Oregon Legislature Update: First Deadline Past, What's Left Standing

April 19, 2013

The third week of April is a big one for the 2013 Legislature. As of today, any bill that has not made it out of the original House or Senate committee to which it was assigned is dead. While there are many exceptions to this rule, it gives us a better sense of the weeks ahead this session.

As usual, 1000 Friends has been quite active in the Capitol this year. We are working hard to support several bills that will bring better protections to Oregon farmland and help revive Oregon’s economy in a sensible way. We are also fighting back against several bills that would weaken farm and forest protections or provide special carve-outs in land use law to certain connected interests.

Although our staff busily gives testimony to various legislative committees, we depend a great deal on a network of affiliates and activists who can respond at a moment’s notice to make phone calls or write to their legislators to support our cause. Many, many thanks to all of these volunteers who have stood up so far this session. Our work is far from over, but we’re in a better place thanks to your work.

Here is a run-down of some major bills we’re still watching or working for, broken down by the areas of our Legislative Priorities for this session. This is just a sampling of bills and issues we’re working on this session. See a more complete list at friends.org/Legislature or write to craig@friends.org if you have any questions about bills or topics..

Create Jobs and Housing through Smart Use of Urban Land

HB 2839: Smart options for new jobs in Oregon cities

Many Oregon cities are oversupplied with land zoned for residential development that now sits vacant in the aftermath of the recession. It should be easy to rezone this land for uses more valuable to the community, such as employment. But under the provisions of Measure 49, communities would be required to compensate the owners of these parcels if they saw a loss in value due to rezoning—even if the value to the community was much higher. HB 2839 would fix this problem and give communities the ability to more easily use land inside their UGBs to create new jobs—with due public process and environmental review. We support this bill, which has passed to the House floor. Update, April 23: HB 2839 has passed the Oregon House on a 46-12 vote. Thanks to the House legislators who helped move the bill forward. On to the Senate!

HB 2255 and SB 250: Bad bills would pave farmland for speculative industrial development

Both these bills, which are very similar, would make it easier for cities to pave over farmland in the name of "industrial development," regardkess if whether there is actually any demonstrated need for new land, and regardless of state land use goals. Any employer who claimed to provide a certain number of jobs could be given “super-siting” benefits to supersede adopted plans and orderly processes of development. The result would shut out public process  and government transparency, waste valuable farmland, and cost taxpayers for speculative development that may never pan out.

Thanks to an inspired and energetic response from farmers, business owners, our affiliates, and activists from around the state, both of these bad bills are now dead. Thank you so much to everyone who contacted their Representatives and Senators to oppose these bills. We will monitor closely to make sure that they do not re-emerge in this or future sessions.

Bring Better Facts and Broader Participation to Planning

HB 2253: Better planning through more reliable population forecasts

Good planning depends on good data and solid forecasts. Under HB 2253, Portland State University’s renowned Population Research Center will conduct the crucial city and county population forecasts that provide a picture of communities’ land needs. Too often in the past, these forecasts have been inconsistent, inaccurate, or subject to political winds. PSU will employ highly regarded, accurate methods for population forecasting and also maintain the very important public engagement process. We worked with a diverse array of groups and the Department of Land Conservation and Development to create this bill, which has passed from its original committee to Ways and Means Committee.

HB 2254: More consistent UGB formulas

Some Oregon cities find the urban growth boundary assessment process to be expensive and time-consuming. HB 2254 would seek to make the process smoother and more consistent, particularly for smaller cities. It would not change the policy objectives behind UGBs--of encouraging livable, walkable communities with housing and transportation choices while protecting vital farm and forest lands, but it would make the outcomes more understandable and transparent. We support this bill, which has passed from its original committee to the Ways and Means Committee.

Prevent the Exclusion of Oregonians from the Land Use Planning Process

SB 845: A serious threat to the integrity of Oregon planning

Sometimes called the “Azalea bill” after the rumored industrial project it is designed to accommodate, Senate Bill 845 represents a major threat to the public’s interest in planning. The bill would allow this and any other large industrial user the right to locate anywhere in the Metro UGB or urban reserves that is designated for large site industrial use, without regard to public process or land use laws. Frighteningly, the bill would prevent any appeals of any land use decisions made to site these industries, effectively shutting the public out from their basic right to their day in court when local governments make decisions that violate land use goals and harm their communities. It would also render moot any current appeals of the Metro urban and rural reserves process. We strongly oppose this bill, which has passed to the Senate Rules Committee.

Grow Oregon’s Agricultural Economy by Protecting Farmland and Farmers

HB 3040: What’s happening on Oregon farmland?

These days, Oregon farmland is a surprisingly complicated place, where a long list of activities are allowed alongside farming and a growing number of events cause conflicts between neighbors. HB 3040 would set up a study to take a deep look at this question to better inform policy making in the future. It would also prevent further new landfills on farmland without an exceptions process. 1000 Friends supports this bill, which has passed to the House floor.

HB 2202: High-quality Oregon farmland is no place for gravel mines.

Gravel mining operations are a major threat to Oregon farmland, gobbling up thousands of acres of the Willamette Valley’s most productive soils for resource extraction that could easily be done on lower-quality soils. HB 2202 would require aggregate mining companies to do an alternatives analysis before getting a permit to mine on the Valley’s best farmlands. We support this bill along with farmers throughout the valley. It is in the House Rules Committee.

SB 713, HB 3098, and HB 3439: More farmland loopholes

The list of non-farm uses allowed on purportedly “exclusive” farm use lands in Oregon is staggering. Almost every session, another special interest group comes to the Legislature to ask permission for its own pet industry or project to be allowed, in some cases just to legalize activities already being carried out illegally.

These bills are the latest examples of this long-running saga. SB 713 would allow firearms training facilities on EFU. HB 3098 would allow major expansion of a youth camp onto farmland at the former site of the infamous Rajneeshpuram in Central Oregon. (It was declared a “Major Threat” by the Oregon Conservation Network.) HB 3439, meanwhile, would grandfather existing wholesaling for a single farm. We oppose both of these bills, as we oppose any further weakening of the definition of farmland, an industrial area home to Oregon’s #2 industry. SB 713 has passed from its committee to the Senate floor. HB 3098 is now in the House Ways and Means Committee, while HB 3439 is being kept alive in the House Rules Committee. We’ll keep fighting them in the weeks ahead.

 

As always, things can change quickly in the Legislature, and we can use your help as the session continues. To stay up to date with our work and opportunities to help us succeed, sign up for Action Alert emails here, “like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter