been submitted.

LWVOR has submit an accepted proposal for an Immigration/Refugee/Human Rights caucus in June at the LWVUS 2020 convention in Washington D.C.

Resilience (Rebecca Gladstone)

The ShakeAlerts system that we have covered had funding approved in W&Ms. However, it was still in consideration with many other bills lacking final chamber deliberations. Other resilience bills were funded but were moot at this point. The Emergency Board meeting after session added partial funding. 

Governance (Rebecca Gladstone)

SJR 201 would have sent a constitutional amendment raising the Oregon legislature’s quorum requirement, unusually shared with only three other states, to a general election vote. We spoke to our positions for efficiency in government and civil discourse. The proposed amendment passed out of Senate Rules with a Do Pass. It was inspired by the legislature’s repeated recent closures for lack of a quorum, relating to the partisan divide of SB 1530, arguably due to the partisan imbalance of power. 

Access (Paula Krane)

The 40/40 Session

Everywhere in this report the walkout and results are mentioned, looking here from an access viewpoint. The 2020 Oregon Legislative Session is what I am calling the 40/40 session. Citizens lost access to 40% of the Legislators and  40% of the session. All but 2 Republican Legislators walked out of the capital and left the state for 2 weeks forcing loss of our ability to be in contact with them as well as time lost for them to work for all Oregonians as our legislators. Whether you agree probably depends on your political philosophy but we all need to consider whether all legislators need to be accessible to all Oregonians. IS THIS THE OREGON WAY?

Over the years we have made headway on our accessibility to the process. We can follow hearings and floor sessions as they happen from our homes, as well as testify from home, review advance notice of hearings, see bill amendments before hearings and be welcome in any legislator’s office, even if we are not a constituent. However during the last few weeks of this session, this could not happen since they were not in their offices or in the building. This session we lost some of our access to the process.

The results of this political maneuver over the Cap and Trade/Carbon pricing bill is anyone’s guess and I wish I had a crystal ball:

  • A recall for some Legislators,
  • Challenges in May from within their party and challenges in November from the other parties,
  • Retirement of especially Republican Legislators,
  • A choice of initiatives on Cap and Trade in November:
    • The current bill (2020 version) as passed out of committee – SB 1530
    • A Republican backed bill
    • The 2019 version – HB2020
    • Or a stronger bill than the 2019 version
  • And of course the Governor’s executive orders.

Stay tuned as this drama continues and make sure you let your voice be heard. We must always continue to fight for our access to the process.

If you are willing and able to follow governance issues, we need you! You determine your own level of volunteer 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? Contact n.turrill@lwvor.org


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Natural Resources

By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator 

Budgets (Peggy Lynch)  

Many policy bills had budget requests. None passed due to the walkout. The five final budget bills also did not pass. League members will begin meeting with others in preparation for the 2021-23 biennium while hoping an agreement can be reached to consider those policy bills as well as the budget bills during a special session.

HB 5202 was the authorization for bonding (capital) projects. Here is the budget report with the list of projects that were intended to be funded by bonds. HB 5201 clarifies that bonding, unlike other funding, can continue to be spent up to six years. Here is the budget report for HB 5201. HB 5203 would have allocated monies from lottery and cannabis revenues. Here is the budget report for HB 5203. HB 5204 would have allocated General Funds and adjusted agency budgets with federal funds and other funds. This bill also has a set of “budget notes” requiring interim action of state agencies and would have increased monies that the Emergency Board could allocate if needed. Here is the budget report and the budget summary list for HB 5204. HB 4163 A changes programs based on budget allocations. HB 4163 implements the statutory changes necessary to support the 2019-21 legislatively approved budget and to clarify the application of statutes. The bill is not an appropriation bill and therefore does not include the appropriation of funds. The fiscal or budgetary impacts of provisions of this bill are contained in HB 5204 (budget reconciliation) and HB 5203 (Lottery Fund/Criminal Fines Account allocations) for the 2019-21 biennium, or in specific budget bills. All in all, the legislature would have “spent” about $600 million of the approximately $1 billion additional monies from the February Revenue Forecast Summary, leaving a significant ending fund balance. 

Two natural resource agencies have specific challenges since the budget bills above did not pass. The Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) was only awarded a one-year budget in 2019 so their funding ends on June 30. The Dept. of Forestry has budget issue challenges and needs an infusion by May of 2020. That does not include any costs related to the 2020 fire season. Other reports from League volunteers have shared their disappointment at not getting funding they worked so hard to advocate for during the 2020 session. We are hopeful that all sides will find fair solutions to this dilemma and that they will hold a special session to consider both the hard-fought policy bills as well as the budget bills. 

In the meantime, due to severe floods in the Umatilla area and the Coronavirus crisis, the Emergency Board met on March 9 to allocate some of the $75 million that the 2019 legislature authorized them to spend as needed. Also included was funding to increase our emergency preparedness and $5 million to begin to address Oregon’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions (See Climate below). Multiple agencies are involved in this effort.  

League members are attending (or calling in to) meetings held by natural resource state agencies as they begin work on their 2021-23 budgets and policy option packages (POPs). Groups engaged in the work of these agencies provide ideas and give feedback on agency proposals as most have to get their Board or Commission approval to send these requests to the Dept. of Administrative Services by April for budgets and June for policies. Agencies provide an Agency Request Budget (ARB) to the Governor’s office by September. She will consider all the agency requests and develop the Governor’s Request Budget (GRB) which is due to the legislature and the public by Dec. 1 of 2020 in anticipation of the 2021 long session. 

Air Quality (Susan Mates)

HB 4024, 4066, 4068, and SB 5702 did not pass, but the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) works year-round on behalf of Oregonians and League volunteers follow that work. With the Governor’s Executive Order 20-04, we will need volunteers to follow every agency.  

Executive Order 20-04 directs DEQ and the Environmental Quality Commission to take actions to address Oregon’s Clean Fuel Standards, provide Clean Fuel Credits for Electrification, Cap and Reduce Sector-specific Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), Reduce Landfill Methane Emissions and Reduce Food Waste as well as general directives to all agencies to reduce GHGs. 

DEQ is hosting a public information meeting about air quality near Precision Castparts on March 18, 2020, at Brentwood-Darlington Community Center (7211 SE 62nd Ave., Portland) starting at 6pm, presentations at 6.30pm. Staff from DEQ and Oregon Health Authority will give presentations and answer questions about the public health assessment, general air quality monitoring, and Precision Castparts’ air quality permit and status in Cleaner Air Oregon. DEQ has been reaching out to local neighborhood organizations and other interested groups. Please spread the word.

DEQ proposes to amend the General Air Contaminant Discharge Permits for Dry Cleaner, Hospital Sterilizer, and Gasoline Dispensing operations located in Oregon. The purpose of this notice is to invite the public to provide written comments on the following proposed amended general air quality permits. These permits were issued on March 1, 2010 and expired March 1, 2020. These permits need to be revised to implement a new permit template and make changes necessary to ensure compliance with applicable air quality regulations. Written comments are due by 5 p.m., on Apr. 2, 2020. Commenters should include “General Air Quality Permit Renewal Comment” in the email subject line. Submit emails to: Dan DeFehr at DeFehr.Daniel@DEQ.state.or.us.

Climate

The League worked tirelessly to fairly and equitably see the legislature pass a market-based cap and trade program for Oregon. We support Governor’s Executive Order 20-04 that begins to at least cut emissions and we will work to see its implementation. 

The 2020 bill, HB 1530, was substantially amended from HB 2020 (2019) after legislators and the Governor traveled the state, listened to Oregonians, to urban and rural concerns and to a broad group of business interests. But the walkout stopped passage. Therefore, the Governor developed an Executive Order that works to achieve the goal of reducing Oregon’s Greenhouse Gases while addressing the concerns of our low-income and vulnerable communities and businesses who will be most affected by climate change. Unfortunately, the Governor did not have the authority to implement a market-based system that would have provided funding from polluters to address the many costs related to our changing climate. However, she does have the authority to direct state agencies on many actions that will help achieve the goal of reducing GHGs. Droughts affect our agriculture industry. Wildfires affect our timber industry. Changing and severe weather events affect us all. Oregonians’ health is at risk, which is why the order includes that the Oregon Health Authority report on the public health impacts faced by vulnerable populations, on youth depression and Oregonians’ mental health and help develop a proposal for standards to address wildfire smoke and excessive heat. It’s time. (See also Climate report in this legislative report.) 

The Oregon Global Warming Commission is directed to submit a proposal for consideration of adoption of state goals for carbon sequestration and storage by Oregon’s natural and working lands, including forests, wetlands and agricultural lands. They shall also report on progress of the GHG reduction goals of ExO 20-04 and zero-emission vehicle goals.

The Dept. of Land Conservation and Development will continue to lead a workgroup on climate impacts to impacted communities, advancing DLCD’s existing work to update the state’s climate adaptation framework.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Dept. continues its Climate work where they have given presentations to their Commission. They have invited the League and others to an update on their work on March 20. 

Coastal Issues (Peggy Joyce)

The Ocean Policy Advisory Council’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee will meet on March 17, 2020. The Oregon Ocean Science Trust is scheduled for March 20, 2020, 9am – 12pm at the Land Board Room of the State Lands Building. An agenda will be posted when available. The Territorial Sea Plan Rocky Habitat Management Strategy Working Group will meet March 20, 2020 in Newport, OR. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and State of Oregon Intergovernmental Task Force on Marine Renewable Energy will meet on April 2, 2020 in Florence, OR at the Florence Events Center. For more information about past Task Force meetings, visit the BOEM website on Oregon Activities. The next Ocean Policy Advisory Council meeting is May 6, 2020,at the Department of Human Services building in North Bend, Oregon. A draft meeting agenda will be available from Oregon Ocean Information in April.  

Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) (Peggy Lynch)

Without a second-year funding and an increase in permit fees, the agency and it’s Board will need to plan for the future and hope that the legislature will take action before June 30.

Energy

The Governor’s Executive Order 20-04 includes directions to the Public Utility Commission to work with utilities to move toward GHG reduction goals while considering the impact to vulnerable communities. They also need to evaluate the electric companies’ risk-based wildfire protection plans. The Dept. of Energy is to address energy efficiency standards. The Northwest Energy Coalition recognizes the League.

The League was honored to receive recognition for being a founding member of the Northwest Energy Coalition and recognizing longtime League member Norma Jean Germond, a founder and first board chair in 1981. 

Forestry (Josie Koehne)

On March 4th, House Speaker Kotek and Senate President Courtney summarized this session’s forestry and wildfire bills in a news release:

Wildfire and Forest Management
Wildfire seasons are longer than ever due to the impacts of climate change, jeopardizing public health, safety and local economies in every corner of Oregon. This funding would help prepare for the upcoming wildfire season and invest in efforts to lessen the statewide impacts of wildfires.

  • $51 million total to the Department of Forestry to stabilize operations and prepare for the upcoming season (HB 5204)
  • $25 million for wildfire mitigation efforts (SB 1536
  • $1 million to improve pesticide application protocols and provide facilitation to modernize forest practices (HB 4168)
  • $1 million for a Hood River County wildfire preparedness pilot (HB 5204)
  • $250,000 to study the costs of wildfire protection and suppression (HB 4166).

The League is hopeful that there will be a special session to wrap up passed bills that were stuck without a floor vote, which will then require new bill numbers.

Since the Governor has declared an executive order for each state agency to set caps on CO2 emissions to replace HB 1530, the Cap and Invest bill, that bill may not be on the table. (However, the legislature still might want to weigh in on this issue.) Hopefully, the Oregon Department of Forestry budget will receive an infusion during any special session.

The LWV attended the March Board of Forestry meeting. Topics included the Shared Stewardship program and a climate and carbon work plan that will include legal authorizations, info on climate adaptation and mitigation, and strategies based on several scenarios with a report due in June by a carbon consultant.

The board commented on the Western Oregon State Forest Management Plan (FMP) draft and wish to see:

  • A dashboard for the work plan that includes strategies and progress (expected July 2021)
  • Impact and economic analysis of the various alternative plans: pros and cons for each
  • Bio data that is less precise and easier to assess
  • Criteria to analyze climate goal options and set priorities
  • Operations plans for future climate conditions
  • Structural changes needed in the department to address climate
  • Timber market data
  • Transparency: admit what we don’t know

Smoke Management rule changes are needed to allow for more prescribed burning to reduce fire risk without harming health. Increase communications and outreach through partnerships in regional community response plans. Focus on vulnerable populations through text alert systems.

Jenifer Wigel of DEQ presented on water quality assessment in the Siskiyous, including total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) of toxins, water temperature and flow effects. Metrics data include input from 70 organizations. Tree planting to provide shade by streams helps mitigate temperature increases and DEQ uses these metrics to map improvement or decline. A collaborative report between DEQ and ODF on this is due in July.

MGO, a financial consulting firm, reported that issues are not just a lack of ODF employees as expected. Legacy computer systems don’t have adequate accounts receivable details and aren’t coordinated. The structure of the agency (org chart) needs improvements. They are to provide a report in April. The Governor’s Wildfire Advisory Council report (November 2019) had very helpful recommendations. As for the financials, ODF is catching up. 82% of invoices are paid or have been sent. FEMA takes 2-4 years to pay ODF bills, and BLM and USFS bills are also late payers. Yet insurance won’t reimburse ODF without actual numbers, which all leads to a big cashflow problem. Invoices are hard to calculate with 35% of them returned for corrections. All of this is hard on the limited staff. ODF improvements call for short, midterm and long term improvement plans.

League also participated in a conference call between ODF and concerned conservation groups who want to see a working group to work with ODF on climate implementation plans.

The draft Western Oregon State Forest Management Plan (FMP) will be open to public comment on April 23. The LWV may provide written comments. We have been invited to be part of a panel before the Board of Forestry as well and we plan to attend a meeting March 30 in Salem for an update on the Western Oregon State Forest Habitat Conservation Planning process. This meeting, open to the public, will be from 1-3 p.m., followed by an informal meet-and-greet from 3-4 p.m. at the Oregon Department of Forestry, Building C – Tillamook Room, 2600 State St., Salem OR 97310. RSVP is requested; you can do so by clicking here. More information can be found on the project page here.

Land Use (Peggy Lynch)  

The Governor’s EXO 20-04 directs DCBS’s BCD to work with the Dept. of Energy to set new building energy efficiency goals and update building codes as well as agree on metrics to inform baseline and reductions associated with these code updates. DLCD is to work with others on implementation of the Statewide Transportation Strategy, especially focusing on our metropolitan planning areas across the state to meet GHG reduction goals.  

If you or someone you know would like to provide comments or submit questions related to HB 2001/HB 2003 (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.

Toxics/Pesticides (Amelia Nestler)  

HB 4109, banning chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide, was another bill left on the table by the walkout. The Oregon Dept. of Agriculture will continue its Work Group with a meeting scheduled March 30.

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 that 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)

The Nehalem River State Scenic Waterway Rule-making was adopted by the Water Resources Commission in concurrence with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission. 

The March 9 Oregon Water Report indicates that precipitation over the past two weeks has been below-normal across the state. Especially noteworthy is southwest Oregon where precipitation was up to six inches below normal.

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 received informational briefings on water issues. Regional Water Approaches was discussed on March 3. Other presentations were on the 100-year Water Vision and Natural Infrastructure Solutions. These can be seen on the web.

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 and more

Expected to return in the future with new bill numbers are these bills that did not make it through the session.

HB 4010 made major changes to the federal Opportunity Zone legislation, disconnecting us from 50% of the cost and requiring robust reporting.

SB 1565 was a distillery bill that compensated distillery agents at double-digit rates (17% and 45%) on tasting rooms sales paid by Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

HB 4009 had fine-tuning changes to Student Success Act funding. The Department of Revenue has some authority to  set policies by rule, and is completing statewide meetings to clarify tax filing requirements that begin April 2020.

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

Capital Construction and Full Ways and Means heard final bills requesting Funds, but many bills were waiting for Senate or House floor votes. Even Ways and Means approved bills were waiting for floor votes. For example, SB 1566 A on children’s welfare programs, SB 1577 A on tobacco sales, HB 4031 A on behavioral health professionals, HB 4039 B on homeless youth options and HB 4127 on oral health in schools are on floor vote agendas. But there has not been a quorum for voting, so the bills died.

SB 1522 A on funding for Community Mental Health clinics, SB 1553 A on barriers for treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, were waiting for floor votes as well as SB 1575 A on Oregon State Hospital management of Aid and Assist commitments. These bills were very important to the operation of mental health programs throughout the state, but funding will be on hold.

Capital Construction passed a few essential bills for Public Safety; HB 4040 A for Family Treatment Courts in Clackamas and Douglas Counties. The final Budget bills included a new judge for Douglas County and 2 more for Deschutes County, but the budget bills did not pass at the end. SB 1573 B was passed without funds for the Oregon Youth Authority or County Juvenile Departments for records expunctions.

The final budget bills contained funding for many building projects in HB 5201 A, in the Judicial Department, Oregon Youth Authority, Department of Corrections and the Youth Challenge program in the Military Department. HB 5204 A contained an increase of $25 Million for Community Corrections in counties throughout the state. HB 4163 A was an Omnibus Bill which covered budget adjustments across the state, such as  3 new judges for the Oregon Judicial Department, child advocacy center support from the Department of Justice, Court Child Care in Marion County, the Family Preservation Project at Coffee Creek, and an increase in treatment foster care for the Oregon Youth Authority. The Public Defense Services Commission received substantial increases for contracts with defense attorneys and for child welfare cases The Department of Justice received funds for technology and grand jury recordation storage. These were only Social Policy items among many other state budget needs.

Ways and Means Committees passed these budget bills on March 3, but the House and Senate floor did not vote on them before the Legislature was adjourned. What a disappointing end to the short session.

Physical Health Care (Bill Walsh)          

The walkout doomed the two dozen health care bills we were monitoring. SB 1535 B passed the House Rules Committee with a 4 yes to 3 absent vote. The League supported this bill for the last two sessions with testimony. It would have required the Department of Consumer and Business Services to gather information about rebates and markups in the pharmaceutical supply chain and report to interim committees and to the Task Force on Prescription Drugs in order to understand and try to control the ever-escalating rise in costs.

In the last week, both the House and Senate Health Care Committees heard information reports from the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Health Policy Board, and local Public Health officials about the state’s coronavirus situation. They covered the Governor’s Crisis Team, pre-planning to address emergency situations, systems capacities, communications with the public and vulnerable populations, safe drinking water, and related issues. The Emergency Board passed funding for the OHA work on the coronavirus public health response on March 9.

Another Health Policy Board report dealt with insurance coverage: 94% coverage with higher costs of 6.5% per person per year. The target is 3.4% for 5 years in the Medicaid program. Pharmacy costs were higher at 6.5%. Working on a 10-year timeline, the agency will hold public hearings.

There were reports regarding SB 770 (2019). The Medicaid Buy-in (“Public Option”) effort is still in the information gathering stage, consequently, it’s likely to be some time before we see any results. The Task Force for Universal Coverage is slated to begin by April of this year. You can sign up for Joint Task Force On Universal Health Care agendas, meeting materials, etc.

Housing (Debbie Aiona and Nancy Donovan)

The Legislative session ended with a number of lost opportunities intended to address Oregon’s housing crisis. Funds and policies that would provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness have died along with bills that would develop and preserve low-income housing and addressed racial discrimination. We are waiting to see if a special session will be held in the next 30 days. 

Key housing bills the Legislature did not enact this session are described below.

Long Term Rental Assistance (HB 4002):  This bill would have funded a cost analysis study of a state-run program similar to the federal Section 8 voucher program that provides long-term assistance for people with low incomes. These households are quite often severely rent burdened and spend a significant portion of their incomes on rent. The League submitted a letter in support.

Emergency Needs for Housing and Homelessness (HB 4001):  Speaker Kotek proposed a package of programs and funding to address homelessness. This included funds to increase capacity for emergency shelters, build more affordable homes, and maintain existing affordable housing. It also required local governments to loosen restrictions on siting emergency shelters. 

Fair Housing Enforcement (SB 1534): The League supported this bill that would have changed Oregon law to allow Oregon Labor and Industries to enforce federal fair housing laws on behalf of the federal government. The League submitted a letter in support. 

Rural System Development Charges (HB 4084): System Development Charges are imposed on new development in order to help pay for the infrastructure needed to support that development. These charges add to the per-unit cost of affordable housing. HB 4084 would have allocated $750,000 to Oregon Housing and Community Services to support funding for SDCs in rural communities. The League submitted a letter in support.   

Lottery Bonds for Preservation of Affordable Housing (HB 5202): This bill would have allocated $20 million in lottery-backed bonds to maintain existing affordable housing. The funds would have helped maintain multifamily projects with expiring tax credits, public housing, and manufactured home parks. The League submitted a letter in support.

Allow Legislature to Impose State Real Estate Transfer Fee (HJR 203): HJR 203 would have referred a constitutional amendment to voters that would allow the Legislature to impose a state real estate transfer fee for the purpose of funding affordable housing. Many other states use these fees to pay for housing that serves low-income households.

The Legislative Emergency Board approved the following housing expenditures in order to assist those affected by the flooding in Umatilla County:

  • Allocate $2 M from the Emergency Fund to the Housing and Community Services Department for development of new affordable housing units for Umatilla County flood victims, including residents of the Umatilla Indian reservation. 
  • Allocate $1.5 M from the Emergency Fund to the Housing and Community Services Department for rapid rehousing, including rental assistance, to victims of the February 2020 flooding in Umatilla County, including residents of the Umatilla Indian reservation. 
  • Allocate $4 M from the Emergency Fund to the Housing and Community Services Department for housing and infrastructure replacement associated with damage and losses sustained in the February 2020 flooding in Umatilla County, including those on the Umatilla Indian reservation, with the understanding that the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) will un-schedule the amount of the allocation until a plan is presented and approved by the Legislative Fiscal Office and the DAS Chief Financial Office. 

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


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