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Legislative Report - Week of 1/15

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By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator, and Team

Volunteers are still needed to cover important issues like Air Quality, Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife, Recycling and Toxics. LWVOR needs your voices! Training provided. 


The 2024 short session runs Feb. 5 through March 10th. The legislative calendar is posted on the Oregon Legislature website. Bills will be posted soon on OLIS. Committee bills were introduced during the January 10-12 Legislative Days. 


LWVOR has been asked to give a presentation to the Board of Agriculture on Jan. 17th along with others who will be engaged in the short session. We shared our 2024 Priorities, our Housing Coalition one-pager with verbal testimony on the need for infrastructure funds and our support for natural and working lands. 


By Peggy Lynch

On Nov. 15, the House and Senate Revenue Committees heard the latest Revenue Forecast. The net General Fund and Lottery resources are up $790.3 million (2.3%) from the 2023 Close of Session estimate. The next revenue forecast is Feb. 7th and that will be the number used for 2024 budgeting. 

A new Oregon bonding capacity report was due January 18th from the State Debt Policy Advisory Commission (SDPAC); their agenda. From the Legislative Fiscal Office in October: Based on the 2023 SDPAC report and bonding authorizations approved in the 2023 session, there is $65.8 million in remaining general obligation bond capacity and $27.4 million in remaining lottery bond capacity for the 2023-25 biennium.

The Full Ways and Means Committee dealt with 3 pages of requests on Jan. 12th. Some requests will appear in the 2024 omnibus budget reconciliation bill at the beginning of session. Some will have another hearing before being considered to be added to the bill. Of specific interest to Natural Resources are the items from that Subcommittee. For instance, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. (OPRD) asked for more lottery money for their land acquisition fund. But legislators want to see how many OPRD lottery funds will be available—to be learned at the February 7th Revenue Forecast.

Personal income taxpayers can determine their kicker amount using a “What’s My Kicker?” calculator available on Revenue Online. To use the calculator, taxpayers need to enter their name, Social Security Number, and 2022 and 2023 filing status. Taxpayers may also hand-calculate their credit amount by multiplying their 2022 tax liability before any credits—line 22 on the 2022 Form OR-40—by 44.28%. 2023 tax returns can be filed starting January 29. 

See a good video on Oregon property taxes. Cities and counties rely on property taxes for the services they provide. It’s possible there will be property tax reform conversations in 2025. 

See The Oregonian for some insight into that future conversation.


State agencies and others will need to plan for a rise of 1.7% of payroll costs for PERS contributions as they calculate their 2025 budget needs. That could mean an extra $13 billion in contributions from employers for 2025-27.

The agency budget process is beginning. Look for beginning presentations to agency Boards and Commissions soon. More quarterly revenue forecasts will be provided before the Governor presents her budget by Dec. 1st


By Claudia Keith and Team 

See the Climate Emergency section of this Legislative Report. for overlaps with this Natural Resources Report. We encourage you to read both sections.

Coastal Issues

By Christine Moffitt/Peggy Lynch

The Coos County League has been concerned with the container ship terminal proposal for the Port of Coos Bay. The federal government denied the Port of Coos Bay grant for this proposal again. Sen. Anderson recently met with a group from the League of Women Voters/Coos Bay concerning the Port of Coos Bay’s proposed container terminal.

The Ways and Means General Government Subcommittee heard grant requests on Jan. 10, including one for estuary resilience. The Full Ways and Means Committee approved the request.

Dept. of State Lands (DSL) 

By Peggy Lynch 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is working with DSL to identify In Lieu lands (lands owed the State of Oregon on statehood that have not yet been allotted to Oregon). See the BLM Proposed Classification Decision, and a public notice that two forestland properties in Linn County that have been identified to meet the criteria for some of those In Lieu lands. Learn more on State Land Sales and provide public comment from January 12, 2024 through April 9, 2024: 

The Ways and Means (W&Ms) General Government Subcommittee heard grant requests on Jan. 10, including continuing work on DSL’s GIS Wetlands Inventory and improvements at the South Slough Visitors Center. The requests were approved.

Drinking Water Advisory Committee

By Sandra Bishop 

The Drinking Water Advisory Committee (DWAC) will meet  (have met) January 17. See the agenda.


Elliott State Research Forest (ESRF) 

By Peggy Lynch 

On Nov. 13, the State Land Board received a letter from Oregon State University’s President Jayathi Murthy, indicating that OSU was bowing out of participation in the ESRF management.

In December, the State Land Board affirmed its continued desire to create the Elliott State Research Forest – a public forest that will contribute to conservation, recreation, education, Indigenous culture, local economies, and more as a working research forest. Watch the December 12, 2023 State Land Board meeting. Here are the slides. During the meeting, the Land Board also discussed and supported the pathway framework presented by DSL The framework outlines actions, steps, and considerations for continuing work to establish the ESRF. Read an overview of the pathway framework. DSL Director Vicki Walker has appointed an interim advisory group to guide work until the Land Board appoints an ESRF Board of Directors. The group is comprised of members of the prospective board appointed by Land Board in December 2022. Visit DSL’s Elliott website to learn more. The next meeting was Jan. 18 and another Feb. 7th. Meeting videos are posted to the DSL YouTube channel and meeting notes are posted to DSL's Elliott website here. The monies allocated in 2023 to support the forest may be allocated directly to DSL as the clear responsible party. Work is continuing on eventual adoption of a Habitat Conservation Plan and a Forest Management Plan for the forest. 

Forestry (ODF) 

By Josie Koehne 

LWVOR sent a letter in support of Alternatives 2 & 3 of the Western Oregon State Forests Habitat Conservation Plan. See a good Oregon Capital Chronicle article on the controversial proposal.

For more information on forestry, see the Wildfire section of this report below.

Land Use & Housing

By Peggy Lynch 

The Governor has filed a 69-page Legislative Concept, LC 19, now SB 1557, for the 2024 session. Based on HB 3414 B (2023) but with substantial changes, the Governor has shared the LC draft with groups who have been working with her on this bill with a request to provide comments to her by Jan. 24. She is planning to provide an amendment that incorporates technical edits and corrections and perhaps those comments. LWVOR has been working with the Governor’s staff and others for months on this concept.

Natural Resources will be working with our Housing team on a number of bills. While Natural Resources works on the land use side where infrastructure is needed to provide buildable lots, our Housing Team will be working on funding and housing policies for those Oregonians. See the Senate Housing and Development Committee Legislative Concepts--the first one is the loan fund, LC 155. See the House Housing and Homelessness Committee Legislative Concepts—their loan is LC 197. Reps. Gomberg and McIntire shared that they are submitting an infrastructure funding bill for about 20 projects around rural Oregon. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has filed a draft Biological Opinion (BiOp) related to eligibility for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The State of Oregon provided Scoping Comments and a request for a time extension with concerns from many agencies. Of particular importance is how local jurisdictions will assure on-going access to the NFIP while also not violating the Endangered Species Act. Listen to a hearing from the Jan. 11th House Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources and Water Committee meeting.


Follow the work of the Oregon Housing Needs Analysis (OHNA) Rulemaking Committee on the department’s Housing Rulemaking webpage. Watch meetings on their YouTube channel. 

Some cities objected to the Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities (CFEC) adopted rules. DLCD has convened a number of meetings. Here is the latest memo addressing concerns.

The Housing Production Advisory Council, composed of housing experts from across the state, detailed 59 potential solutions to meet Kotek’s ambitious goal in a draft proposal completed in December. The Council will submit its final proposal to Kotek on Jan. 17. LWVOR has followed their work and provided comments on some ideas, especially with concerns around the wetlands recommendations.

The Department of Land Conservation and Development is recruiting committee members for rulemaking for Goal 9 and certain Economic Opportunities Analyses processes. Applications to serve on the RAC must be submitted by midnight on February 13th.

See also the Housing Report in the Social Policy section of this Legislative Report.

Northwest Energy Coalition (NWEC) 

By Sandra Bishop/Robin Tokmakian

The NW Energy Coalition (NWEC) held a conference in Portland on December 6th, 2023. Organizations from four western states and British Columbia discussed equity in energy planning and services. Among a total of 24 speakers, 14 were people of color: 6 men and 17 women.

Oregon legislator Senator Lieber stressed that energy efficiency must be foremost when building 36,000 new homes in Oregon, saying “Bake efficiency into the DNA of everything we do in the state”. She noted that buildings are the second largest carbon producers, so $90 million was passed in the climate package last session with a goal for 500,000 new heat pumps to be installed in Oregon by 2030. In coming sessions, we will see legislation to address inequities in energy provision and ensure supportive regulation and incentives for reducing carbon-intensive energy uses and sources while protecting the vulnerable. 

A second keynote speaker was Rich Glick, former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chair. He spoke about problems and challenges in the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) system, particularly the need to expand and strengthen the grid and to integrate next-era BPA power products with carbon-free energy products. Strategies such as more local grid management, local resiliency, and working with community benefits advocates are seen as necessary. The Western Regional Adequacy Program (WRAP) is one instrument for holding BPA more accountable and ensuring more transparency and equity in providing energy services. 

One panel concentrated on a model used in Oregon called the Community Cohort Roundtable. Community benefit impact assessment is required by legislation. There is a need for the public to be heard before programs are formed and implemented. Community Cohort mentors people to take part in utility and community energy planning and regulatory processes such as the Public Utility Commission (PUC) rate hearings. Acronyms and complicated technical language can make engaging with energy issues very difficult. The Community Cohort model gives disadvantaged community members a chance to bring issues forward to be addressed by policymakers and regulators. 

Some barriers to meeting new climate goals through energy efficiency projects are contractor shortages; challenges in upgrading older homes, and problems with providing and applying for funding. Energy navigators or ambassadors are often needed to assist community-based nonprofits and individuals in getting funding for energy programs and projects.

There is also a need for better metrics utilities can use to determine benefits and resource needs. There is a push to identify cost parameters that consider some of the human costs not adequately addressed in energy planning in the past. The social cost of greenhouse gas emissions (SCGHG) was one of the metrics the presenters endorsed. Energy programs, projects, and planning must be equitable, affordable, and accessible to all. Whether implementing energy efficiency retrofits on a private home or planning large-scale energy resource projects, the importance of building trust first was emphasized – move at the speed of trust. 

A representative from the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) noted that what was sufficient in energy planning and implementation in the past may no longer be. There is a need for more open policy and equitable rates. “Energy burden” bubbled to the top of many conference discussions. In Oregon, 25% of households are energy burdened (spending 6% or more on energy); 40% or more in some rural areas. 


The dates for the next three Recycling Modernization Act Rulemaking Advisory Committee meetings and Zoom registration links have been posted to the Recycling 2024 webpage. Meeting dates are: Jan. 31, Feb. 14 and March 14. LWVOR needs a volunteer interested in following this issue. The Senate Energy and Environment Committee heard potential bills at their January legislative meeting.


Look for a 2025 conversation on how to fund Oregon transportation needs. The Oregon Capital Chronicle article provided some of the challenges facing legislators.

Water/Oregon Water Resources Dept. (OWRD) 

By Peggy Lynch 

OWRD is considering recommending changes to Oregon’s groundwater rules to the Water Resources Commission. Listen to a legislative hearing at the Nov. 7th House Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources and Water meeting, providing a number of different points of view. LWVOR is watching this work closely as is LWV Deschutes County and looks forward to the Water Resources Commission adoption of this first set of updated rules which can then lead to updated Critical Groundwater designations as the data determines is necessary. In the meantime, many Oregonians are experiencing dry household wells. 

OWRD provided an update on Oregon’s Well Abandonment, Repair and Replacement Fund. LWVOR supported creation of this program in 2021.

The League again asked Congress to expand the Smith River National Recreation Area. We were pleased to see Reps. Val Hoyle (Oregon) and Huffman (California) introduce a bill to expand the Smith River National Recreation Area into Southwest Oregon (track progress).

A Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area update was provided Jan 11 in the House Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources and Water Committee. The League continues to be concerned about our fellow Morrow and Umatilla county Oregonians, where well water may be unsafe for drinking. KGW’s "The Story" did a series on this important public health issue the week of Nov. 13. 

OWRD anticipates releasing a draft of the updated Integrated Water Resources Strategy for public review and comment in March. For more information about this process, please visit the IWRS page.

LWVOR will look forward to learning more about the historic deal on Columbia River, salmon and the tribes shared in NW states, tribes reach ‘historic’ deal with feds over Columbia River Basin fish and dams.

We all need to pay attention to the potential for harmful algal blooms. “When in doubt, stay out.” Visit the Harmful Algae Bloom website or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767 to learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body. 

League members may want to check the U. S. Drought Monitor, a map that is updated every Thursday. Governor Kotek has signed drought declarations under ORS 536 for the counties of Crook, Jefferson, Grant, Deschutes, Wasco, Harney, Sherman, Lake, Jackson, Gilliam, Douglas, Lincoln and Morrow counties. The forecasted El Nino weather pattern may mean a reduced snowpack this winter in the north while we may see a greater snowpack in southern Oregon. Update: So we all know that we got a week or so of snow in January, but of concern is that rain will reduce that snowpack soon. Here is the Jan. 16th Oregon Water Conditions Report.


By Carolyn Mayers

LWVOR has monitored a number of meetings over the past month, including of the Wildfire Programs Advisory Council (WPAC), and informational meetings at the Legislature. The primary focus has been finding the best way to ensure long-term, reliable and sustainable funding for wildfire prevention, protection and response. There was repeated emphasis on the importance of restoring funding for community risk reduction programs, which saw an approximate 90% reduction in the 2023 session. There is increasing sentiment that focusing the vast majority of funding on suppression, without meaningfully addressing mitigation, will simply not get the job done. Their next quarterly meeting is Jan. 19. The WPAC meeting agenda is on their website: Wildfire Programs Advisory Council


The first WPAC meeting, on December 18, saw Senator Elizabeth Steiner, District 17, and the Governor’s Wildfire Advisor, Doug Grafe, present a proposal, the main component being a $10 “Statewide Wildfire Protection Fee” on every individual property in Oregon, as well as reductions in fees timber companies pay toward wildfire costs. This proposal was developed by a workgroup led by Steiner, while Grafe provided technical support. There was pushback from several members about a new fee/tax, and concerns were expressed about it potentially being regressive. Originally convened to primarily address relief for Eastern Oregon rangeland and small timberland owners in Eastern Oregon, the work group's final proposal is much broader than that original charge. Senator Golden, District 3, expressed reservations about the proposal, including disappointment at the small amount that would be directed to a community risk reduction fund, and its attempt to shift financial responsibility for wildfires away from the timber industry and onto the public.


The Senate Interim Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire met on January 10 and heard 3 different wildfire funding proposals. First, Senator Steiner and Doug Grafe presented a modified version of their funding proposal. Representative Paul Evans, District 20, proposed funding a solution. His Legislative Concept, LC 22, would establish, by referral to voters, an Oregon Public Safety Authority, with taxing authority, capped at a maximum of $.25/$1,000 rate, to help fund wildfire programs across the State, as implemented by LC 23, the proposal’s second component. Finally, Senator Golden presented his funding concept, a referral to voters of what amounts to a renewal of the timber severance tax on larger timber companies (over 500 acres) to help fund wildfire programs. This would include funding for LC 81, to establish a neighborhood protection cooperative grant program via the Department of State Fire Marshal (OSFM), to promote community wildfire resilience, among other things.


Later that day, Senator Steiner and Doug Grafe presented their proposal again, to the House Interim Committee on Climate, Energy and the Environment.


Late breaking: After providing her wildfire funding proposal, according to Oregon Capital Chronicle, Sen. Steiner will drop the $10 property fee. Details are not yet available. 


January 11 the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources heard a brief overview of the 2023 Wildfire Season, and funding request, by Oregon Department of Forestry. Finally, later in the day, the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Safety received an overview of the 2023 wildfire season, and considered a funding request from OSFM. This request was met with several comments from committee members on the urgency to find long-term, reliable funding solutions for the growing wildfire problem in our State.


Volunteers Needed

What is your passion related to Natural Resources? You can help. Volunteers are needed. The short 2024 legislative session is Feb. 5-March 10. Natural Resource Agency Boards and Commissions meet regularly year-round and need monitoring. If any area of natural resources is of interest to you, please contact Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator, at Training will be offered.

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