On Monday, March 5, the first annual even-year “short” Oregon Legislative Session adjourned.
While the number of bills introduced was limited, the scope and size of issues were large and encompassing, including creating a health care exchange and education reform. This made many in and out of the Capitol wonder if 35 days was enough time to tackle policy issues. From the start, the Legislature’s pace was fast, and it was challenging for constituents to follow Capitol action and provide input to elected officials.
Despite the compressed timeline, farmers and ranchers made their presence known during Farm Bureau’s Day at the Capitol on Feb. 6. OFB thanks the dozens of volunteers who came out to meet and mingle with their legislators. That level of engagement is what makes Farm Bureau the effective grassroots organization it is.
While big natural resource policies did not pass in the 2012 Session, there were bills of interest to Oregon’s farm, ranch, and forest families.
Note on Legislator Grades: The OFB Board of Directors voted to base the grades on legislator voting records for specific bills from both the 2011 and short 2012 Legislative Sessions.
The board also adopted a motion to endorse legislators who earned an “A” grade and are seeking re-election to their current seat in the 2012 primary and general elections.
See OFB Legislator grades for the Oregon House of Representatives Note: Rep. Andy Olsen, Dist. 15, was accidentally omitted from this matrix. He received a 100% “A” grade from OFB for his excellent work supporting Oregon agriculture.
Bills from the 2012 Legislative Session:
Wolf Depredation Tax Credit, HB 4005 (passed): This bill created a tax credit for livestock producers for the probable loss of livestock to wolves, and caped the total amount of tax credits to $37,500 per year. OFB is disappointed by the lack of action of HB 4158, which would have allowed ODFW to take wolves when implementing the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. Due to active litigation, a judge has placed a stay on the state taking wolves that are killing livestock.
Oregon Health Insurance Exchange, HB 4164 (passed): This bill creates an online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance. Allows customers to compare plans and choose the one that is best for themselves or their family. Makes purchasing health care easier for individuals and for small businesses. Requires insurance companies to compete on cost and quality.
O & C Lands Management, SJM 201 (passed): In response to federal legislation, this Memorial to Congress urges the allowance of Oregon counties to manage the Oregon and California Railroad grant lands instead of the federal government.
Wetland Delineations, SB 1582 (passed): This bill creates process by which a landowner may request an independent review of wetland delineation determinations made by Department of State Lands.
Land Use Regionalization, HB 4095 (did not pass): While this legislation failed, a line item was added to the Budget Reconciliation Bill (HB 5701) to fund an anticipated Governor’s directive for a pilot regional land use planning project, which may include counties petitioning LCDC to consider regional definitions of agricultural
and forest lands. OFB policy supports regionalization of Oregon’s land
use system, but opposes regional or county definitions of agricultural and
forest lands. The details of the Governor’s Executive Order are unknown. Once it is announced, OFB is prepared to engage in the process.
Farmworker Housing Tax Credit, HB 4038: While OFB’s efforts to
extend this credit during the 2011 and 2012 sessions were unsuccessful, OFB has one last chance next session before the program sunsets, or ends. This is an important program that helps labor-dependent ag producers offer housing to their workforce while complying
with OSHA health and safety standards. With the deadline for sunset fast
approaching, it’s more important than ever for Farm Bureau members to advocate for the extension of this important tax credit.
The bill passed the House Energy, Environment, and Water Committee, but
was stalled in the House Revenue Committee. OFB appreciates the work and attention Reps. Jules Bailey and Vic Gilliam gave to extending the Oregon farmworker
housing tax credit this session.
Water Development, HB 4101: While HB 4101 did not pass this Session,
OFB remains committed to ensuring access to water for irrigation and economic
development. A statewide water development bill is expected to be introduced in 2013 that will build on the work accomplished with HB 4101.
Additionally, Governor Kitzhaber designated the Columbia River Water
Supply Program as an Oregon Solutions Project. In the near term, Oregon Solutions will bring together key interests to develop several specific proposals for implementation over the next two to three years.
The proposals will support expanded agriculture and will benefit fisheries and other in-stream uses. It is doubtful that the Governor’s commitment would be there without the Legislature’s effort.