2014 Legislative Update

Oregon capitol

Nope, the flowers aren’t blooming yet. But we’re already dreaming of spring and the end of the 2014 legislative session!

The 2014 “short session” of the Oregon Legislative Session is two weeks in, and Sierra Club staff and volunteers are closely tracking and testifying on numerous bills. The frantic pace of the short session – with its tight deadlines and quick turnaround times – makes it even harder than usual to keep up with everything that’s happening, but we’re doing our best.

Thursday, February 13, was the deadline for most bills to have made it out of their committees of origin. Sadly, some bills we were supporting have fallen by the wayside, but on the bright side, many really terrible bills also did! Here are some of the bills we’ve been working on:

  • Senate Bill 1510 would have created a process for a more coordinated and comprehensive environmental review of large projects in Oregon by essentially implementing a state-level version of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  While the bill did not make it out of committee, there is still likely to be an interim workgroup to work on the issue and report back to the 2015 Oregon Legislature.
  • Senate Bill 1516 would establish a planning process for turning an old railroad corridor between Banks and Tillamook into a “Salmonberry Trail.” Since we are active members of the North Coast State Forest Coalition, we are enthusiastic about such a trail and strongly support SB 1516.  It has passed out of the Senate Rural Communities Committee and is now being evaluated in the Ways and Means Committee.
  • Senate Bill 1569 would have begun the process of phasing out certain toxic chemicals from children’s toys sold in Oregon. Unfortunately the bill has now been scaled back to just require the creation of a list of chemicals of concern and require manufacturers to notify Oregon public health officials when their children’s products contain these chemicals. While we would have preferred a stronger bill, we believe this bill is a good start and are pleased that it has passed out of the Senate Health Care Committee and gone to Ways and Means.
  • Senate Joint Memorial 201 is merely a statement from the Legislature to the U.S. Congress and to the Administration that reforms are necessary on Oregon’s “O&C Lands”.  While such a measure is essentially meaningless, we believe the language of the memorial is heavily slanted toward timber production on our backyard forests and neglects the important functions the O&C Lands provide for recreation, tourism, and clean water. And fundamentally, decisions about O&C Lands are simply outside the purview of the Oregon Legislature. We opposed SJM 201 in its original committee and it was sent to the Senate Rules Committee just before the bill deadline. We will continue to closely track its progress.
  • House Bill 4126 is an important bill to help defend Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). A very destructive ballot measure had been proposed for 2014 ballot to incorporate large-scale hydroelectric power into the RPS, which would have been rendered the RPS essentially meaningless and dramatically undercut the development of real renewable power in the state. HB 4126 was the result of a settlement between many parties to the debate over the hydro ballot measure and when it passes, it will remove the specter of that ballot measure. The settlement is not perfect, but we are supporting it as a way to make the ballot measure go away. HB 4126 has passed the House unanimously and is now headed to the Senate.
  • House Bill 4042 would extend net metering to wave energy in Oregon. While wave energy technology is still in its infancy in Oregon, we believe that if could offer another viable source of renewable energy for our state. Since net metering is a well-established mechanism to help facilitate the distributed generation of power, we support HB 4042, which has passed the House and gone to the Senate.
  • House Bill 4100 would require labels for products containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients and would create a legislative referral to allow Oregon citizens to sign off on that proposition in the November 2014 election. We have concerns about the potential impacts of GE foods on our environment and on public health, but this is also fundamentally a right-to-know bill that will allow consumers to make informed choices about the products they purchase. It’s still sitting in the House Rules Committee awaiting further action (Rules is one of the handful of committees that weren’t bound by the February 13 deadline).
  • House Bill 4113 is the bill to move forward on the Oregon-only funding approach for the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). And while we do have some concerns about potential environmental impacts of the current version of the CRC, we are also opposing HB 4113 because we believe the project is simply fiscally irresponsible as it is currently proposed. However, there’s a tremendous amount of political momentum behind the bill (and no shortage of vehement opposition!), and it has passed out of its original committee and is headed to Ways and Means.

Things are continuing to move at a furious pace in the Capitol. We’ll try to stay on top of it all and make sure Oregon’s environment doesn’t bear the brunt of the frenetic doings of the short session. Stay tuned!

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