State Legislative Update – May/June 2011

With only about one month left in the 2011 Oregon Legislative session, things are really heating up. Here’s the latest on a few of the issues we’re most focused on in Salem:

LNG pipelines – HB 2700 B – on Monday, May 23 at 3pm, the Senate Business, Transportation and Economic Development Committee will be holding a vote on HB 2700B and deciding whether to amend it or not. If the bill passes out of committee, it could be up for a vote on the Senate floor by the end of the week. This bill would expedite the application process for numerous ‘linear utilities,’ most notably controversial LNG pipelines. Please click here to send an email to your State Senator urging them to amend HB 2700B to exclude LNG pipelines, or vote against the bill.

Banning Single Use Plastic Bags – SB 536 SB 536 is currently awaiting action in the Rules  Committee – it is reported to be only one vote short of passing in the Senate. Click here to send an email to your Senator today and urge them to vote ‘YES’ on SB 536. The ‘ban the bag’ bill is facing stiff opposition from out-of-state chemical companies that make plastic bags. Oregonians currently use over 1.7 billion disposable single-use plastic bags each year. These bags often end up in landfills or our roadsides, rivers and streams. Even so-called ‘recyclable’ plastic bags are often shipped overseas where they may end up clogging landfills, entering the Pacific Ocean, or being incinerated.

Energy Efficiency in Schools – HB 2960 – Sets up a new Clean Energy Deployment program 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. A top priority of Governor Kitzhaber’s, this bill awaits action in the Ways and Means Committee, and is scheduled for a hearing and possible action on May 24. Please contact your State Legislators today to urge the passage of HB 2960 to help create jobs in energy efficiency in schools.

Banning Bisphenol A (BPA) from children’s drinking containers – SB 695SB 695 passed the Senate in early April (20-9) and received a public hearing in the House Energy, Environment and Water Committee on May 10. It is now stalled and needs your support to secure a vote in the Oregon House. Send an email to your legislators today urging them to vote ‘YES’ on SB 695. BPA is a synthetic estrogen that is used to make plastic bottles and food can linings. BPA in containers can leach into foods and liquids, and growing children are especially vulnerable to its harmful effects. This bipartisan legislation would ban BPA from baby bottles, infant formula containers, and water bottles, while requiring labeling of canned foods that are lined with BPA.  Even small amounts of BPA can be harmful and numerous scientific studies have linked the chemical – banned in Canada, the European Union and nine states – to health issues such as abnormal brain development, early onset of puberty, and low sperm counts in men.

State Forests – HB 2001 and more – HB 2001 would make timber production the primary purpose of publicly owned state lands like the Tillamook, Clatsop, Elliott, and Santiam State Forests. It is currently stalled in the Ways and Means Committee and though it would mark an extreme shift away from from a balanced management on state lands, it has been identified as a top ‘jobs’ bills for a coalition of industry groups. This means it could be alive until the final days of the legislative session, with our state forests once again becoming a political football. To underscore this, a similar bill to ramp up logging in the Tillamook State Forest that was presumed dead months ago, SB 464, was pulled to the Senate Floor for a vote on May 18 for some posturing by Senate Republicans on logging. Thankfully, their effort failed. Nonetheless, HB 2001 is still a major threat, please contact your State Legislator today and urge them to oppose HB 2001.

Wolves and Cougars– In late April, the House passed HB 3562 by a 51-7 vote to clarify that wolves can be shot in self-defense. Largely symbolic, this bill plays on the myth that wolves pose a threat to humans, but as written could be exploited by poachers looking for an excuse to kill one of Oregon’s fewer than 25 gray wolves. The good news is that two other bills to allow for the shooting of wolves within 500 feet of a residence, and another to reduce goals for wolf management both died without a vote in the House. HB 3562, however, is currently stalled in the Senate but could receive a hearing and possible vote before June 1. Also passing the House in late April by a 45-14 vote was HB 2337, which rolls back the voter-approved ban on hunting cougars with dogs. This too is stalled in the Senate but could receive committee hearing and possible vote before June 1. Contact your State Senators today and urge them to oppose HB 3562 and HB 2337 and protect Oregon’s wolves and cougars.

For other legislative updates, please visit our legislative tracker blog.

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