For info and updates on other bills the Sierra Club is tracking in the 2011 Oregon legislature, visit our State Legislative Tracker blog.
The Oregon Legislature got down to work for its 2011 session on February 1. With a deadline of ending legislative activity by late June, and nearly 2000 bills already introduced, it will be a busy five months.
A number of environmental bills have already emerged. With the House in a historic 30-30 split between parties, and operating with Republican and Democratic co-Speakers, as well as co-chairs of every committee, we expect some real challenges with environmental legislation this year.
Unfortunately, the 30-30 split probably makes it more likely for anti-environmental legislation to pass the House. And the state’s more than $3 billion budget shortfall and job creation will dominate the discussion, which will inevitably have implications for bills relating to the environment.
A few of the bills already on our radar screen include:
HB 2736 – This bill sets up a pathway for the Department of Forestry and counties to designate ‘natural resource conservation areas’ on state forestlands like the Tillamook, Clatsop, Santiam and Elliott State Forests for the protection of clean water, recreation, fish and wildlife and carbon sequestration. The Sierra Club has been working for the protection of natural resources and special places on state forest lands for years. Sierra Club position: Support.
HB 2597 – This bill would require that state forestlands like the Tillamook, Clatsop, Santiam and Elliott State Forests be managed at 90% of the level you would see on private industrial forestlands, essentially maximizing logging and roadbuilding on publicly owned state forest lands at the expense of fish, wildlife, recreation, clean water and carbon sequestration. The Sierra Club and fish conservation groups have worked successfully to stop this type of legislation in numerous times in the past. Sierra Club position: Oppose.
HB 2700, SB 261, SB 265, HB 2206, HB 2589 – These bills all change the definition of the word ‘applicant’ for the purposes obtaining state issued wetland fill and removal permits needed to build linear energy facilities (ie. LNG pipelines) across wetlands, rivers and streams. These are essentially versions of the LNG fast-track bills the Sierra Club, small farmers and woodlot owners, and our allies have stopped in previous sessions. Sierra Club position: Oppose.
SB 536 – This bill would ban single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and some other retail establishments, which would help reduce the number of plastic bags entering our waterways, polluting the food chain, and and clogging our landfills. Sierra Club position: Support.
HB 2960 – Sets up a new Jobs, Energy and Schools fund to provide grants and loans for weatherization upgrades in K-12 schools across Oregon. Such a program would increase jobs in the weatherization industry while reducing energy consumption and saving school districts money on energy bills. Sierra Club position: Support.
HB 2337, SB 474 – these bills would bring back the practice of hunting cougars with packs of dogs, a technique banned by Oregon voters since 1998. There may also be legislation allowing ranchers to shoot wolves they believe threaten their livestock, but such a bill has not been introduced yet. Sierra Club position: Oppose.
We will be posting more details and updates on all of these bills in the coming weeks.
Here are some resources for you to do some of your own research on the 2011 legislative session.
The Oregonian newspaper has an easy to use bill tracker at http://gov.oregonlive.com/bill/
Also, the Oregon Legislature’s website allows you to track bills, view committee schedules, and contact your legislators.
Stay tuned, and watch the Sierra Club’s legislative blog for the updates and action alerts throughout the session.