Legislative Report - Week of 5/1
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By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator, and Team
The House voted out two of the session’s contentious bills: HB 2002 related to health care and HB 2005 related to gun safety. They now head to the Senate where a walkout on May 3 has delayed voting on these bills. Agency budgets are moving to chambers for a vote. Policy bills had a May 5 Work Session scheduling deadline (but the bills have until May 19 to be “worked”). Now we wait for the May 17 Revenue Forecast. There are, of course, a slew of bills awaiting funding decisions in Ways and Means.
SB 488 A, relating to the Covanta medical waste incinerator, sits in Ways and Means.
HB 5008, the budget bill for the Columbia River Gorge Commission, was worked on May 3. Here is the LFO recommendation. A climate change position that would help implement the Climate Plan adopted by the Commission has been funded by the State of Washington but not Oregon—yet. Another reason to hope for a good Revenue Forecast!
The Oregon Dept. of Energy budget, HB 5016, with its LFO recommendation, was also worked. Then on May 4, the Dept. of State Lands budget, HB 5037, provided one of the better natural resource agency recommendations. All three budgets should be seen in Full W&Ms next week.
Last week’s budgets were considered in Full Ways and Means on May 5. Later that day, HB 5030, the Lottery Bonds projects budget bill had a public hearing in the Capital Construction Subcommittee. Like the General Obligation Bond bill, expect additions to the current list in this bill. A reminder: in March we learned of the state’s bonding capacity: General Fund debt capacity results in $1.94 billion issuance for each biennium, or $969 million annually ($320 million greater than 2021-23). Lottery bonds: The State’s Lottery Revenue debt issuance capacity is $506.4 million in each biennium or $253.2 million annually over the forecast period ($9 million decline from 2021-23).
We await the May 17 Revenue Forecast that will be the guide for the final 2023-25 balanced budgets. From former State Senator Rick Metzger on the upcoming Revenue Forecast: “The decision is critical. It can lead to important programs unnecessarily being placed on the chopping block, or funding new initiatives that will not prove sustainable. The figure has significant consequences.”
By Claudia Keith and Team
See the Climate Emergency Report for overlaps. We encourage you to read both.
By Christine Moffitt/Peggy Lynch
We continue to await a new proposed amendment for HB 3382. We truly believe this bill is a serious threat to our coastal planning and could reduce or remove the opportunity for future coastal NOAA grants. If an amendment is provided, we expect that it will not “blow up” the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), is within the land use program--just a minor new change related to Goal 16, that NOAA must unofficially sign off on the idea and the other state agencies (DLCD, DSL & ODFW--and maybe DEQ) are accepting of the concept. We understand that the local tribe wants "no net loss of eel grass". We need your voices to tell your legislators to Just Say NO if these factors are not part of any amendment.
The local LWV Coos County has been doing an update and study of their local Port: The International Port of Coos Bay. You might want to watch a 44-minute video of a recent history of activities around the Port: Study of International Port of Coos Bay | MyLO (lwv.org).
On April 20, the Land Conservation and Development Commission unanimously adopted an amendment to the Rocky Habitat Management Strategy, Part Three of the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan (TSP). The decision added six new management areas that reflect needs of the communities that proposed them. Rocky Habitat Management Areas focus on balancing use and conservation through the enhancement of visitor experiences with education and interpretation to limit wildlife disturbance and habitat degradation.
Columbia River Treaty
Here is an update on the April 19 Listening Session about the Columbia River Treaty, including a recording. U.S. Government representatives' written remarks are at the top of the meeting: https://www.state.gov/columbia-river-treaty/. Send comments or questions: ColumbiaRiverTreaty@state.gov.
Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
SB 835 A, as amended, would require DEQ to adopt rules to clarify when a single septic system can be used for both a primary residence and an ADU. It sits in Ways and Means. LWVOR provided testimony with concerns addressed by the amendment.
Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries
Dept. of State Lands
HB 2238, originally filed to provide permission for robust rulemaking to increase fees for the removal/fill program is back! The bill was amended in the House to remove the fee increase and instead allows the Dept. of State Lands to get rid of personal property collected during clean up of DSL-owned property after 30 days. A new amendment was filed to bring back the original purpose of the bill. The League continues to support.
Elliott State Research Forest (ESRF)
By Peggy Lynch
Another Prospective Board meeting was held May 2 (the agenda). Members struggled with how to respond to feedback from federal agencies that more protection is needed for the marbled murrelet in the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan, which would reduce the areas where logging was going to be allowed. That reduction causes an increasing gap between projected revenue and expenses as projected by OSU. The League has consistently raised this budget imbalance issue, since the OSU proposal was considered. Oregonians don’t expect the Elliott to be over logged since they helped create this new ESRF.
In another wrinkle, a local tribe has suggested that the entire mapping of the forest be scrapped and instead manage the entire forest in a manner once done by the tribes. Environmental groups would find this approach disconcerting since they have worked hard with all parties to balance the uses of the forest for competing interests and felt an agreement had been reached. The Board will meet again in June. Their website provides information. The League continues to remind the Board of our continuing concern related to financial viability and hopes the Board can resolve this issue. We will continue to monitor these Prospective Board meetings.
Separately, the Shutter Creek former Oregon Dept. of Corrections facility is being transferred by the federal government to the Dept. of State Lands in anticipation of the property being the home of the ESRF. There is also discussion around a tribal role for the property.
SB 161 will have a Work Session May 9 in the House Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources and Water Committee with a new proposed amendment, increasing a deadline for work being done on the transfer of the Elliott to the new Authority to Dec. 31, 2023. The bill adjusts some timelines as provided by the Dept. of State Lands’ April 25 testimony.
Hanford Cleanup Board
The Oregon Hanford Cleanup Board will hold a virtual meeting on May 9, beginning at 10 a.m. and concluding after the public comment periodnat approximately 2:15 that afternoon. Public participation is welcomed and encouraged. See a full meeting agenda, which includes information on how to participate, with other meeting materials.
By Peggy Lynch
A new land use “expand into farmland” bill, SB 1096, has been filed by Senators Meek and Anderson and referred to Senate Rules. The bill, similar to SB 1051 which the League vigorously opposed and we hoped had died, is now a topic of discussion. It continues the false narrative that simply adding land to urban growth boundaries will solve Oregon's housing crises. Many surveys and studies have shown we have enough land zoned for residential use inside our UGBs - including thousands of acres recently added to UGBs - that are sitting empty because they need infrastructure investment. The bill puts at risk urban reserve planning and wildlife protections, increases the potential for development in high wildfire risk areas, exacerbates climate change through creating more impervious surfaces and housing farther away from core areas, and more.
HB 3620 is an equally concerning bill. It authorizes certain cities with a demonstrated need for housing to add land to their urban growth boundary upon meeting certain conditions. It also amends principles that the Land Conservation and Development Commission must consider in adopting rules regulating urban reserves.
And another: HB 3616 would allow owners of property outside an urban growth boundary to site additional dwelling on property for occupancy by an owner’s relative. Just another way to add more housing outside areas intended for housing and breaking our land use planning program.
No new news on SB 1087, filed on behalf of a farm in Lane County where they want to add a “café” (with seating for 250-300 people) on their Exclusive Farm Use (EFU)-zoned property. The League opposes this overreach of our land use program. The bill is in Senate Rules and could be scheduled for a Work Session at any time; not as of May 3.
A public hearing was held in House Housing and Homelessness on SB 1013. The League has worked with the sponsor and Sen. Hayden to assure that, should a recreational vehicle be allowed on a rural property, sewage and clean drinking water issues would be addressed by the counties. A -2 amendment is being offered to change that counties “may” adopt this law vs. “shall”. As of May 5, a possible May 11 Work Session is scheduled. It would die if not held.
HB 3442 A will allow coastal communities to develop in hazard areas under certain conditions, with a May 15 Work Session in Senate Housing and Development. The amended bill responded to League concerns on the original bill.
HB 3414 would create a new Housing Accountability and Production Office in DLCD and also includes a Section 2 related to processing of variances under certain circumstances. Variances are used to address exceptions to a code’s “clear and objective standards”. It is unclear how this provision will change a community’s control over residential development. The bill was moved without passage recommendation and referred to House Rules. The League understands that a new amendment may be offered to address at least some of our concerns with Section 2.
SB 70A would allow housing on acreage in Malheur County. The League provided testimony in opposition on Feb. 8. On April 3, the bill was moved without passage recommendation to Senate Rules. LWVOR still opposes it.
See the Housing Report in the Social Policy section.
By Kathy Moyd/Greg Martin
On April 25, the Senate voted 26-3 to refer SB 542 A (Right to Repair) to House Rules. There it will sit until more amendments are made or until there are enough votes to pass in the full Senate. The League provided testimony in support on Feb. 14.
By Paula Grisafi
HB 3043 A had a public hearing May 4 in Senate Energy and Environment, The bill revises provisions relating to chemicals in children’s products.
SB 546 A (toxic free cosmetics) was sent to W&Ms although there was NO fiscal for the 2023-25 session because, although the measure takes effect January 1, 2024, all substantive portions of the bill are not operative until January 1, 2027. SB 426 A (toxic free schools) was sent to W&Ms without clarity on the fiscal impact. The bill’s advocates are working to assure that the fiscal impact statement is not over inflated by agency staff.
By Peggy Lynch
A major water bill, HB 3124, was moved to House Rules without passage recommendation. The bill is a $250 million Drought Relief and Water Scarcity package and includes some of the other bills we’ve seen this session. The League provided comments, including a list of our priorities, using our participation in the HB 5006 Work Group as our guide.
HB 3163 A is a League priority. It renews the Place-Based Planning program with a Fund to help groups participate in this program and was sent to W&Ms. The League participated in a Work Group last year to help develop program sideboards and provided testimony in support.
HB 3100 A, a bill addressing the Integrated Water Resources Strategy (IWRS), is in Ways and Means. The League provided testimony when the bill had its public hearing. Then we worked behind the scenes to provide guidance as the IWRS is updated and we support the bill.
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. The League supports HB 2647 A to continue to address this public health issue. It sits in Ways and Means.
We have an on-going drought in many parts of Oregon and League members may want to check the U. S. Drought Monitor, a map that is updated every Thursday. Oregon’s climatologist and a variety of other Oregon scientific sources provide input into the drought map. Governor Kotek has signed drought declarations under ORS 536 for the counties of Crook, Jefferson, Grant, Deschutes, Wasco and Harney counties. Lake County has now requested a drought declaration. In addition, many counties in eastern and southern Oregon have received Secretarial Disaster Designations from the US Department of Agriculture due to drought conditions.
By Carolyn Mayers
The Wildfire Programs Advisory Council (WPAC) met on April 14. Doug Grafe, the Governor’s Wildfire and Emergency Response Advisor, shared presentations he and Mark Bennett, WPAC Chair, have been sharing with House and Senate Committees to educate and compel them to fund the needed activities for wildfire mitigation and response. This included an update to the Council on current status of various wildfire related bills in the legislature and their financial state as known so far. Director Grafe followed this with a report on two meetings held recently with National wildfire groups.
The first, hosted by WPAC in Klamath Falls, was a meeting of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council. WPAC member John O’Keefe and Chief Ruiz-Temple of the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office are members of this body, which includes a wide array of agencies including EPA, DEQ, and others. The second was a meeting of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, which is part of the US Department of Agriculture. This is a 52-member body on which Chief Ruiz-Temple and John O’Keefe also serve. This group will be reporting to Congress and making recommendations. Director Grafe was clearly proud of the fact that Oregon is “on the map”, so to speak, in the wildfire programs space, and is looked to as a leader. (And rightfully so!)
Mark Bennett led the Council through discussions on various topics: future engagement with the legislature regarding funding, particularly for Community Wildfire Risk Reduction programs, and the public process for getting more holistic and broad-based input into the current mapping process, especially meetings with county officials, a step which was neglected during the creation of the first map. It is a widely held belief that the first map, associated with SB 762 (2021), the original Wildfire Bill, was plagued by this lack of public input and there is a strong desire to “do it right” this time around. Finally, there was a discussion of the map risk categories which are currently Extreme, High, Moderate and Low.
Lastly, May is Wildfire Awareness Month and is a great time for us all to refocus on what we can do to help keep ourselves and our neighbors safe. A couple of interesting articles have been published recently, a. public awareness campaign for the Wildfire Awareness Month activities and a second article discusses the passage of SB 82 in delta land what it means for homeowners insurance policies with regard to wildfire risk and related rate increases
On May 3, Jim Wallmann, U.S. Forest Service meteorologist at the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) issued their first Western wildfire season forecast. The Western wildfire season could start late at middle and high elevations thanks to the unusually wet winter, but forecasters say the bigger concerns are rangeland at lower elevations. Fire season could be pushed back a bit, by a couple weeks at higher elevations. That would occur if the rest of spring brings conditions close to normal. Trees at middle and high elevations will hold moisture later into the season as a result of the above-normal winter snow and rain. The bigger concern is lower elevation--referring to the rangeland. Wet conditions and above-normal soil moisture “contribute to a lot more grass growth,” he said. That will result in “a higher and more continuous fuel bed in the lower elevations in grass and sage.” Fire risk at low elevations would jump when the fine fuels dry out in late June and early July.
Senate Natural Resources passed HB 2522 A to the Senate floor on May 3, to create a committee to review and make recommendations related to rural fire districts and areas in Oregon where communities exist without structural fire protection. This bill seems a good first step to seeking resolution of these issues with so many of our rural areas dependent on volunteer firefighters and new small enclaves of housing in remote areas.
SB 80 A, the omnibus Wildfire Programs bill, is in W&Ms as is SB 509 A, which aims to scale out neighborhood collaboratives to help whole neighborhoods reduce risk. LWVOR provided support for SB 509 A.
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: What is your passion related to Natural Resources? You can help. Volunteers are needed. The 2023 legislative session is halfway over. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Training will be offered.